One Design sailing first came to Galveston Bay in 1911 when John Bonner of the Launch Club (HYC) approached the Galveston Yacht Club about building a fleet of identical racing sailboats, in hopes of eliminating the need to handicap. As a result, John and James Bludworth built six identical boats, 18 feet long, in Galveston. These six boats, referred to as “class boats,” were privately owned by Club members, three from the Houston Launch Club (HYC) and three from the Galveston Yacht Club.
The one design fleet that would revive the sport of yachting after World War I not only on Galveston Bay, but throughout the South was the Fish class. The class originated at Southern Yacht Club (SYC) in New Orleans where the design for this 20 foot gaff-rigged sloop was perfected in 1918. When the Gulf Yachting Association (GYA) was organized in 1920, the Fish class became the required club owned boat for member clubs. While competition in the Fish class dominated HYC’s racing program until World War II, many members and their wives and children also learned to sail on these boats.
In 1925, a fleet of five one design boats arrived on the Bay from the East Coast. Designed by Cox and Stevens, the sloops were built by Greenport Boatyard of New York. The boats were 23 feet over all, with Marconi rig, spinnaker, and combination keel and centerboard. Originally called Islips, the fleet was locally known as the Sterling class, in recognition of future Texas governor Ross Sterling who purchased the boats in New York and shipped them to Galveston Bay where he sold them to his friends and fellow club members in order to promote one design sailing. In 1931, two of the boats were sold to the fledgling Fort Worth Boat Club. Two other boats disappeared into anonymity; however, one Sterling/Islip, Chiquita, originally owned by Sam Streetman sailed on Galveston Bay for decades.
Another class from the East Coast that was prominent on Galveston Bay before World War II, was the Victory. The class was designed by William Gardner of Larchmont Yacht Club in 1919 as part of the efforts to revive the sport of yachting after World War I with an affordable one-design class. Thirty-one feet long, with cedar hulls and lead keels weighing 2900 pounds, they were named Victory-class in tribute to the yachtsmen who participated in World War I. Each boat was originally named after a phase of or reference to the war. Spad, Alerte, Briquette, and Blue Devil came to Galveston Bay in the mid 1920’s. Blue Devil returned to the East Coast and won the 1941 Larchmont Race Week. Alerte and Briquette sustained storm damage and were scrapped during Word War II. Only Spad, named in honor of a World War I bi-plane, remained, to sail on Galveston Bay well into the 1970’s.
The Star, designed in 1911, was a popular long established class on the East Coast when the Houston Yacht Club Star Fleet was chartered in 1936. HYC members were introduced to the double-handed boat during inter-club competition in New Orleans. The original boats of the fleet were built in Houston. During their first year of competition, a young team from HYC defeated Southern Yacht Club and qualified for the final Olympic Trials in New York. Disbanded during World War II, the fleet was revived in 1954 as the Galveston Bay Star Fleet and remained strong until the 1980’s.
The Corinthian class was developed in 1939 when the newly formed Texas Corinthian Yacht Club (TCYC) commissioned Olin Stephens of Sparkman and Stephens in New York to design a one design boat for Galveston Bay. Corinthians, sloops of 21 feet with 500-pound keels, were first built by Platzer Shipyard and later by Seabrook Shipyard. The Corinthian class soon replaced the Fish on the Bay. In 1946, HYC purchased six club-owned Corinthians, which were sailed when HYC hosted the popular inter-club regattas with Fort Worth Boat Club and TCYC. In 1957 the club-owned boats were sold to members and became, along with other privately owned Corinthians, part of a fleet that would remain strong and very competitive through the early 1960’s. When twelve Corinthians were destroyed during Hurricane Carla, new hulls were constructed of fiberglass and the fleet regained some pre-Carla strength.. Long after the fleet had been replaced by other new fiberglass one design classes, Corinthians maintained a loyal following among HYC members.