Evolution of the

planing sailboat
by John MacBeath Watkins
A friend in England announced that he had bought a boat, an International 14 designed and built
by Uffa Fo, the !an "ho, he said, in#ented the $laning dinghy%
I told hi! I "as a great ad!irer of Uffa Fo, but had in !y $ossession lines for a $laning
dinghy designed by &athaniel 'erreshoff in 1())% *his u$set hi!, and led to a thread about the history
of $laning boats on the WoodenBoat foru!, "hich disa$$eared, and then another thread on the sa!e
foru! on the sa!e sub+ect, "hich unearthed a lot !ore infor!ation in a collaborati#e bit of research
in#ol#ing $eo$le in England, &e" ,ealand, Australia, -anada, the United .tates, and $robably so!e
countries I/! neglecting to !ention% -ontributors included t"o designers, a !odel builder for a test
tank, a !ariti!e !useu! curator and a nu!ber of e$erienced sailors% .$ecial thanks to 0ichard
Woods of Woods 1esigns and Ben Fuller, curator of the 2eabody Mariti!e Museu!% *his is a narrati#e
of "hat "e learned%
I don/t ha#e the rights to the lines 'o"ard -ha$elle dre" u$ of 'erreshoff/s 13 4 foot s$ritsail
boat, so I/#e dra"n u$ a set of lines in 1elftshi$ that re$resent the sha$e as closely as I can "orking by
eye% I/#e !ade no !easure!ents, and don/t clai! this is etre!ely accurate, but it "ill gi#e you a good
idea of the boat under discussion% .he has a broad bo", because she "as a rule5beater% *he class she
raced "ith, s$ritsail boats !uch like the Woods 'ole "orkboats, re6uired that she be no !ore than 134
feet long, and carry a s$ritsail "ith no boo!% .o, to gi#e the boat the longest foot and the largest sail
$ossible, 'erreshoff !ounted the !ast on to$ of the ste!% It "as !ounted in a bron7e tube, su$$orted
by flying buttresses that "ent back and side"ays to the deck% *he boat is si!ilar to a sneakbo, a ty$e
kno"n for its s$eed off the "ind, but the bo" is shar$er%
2laning sailboats "ere not necessarily the fastest ty$e for all uses, although !ost of the shot5
distance s$eed records for sailboats since the last !ultihull record in 1(8) ha#e been set by $laning
9#essels,: if you can a$$ly that to "indsurfers, kiteboards, and Vestas Sailrocket 3, "hich rides on three
ste$$ed hulls%
*he first challenge to dis$lace!ent !onohulls in organi7ed sailboat racing ca!e in 18;<, "hen
&athaniel 'erreshoff designed a racing cata!aran that ble" $ast the fastest racing boats of her si7e at
the ti!e, sandbagger sloo$s, and cata!arans "ere 6uickly banned fro! racing against !onohulls%
'erreshoff found hi!self racing the fastest stea!ers instead% A fe" other builders took u$ building
racing cata!arans, but the ty$e e#entually $retty !uch died out until after World War II%
When $laning !onohulls "ere introduced, they "ere not so easily banned, so for !any years,
they "ere the fastest boats allo"ed to race in !ost fleets% E#en no", "hen there are $lenty of one5
design cata!arans around "ith fleets to race in, $eo$le $ersist in sailing in $laning dinghies, because
they like the "ay they sail
.ailing is a sensual s$ort% >oing 1? !$h in !y car feels slo", in an air$lane I@d ne#er e#en lea#e
the ground, but "hen a 1?5foot dinghy is sailing that fast "ith no noises but the s$lash of the thro"n
s$ray and the "hoo$ing of the cre", $ushed through the "ater by the 6uiet $o"er of the "ind, it feels
glorious% -ata!arans sail fastest "ith the "eather hull out of the "ater, and the cre" farther fro! the
s$ray% It/s a different sensation, on a faster boat% But "ithin a racing fleet, "hat/s i!$ortant is not your
to$ $otential s$eed, but your s$eed relati#e to the other boats in your class% And there are $lenty of one5
design fleets of $laning dinghies, because the sensation of sailing the! is $leasurable%
2laning !akes it $ossible for a boat to !o#e at higher s$eed "ith less $o"er, because
hydrodyna!ic lift reduces the i!!ersed #olu!e and the "ater breaks fro! the hull cleanly, freeing the
boat fro! its "a#e $attern%
Because "ork boats are usually designed to carry loads, !ost sailing "ork boats are not
designed to $lane% .o!e "ill catch a "a#e and surfA and there are records of &or"egian #essels
co!$leting runs faster than hull s$eed%
*he book Inshore Craft of Norway, by Bernhard Faeroy#ik and Bystein Faeroy#ik, !entions a
day@s tri$ in a hol!edals+ekta C3)53? ft%D "ith a cargo of 11 head of
cattle% Jens .orensen Bakke, born 18<<, told of a !e!orable
#oyage as a boy, sailing fro! .unnf+ord to Bergen, lea#ing at ( a%!%
and arri#ing at 4 $%!%, ha#ing deli#ered the cattle along the "ay%
E*he distance "as 1=< k!, "hich !eans an a#erage s$eed of (%;
knots,E the authors dryly infor! us% *he hull s$eed of such a boat
"ould be about 8 to 8%3 knots% We don@t kno" ho" long it took to
sto$ and unload the cattle, so I@d say at a !ini!u!, the boat "as
s$ending a lot of ti!e at se!i5dis$lace!ent s$eed, if not actually surfing !uch of the "ay% *his "ould
be a s6uare5sterned boat "ith a cabin in the stern, !uch like the one in the $icture on the co#er of the
Another of the fe" co!!ercial cases of using hydrodyna!ic lift $rior to $o"erboats "ere
e$ress canal boats used in .cotland and $arts of England% *hey did so by a $rocess si!ilar to $laning,
but not the sa!e thing%
Around 183), a canal boat $ro$rietor na!ed Willia! 'ouston had an a!a7ing e$erience "hen
the horse to"ing his #essel took fright and set off in a $anic, "hile 'ouston hung on, thinking the drag
of the boat "ould tire the horse% Instead, the boat rose u$ on its bo" "a#e and "ent for"ard at great
s$eed, "hile not see!ing to tire the horse !uch% *he stern "a#e !ost #essels "ould $roduce at high
s$eed had disa$$eared%
'ouston $ercei#ed a co!!ercial $ossibility, and deter!ined that in the shallo" "ater of the
canal, a light, flat5botto!ed #essel "ould rise u$ and $roceed at about 1= !$h "ith !uch less than the
usual a!ount of drag% *he usual s$eed had been 4 !$h%
In 183?, 'ouston/s e$ress canal boats "ere !aking an eight5!ile run at 1) !$h, and carried
3=3,=() $assengers in that year alone% By 184), railroads "ere already taking a"ay the business, but
that year a scientist na!ed John .cott 0ussell $ublished a scientific study of the e$ress canal boats%
0ussell sho"ed that the s$eed these boats Ccalled fly5boats in EnglandD achie#ed "as related to
the de$th of the "ater% A s$eed of 1)51= !$h is not $laning s$eed for a boat the length of these #essels,
about <? ft% In dee$er "ater, the boat "ould not achie#e sufficient hydrodyna!ic lift to cli!b out of the
9hole: of its bo" and stern "a#e until it reached about t"ice that s$eed% C*he for!ula is =%4 ti!es the
s6uare root of the "aterline length in feet F $laning s$eed in knots% 'ull s$eed is 1%4 the s6uare root
of the "aterline length, and at the s$eeds in bet"een, the boat is described as se!i5$laning or se!i5
dis$lace!ent%D *he canal boats "ere a s$ecial case "here the !ain benefit of $laning G achie#ing
enough s$eed to reduce the #essel/s i!!ersed #olu!e G could occur at a lo"er s$eed than nor!al%
*oday, !ost atte!$ts to set ne" records for s$eed under sail on the "ater are done in the shallo"est
"ater $ossible% But the "ord 9hydro$lane,: fro! "hich "e deri#e 9$lane: in the sense of taking
ad#antage of hydrodyna!ic lift to go fast, "as coined in 1()4 and attested as a #erb in 1(14, so !uch
of our early history of this $heno!enon "as not described as $laning% *his creates a $roble! "ith
language% For ea!$le, $rior to 1()4 e#en $laning $o"erboats "ere not described as $laning, and
se#eral histories of $o"erboats ha#e therefore treated #essels $rior to the in#ention of the language of
$laning as dis$lace!ent boats%
-onsider the racing $o"erboat Standard, <) ft% long and ca$able of 3) !$h%
*o $lane, a boat needs to be
going at least =%4 the s6uare
root of the "aterline length,
e$ressed in nautical !iles $er
hour Cknots%D 3) !$h is about =<
knots, and the s6uare root of <) is
about ;%;?, so Standard "as "ell
into the $laning s$eed range% *he
boat achie#ed this "ith a long, flat run that $ro#ided $lenty of lift, yet the histories "ritten of
$o"erboats ty$ically class this as a dis$lace!ent hull, because conte!$orary "riters did not say it "as
$laning% Bf course, they didn@t say it "as $laning because the ter! "asn@t yet in#ented, but they did
record the #essel@s s$eed, and if you do the !ath, you !ust conclude that she "as $laning, or else
defying the la"s of hydrodyna!ics%
2o"erboats can $lane based on a$$lying lots of $o"er to a hull of the right sha$e, e#en if the
boat is fairly hea#y% .ailboats ha#e a tougher ti!e de#elo$ing high horse$o"er, and therefore !ust
ty$ically be lighter% >eorge B@1ay "rote an article, So you Want to Plane, in Hachting, Iol% 1)1, &o%4,
1(?;, $g%8=, "hich essentially says that in addition to hull sha$e criteria, you need a
dis$lace!entJlength ratio in the 8)51=? range, a sail areaJdis$lace!ent ratio of about =8 or !ore, and a
sail areaJ"etted surface ratio of at least =%?% Hou also need to be able to gi#e the boat the $ro$er sail
sha$e and de#elo$ $lenty of $o"er to carry sail% Bf course, B@1ay "as not saying that a boat lighter
than a dis$lace!entJlength ratio of 8) "on@t $lane, he "as saying the so!e boats, better sha$ed and
"ith !ore $o"er to carry a big rig, "ill $lane e#en at a dis$lace!entJlength ratio of 1=?, "hile other
sha$es and rigs need to be as light as 8) or less%
For a hull to $lane, it needs a reasonably flat surfaceK
'o" flat the hull is fore and aft is called the rocker, ho" flat it is in section is called the
deflection angle% A dee$ I hull has a greater deflection angle than a shallo" I hull%
*hink of deflection angle this "ayA the "ater su$$orting the hull is $resu!ably $ushing straight
u$ on the botto!, and the botto!, as the boat !o#es, is $ushing the "ater a"ay at the angle of the
deadrise% *his is !ost si!$ly illustrated "ith a I hull%
While a flat5botto!ed hull, "hen u$right, has a
deflection angle of 7ero, "ith a I5botto!ed hull, the
deflection angle is the angle of deadrise, that is, the
angle at "hich the I lea#es the keel%
As a hull tra#els for"ard, so!e of the "ater is $ushed for"ard, so!e is $ushed back"ard, and
so!e is $ushed to the sides% *he $oint bet"een the "ater going for"ard and the "ater !o#ing aft is
called the stagnation $oint,
and is "here the greatest
$ressure on the hull is%
Bf course, a table
isn/t the right sha$e for
sea"orthiness, so !ost
boats ha#e so!e rocker and
either so!e I or so!e U
sha$e in section% *hese are co!$ro!ises to
!ake the boat safer, but the $erfectly flat table
is a #ery good sha$e for $laning%
In !ost "orkboats, getting ho!e
"ithout ca$si7ing the boat is the !ost i!$ortant
thing, far !ore i!$ortant than s$eed, and !ost
are designed to carry hea#y loads% *he $laning
sailboat, therefore, is !ore likely to be used for $leasure than for "ork% And as "e shall see, !ost of the
early $laning boats "ere either "orkboats !odified for use in racing, or boats deliberately designed for
the s$ort of racing%
0acing "as !ore dangerous than not racing, but on the other hand, it "as and is safer to race
sailboats than al!ost anything else $eo$le race% Unlike fast cars and aircraft, the $hysics are still in
your fa#or, and the cost of going fast this "ay can be !ini!al% .ailing at any ti!e is a challenge,
re6uiring the sort of skill !ost $eo$le "on@t bother to achie#e, and a $leasure as you !ake your bargain
"ith nature to etract the $o"er to $rogress "ithout disturbing its $eace and balance% But it is in the
nature of hu!an endea#or and hu!an $lay that "e like to do things "ell, and test oursel#es against
each other to find out ho" "ell "e@re doing%
*he result, in the case of sailboats, is sailboat racing% 2rofessional !ariners often had reason to
"ish to go fast, to chase or esca$e in the case of $iracy, s!uggling, or "ar, or to reach $ort before your
cargo s$oiled in the case of the fruit trade, or to reach the !arket before anyone else and get the best
*he first boats called 9yachts: "ere boats of this sort, s!all #essels to carry a fe" $eo$le and
!essages 6uickly% *he "ord 9yacht: is 1utch, and they "ere the first nation to "idely ado$t sailing for
$leasure, using, of course, yachts% And belo" the si7e of the yachts "ere boats, often shi$@s boats or
fishing boats for the $oorer fisher!en, and e#entually, $eo$le started sailing these for $leasure as "ell%
Much of the history of the sailing yacht occurs in a boating culture !ore ubi6uitous and less $restigious
than the "orld "e think of as yachting% .!all boats brought the $leasure of sailing to blue5collar
.oon enough, they "ere testing their !ettle against each other, and trying to build faster boats
than each other% *he e#olution of sailing boats occurred in a sort of $unctuated e6uilibriu!, each
breakthrough follo"ed by a $eriod of stability in "hich boats e#ol#ed slo"ly, $iling u$ refine!ents%
*his is the story of one of the breakthroughs, the $laning sailboat, and of the breakthroughs "ithin that
strea! of e#olution%
It isn@t
al"ays easy to trace
the history of s!all
boats% *heir
eistence tends to
be ackno"ledged
by historians, but
fe" detains are
recorded% Most
"ere built by eye,
and unlike larger shi$s "here so!eti!es a !odel "as !ade so that the authorities could understand
"hat they "ere buying, seldo! "as the sha$e recorded%
'o"e#er, as $eo$le began to en+oy boats !ore, they began to notice the! !ore, and record
the! in art% Bn this $age is a sa!$le fro! a collection of etchings done by E% W% -ooke in the 18=)s
and @3)s%
*o sail to "ind"ard, they needed a fin that "ould $re#ent the boat fro! sliding do"n "ind, and
for !ost of the history of s!all sailing boat in Euro$ean culture, this "as !anaged by building the boat
do"n to a straight keel running fro! the ste!$ost to the stern$ost% *here "ere ece$tions% In -entral
A!erica and -hina, daggerboards "ere in co!!on use, and the 1utch ha#e used leeboards since the
1?))s% But these "ere not co!!only used on fast boats%
In 1811, the three ."ain brothers of &e" Jersey $atented a ne" de#elo$!ent for getting
shallo" boats to sail to "ind"ard, the centerboard% Like the leeboard, it "as $i#oted at the for"ard end
and "ould kick u$ "hen a boat hit a reef, and like a daggerboard, it "as housed in a case, usually set
a!idshi$s% *he first centerboards a$$eared in 'udson 0i#er sloo$s, "hich "ould ha#e been about <)
ft% long, in 181? or @1<%
*he centerboard has a !a+or ad#antage o#er the daggerboard for use in shallo" "ater, "here it
"ill kick u$ instead of suddenly sto$$ing the boat as a daggerboard does "hen you run aground% While
A!erican and Euro$ean fisher!en had sho"n little enthusias! for daggerboards, they 6uickly ado$ted
the centerboard for a #ariety of ty$es%
.o!e of the !ost graceful and 6uick s!all boats ha#e e#ol#ed for the $ursuit of shellfish,
"hich tend to reside in shallo" "ater and should be brought to !arket before they s$oil% .oon after the
cargo sloo$s started using the ne" in#ention, oyster fisher!en began using centerboard boats in their
trade in the &e" Hork area% By the 18?)s, shallo", bea!y, and sur$risingly fast and ni!ble oyster
boats "ere co!!on in coastal &e" Hork, es$ecially in >reat .outh Bay%
Bob Fish of &e" Hork "as one of the !en building these boats% 'e built the 1<5foot Una in
about 18?1, and by 18?= she@d been i!$orted to Britain, "here she beca!e kno"n for her s$eed and
ni!ble handling at the yachting center of -o"es% 1ion Me!$, A manual of yacht and boat sailing,
$ublished in se#eral editions starting in 18;8, $ublished lines and offsets taken fro! the lift !odel Fish
used to design the boat, as "ell as her s$ecifications and the !easure!ents of her rig% 'e also
$ublished in the sa!e book lines for an 18;) 9Una boat: designed and built in Britain, e$laining that
centerboard boats had gained $o$ularity as a result of the introduction of Una% *he British soon sho"ed
a $reference for the sloo$ rig, but continued racing centerboard boats, e#entually for!ing the 145foot
class that "ould be
re#olutioni7ed by the
$laning dinghy%
But long before that
ha$$ened, racing in
s!all centerboard boats
beca!e co!!on in
A!erica% It started
a!ong the oyster
fisher!en, "ho !oored
their boats in shallo"
"ater the bigger #essels didn@t use, and "hose haunts soon had $ubs on their shores% Most of the early
builders of fast centerboard boats in A!erica "ere oyster fisher!en or $ulicans% *hey used first bags of
oysters, then bags of sand or gra#el, as ballast to get the boats to go faster to "ind"ard, and the boats
ca!e to be called sandbaggers%
-ontestants often bet on the races, and there "ere often fights o#er collecting the bets% .oon,
rich !en "ere buying fast boats and betting large su!s on the races, +ust as they did "ith horses% For
ea!$le, &icholas 1uryea, o"ner of the fa!ous sandbagger .usie ., rigged a race, clai!ed the stakes,
CN=,))), a lot of !oney in the 18;)sD and "as shot by a business $artner before his o$$onent could
reco#er his !oney in a la"suit%
*his "as not gentle!anly, and hiring a bunch of ruffians to !o#e !ore than 1,))) lb% of
sandbags on each tack "as e$ensi#e, and not con#enient% Moreo#er, their sha$e "as not conduci#e to
$laning G re$roductions of these historic boats reach hull s$eed 6uickly and do not ty$ically eceed it%
*heir s$eed is restricted by the length of their "a#e syste!, "hich is de$endent on the length of the
*o see "hy this is the case, consider our discussion of deflection angle in relation to boats built
around a long, straight keel%
If you build around a full5length keel, and build do"n to it fore and aft, the for"ard and after
$arts of the boat are going to be dee$ly #eed%%
-onsider the lines John 'ysol$ took off of A% -ary .!ith/s fa!ous sandbagger, Comet
Ben Fuller, curator of the 2enobscot Mariti!e Museu!, re$orts that he tried to"ing a re$lica of
-o!et behind a $o"erboat, and could not get it to $lane% 2artly, this !ay be attributable to the "eight
of the boat, e$ecially as raced, "hen e#en such a s!all boat !ay ha#e re6uired shifting 1,))) lb% of
sandbags on e#ery tack% But $art of the $roble! "as that as long as the boats "ere built do"n to a full
keel, they "ere unlikely to e#ol#e into $laning boats, and &e" Hork oyster!en stuck "ith the full5
length keel e#en as the boats e#ol#ed into so!e of the fastest racing boats of their ti!e%
But they "ere not the only oyster!en interested in racing%
In the -hesa$eake, log canoes "ere used for oystering, and they "ere rigged for sail "ith a rig
si!ilar to the &e" 'a#en oyster shar$ies, flat5botto!ed boats that carried the leg5of5!utton s$rit rig, a
triangular sail "ith a s$rit boo! going fro! so!e distance abo#e the tack across the sail to the cle"%
*his !ade the sail self5#anging, and $articularly fast on
a reach% *he log canoe sailors liked s$ort, so they
de#elo$ed a racing rig for their boats using the leg of
!utton s$rit rig "ith a large club at the cle" to increase
sail area, and a balanced +ib as "ell% *he rig sho"s
clearly on the co#er of a book I/d like to reco!!end,
Chesaeake !y "og Canoes and !ugeyes%
*he racing log canoes "ill not $lane, according
to a friend na!ed *%-% 2rice, "ho sails the!% 'o"e#er,
the sa!e rig "as ado$ted as the racing rig for the &e"
'a#en shar$ies, "hich are flat botto!ed and ha#e an
easy rocker% *he s$eeds re$orted for these boats !ake it clear they "ere eceeding hull s$eed regularly,
and by a big enough !argin that they !ust ha#e been $laning%
-onsider the Betsy 1, 3? feet long and about ; feet "ide at the rub rail, co!$letely flat
botto!ed, about the si7e of the log canoe $ictured abo#e, but carrying only a little !ore than 4))
s6uare feet of sail% .he is a re$roduction of the sort of "orking oyster shar$ie used in the 18;)s and
188)s% .he/d ha#e been "orked by t"o !en, and filled e#ery day to the to$ of the centerboard case and
the co!ings%
But for racing, these boats could carry a different rig, the sa!e rig the log canoes carried%
-%2% Munhardt, a cutter crank "ho
actually had little use for shar$ies,
re$orts that the -arrie I, in racing tri!,
carried 3) yards of sail in the +ib, or
=;) s6uare feet, ;? yards C<;? s6% ft%D
in the foresail, <) yards C?4) s6% ft%D in
the aft sail, "hich he calls the !ain and
I call the !i77en, 4? yards C4)? s6% ft%D
in the staysail, "hich can only be set
reaching, and 4) C3<) s6% ft%D in the s6uare sail, also only set off the "ind% *hat/s about =,=?) s6uare
feet of sail on a boat "hose hull "eighed about =,))) to =,?)) lb%, according to Munhardt%
*he $o"er to carry sail on these slender, shallo" hulls "as $roduced "ith no dead "eight of
ballast% Instead, the "orking cre" of t"o "as aug!ented "ith ten !ore !en, nine of the! assigned to
the t"o 1<5foot s$ringboards, "hich "ere braced under the lee deck and etended about ( feet to
"ind"ard% Each s$ringboard had a 9ca$tain,: "hose +ob it "as to kee$ the "eather chine +ust kissing
the "ater% *his "ould allo" the lee chine to dig in and
hel$ the boat go to "ind"ard, and gi#en the! a lo"
deflection angle so that they could generate $lenty of
hydrodyna!ic lift% *he hull and cre" together "ould
ha#e "eighed about 4,))) lb% on a 3?5foot hull%
In ter!s of the ratios >eorge B@1ay $ro$osed,
counting only sail carried to "ind"ard the .AJ1 ratio is
8;, counting all do"n"ind sail, 13=% B@1ay said the
ratio needed to be =8 or higher% For a shar$ie carrying
the sa!e "eight "ith a "orking rig, the ratio "ould be =<%4% *he dis$lace!entJlength ratio "ould be
?<, based on a sailing length of 33 ft% on a 3?@ shar$ie, "hich is far better than the 8)51=? B@1ay
suggested% *he sails "ere self5#anging, and the s$ringboards added $lenty of sail carrying $o"er%
About the only thing "orking against the! "as the a!ount of rocker aft, "hich "as necessary for the!
to carry a full load of oysters "hen they "eren@t racing%
'o" fast "ere theyO Fro! 'o"ard -ha$elle/s Migrations of an A!erican Boat *y$eK
9A large shar$ie "as re$orted to ha#e run 11 nautical !iles in 34 !inutes, and a big shar$ie
schooner is said to ha#e a#eraged 1< knots in 3 consecuti#e hours of sailing% *onging shar$ies "ith
racing rigs "ere said to ha#e sailed in s!ooth "ater at s$eeds of 1? and 1< knots%:
*he hull s$eed of a 3?5foot shar$ie "ould be about 8 knots, and $laning s$eed "ould be
anything abo#e 14 knots% *hese racing shar$ies "ere at least se!i5$laning, and !ost likely fully
$laning boats%
But racing in such boats didn@t last long% As engines beca!e a#ailable, the sort of oyster
fisher!an "ho had the leisure and !oney to build a racing rig "ould ha#e been the first to !o#e to the
ne" technology, and unlike log canoes held together "ith "ooden $egs, a shar$ie fastened "ith steel
nails didn@t last long% &or do I kno" of anyone "ho has built a re$lica of a large racing shar$ie%
*he net grou$ to take u$ the banner of ski!!ing across the "ater at high s$eed "as the sailing
canoes% In the !id5188)s, s$orts!en "ere racing canoes in a serious !anner, because it "as about the
chea$est racing sailboat you could get% I@#e seen fil! footage fro! 1(1? of an o$en canoe $laning, and
the decked canoes "ere faster% 2aul Butler, "ho didn@t
"eigh !uch, added a sliding seat to his canoe, Veser, of
Ies$er "as a #ery flat5floored canoe, as you can

As it ha$$ens, in 188< there "as an international !atch bet"een so!e British canoes shi$$ed to &e"
Hork and the A!erican and -anadian canoes% *he British had $ursued hea#ier, ballasted canoes% In
addition to Veser, they faced other canoes that "ere light and flat5floored, unballasted and ke$t u$right
entirely by an acti#e cre"%
*hey took "hat they learned back to England, "here they built boats that "ere designed to
Fro! an article W%2% .te$hens "rote for Forest P .trea! in 1())%
*he day of the hea#y dis$lace!ent English canoes 2earl and &autilus ended in 188<,
"hen the t"o latest !odels of these reno"ned ty$es #isited the United .tates, Mr%
Baden52o"ell bringing his Nautilus and Mr% Walter .te"art a ne" Pearl 5 both sailed
fro! belo" deck and hea#ily ballasted% After being decisi#ely defeated by the light
A!erican canoes Veser and Pecowsic at the !eet at >rindstone Island, they "ere
beaten by the &e" Hork -% -% boats on &e" Hork Bay, though their o"ners abandoned
the belo"5deck $osition and sailed the! fro! the deck% *his e$erience led to the
introduction of light dis$lace!ent canoes "ith !any A!erican fittings in England, and
also resulted in the $roduction of a ne" ty$e of shar$ie canoe, "ith flat floor and
straight sides, sailed "ithout ballast% For so!e years follo"ing 18() canoeing and canoe
racing "ere in a #ery de$ressed state in England
In addition to Shadow, "hich see!s to ha#e co!e out in 18(1, there are lines a#ailable
for !attledore, 18(=K

and the Isalo, shar$ie canoe of 18(1K

But the canoe !ost clearly designed to take ad#antage of $laning "as Shadow, and English
canoe of 18(1% Fro! Forest P .trea!, January 14, 18(=K
*he acco!$anying dra"ings, to "hich "e are indebted to the #odel $achtsman and
Canoeist, sho" a $eculiar ty$e of racing boat that has recently co!e into use in England
under the title Ecanoe5ya"l,E though #ery different fro! the boats co!!only classed under
that elastic and co!$rehensi#e title% While their birth$lace "as on the *ha!es, they are
ob#iously A!erican in ty$e, and unlike any of the nati#e s!all craft% We 6uote the
follo"ing descri$tion by the builderK
*he Shadow is not, as so!e !ay su$$ose, the result of a Eha$$y hitE in the "ay of design,
but is rather the result of carefulA original thought, based u$on close obser#ation of the
$erfor!ance of #arious ty$es of boats of light dis$lace!ent that ha#e a$$eared on the ri#er
at Bford% Although the first of the Bford canoe5ya"ls she "as $receded by se#eral boats
of the shar$ie ty$e, "hich "ere $urely e$eri!ental, the first of these being the $ankee,
follo"ed by the cat rigged %omino, the sloo$s #erlin and Ski&ack, and the canoe Iris,
boats "hich ha#e in turn under fa#orable circu!stances sho"n a re!arkable $ace% For
instance, the %omino !ight ha#e been seen careering o#er 2ort Meado"s "ith about 1=in%
of "ater under her at a $ace that could not be short of 1) to 1? !iles an hour% *his occurred
three years ago, during a strong .%W% "indA and instances ha#e been noted "hen the
shar$ies ha#e gone a$$arently three ti!es the $ace of other boats in co!$etition,% By a
$eculiar ad+ust!ent of the sur$lus buoyancy and the dis$lace!ent of the Bford ya"ls ha#e
the faculty to a greater or less degree of EskiddingE o#er the "ater, and not E"allo"ingE in
it as !ost boats do% *he sa!e faculty has been attained e#en in the round5bodied boats,
such as Wis and 'oredo%

Shadow was 18 ft% by 4%? ft% With her $o"erful, flat hull, she "ould certainly ecel in reaching in a
brisk "ind%
But the English canoe scene shifted !ore to"ard
hea#y, cruising canoe ya"ls%
Bf course, there "ere other $laning ty$es% It "as
"ell kno"n that sco"s, gar#eys, and sneakboes "ere fast reaching in a fresh bree7e, but the first t"o
"ere not too good in light air, "hich is the $re#ailing condition in !any A!erican #enues% In fact, after
A!ericans a$$arently de#elo$ed the first $laning sailing canoes, the class ca!e to be do!inated on this
side of the "ater by canoes "ith rounded sections, intended to be at their best in light "inds% It "as not
until Uffa Fo and a friend ca!e o#er "ith his rein#ention of the $laning canoe that A!ericans began
building $laning sailing canoes again%
But after the sailing canoe racers abandoned the $laning for!, the idea of going faster than the
co!$etition in
the right
conditions still
had a strong
a$$eal% In the
"inter of 18(=5
18(3, a
na!ed Arthur
1yer built a =45foot sloo$ in a sho$ "ith the "indo"s $ainted black so that no one could see in% *he
boat "as (nawa, a shallo", flattish boat "ith a long s$oon bo" and a broad, flat counter% In those
res$ects, she rese!bled
Alha, a &athaniel 'erreshoff
design of 18(1, but she "as
lighter and see!s to ha#e had
!uch less rocker%
Both of these boats
o"e a debt to a s!aller, older
ty$e of boat, the sneakbo%
Briginally de#elo$ed for hunters "ho "anted a lo"5$rofile, shallo" boat, they had an arc botto! and a
flat run%
'ere@s an illustration of one fro! about 188), by 1ion Me!$K
Mid"esterners $layed a $ro!inent role in de#elo$ing $laning boats% In 18(<, J%B% Johnson, a
young &or"egian i!!igrant na!ed J%B% Johnson designed a s6uare5ended, shallo" boat 38 ft% long,
"hich the dockside ad!irals derided as a 9sco"%: *he boat $ro#ed far faster than any of her o$$onents,
and inland sco"s "ere so!e of the 6uickest boats in the "orld%
By 1()1, another
!id"esterner, Fred Miller,
"as ad#ertising boats he
sold as knock5do"n kits,
including so!e $retty
!odern looking sco"s and
so!e catboats that a$$ear to be
based on sneakboes%
0ules "ere $ro!ulgated, and
soon there "ere #arious classes of
sco"s, including the -lass A sco"s
that are the si7e of Johnson@s
original design%
By the ti!e Miller $ut out
his 1()1 catalog, the sco"s looked !uch like they do today, at least in hull for!%
We/#e !entioned the $roble! "ith the sandbaggers that e#ol#ed fro! the &e" Hork oyster
sloo$s, that had to ha#e dee$ly #eed hulls at the ends% *y$es that did not ha#e these long, straight keels
included the shar$ies, sneakboes, and $ra!s%
-onsider the traditional sha$e of the $ra!K
And consider "hat ha$$ens "hen you take those lines, and reduce the #ertical scale, s6uashing
the sha$e do"nK
A reduction to <)Q of the #ertical scale turns a $retty ordinary looking $unt into so!ething that
looks a bit like the boat J%B% Johnson/s friends derided as a 9sco"%:
Bnce the idea that flattish
boats "ere the 6uickest in certain
conditions beca!e established,
ne"s s$read 6uickly% In both
Britain and in A!erica, the half5
rater class caught on, and by the
ti!e an 18(< article in (uting
!aga7ine "as $ublished, about a hundred had been built in A!erica% .o!e had "hat clearly looks like
$laning hulls% Abo#e the stern of &athaniel 'erreshoff@s )nome%
*his gi#es a feel for "ho flat the boat "ere in cross5section, a $icture of the -linton -rane
design, *l +eirie% .o!e of these boats, by the "ay, "ere built "ith an inner layer of 1J85inch $lanking
and an outer layer of R inch $lanking "ith a layer of silk bet"een, and cost about N1,=))% Hou could
$robably ha#e bought a !odest house for that%
Bne of the to$ boats cost only N3))% *hat boat "as ,uestion, an arc5botto!ed shar$ie built by
Larry 'untington%%
It see!s to ha#e
been sha$ed like a
lighter, flatter
#ersion of the .tar
class keelboat% I@#e
been unable to find lines for this boat, but here@s a $hotogra$h that ran in Buting !aga7ine in August,
Bf course, shar$ies "ere kno"n to be fast long before
this, and before the racing shar$ies of the 188)s% In 18??, the
redoubtable Bob Fish built an e$eri!ental shar$ie "ith a
shallo" I hull na!ed "uckeyK
*he lines are taken off a half5!odel, $robably Fish@s
original lift !odel% Modelers designed their boats not by dra"ing
lines, but by car#ing !odels, and one "ay you could then dra"
lines "as to car#e the !odel fro! different colored lifts, "hich you could then se$arate and trace lines
What is dra"n as the 91WL: is !ore likely the $oint at "hich the lifts di#ide, and the #essel
"ould ha#e been tri!!ed "ith the heel of the ste! +ust abo#e the "ater, as is the custo! "ith shar$ies%
*he #essel "as ?4@ <: long and 1?@ (: "ide, and certainly not a $laning boat, but I doubt Fish "ould
ha#e built a boat of this si7e and sha$e if it had not $ro#ed successful on a s!aller boat% *he $roble!
is, until s$orts!en took an interest in ha#ing official races for s!all boats, their lines "ere seldo!
But by the 18()s, se#eral $ublications "ere $rinting $lans and $hotogra$hs of fast s!all boats
2art of this is a ne" focus for s$orts!en, but $art is ne" technology, as $hotogra$hy and
$hotolithogra$hy $rogressed% *his s$read kno"ledge !ore 6uickly%
In 18?=, kno"ledge of the A!erican ty$e of boat s$read to >reat Britain "hen Una and a =)@
sloo$ na!ed *ruant "ere shi$$ed to England and i!$ressed $eo$le "ith their s$eed% *ruant, in
$articular, see!s to ha#e been taken around the country and "on races% Later in the 18?)s, three Britsih
centerboard boats "ere shi$$ed to Australia, Charm, Presto and Challenge, "hich i!$ressed Australian
sailors "ith their s$eed%
By the 18()s, the "ay kno"ledge "as trans!itted had changed% Bnly a year after 1yer
launched (nawa, Linton 'o$e, in England, designed a *ha!es 1 rater that "as si!ilar ece$t it lacked
the "ide, flat stern that hel$ed (nawa $lane%
In &e" ,ealand, Ja!es -lare built a boat na!ed #aka #aili in 18(8 based on A!erican
designs, but the design see!s to ha#e been his o"n% *he sa!e year, Logan Brothers, a fir! of .cottish
i!!igrants, designed and built a restricted half5rater class Cessentially a one5design that could race "ith
other half5ratersD "ith flattish sections called the 2atiki -lass% .co"5like &e" ,ealand racing sailboats
beca!e kno"n as 2atikis, and they thri#ed in the $rotected harbor of 'a"ke@s Bay at &a$ier, on the
east side of the north island of &e" ,ealand, "here they had good "inds and $rotection fro! big seas%
When the 1(31 &a$ier Earth6uake caused $art of the harbor to colla$se into the sea, they "ere e$osed
to rough seas that tended to break the hulls a$art%
*his $oints to a !a+or fla" in the early $laning designs% *hey needed fresh "inds to take
ad#antage of their ability to $lane, but they don@t do "ell in rough "ater, so they tend to be best suited
to lakes and large, "ell5$rotected harbors like Barnegat Bay, "here the sneakboes e#ol#ed into
so!ething like sco"s% Abo#e is a 1(14 sneakbo designed by -harles Mo"er%
In !uch of the United .tates, either the "inds fa#ored boats "ith a distinctly light5air
orientation, or the "a#es "ere a
$roble! for sco"5like boats% E#en
shar$5bo"ed, flattish boats like the
1()8 .. -lass re6uired so!eone
bailing !ost of the ti!e going to
In &e"
,ealand, the S
class of 1(=1 "as
strong enough to
take the "a#es, but
their rather bluff
bo"s !ust ha#e slo"ed the! do"n going to "ind"ard in a sea"ay% In any case, they "ere an early
$laning ty$e% *he class "as $ro$osed in 1(1<, "ith a set of lines dra"n u$, although it "as an o$en
*he $roble! re!ained, ho" does one take ad#antage of the s$eed $otential of $laning "hile
still ha#ing a boat that is fast to "ind"ard in a sea"ay, and doesn@t get beat u$ too !uch fro!
*he solution ca!e fro! England, "here Uffa Fo, "ho had a$$renticed "orking on flying
boats and $o"erboats, a$$lied "hat he had learned to sailboats%
At the ti!e, so!e of the fastest $o"erboats "ere 9autoboats,: a ty$e that tended to be
dee$ly #eed for"ard and flat aft% *he dee$ I for"ard !eant a greater deflection angle to the hull,
thro"ing "ater to the sides instead of raising the boat u$, but Fo felt he could get by that by !aking
the boat flat aft and shifting "eight aft "hen the boat "as reaching at s$eed% Because the resulting
sha$e "as dee$ chested, you could kee$ the transo! out of the "ater by !o#ing your "eight for"ard
"hen you "eren@t $laning%
*he #eed sha$e !eant these boats "ould increase their resistance 6uickly as they heeled, unlike
the flat5botto!ed sco"s that had to be heeled going to "ind"ard% I@#e dra"n u$ a set of lines that "ill
illustrate the Fo ty$e of $laning hull CIt/s not !eant to re$resent a $articular boat%D Hou "ill note that
unlike the A!erican ty$e, "hich is flatter for"ard, it does not need !uch rocker at the stern to kee$
fro! dragging the transo!% When I first sa" an Uffa Fo hull Ca FireflyD it struck !e as a dis$lace!ent
hull that couldn@t $ossibly $lane, because of its dee$ I at the stagnation $oint% An English friend
res$onded to boats like the - .co" and the Lightning by thinking they couldn@t $lane because of their
rocker aft%
*he boats Uffa Fo designed could do "hat the sco"s and sneakboes could not, it
could go to "ind"ard in e$osed "aters and a stee$ cho$ and !o#e as "ell as boats "ith rounder
sections, "hile $laning on the reaches% *his !eant that they could be used in any #enue "ithout
sla!!ing do"n on "a#es and breaking the hull% *he boats "ith rounder for!s, such as the designs of
Morgan >iles, could $lane in o$ti!u! conditions, but Fo@s boats fro! his 1(=8 A-enger on could
$lane in the conditions the &ational Clater InternationalD 14 class usually encountered on a ty$ically
"indy English su!!er day%
*his led to a ne" generation of $laning boats "hich began to s$read through the "orld%
Australian 185foot skiffs had concentrated on carrying !assi#e rigs and hea#y cre"s, $roducing "hat
a!ounted to a hea#y5air #ersion of the sandbaggers, but in 1(3=, Aberdare, "ith a s!aller cre" than
usual, lighter "eight, and a hull designed by a collaboration of her o"ner, Frederick 'art, and her
builder, '%2% Whereats, introduced $laning to "hat is no" the fastest $laning class in the "orld%
Modern $laning hulls tend to be lighter, and can take ad#antage of the flat for"ard sections of
the A!erican $laning ty$e along "ith the straight run of the English ty$e% A !odern $laning hull "ould
look so!ething like this design I dre" u$ to illustrate the ty$eK
Bf course, getting the hull sha$e right and !aking the boat light enough are i!$ortant, but
there@s !ore to getting boats to $lane than that% Hou ha#e to $ut a $o"erful rig in the boat, and you ha#e
to be able to use that $o"er, "hich !eans you need $o"er to carry sail% .o!e !odern $laning boats do
this "ith hull flare, like the Merlin 0ocket% .o!e use hiking racks or tra$e7es%
Hou also needed sails that "ere $o"erful on a reach, "hich is "here !ost $laning ha$$ens% If
the sail t"ists too !uch on this $oint of sail, $art of it "ill be stalled or $art of it "ill be luffing, and
t"ist ha$$ens "hen the boo! rises%
Bn the racing shar$ies "e !entioned earlier, the $o"er to carry sail ca!e fro! a flat5botto!ed,
shallo" hull, t"o 1<5foot s$ringboards, and a cre" of a do7en acti#e !en% *he rig on these boats "as
also self5#anging% Because the s$rit boo!s go across the sail, the foot of the sail is under tension any
ti!e the boo! tries to rise% A trick &at 'erreshoff used on !any of his boats "as to ha#e a light stick to
tie to the !ast and the boo!, so that it "as under co!$ression any ti!e the boo! tried to rise% *he
!odern #ang see!s to ha#e been in#ented in the 1(3)s or $erha$s the late 1(=)s in the International 14
And of course, boats "ith a s$innaker tend to $lane sooner than boats "ithout one% *he
e#olution of do"n"ind kites is a bit beyond the $ur#ie" of this essay, but it@s "orth !entioning that the
single5luffed s$innaker, carried entirely on one side of the forestay, "as re$laced by the double5luff
$arachute s$innaker in 1(=;, the ne" sail first a$$earing on the <5!eter #aybe% As boats got faster and
ski$$ers got !ore so$histicated about tacking do"n "ind, a ne" single5luffed s$innaker, the
asy!!etric no" carried by International 14s and other fast classes, re$laced the $arachute s$innaker on
!any classes%
*he $o"er to carry sail "ithout tons of ballast is at least e6ually i!$ortant% By 18;4, "hen
*ho!as Eakins $ainted Sailboats
.acing on the %elaware, 9hiking: Cas
in, taking a hike to the high side of
the boatD "as co!!on% Ben Fuller,
curator of 2enobscot Mariti!e
Museu!, has docu!ented the !ethod
used to $ut !ost of a cre" !e!ber@s
body "eight "ell outside the boat on
the "eather side% 'e says they used 9a short length of line cli$$ed into a ring on keel "ith a * handle
on it% Hou tuck your feet under the line and
hang onto the toggle%:
*hat sounds as effecti#e as !odern
hiking stra$s in getting the cre" "eight
"here it does the !ost good, but "ould ha#e
taken one hand of the $erson hiking to kee$ a
gri$ on the handle, so it@s not as good for
racing on the "hole as !odern stra$s,
a$$arently de#elo$ed in the International 14
A close ea!ination of the 18;4 $icture of the cre" racing a hiker sho"s that the !an at the
hel! has his "eight inboard% *hat@s because he doesn@t ha#e a tiller etension% When the sailing canoes
de#elo$ed sliding seats in the 188)s, this "as follo"ed by a nu!ber of ingenious in#entions to gi#e the
ski$$er a "ay to control the rudder% In !ree/ing 0, a Winslo" 'o!er $ainting fro! about the sa!e
ti!e, the hel!s!an is sitting "ell to "ind"ard, controlling the tiller "ith "hat looks like a $iece of
line, "hich "orks "ell enough if you@#e got $lenty of "eather hel!%
'ere@s an ea!$le of the
syste! used by A!erican sailing
canoe racers in the 1(3)sK 'ere
Uffa Fo a$$ears again, bringing
a better $laning hull fro!
England to race against the A!erican canoes, and a !odern tiller etension, "hich see!s, like so !any
things, to ha#e been in#ented in the International 14 class%
*ha!es raters e$eri!ented "ith a hiking syste! de#elo$ed by Beecher Moore, o"ner of
Vagabond, called 9bell ro$es,: "here the cre" grabbed a line attached to the !ast, stood "ith their feet
on the to$ of the gun"ale, and $ut their entire "eight o#erboard% But again, it "as the International 14
class that in#ented the !odern tra$e7e, "ith the cre" "earing a harness "ith a hook on it that the
tra$e7e can cli$ to, lea#ing the cre"@s hands free "hile they $ut their feet on the side of the boat and
their entire body "eight o#er the side%
*he 1ela"are hikers a$$arently used hiking racks, but no" !ost boats that use the! also ha#e
tra$e7es, allo"ing the cre" to $lace their "eight e#en farther fro! the centerline and again increasing
the $o"er5"eight ratio $ossible on a sailboat%
In the Moth class, "hich s$ecifies 11 feet in length and 8) s6uare feet of sail, the sco" and skiff
ty$es !et on e#en ter!s% *he class "as do!inated for years by sco" Moths, ece$t in light "inds, but
before the shift to foiler Moths, the skiff ty$e de#elo$ed higher s$eeds, e#en do"n "ind% *he sco"
Moths had e#ol#ed into fly"eights !ade "ith 1J1<5inch $ly"ood and $lenty of light internal bracing,
and could recou$ ground lost on the "ind"ard leg by $laning !ore readily on the do"n"ind legs% *he
skiff ty$e, "ith their $ointed bo"s, tended to be faster to "ind"ard in a cho$ as "ell as in light "inds,
and as they de#elo$ed a !odern sha$e "ith a shallo" forefoot, they beca!e about as fast do"n "ind%
A further e#olution of the $laning ty$e is boats that use the rig not only to dri#e the boat, but to
hel$ lift it% After !ultihulls $retty "ell do!inated the sailing s$eed record in the 1(;)s, after 1(8) !ost
of the records for !aintaining a high s$eed o#er short distances "ere set first by "indsurfers, "hich are
a ty$e of $laning sailboat, then by kiteboards, "hich don@t e#en ha#e enough buoyancy to stay on to$ of
the "ater "ith the sailor until the kite starts to $ull% *hese ha#e a !ini!u! of "eight and "etted
surface% *he current record holder is the Vesta Sailrocket 1, "hich rides on three ste$$ed $laning hulls
and has a canted "ing sail%

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