By John D. Rose
Restoring a wooden Snipe makes you “love” them even more.
Here is the history of my three Classic Snipes that I have in my small “collection.”
#6715 “Tiger” – professionally custom built by Russell’s Boat Works (Miami, Florida) for legendary Miami Snipe sailor Jack Wirt, who started sailing (and winning) in 1935. He won the 1938 Snipe Midwinter Championship in Clearwater, Florida and many other Snipe events in that area. He was Fleet Captain of the Miami Snipe fleet in early years, was Commodore of the Miami Yacht Club too. In 1947, he finished 2nd in the Snipe US National Championship, the first year that event was held separately from the Snipe World’s Championship (Ted Wells won, his first win in the US Snipe National Championship).
Wirt had a 1939 Snipe at the time, but he had ordered #6715 secretly and nobody knew that boat was being built – except for one of his main competitors in Miami, who found out about it and ordered another similar one (#6760) built by the same builder. Wirt raced #6715 in Havana, Cuba also – it was flown there on a Cuban government plane at the special request of Cuban Snipe sailors, to compete in a Snipe regatta there (I have the winner’s trophy for that event). It won handily, all Cuban Snipes thereafter were modernized with similar features for racing upgrades. Wirt also raced #6715 in the 1948 Snipe Midwinter Championship in Clearwater, he would have won except for a dsq in one race (Ted Wells also won that event, his first win there too). A year later, Wirt needed some money for his business, so he sold #6715 to an owner in Michigan, who shortly after won (tied for 1st with another local Snipe) the 1950 Michigan Snipe Championship (a regional state championship). Thereafter the boat was raced in Grand Rapids, Michigan starting in 1953 and won many local races and area events. The Snipe had not been in the water or sailed since 1977. I bought it in 2004 and am in the process of having it restored to mostly original configuration, with updated racing equipment to modern Snipe specs, to make it as fast as possible.
The photo of #6715 was taken in March 1948 when the boat was almost new, not very good quality black and white photo, but it does show the shark’s mouth which will be redone with an updated more authentic design based on WW II P40 USA fighter plane design, and applied using a computer generated vinyl adhesive graphic which will be adhered to the bow on port and starboard sides.
#8999 (aka “X-9”) (photo above) – the first ever fiberglass Snipe, built in 1952 before SCIRA adopted specifications and rules for fiberglass and plywood Snipes (in 1954). This boat was built in Fort Worth, Texas by the first SCIRA Commodore Dr. Hub Isaacks, using a very fast 1948 wooden Snipe that he owned at the time as the “plugs” for the hull and deck molds. It looks just like the wooden Snipe that he owned then. It needs refinishing, but is a very solid boat with built-in sealed floatation tanks in the bow and stern (port and starboard sides) which also served to stiffen the hull much better than later fiberglass Snipes that were built as production boats. The boat was unofficially raced around the midwestern USA in 1952-54 to promote the idea of modernizing the Snipe class rules to adopt fiberglass (and plywood) for hull construction, which Isaacks felt was necessary for the Snipe class to continue to succeed (how right he was). So #8999 “X-9” is the prototype for all of the 20,000 plus fiberglass Snipes that followed. [It was not until 1967 – 13 years later – that a fiberglass Snipe won the Snipe US National Championship, as wooden Snipes still were faster than their fiberglass counterparts up to that time.
#16228 “Half Breed” (photo above) – in 1966, now famous Snipe sailor Earl Elms was just getting ready to compete in the Snipe class, by building his own wooden Snipe for competition – #16103 “White Trash,” with which he won his first Snipe US National Championship in convincing fashion, in 1966. He also built another new wooden Snipe at the same time (#16228) for a young San Diego, California Snipe sailor – Tom Nute, who raced the boat in many Snipe events on the west coast of USA. These two boats were so successful in racing that California Snipe sailor Herb Shear used the construction ideas and hull shape for these two boats in building newly-introduced Chubasco Snipes which won many national and regional Snipe events from 1967 and after. Over 1000 of these Snipes were built in following years, both with wooden hulls in early years, and fiberglass hulls introduced in late 1966. The first fiberglass Chubasco Snipe (#17152) to win a Snipe US National Championship was in 1967, with Earl Elms sailing. So these two wooden Snipes (#s 16103 and 16228) were the prototypes for all of the Chubasco Snipes that followed. #16228 has a varnished planked hull and varnished plywood deck, and restoration has started but will be completed in a future year.
The black and white photo is a rare one, showing Earl Elms building his own first winning Snipe #16103 “White Trash” in 1966. Both that boat and #16228 were built by Elms as sister boats. #16103 won the 1966 Snipe US National Championship, the last wooden Snipe to win that event. Both Snipes were prototypes for the later Chubasco Snipes that were built soon after, near San Diego California USA.