History of Frostbite Sailing and Essex Yacht Club
Starting the first weekend in October, you may have noticed increased activity around the Club on Sundays. This is due to the Connecticut River Frostbite Squadron at Essex, better known as FBYC (Frostbite Yacht Club) fall series. As we have many new Members in the Club who may not understand why they use our Club I have condensed a short history of our relationship with the Frostbiters taken from our historical archives that were put together by Hartzel Spence (deceased) and now kept up by Bob Sachs.
"...Walter Rowe ...based his centerboard yawl with a Dyer Dink ... at Essex in 1930. From this base he and a few friends shared the growing interest in frostbite racing then developing from City Island to Marblehead. When these zealots made rendezvous in Manhassett Bay in 1932 [MLPS note: New Years Day], Walter Rowe, extolling the virtues of the river, invited them to come to Essex a year hence on March 4-5 to formalize an Eastern Frostbite Dinghy Regatta. ... Commodore Hobart Ford of the Cruising Club of America led the way to Essex from the western end of the Sound, carrying a deckload of racing dinghies. Class A and B boats assembled from all over New England, and 22 skippers answered the starting gun, ...Headquarters were set up at the Essex Steamboat Dock, ...Nautical reporters covered the sport for major newspapers and wire services.... This triumph inspired Rowe and friends to organize a permanent home for the regatta. Meetings on May 20 and 27, 1933, produced a constitution, by-laws, a burgee ...The Essex Yacht Club was commissioned on June 17, 1933 in quarters rented from the Steamboat Dock. ...A dinghy series inaugurated that summer persisted fifty years later. The 1933 autumn regatta in November attracted 46 skippers, a record to that time.
... From that genesis the Essex Yacht Club thrived.
...Dinghy racers have competed in Bermuda, Toronto, London, at Marblehead, Larchmont and San Francisco, and brought home regional or national championships in Penguins, Thistles, Rhodes 18s, International 14s, One-Ton and Midgets,
... For the record, the cadre of 16 Founders of the Frostbite Dinghy Regatta ... This nucleus invited other yachting enthusiasts in the area to join the new club. ... With 12 X dinghies on hand ... a two-story clubhouse ... to be built by members ...This property, ideal for dinghy launching ... was commissioned in 1936.... In 1937 sixteen new X-cIass boats were added to the frostbite fleet, bringing the total to 40, the largest one-class dinghy racing fleet assembled to that time. ... By 1938 dinghy racing was so vigorous that 52 skippers attended ... eliminations in the harbor.... Ben Harrison's Loubenvar, a fixture as committee boat... from its first station in the Spring of 1934 until Harrison's death 46 years later, a tradition carried on by his sons. ...
... Sept. 21, 1938,... The worst hurricane in Essex history struck ... Seventeen X-dinghies were destroyed, but the others raced the following Sunday as usual. Essex was the only yacht club on the eastern seaboard which did not cancel the remainder of its 1938 racing and cruising season.
At the outbreak of World War II ...in 1942 the vigorous activity ceased. Frostbiting ended. The X-dinghy fleet was dispersed, never to be reassembled.... after World War II... the X-class was gone and there was no resumption of frostbiting.
... In 1958 ...there were 65 Blue Jays in the river,... Walter Rowe utilized the Jays to reintroduce frostbiting as a major event of Essex Yacht Club's 25th Anniversary festivities... Frostbiting at once became a joint venture of Essex and Pettipaug, and became a fixture on the river. The Essex Yacht Club, at proper ceremonies, received its charter for the Frostbite Association from the Eastern Frostbite Association (26 years late),
Notes of Interest:
In the 60's Rick Harrison, who is still active with FBYC as head of their protest committee) helped to build FAIR-N-SQUARE which was used as the committee boat till 2001 when she was deemed to be unseaworthy and was 'deep-sixed'. There is an excellent picture of her taken in 1983 at the time of the 50th anniversary of Frostbiting hanging on the wall by the bulletin board.
Bill Grover told me that he has been frostbiting since 1978 and has not missed a season (fall and spring) since.
For years the fleet had upwards to 50 InterClubs racing (I had one as well as my son and son-in-law, Stanley Horan and Neal O'Connell who also are past commodores of FBYC). Active fleets racing today are the old stand-by Blue Jay, Lasers, 420's and Etchels.
Come down of a Sunday afternoon and watch the icicles form on these intrepid sailors. Believe it or not they are having fun!!