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A Bit of San Francisco Bay Yacht Racing History

“I came across this news clipping in the ditty bag of a long-ago sailor, and thought someone might be interested,” writes Ellen Liebenberg of Livermore. “If only the Chronicle was as interested in sailing now!”

Farallon Clipper race on first page of 1954 Sporting Green
It’s not the front page, but it is the front page of the Sporting Green on May 10, 1954. In this photo, two Farallon Clippers, Debit (left) and Pam have run aground. Does anyone know what the CCCAABCDE means to the left of the date? The Sporting Green was printed on green paper. This one no doubt faded, then yellowed with age.
© 2022 San Francisco Chronicle

Back in 1954, when this article was published, there were no alternatives to get Bay Area sailing news. Bay and Delta Yachtsman launched in 1965, and Latitude 38 started up in 1977 (we’re celebrating our 45th anniversary this year). In the early 1980s, Latitude began running race results in the magazine, and the San Francisco Chronicle stopped. Coincidence or by design?

Race results
Results from the race in May 1954. Lots of familiar names here.
© 2022 San Francisco Chronicle

In case you can’t read the clipping showing the results, it lists one-design classes 210, Junior Clipper, Rhodes 33, Windward, Pic, Star, Hurricane, Bird, Acorn, Golden Gate, Farallon Clipper and Bear. Some of these classes and individual boats still race on the Bay. Handicap classes include such memorable yachts as Baruna, Java Head, Yo Ho Ho, Water Witch and Yankee. The results list all entries, including “dnf”, “disq” and “dns”. Among the Farallon Clippers mentioned is Patita II. We featured Patita in the July 2020 issue of Latitude 38. Perhaps not coincidentally, Chronicle boating columnist Jack Schmale’s nephews restored the boat, which had been in the family for 45 years. (There’s a discrepancy in spelling: “Farallon” vs. “Farallone” Clipper; not sure which is the original, definitive spelling.)

SF Chronicle article
Debit managed to pull out the win, thanks to a strong swimmer!
© 2022 San Francisco Chronicle

Again, in case the text of the article is hard to read on your screen, Jack Schmale relates that “Barre Stephens, the co-owner, co-skipper and co-builder” of Debit, dove over the rail, pushed an anchor 50 yards into deeper water, and swam back to the boat. The crew hauled on the anchor line to pull the boat off the shoal near Crissy Field. Debit won her class in the All Clubs Regatta that day.

The Chronicle does sometimes still cover local yacht racing. We’ve shared desk space with their reporter in St. Francis Yacht Club’s media room at Rolex Big Boat Series. But page counts and staff sizes are smaller than they were in the heyday of publishing before the Internet disgorged such a glut of media content. This is true of most print publications. The Chronicle’s longtime web portal, SF Gate, used to carry a Sailing with Latitude 38 channel, but the powers that be changed, as they are wont to do, and the new honcho nixed our channel.

If you, the reader, can fill in more details, please comment below. Thanks to Ellen for sending us these clippings.


  1. Bill O'Connor 2 years ago

    I can’t answer that question but can add a couple of historical bits. If you look closely at the bottom right corner of the picture, you will see the photographer’s name: Joe Rosenthal, who was the photographer who took the famed picture of raising the American flag on Iwo Jima. He was the Chronicle’s Sports photographer before the WW2 and got his job back after the war and one of his beats was SF Bay yacht racing.
    Jack Schmale, then a member of the Golden Gate YC, who wrote the story attached, also owned a Farallon Clipper, Patita. He kept her for years and raced her. Schmale’s sole beat was all the yachting activities on the Bay in the 40s, 50s and 60s. (Yacht racing was important enough to the Chronicle to dedicate a full-time reporter). She is still around and was the subject of a Latitude 38 special story not too long ago.

  2. Pat Broderick 2 years ago

    You could check with Kimball Livingston about why the Chron stopped covering yacht races. As the Sausalito C.C. Race Director I’d phone in the results to the rewrite desk as soon as they were hand calculated. The call took 20 minutes with 60+ boats and was a long-distance call. Many unusual boat names had to be spelled and of course last names. They’d be printed in a day or two — in agate type (squint!). Many boats didn’t know how they did until they read the paper. In the 1970s there were still some woodie classes, but also many early plastic boats: Cal 20s (and other Cals), Coronado 25s, Columbias, Tritons (and other Albergs), Islander Bahamas, and of course Santana 22s. A “big” boat was 30 feet and a”bigger boat” 35. Club races were up to Clipper where the street light was on the corner, out to a temporary beyond the anchor outs, around Cone Rock, around the dry docks, and finish at the barge.

  3. Suzi Jacobs Beatie 2 years ago

    It was fun seeing , Barre Stevens & Jack Schmale’s name. In those days everyone knew everyone on the Bay. Jack was a friend of my Dad’s ( Harry Jacobs). Thanks Bill O’Connor !
    I have some old newspaper clippings that my parents & Mik’s Mom collected. I can get them to you at Latitude if you would like them.
    Is that you Bill , my old friend?

    • Bill O'Connor 2 years ago

      Yes Suzi it’s me (if my father was still alive he’d correct my grammar…) what a treat to hear from you!
      My email is: [email protected] Say hello when you get the chance.

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