Class History

Born in the halcyon days post WW II, the Rhodes 19 evolved during the next fifty years in response to advancing technology. Adaptability has enabled the boat and its class organization to enter the twenty-first century as a successful, exciting one-design sailing racer, day boat and cruiser, supported by a strong national following.

Available with centerboard or keel, Rhodes 19s have provided countless hours of enjoyment to thousands of owners, charterers and novice sailors, in and out of structured programs. This all purpose one-design boat has proved an ideal platform for national championships, the Sears Cup, the Adams Cup the Mallory Cup, the Prince of Wales Match Races and their elimination series.

Seaworthy design enabled the Rhodes 19 to win Yachting Magazine’s 1967Heavy Air One of a Kind Regatta over keel speedsters such as the International Tempest, the 110 and the 210. Sail Magazine in the seventies, named the Rhodes 19 as one of the “Classic” one-designs of the post WW II era.

When WWII ended, the Allied Aviation Corporation of Cockeysville, Maryland was forced to convert its molded plywood production facilities from airplane fuselages to a product that could survive in a peacetime economy. In those pre-fiberglass days, a number of one-design sailboats such as International 14s’, Thistles and Jolly Boats used molded plywood as a hull material.

Accordingly, Allied commissioned Philip Rhodes, to draft the lines for a wholesome, inexpensive sailboat that was fun to sail. He responded with a nineteen foot, round bilged centerboarder, the Hurricane. It had a small forward deck, wooden spars and a sail plan much the same as the pre-war Lightning.

A Hurricane fleet formed at Greenwich Cove, Connecticut and competed in Larchmont Race Week for a few years. Unfortunately for Allied, no national interest in the Hurricane developed and after an initial flurry of orders, the company fell back to producing bare shells for buyers to finish as they saw fit.

In 1947, The Southern Massachusetts Yacht Racing Association (SMYRA) was searching for a sturdy boat to serve as junior trainer and club racer. Palmer Scott, an established New Bedford, Massachusetts small boat builder, purchased a number of Allied’s unfinished hulls and fitted them with keels, flotation and a redesigned deck with cuddy cabin. The resultant fast, unsinkable boat with aluminum spars was accepted.

Sporting a jaunty whale sail logo, new SMYRA class boats sold in 1948 for $1,695.00, complete with Ratsey sails. They became especially popular at Edgartown and other Martha’s Vineyard locations.

In the 1950s, fiberglass began to replace molded plywood for boat building. Marscot Plastics of southern Massachusetts established itself in the new industry and with Palmer Scott’s blessing, used a SMYRA hull to build a production mold. Subsequently, Marscot associated with American Boat Building of East Greenwich, Rhode Island and the George O’Day organization.

Before long, Marscot and American Boat Building moved on, leaving the SMYRA with O’Day’s company. In 1958, O’Day arranged with Philip Rhodes to use his name to identify the boat. In 1959, the O’Day Company changed the name to “Rhodes 19” and sold fifty of the new one-designs. At this time, they decided to offer centerboard as well as keel models. Over the years, centerboarders have flourished in shallow water areas such as Cape Cod, Nantucket and the New Jersey shore.

By the spring of 1960, sales of the Rhodes 19 had mushroomed, especially on Long Island Sound. It was there the boat caught the eye of Frederick P. Warne, a Rye, New York corporation lawyer. He was so impressed that he quickly sold his 210 and bought a new Rhodes.

His experience in the 210 class and his legal training convinced him that if the Rhodes 19 were to be successful as a one-design racer, it would need a national organization, complete with charters, a constitution and controlled one design rules. He contacted his supplier for names of other local owners, gathered them for a meeting and was rewarded by being elected president of the group.

The cadre’s efforts to locate enough Rhodes 19 owners across the country to form a national class association took the better part of five years. The first recorded national meeting was held February 19, 1965 at the Larchmont Yacht Club. Interim accomplishments were the sailing of the first national championship regatta and the publication of a rules book in 1963.

Thusly launched into the mainstream of one-design sailing, the class was successful during the ensuing decade and a half. During this time, a number of other one-designs made cameo appearances on the sailing scene, only to fade into obscurity due to the lack of an adequate ownership base.

The Rhodes, however, was able to attract an ever increasing number of avid owners due to its sound design, low price and stable class management. Well drafted rules and their change process enabled the class to maintain one-design standards while staying abreast of technological advances. At the peak of this nautical heyday there were as many as twenty active fleets in all parts of the country.

During the late ’70s and the early ’80s, the class was confronted by its greatest challenges, the loss of its sole builder, followed by an inept replacement builder.

Economic change in the form of radically higher raw material costs forced the O’Day Corporation to limit production of small and moderately sized fiberglass boats. A secondary consideration was the labor intensive hand layup production process used for the Rhodes 19 and its sister ship, the Mariner. Accordingly, O’Day and its successor, Bangor Punta, discontinued active promotion and requested the Class to help locate a new builder.

The spring of 1980 announcement that Rhodes 19 production facilities and rights of sale had been transferred to a respected, small one-design manufacturer was greeted with sighs of relief from the class membership. The new builder, Rebel Industries of Jackson, Michigan, had previously acquired the Daysailer 1, promised to start Rhodes production in March of 1980 and favorably impressed the Rhodes 19 Class officers with their management’s know how and integrity.

The bloom of optimism was of short duration. By the summer no Rhodes 19 production had occurred, the class newsletter noted the lack of written specifications for the boat and the new builder had changed its name to Spindrift. Subsequent developments confirmed the appropriateness of the new moniker. The company’s promises proved to be as ephemeral as the wind blown sea foam of its name.

Many other one designs, faced with similar circumstances, have succumbed and faded from the scene. Although the class suffered some attrition due to its lack of an active builder for nearly five years; thanks to its wholesome design, a strong class organization, a bit of luck and the dedication of two successive administrations; it endured and emerged with a more attractive, viable boat and an enhanced position on the one-design stage.

The Christine Francis administration, 1981-1982, maintained class membership by extensive fleet contact and interaction. Charlie Loutrel’s years, 1982-1984, catalyzed the process that converted the boat to a more easily produced, modern configuration.

The 1982 National Championship Regatta in Chicago saw the debut of the new Spindrift Rhodes 19, prototype 1. It was sailed in competition by the class Rules Committee Chairman and was found wanting in several regards. A “Specifications Committee” of top Rhodes 19 sailors, class administrators and builder representatives was formed to correct the design.

The group met in New Orleans during November, 1982 They subjected a corrected design, prototype 2., to a series of races and measurements by a USYRU certified measurer. The result of their efforts was approval of the new boat as a valid Rhodes 19 that replicated the original in all significant appearance, dimensional and performance criteria.

Despite the Association’s approval and enthusiastic support, Spindrift produced only three additional boats. Then, in December, 1982, without notice, the molds and inventories were sold to Stuart Sharaga, a Rhodes 19 owner and successful entrepreneur. Thanks to his dedication and integrity, Rhodes 19 fortunes took a sharp upturn.

He immediately set up a Maine facility, known as Stuart Marine. He contacted Rhodes 19 Class Rules Committee Chairman and leading edge Naval Architect, Jim Taylor to help in creating production methods and molds that could produce a profitable, sound boat, conforming to the configuration that had been approved by the forenamed Specifications Committee. Production of superb Stuart Marine Rhodes 19s in centerboard and keel models began in 1984.

An early keel model was displayed during the 1985 Rhodes 19 National Championship Regatta at Corinthian Yacht Club in Marblehead, Massachusetts. It met with unanimous approval as a well made, durable Rhodes 19, conforming to Rhodes 19 Class Rules.

During the following years, Stuart Marine became highly successful in marketing the boat to individuals and fleet buyers for military and community sailing programs. Stuart was instrumental in establishing fleet level interest in attractive locations such as Hawaii and the Caribbean Islands.

In 1995 a Stuart boat won the Rhodes 19 National Championship Regatta at the Southern Yacht Club in New Orleans and repeated in 1996 and 1997 at Marblehead and Chicago. The 1998 National Championship Regatta, won by Justin Scott in an O’Day model, was hosted superlatively, by new fleet number 45 at Cottage Park in Winthrop, Massachusetts.

In the succeeding two years, class, individual owner, and builder promotional efforts resulted in the formation of new fleets numbered forty-six and forty-seven, at Hingham, Massachusetts and New Rochelle, New York. The former ran a highly successful East Coast Championship Regatta in June, 1999 and is on tap to host the 2001 Nationals.

At this writing early in 2001, a group of San Francisco Bay sailors are organizing a west coast Rhodes 19 rebirth. The boat’s healthy, sturdy design continues to sell itself as an economical, safe contributor to one design yachting.

Despite the risk of grievous omissions, no history of an organization can be complete without mention of the people who played noteworthy roles during the course of its years. In addition to those mentioned at significant points above, Bob Jensen demands recognition.

A model sportsman with seven national championships, Bob has set a record that is unlikely to be duplicated. But, his most important contribution is undeniably the role he played in leading the 1995-1999 Class Rules’ update and clarification. He brought stature, integrity and basic engineering skill to the task.

In the early years, Kirk Smith brought a note of humor and a willingness to share his go fast ideas. From his West Coast location came Joe Madrigali, ultimate collector of dues, self proclaimed, “Greatest Rhodes 19 sailor ever,” and father of Jeff Madrigali who won the 1979 Nationals and went on to Olympic stardom in the Soling.

In the middle years, Dick Welch used his communications skills and his managerial talents to produce a valuable tuning guide while promoting national recognition for the class. From the South came Al Leblanc, winner of a National Championship, who served the class well as a promoter, president and dedicated Rules Committee Chairman.

Norm Cressy is a long time competitive bridesmaid, trophy donor, sailmaker and dedicated class promoter. No such list would be complete without a true southern gentleman, Al Grevemberg. He transcended his roles as National Champion and President by his dedication to the Rhodes 19. He served as an honored judge at national competitions on both coasts and no National Regatta at his beloved Southern Yacht Club would have been successful without his hard work, hospitality and sunny smile.

At the end of his life, he admonished Arthur Mann, his executor and Class Officer deserving of recognition in his own right, to, “Keep the class strong.” It is incumbent upon the rest of us, owners, current and future to heed his words.

Fred Brehob