Pirate Reborn

In the early 20th century, R-boat racing attracted the brightest and the best. R's were large enough to be yachts and small enough to be toys. One of the most historic of the lot, Pirate, R11, is being restored in Seattle at the lively Center for Wooden Boats. Pirate was the first West Coast boat to campaign on the East Coast—she won the 1929 nationals at
Author:
Publish date:

In the early 20th century, R-boat racing attracted the brightest and the best. R's were large enough to be yachts and small enough to be toys.

One of the most historic of the lot, Pirate, R11, is being restored in Seattle at the lively Center for Wooden Boats. Pirate was the first West Coast boat to campaign on the East Coast—she won the 1929 nationals at Larchmont—and she was a leading R campaigner up and down the West Coast for as long as R's were viable.

Relaunched this spring, with work still cranking along and plans to start sailing in the fall, Pirate is a boat that has touched many lives, and she's very much alive herself.

The Center for Wooden Boats describes itself as a hands-on maritime museum aiming to preserve the Pacific Northwest's vital and varied small craft heritage by preserving artifacts and maritime skills. Here, they say, "You can put your hands on the oars of a graceful pulling boat or the tiller of a traditional wooden catboat. With help from master craftsmen, you can learn to steambend an oak frame, cast an oarlock, sew a canvas ditty bag, splice a line or caulk a seam."

While a lot of the heavy lifting in the restoration of Pirate has been done at yards close by, the finishing and maintaining of Pirate is a logical fit for the Center for Wooden Boats, located on the shores of Lake Union. Scott Rohrer, who's driving the project, reports that as of mid-April, "The house is on, and we're ready to plank it."

Scott didn't mention, the last time he talked to SAIL, that it's been a long haul since 1999, when a flight of angels banded together to return Pirate from Southern California to her birthplace in Seattle. Former owners had given her aluminum spars, and the leaky deck had been sheathed with plywood in an effort to make her tight. Much of the repair work had been performed with epoxy resins that interacted badly with the original materials.

But it seems so long ago . . .

Here's a little history, courtesy of the Pirate web site.

In the spring of 1925, yachtsman Don Lee of Los Angeles made a challenge to his son Tommy—win the Pacific Coast Star Championship and the elder Lee would give his heir a new R-boat as a reward. Whether inspired by this offer or by base competitive instinct, the young Lee sailed his Star Satellite to first place at the championship, held that year in Victoria, British Columbia.

And so begins the story of Pirate, christened and launched on Lake Union on April 4, 1926. She was shipped to Southern California, where she had a successful and happy racing career under Tommy Lee. She made her appearance on the national stage in 1929, under new owner O. K. Hunsaker and skipper Matt Walsh.

Pirate was shipped east for racing at Larchmont, New York. As the story goes:

Walsh took L. A. Evening Herald sports writer Fox Case along with him as crew. Once at Larchmont, New York, they picked up local sailors Gordon Sykes and Manning Staires to crew. After two races, the scores for the top positions were very close. In the third race, the wind blew from the northeast. Walsh took the start at the committee boat and led the fleet to the weather mark off Scotch Caps. In clear air and riding up on a starboard tack lift, he tacked just three times. Pirate held the lead on the reach across the sound to a jibing mark off Hempstead Harbor. The final leg went to the finish line off of the Larchmont breakwater. Pirate finished well ahead of the R-boat fleet and beat a few of the larger, faster Q-boats as well

The racing continued to be close, but at the end of the week Pirate closed out the series and became the R-Class national champion by a single point over the famous Herreshoff-designed Yankee.

There is more to the Pirate story, and the restoration, and ongoing activities at the Center for Wooden Boats. The story is well and generously told at Pirate.

Related

TOTW_PromoSite

SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell. Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.com No chafe, safe stay  If you’re leaving the boat unattended for a longish period, there’s a lot to be said for cow-hitching the shorelines, as this sailor did. They’ll never let go, and so long as the ...read more

belize600x

Charter Special: Belize

It would be hard to imagine a more secure spot than the Sunsail base on the outskirts of the beachside community of Placencia, Belize. The entire marina is protected by a robust seawall with a channel scarcely a few boatlengths across. It’s also located far enough up Placencia ...read more

DSC00247

DIY: a Top-to-Bottom Refit

I found my sailing “dream boat” in the spring of 1979 while racing on Lake St. Clair in Michigan. Everyone had heard about the hot new boat in town, and we were anxiously awaiting the appearance of this new Pearson 40. She made it to the starting line just before the race ...read more

01-oysteryachts-regattas-loropiana2016_063

Light-air Sails and How to Handle Them

In the second of a two-part series on light-air sails, Rupert Holmes looks at how today’s furling gear has revolutionized sail handling off the wind. Read part 1 here. It’s easy to look at long-distance racing yachts of 60ft and above with multiple downwind sails set on roller ...read more

HanseCharles

Video Tour: Hanse 348

“It’s a smaller-size Hanse cruiser, but with some big-boat features,” says SAIL’s Cruising Editor, Charles J. Doane. At last fall’s Annapolis Boat Show, Doane had a chance to take a close look at the new Hanse 348. Some of the boat’s highlights include under-deck galleries for ...read more

amalfitown

Charter Destination: Amalfi Coast

Prego! Weeks after returning from our Italian flotilla trip last summer, I was still feeling the relaxed atmosphere of the Amalfi Coast. It’s a Mediterranean paradise, with crystal-clear waters, charming hillside towns and cliffside villages, plenty of delicious food and wine, ...read more

image005

Inside or Outside When Sailing the ICW

Last April, my wife, Marjorie, and I decided to take our Tartan 4100, Meri, north to Maryland from her winter home in Hobe Sound, Florida. This, in turn, meant deciding whether to stay in the “Ditch” for the duration or go offshore part of the way. Although we had both been ...read more

MK1_30542

SailGP: There’s a New Sailing Series in Town

San Francisco was the venue of the biggest come-from-behind victory in the history of the America’s Cup when Oracle Team USA beat Emirates Team New Zealand in 2013, so it seems only fitting that the first American round of Larry Ellison’s new SailGP pro sailing series will be ...read more