Are You Familiar with “R” Boats?
Reader John Dukat posed this question, and sent us more pictures of old-timey sailboats on San Francisco Bay:
“I don’t know much about R boats, but I found a few images, I believe, in an old issue of Yachtsman at the Nautical Library at Fort Mason. R boats seem large, narrow and well canvassed.”
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My Great Grandfather commissioned the first marconi R-boat on the West Coast; ALOHA; in the early 1920’s. The Master Mariners M-II division races for the ALOHA Trophy to this day. The trophy was won be my Great Grandfather, skippered by my Grandfather with my father in the crew. As far as I know ALOHA is still sailing in the Pacific Northwest. A picture of ALOHA hangs in my living room.
I’m not going to write a treatise, but there was a stint between the wars when Rs were as important to West Coast racing as Six Metres.
The R Class boats are still an active fleet of six boats that race at The Cleveland YC (my childhood home club). Think there may still be a fleet in Toronto as well.
On a sporty night race on Lake Erie back in the late 1970’s, one swamped, then sank, when smacked by a Midwest nighttime storm. One teenage crew allegedly went down with the boat but managed to free himself from the rigging and miraculously swam to the surface to the relief of the rest of the team. A flashlight floated to the surface which gave them a chance to signal their distress. All souls survived but the boat was never found (despite going down in less than 60′ of water).
My parents owned the R boat “Ace” originally a San Francisco boat but we had it in SoCal. People used to laugh as I dressed in full foul weather gear in July, then they saw what foredeck on a submarine was like and stopped laughing. She was a great sailing boat but I’m convinced she never went over a wave in all her days.
My wife’s grandfather Alvin Frank skippered an R boat named Angela. Angela was a John Alden design built at Wilmington Boat Works (“Wilbo”) and won the Thomas Lipton Cup in San Diego three times. She was R boat #9 and I believe she was launched in 1923. I have pictures to submit if that function is available. I am searching for more history on these boats. Pirate was still up in the Pacific Northwest last time I checked.
Send your photos to [email protected] – we’d love to share them.
My father, Jack Rogers owned and sailed the R-boat Rascal in SF Bay in the late 30s. Sold it at the start of WW II. New owner ran it aground shortly thereafter. It had a very distinctive mast that was curved at the top to lower the center of effort. I picked out the mast in a harbor in Sausalito in the 70s, the boat much the worse for wear. He had trophies, so I imagine he won some races.
Jack; not sure when your family owned RASCAL but one of the St Francis YC perpetual trophies sailed for by the under 40′ Marconi vessels in the Jessica Cup in the fall is the Rascal Cup. Not sure of the date on it but I think is around 1927. Beautiful silver cup about a foot tall.
Thanks for the response. I don’t know when he purchased the Rascal or if he was the original owner. I read in what I think was the minutes of the first meeting of the St. Francis club after the War. They mentioned the reemergence of the R-boat fleet and that the Rascal would soon be joining the fleet. I assume that was because after it running aground early in the War that it was not restored until after the War. I can’t find that minutes anymore and if you can, and would forward it, that would be very appreciated. Bruce
Thanks for the info! It’s becoming more and more difficult to gather information on these boats. According to the R boat site Rascal was designed by Lester Stone and probably built at the Stone Boatyard.
Andy: I would appreciate it if you could forward to me how to reach the R-boat site. I have not found it yet.
Thanks, Bruce Rogers
Bruce – here’s the class address: https://r-class.org/