• Bonnie Hawk Barney

Part 11: What blew the A's away

Few lakes outside the state of Wisconsin have been privileged to sport a racing fleet of A Scows. Fewer still maintain a single A today. What happened to the Keuka A fleet? A combination of events drew the lifeblood of the KYC fleet, a fleet which had twice flourished, in the first and third decades of this century. Two young skippers died: Robert Young of Keuka, and Charles Garrett of Bluff Point, to whom the Little Chapel on the Mount was dedicated in 1930. The resignation of Commodore Wagener, who for three decades promoted and organized the sailing activities, was accepted with regret. The small boat fleets were growing, but a tragic multiple drowning accident during squalls in 1933 was an event which shook the KYC racers deeply.

It was July 23, 1933, at Gibson’s Landing. From the newspaper account: "After a day’s racing with comparatively light wind, many of the boats had either given up and come in or had seen the storm approaching and had dropped sail to be towed in to the landing. Few were out on the lake at the time that the storm struck. Several of the boats towed in had been tied in line ready for the usual tow back to Hammondsport. Among those in the line were Greyton Taylor’s Caprice, Robert Howell’s Privateer, Champlin Howell’s Tippy Up, Arthur Conley’s Lark, C. W. Maltby’s Martini, and a boat owned by Jack Olsen of Bath. Among those still on the lake were Robert Cole and Lawrence Woodside in the Chanticleer, and Jack Hassett, Elmira, in a Star class boat.

Boats Capsize

Charles Mummert, 18, son of Harvey Mummert, aviator, of Hammondsport, was piloting the small motorboat used to tow the fleet. The group had hardly left the anchorage in front of Charles Herman’s cottage when the storm lashed up the lake with terrifying velocity. The fleet of boats with sails down were caught broadside by the twister and virtually lifted out of the lake and flopped over on their sides. Connelly and Gleason were on the Privateer, William Fry, Hammondsport, was on the Caprice, and Floyd Pilgrim, Hammondsport, was in the Martini. All were thrown into the water. Pilgrim and Fry managed to reach their boats and hung on during the blow. Dr. Gleason and Connelly were lost overboard and were not seen again.

In the meantime Robert Cole and "Larry" Woodside were having trouble in the Chanticleer. The boat was blown over and both were thrown into the water. The craft sank within a few minutes. Jack Hassett in a Star boat was having a hard time of it right at the finish buoy at the dock and the mast of his boat finally snapped before the main sheet could be dropped.