Watch Hill Yacht Club

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WH15 Race with SpinnakersWHYC may now be the only club which maintains an active racing fleet of "15s"

Each year we hold more than twenty weekend races and nearly as many Wednesday evening races for our fiberglass "15" fleet. Saturday or Sunday races normally have thirteen to sixteen boats on the line, and Wednesday evening races usually attract six to ten. There are twenty-five fiberglass boats in total, the mainstay of our racing program one hundred years after the original design. All are in the Watch Hill area except one, which is in Hamilton, Bermuda. There are two of the 1922-23 880-class fleet sailing from Watch Hill, and they are joined by a third 880 class from Noank for our holiday races. Nine of the original 880-class survive including, of course, HMC 880, Josephine, aka Firefly.

In September, 1922 eleven members of the Watch Hill Yacht Club commissioned Nathaniel Herreshoff to design and build a fleet of small sloops well suited for sailing and racing on Little Narragansett Bay and Fishers Island Sound. He and his Herreshoff Manufacturing Company (HMCo.) made minor modifications to the 1898 Buzzards Bay 15 hull design and converted the rig from gaff to marconi. The prototype, HMCo. # 880, named Josephine, was launched and trial sailed in December 1922. Following the trial sail, the mast was shortened three feet and the remaining ten boats were built for delivery in the Spring of 1923.

HMCo. # 880, under at least five names and sail number three, sailed in the Watch Hill Yacht Club fleet until 1993. It is believed that HMCo. # 880 which, was hull number one, received sail number three in 1923 when the eleven owners drew lots for their new boats. In 1968 HMCo. # 880 was loaned by her then owner, David M. Pugh to the syndicate which used her hull to create the mold for a fleet of fiberglass sloops that would be built to replenish the aging, diminished Watch Hill Herreshoff fleet. The first of the fiberglass boats was launched in 1969 and the fleet had grown to twenty-five by 1994.

When FIREFLY's co-owner and skipper, Herman G. Muenchinger died, his co-owner, brother Charlton G. Muenchinger and son Charles G. Muenchinger donated FIREFLY to the Herreshoff Marine Museum in Bristol, RI. Funds for FIREFLY's restoration were provided by James M. (Ding) Schoonmaker. The restoration was completed in June 1997 and FIREFLY was accepted into the Herreshoff Marine Museum collection by Nathaniel Herreshoff's grandson, Halsey C. Herreshoff, President of the Museum at a special ceremony at the Watch Hill Yacht Club on July 5, 1997.

WH15 July 4 2012 RacesFIREFLY's faithful restoration to her original configuration and colors was done in the shop of McClave, Philbrick and Giblin in Stonington, CT. Ed McClave, Ben Philbrick, Andy Giblin and Stephen Mansfield preserved HMCo. # 880's original transom, refinished it in FIREFLY's yellow color and, in July 1997, presented it to the Muenchinger family and Watch Hill Yacht Club.

If you are interested in sailing or owning a WH15, email Fleet Captain Peter Evans.