The Wilmette Harbor Club, located north of Chicago on Lake Michigan, includes a clubhouse with both indoor and outdoor dining, a gas dock, and mooring for several hundred boats. Since 1929 the Wilmette harbor's Sheridan Shore Yacht Club has hosted sailboat fleet racing during the summer months. Wilmette harbor is also home to the Sheridan Shore Sailing School for both adults and children.

Wilmette Harbor Club

Photo is of the Shipping Board Trophy. You may have seen it around the Club prior to the renovations. It is currently sailing to its new home, hopefully in the lounge somewhere. Read on to find out the history of this cool trophy! The Star Fleet was sailed by our sailors all over the world.  The Arrow Fleet on the other hand, is very Lake Michigan and particularly Wilmette centric. Enjoy the read!

The Racing Fleets

Since its inception, Sheridan Shore Yacht Club has encouraged and supported sailboat racing and Wilmette Harbor is an important center of one-design racing activities despite the small size. The Club provides the race course and the race management but each fleet administers their own affairs.

Through the history of the club, there have been many various classes raced at Wilmette. Some of the classes have continued while others have come and gone. This chapter provides the history of all the classes which have been raced under the auspices of Sheridan Shore Yacht Club at Wilmette.

The Star Fleet

The early history of Sheridan Shore Yacht Club is also the early history of the Wilmette Start Fleet. The Star was chosen as the racing class for the club shortly after it was organized.

The Star Class roots go back to 1906 when a group of yachtsmen desired to develop a one-design class that was "cheap" enough for the average yachtsman to own and race. They developed a gaff-rigged fin-keel 17 foot boat called the "Bug" and it was raced for several years on Long Island Sound. George A. "Pop" Corey felt that the boat would be improved if it was lengthened, so he had marine architect Francis Sweisguth design the 22' 8 1/2" hull which is now known as the Star Class. The first star race was sailed on May 30, 1911 and was won by Corey in "Little Dipper", Star #1. After that time, the Star Class grew rapidly on the east coast and even got into the Great Lakes.

In 1921 the sail plan was redesigned and the gaff rig was replaced by a low marconi rig. In 1930 a 4 3/4 foot higher mast was authorized and this rig is used today. The Star Class was selected to be sailed as an Olympic Class at the 1936 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, the first one-design class ever to be sailed at the Olympics. With the exception of the 1976 Olympics, the Star Class has been selected as an Olympic class.

After Sheridan Shore Yacht Club decided in 1922 that the Star was a suitable one-design sailboat for Wilmette Harbor, the Stars were purchased by club members and delivered in the Spring of 1923. Succeeding years saw the growth of the local fleet at Wilmette as well as other fleets springing up at Belmont and Jackson Park Harbors in Chicago. Originally all Stars in this area were classified as the Lake Michigan fleet, but in 1937 separate fleets were organized and Sheridan Shore's Star boats were assigned as the Wilmette Harbor Fleet.

By 1927 there were twelve Stars at Wilmette and Earl T. DeMoe represented Wilmette at the Star Internationals. It was the year that club member Francis Early procured the Shipping Board Trophy for the Star Class. The model ship in the history trophy was owned by Count Felix Von Luckner who commanded the sailing ship "Seeadler", a commercial sea raider in World War I. The teak base is cast from melted cannon shells from Leige, Belgium. The Shipping Board Galeon shows the Frigate "Constitution" in relief and was made from metal of the U.S.S. New York, flagship of the Atlantic Fleet in World War I. The trophy was originally presented by the Veterans of Foreign Wars to promote one-design competition on Lake Michigan in 1917. It was first awarded for competition in the Chicago Yacht Club "Pup" class until the Wilmette Star Fleet obtained it. Competition in this sanctioned event has been held on Labor Day weekend in the Chicago area since that time.

Sheridan Shore Race Week series has been held since 1934 and prior to World War I was the major Star regatta in the Mid-West. By the outbreak of the war, 35 Stars were moored in Wilmette Harbor.

For several years after World War II Lockwood "Woodie" Pirie with his brother Sam as crew competed in most of the major Star events in this country and overseas as a representative of Sheridan Shore. They brought many trophies back to the club including the Mid-Winter Championship at Havana in 1948 and 1949, the Bacardie Cup in the same year, and the Worlds Championship at Cascals, Portugal in 1948. They also took second in the Worlds at Chicago in 1950. (Woodie died in Coral Gables, Florida in May 1965.)

Dick Sterns with crew Bob Rodgers, sailing out of Sheridan Shore Yacht Club, first came into prominence when he took third place in the 1947 Worlds Championship at Los Angeles. With crew Lynn Williams he won the championship at Cascais, Portugal in 1962 (the same place Woody Pirie had won in 1948) and took third when the series was sailed at Keil, Germany in 1966. They also won the North Americans in 1960 and 1961 and were second in the 1964 Olympic Games at Tokyo, Japan. The first Blue Star Great Lakes Championship was won by Max Hayford at Detroit in 1929 and was sailed the following year at Belmont Harbor sponsored by Sheridan Shore Yacht Club. Others from the Wilmette Fleet who have won this trophy include Woodie Pirie in 1936 and 1939, Wilson "Buzz" Van Arsdale in 1948, Roger Friskey in 1942, Bill Wente in 1960, John Allen in 1965 and Dick Stearns in 1946, 1949 and 1950. This series has been sailed at Wilmette Harbor several times. Tom Adams, with Bill Richards crewing, won the North Americans at Gibson Island in 1973.

The Star Worlds Championships were traditionally sailed the following year at the home port if the champion. The first time it was sailed in Chicago was in 1942 during World War II with 16 boats and again in 1944 with 19 boats. Because of the war, the series were sailed in borrowed boats. In 1949, Sheridan Shore hosted the Championships using Chicago Yacht Club's Belmont Harbor facilities. Harry Nye of Chicago Yacht Club won against a field of 40 boats. Chicago Yacht Club hosted the series the following year and Woodie Pirie of Sheridan Shore took second place. After Dick Stearns won the Championship in 1962, Sheridan Shore again hosted a fleet of 67 boats in 1963 using Chicago Yacht Club's Belmont Harbor facilities. Chicago Yacht Club again was the scene of Worlds Championship in 1975 and Sheridan
Shore assisted at the regatta. In 1982 the Silver Star North American Championships were hosted at Sheridan Shore Yacht Club and sailed off Wilmette with a fleet of 34 boats.

The Arrow Fleet

Sheridan Shore Yacht Club member and Snipe sailor All Brittain felt that a Snipe class boat was too small for Lake Michigan so in about 1935 he purchased an 19 foot Cape Cod Knockabout which he called "Sibynal". The boat, with its round bottom, worked so well that Jack Manierre and one other sailor purchased similar boats from Hunter Boat Works in McHenry, Illinois. (These boats were planked with pine.) They asked the Race Committee to give them a start after the Stars in 1936. Two other 18 foot knockabouts joined them in 1937 so that they had a fleet of 6 boats for the 1937 season. Jack Manierre decided that this was an excellent type of boat for Lake Michigan but felt that they could be built better. He got a Naval Architect in Chicago named Gus Deering to take the plans of both the Cape Cod and the Hunter Knockabouts and make up plans for what was to become known as the Arrow Class. He then took these plans to Jens Christensen, cabinet maker turned boatbuilder in Chicago, and had him build a new boat out of mahogany. It was launched during the 1938 season. The boat turned out so well that several more were ordered and the Arrow Class was underway with 8 boats racing during the 1938 season. Gus Deering, the architect, tried to get royalties from Christensen but since he had been paid in full for the plans Jack Manierre, a lawyer, told him that no royalties would be paid. (Gus Deering subsequently sold the plans to Dumphy Boat Works, Lake Geneva, Wisconsin who built the Dumphy Condor for many years using the Arrow plans, except the sail plan was revised and the boats were built with a centerboard or keel.)

A second fleet developed at Montrose Harbor in Chicago and the boats were originally assigned letters. Because they ran out of letters when more boats were built they switched to numbers in 1942. (Bill Magie did not want to spend the money to change his sail from the letter "O" so he was assigned the number zero and the Arrow Class is probably the only class to use that number.)

Inter-fleet competition developed between Montrose and Wilmette in 1940. During and just after the war improvements were made to the class including positioning of the mast in addition to a larger, deeper centerboard and an improved rudder. Most of these changes were engineered by Major George A. Quinlan who financed the changeover of the boats to the new centerboard in 1944. Aaron Evans was allowed to sail his boat for one year with a spinnaker to see if it was worthwhile for the class to adopt them. (It was felt that the time lost by handling the spinnaker did not make it worthwhile.)

Jens Christensen had to close his boat yard during the Second World War, so Major Quinlan and Paul Edwards of the Montrose fleet worked together to find a new builder. He was Ferdinand "Red" Nimphus, then of South Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He built his first Arrow for Paul Edwards and it was launched in 1945. Nimphus built over 40 Arrows in the next 14 years for both the Wilmette and Montrose Fleets.

Several sailors in the mid-1950s wanted to get the Arrow Class to allow boats to be built of fiberglass, a material that was becoming increasingly popular in small boat construction. The class, especially the Montrose Fleet, opposed the changeover so some of the Wilmette sailors started a Flying Scot Fleet with fiberglass boats in 1958. The Wilmette Arrow Fleet then decided to investigate the possibility of fiberglass Arrows on their own. Stamm Boat Company, Delafield, Wisconsin agreed to build one using Ernie Heinemann's Arrow #70 as a mold. The first fiberglass Arrow, #86 was delivered to Curt Uebel late in the summer of 1959 and raced with the fleet part of the season. Stamm built about 40 boats during the next ten years. (About 1962 Nimphus built Wooden Arrow #100 for Paul Edwards because the Montrose Fleet would not accept fiberglass hulls. This fleet subsequently died out because of their refusal to accept fiberglass and many of the members started sailing Rhodes 19s.)

The changeover from wood to fiberglass hulls was carefully done so that new boats did not have a competitive advantage over the older wood boats. The Fleet Champion for many years after the changeover was a skipper with a wooden boat. In the mid-1960s the fleet desired to get another builder because of the difficulties with the Stamm Boat Company. They contracted with Edgar Riley of Olympic Molded Products of Decatur, Illinois to build a mold for the fleet and he subsequently built three hulls but was not able to complete the boats. Bob Sandsmark of Wilmette obtained these hulls and completed the boats in 1967 using #118 for his own boat. Later Johnson Boat Company in Minnesota built three boats using the Fleet mold followed by Ballenger Boat Company, McHenry, Illinois who also built a few boats in 1978.

There have been as many as 40 Arrows moored in Wilmette Harbor making it one of the most active fleets racing out of Sheridan Shore Yacht Club, competing on both Saturdays and Sundays during the season. It has several special series such as Ladies Skipper Races and Junior Races as well as the Wednesday Night Twilight Series. The design which is essentially home-grown has proven to be an excellent class for Lake Michigan and Wilmette Harbor.

Flying Scot

The Wilmette Harbor Flying Scot Fleet began in the summer of 1958, a year after the boat was designed. Four Scots were launched. In 1960 the Fleet had grown to twelve boats with several members of other fleets purchasing Flying Scots. In July 1960 Sheridan Shore Yacht Club hosted the second National Championships for the class. Several of the Wilmette Flying Scot sailors became avid regatta hoppers, racing in all the early nationals and helping to start fleets in Milwaukee and Door County, Wisconsin.

By 1972 the Wilmette Flying Scot Fleet had about 30 boats. Several times, the Flying Scot Championships have been hosted at Wilmette.

Rainbow Fleet

In the early fall of 1962 George Moloney (father of George III) and Bob Schnider, both Flying Scot sailors, concluded that Wilmette needed a new keel boat racing class, a boat that was safe on Lake Michigan, that was comfortable as a day sailor and could be a one-design family racing boat. After trying several other boats they found the Rainbow, a newly designed 24 foot keel boat designed by Olin Stephens of Sparkman-Stephens Company. They borrowed a demonstrator boat in Chicago and sailed it up the shore in a gusty southwest wind and decided that this was the boat.

The Rainbow proved very popular and seemed to meet a need at Wilmette Harbor so that by the mid-1970s there were about 25 in the Wilmette Fleet. There are currently three major racing fleets of Rainbows in the country. Wilmette has been hosting the Rainbow Nationals every other year.

Dolphin (and Cruising) Fleet

In 1957 boat designer William H. Shaw built a 24 foot yawl "Trina" which he had designed to the then new Midget Ocean Racing Club measurement rule. The design concept called for a boat capable of winning races, accommodating four adults, and having a built-in galley, head and inboard engine. The boat was made out of wood and was known as the Shaw 24.

Boatbuilder George O'Day of Boston Massachusetts wanted to build a fiberglass sloop with a similar hull to the Shaw 24. Shaw was then working for Sparkman & Stevens so O'Day commissioned them to design what is now known as a "Dolphin" and he started building them in 1960.

In 1969 Bill Laub and Jack Farley along with Claude McJohnson purchased two Dolphins built by Yankee since O'Day was no longer building them. In 1968 the Dolphins let Gus Martin race with them in his new Morgan 24. After that other classes of cruising boats joined in with the Dolphins at Wilmette. The different classes of boats are assigned a measurement rating for handicap racing while the fleet has attempted to standardize all Dolphins so that they can race as one-designs.

The Soling Fleet

In 1969, the Wilmette Soling Fleet was formed with 12 boats.  Within a few years there were 20 Solings in the Wilmette racing fleet.

The J-24 Fleet

In 1979 and 1980 Steve Barth brought his boat to Wilmette Harbor and sailed against the Dolphins during Race Weekend and on a few other occasions, keeping the boat on a temporary mooring at the harbor. Soling sailor Alan Berman bought a new J-24 named "Allegro" and it was the first with a mooring in Wilmette Harbor in 1980. In the spring of 1981 more J-24s were moored in Wilmette Harbor.