Snipe Mast History as viewed by Gonzalo Diaz, Sr.
In 1945 when my father bought me my first Snipe, (Rosi II # 3686) we all at the Miramar Yacht Club (from now on MYC) had wood squared section masts with no spreaders. It is funny that at that time, since we did not have to take the boats home, we all kept the masts up the entire year and for years, to the point that it was considered a tragedy to have to take the mast down to turn the boat upside down to paint it. The word was that if you did that you would lose the tune of the boat. The 1945 National champion did not believe that and he took it down to have the boat painted. When he put it back up and went racing he had lost all the tune and the speed. He sort of ignored that while he had the mast down some of the other sailors improved their performance by buying new sails, etc. Those wood squary mast were tapered. Hummmm.
In 1947 after the visit to Havana of Jack Wirt with his new boat Tiger featuring two round wood masts for different winds, round wood mast started to be build in Cuba with internal halyards. Jack was a visionary as he realized that round and thin masts would be faster (Hummmm??) Gonzalo Melendez, our National Secretary, pushed for this and many others advances of our Snipe Fleet at MYC and other Clubs. We had to import spruce wood from USA and they were lighter than the squary masts. They also were considerably tapered from the hounds up. They proved to be faster. By 1948 I was sailing El Almirante # 4835 (also built in Cuba by the same carpenter that built 3686) and I know that by 1952 I had a new wood spruce round super tapered with internal halyards on 4835. I know that because when I got the Gerber built Jupiter # 10111 hull only in 1952, we just transferred the whole rigging from my 4835 to 10111.
We left Cuba in 1964 and were able to squeeze out the Jupiter from Cuba. Still with the round wood mast no spreaders and sailed like that until approximately 1968 when we purchased a Proctor E aluminum tapered mast with spreaders and internal halyards. (those were faster, Hummmm, I wonder why??) Soon after that in early 70’s we got some Cobra I masts made by Earl Elms for members of the Miami Snipe Fleet. They were better (faster) than the Proctor E, but Earl had problems in the hardening of the mast process. Because of this, in mid 70’s Augie and I were using Proctor Alphas.
I crewed for Augie in the 1975 Worlds in Punta del Este, Uruguay were we were badly defeated by Felix Gancedo. Gancedo was using a Bruder mast, very thin, aerodynamic mast while we were using a Proctor Alpha. (the Bruder was faster. Hummmm!) or maybe Gancedo was faster??
I am not sure how this came about but shortly after 1975 the Snipe Class revised the mast measurements and I believe that the Bruder mast did not comply with the newly set width measurement of the Snipe mast. In 1977 Earl Elms came up with a total new design that I believe it was the consequence of those recently revised mast measurements and tolerances. In 1977 Tom Nute won the U.S. Nationals with a Cobra II Mast (Hummmm, I wonder why?).
In 1980, I finally gave up on the Proctor’s Alpha and put a Cobra II on my McLaughlin # 23713 in Clearwater Midwinters sailing with my daughter Ani and we found ourselves suddenly very fast. Suddenly we were in a position to win the Midwinters. That is when I realized the importance of the mast windage (Hummm, I wonder why it took us so long?).
The Cobra II continues to be our Snipe “Standard” because the very successful and popular Sidewinder is very similar. I can tell because I have had to cut them both many times to adapt to different snipes and I have a collection of those cut sections I can show you. They are identical in the outside measurements and the walls are very similar!
I think the Cobra II and the Sidewinder Regular sections will continue to be our standards for a long time because we got to the point of both complying with the measurements and they are about in the limit of surviving to heavy weather conditions.
In 20 to 25 miles of wind I strongly recommend to push the mast forward and leave it there for the entire race. I also recommend to: easy the boom vang as you turn downwind and not let the boom rest on the shrouds at any time. I am not sure, but you can save your mast from a permanent bend if it inverts in a puff by trimming the main close to the center of the boat. I have only done it once, I was successful. Retrieving the pole probably works also!
In the mid 90’s we had a well attended Snipe Class meeting in Atlanta at the Atlanta Yacht Club. There was a large group of Snipe Sailors worried for our loss of numbers and they blamed the shrinking of the Class on how sophisticated the Snipe had turned through the years, so many controls, so expensive masts, the complicated pole launcher, etc. It was an excellent meeting and we formed several tables for concentrated discussions item by item and also and open discussion meeting one afternoon.
The main pushers for simplifying the Snipes were among others Buzz Levinson and Bill Buckles that I can remember. There was a push for getting a simpler mast section and without taper, but many of us fought against that because we knew that would make the Snipe slower and many of us did not want to accept that! (Hummmm! Why did it take us so long?) We could not agree with any of the simplifications proposals. I think the results of this meeting, unfortunately, heavily disappointed Buzz Levinson and moved him away from the Snipe Class.
I only propose one simplification: the elimination of the Mollet haulers also known as the Lenhart haulers (both designed them at the same time) because that would not have made the Snipe significantly slower. I could not get it approved, but the barber haulers died anyway because of the use of snipe courses (windward/leeward) and also the development of the pole launcher use in close reaches.
If you ask me, the Snipe Class shrinks in the World only because of the competition. Go back to 1940 and think on the choices you had to go sailing or on the water sports. Very few! Now think at the choices you have now. A million of them! That is what has made our Class to shrink. As a matter of fact, I remain hopeful that in the future with our organization and keeping the level of satisfaction of our Snipe sailors, we will thrive!
God bless you all!