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A Brief History of the Snipe

Excerpt by John Rose 75th Anniversary edition of the "Snipe Bulletin"

Snipe fleets originally developed in local areas centered around high population areas where suitable bodies of water existed and wooden boat builders were concentrated. Many of the early Snipe fleets were located in the eastern half of the country. Over the years, there have been more than 250 Snipe fleets in the United States. The states of New York (39 fleets), Michigan (30 fleets) and California (28 fleets) topped the list. Snipe activity in the United States is currently focused in four of these districts in the eastern, southeastern, Midwest/south-central and western regions.

The popularity of the Snipe was enhanced when several large wood boat-building companies with nation-wide advertising and a distribution/dealer network began to produce Snipes, both family day-sailing and racing models. Snipe racing became widely popular and competitive with certain builder's versions becoming successful in regional and district racing.

In 1952, former SCIRA Commodore Hub Isaacks encouraged the building of fiberglass Snipes to keep pace with boating market trends. He contracted for a prototype fiberglass Snipe to be built in Wichita, Kansas. Francis Lofland, Ted Wells and Harold Gilreath combined efforts to build a fiberglass Snipe. The first fiberglass Snipe (#9753) was produced in 1954. The hulls were lightly stiffened and had relatively low torsional rigidity as compared to wooden hulls Their speed potential was compromised and wooden-hull Snipes continued to out perform the fiberglass-hull versions.


In subsequent years, other builders of fiberglass Snipes entered the market. One of the major improvements was to build the hull with a fiberglass-foam core system, which made the hulls both stiff and torsionally rigid.

These improvements finally resulted in a fiberglass-hull Snipe winning the 1967 Snipe National Championship, 13 years after the first fiberglass Snipe was built. This ended a reign of championship wins by wooden-hull Snipes that had continued since the first International/National Snipe Championship.
1954, specifications were developed for plywood-hull Snipes. Harold Gilreath Sr. built a plywood Snipe (#12345) to the latest specifications and documented construction with improvements in deck construction in a booklet "Building A Plywood Snipe," published in 1960. It is still used as a reference manual. These boats proved to be fast and competitive. The 1960 and 1961 Snipe National Championships were won with a plywood-hull Snipe.

The Snipe has evolved into a modern tactical racing dinghy with fleets all around the world. Snipe activity in the United States has continued at a high level of interest. Competition is keen at national and regional events. The organization is well run, and younger sailors are being encouraged to join the class. An increasing number of successful racing skippers and crew come from this group.


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