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  • Bonnie Hawk Barney

Part 7: She'll never sail!

The once-proud Skidoo, which H. Allen Wagener brought to Lake Keuka in 1912, was the craft which Bob Howell, Dr. Woodbury, and Deyo Putnam resurrected in 1926. While great doubts were expressed on her being sea-worthy, she succeeded in rekindling the spark of competition around the lake. Not only were there three of the old A Scows raced, but four speed boats turned out on short notice to travel the triangular course. The largest crowd in racing history of the Keuka Yacht Club was assembled on shore to witness the old Skidoo beat the Young boys’ Y-Y (Too Wise) and L. D Seeley’s Flapdoodle.

Y-Y, Juno II, Dutch Slipper, and Faith at the start


This was a generation of family participation. From their fifty-acre summer home on the Bluff came the Garretts: Paul Garrett, owner of the Virginia Dare Wine label, his son Charles and daughter Evelyn, raced their A Scow and their speed boats. Bob and Derb Young, from the Keuka Hotel, where activity centered, tuned their A. The Champlins from Hammondsport, Charles and Malburn, raced an A. Robert Whitfield of Penn Yan, from a family veteran to A competition a decade before, returned. The Seeleys, the Taylors, Bob Howell, Clarence Andrews of Penn Yan, Charles Jones of Carenaught, and of course Commodore Ally Wagener pumped renewed energy into the KYC competition.


New boats were brought in from the West. Bob Howell purchased Faith, a former Great Lakes champion; the Champlins had Deltox, Greyton "Spink" Taylor bought Caprice, Evelyn Garrett sailed on Vagabond, Bob Whitfield brought down Juno II. Yet unproven on this lake, these new boats aroused skepticism---they were all Marconi rigged, while all Keuka’s A Scows had heretofore been gaff rigged. The added height of the slender mast appeared too fragile, the sail unmanageable. Spectators rallied to bet on disaster.


A July 1, 1927, editorial in the Hammondsport paper sketched it graphically: "How one regrets at times the loss of boyish optimism. When Bill appeared Saturday in white sailor pants and announced himself as one of the experimental crew of Robert Howell’s new Class A Sloop with Marconi rig, I regretted my lost youth, but took a careful seat on a wet log near the bathing beach at the head of Lake Keuka to see what help might be needed. There was a fierce gusty wind and my bets were that with the taller stick of the Marconi rigger boat they would be upset twice before they crossed the lake once. I lost. They got across the first time right side up, after having thrown the main sheet overboard twice with all hands perched on the lea fin. On the final leg of the second round an optimistic skipper, unaccustomed to bath in 43 degree water, took two hands (deck hands) from the aforementioned fin and sent them forward to experiment with the spinnaker! He came up last and coughed up ice water for several minutes. Since two of the new boats have upset, another had her mast snapped off, and one of the first two was beaten last Saturday in an official race at Keuka by one of the gaff-rigged boats, the Marconi rigging has still to prove itself."


It did indeed seem a failure. Bob Young upset on his first trip out, the Garretts’ mast was snapped off, and Bob Howell tipped over in a gale, lost his spinnaker, and the mast was broken as he drifted ashore. Back to the dry-docks for repairs and reconnoitering, for Howell had Faith, and he was destined to be the fleet champion for several years.


1927 - The Juno II being taken over by pirates. She was bought by the Whitfields from the Young brothers when their newer Y-Y arrived.

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