Back in the early 1960s, America’s Cup veteran and long-time one-design proponent Cornelius “Corny” Shields decided that the cadets at the various maritime academies in this country needed quality sail training if they were to become truly competent seamen.
He hired Sparkman & Stephens to design the 30-foot Shields, one of the most striking one-design racers ever, with its long overhangs, tall fractional rig, narrow beam and pretty sheerline.
The first dozen boats went to the United States Merchant Marine Academy and the New York State Maritime Academy in Fort Schuyler, New York. Small fleets sprang up at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland and the Newport War College.
After the Cape Cod Shipbuilding Co. completed the first 20 boats, Corny purchased the molds and Chris Craft built the next 170 boats at its plant in Michigan. The Henry R. Hinckley Company then built about 20 more boats before the molds returned to the Cape Cod Shipbuilding Co., which builds the boat to this day. It is now up to hull #259.
Designed to sail equally well in boisterous conditions and in the light air of Long Island Sound, the Shields has a devoted following. There are active fleets on both coasts, in places like Long Beach, California, and Newport, Rhode Island, as well as in the Chicago area.
Robert Banas, the captain of Fleet 19 in Mystic, Connecticut, notes the boat also makes a great daysailer. “It is very stable and forgiving, easy on the helm and well balanced,” he says. “The cockpit is comfortable. It’s just an all-around good boat.”
With their solid fiberglass hulls, Shields are ruggedly built and easy to maintain. The class also maintains a strict set of rules to keep costs down and ensure parity among all boats. For more information, visit shieldsclass.com. – AC