One Hundred Years of Cotuit Skiffs

This weekend the Cotuit Mosquito Yacht Club is celebrating its Centennial, kicking off a week of sailboat racing, square dances, dinners, and parades in honor of its being the oldest junior yacht club in the United States. Junior? Voting members must be under the age of 25 and can’t be married.

The “Mosquito” is the original name of the boat sailed in the CMYC (and nowhere else), aka the Cotuit Skiff, one of the first one-design, or standardized racing boats in the country. My grandfather built about a dozen Cotuit Skiffs in the late 1940s, and I am proud to own two of them, both restored, numbers 19 and 36.

Henry Chatfield Churbuck
This coming Sunday we’re having the Biggest Skiff Race Ever, an attempt to get more than 50 Skiffs over the same starting line. When I started sailing Skiffs at the age of 11, there were maybe a dozen still afloat, the rest trashed by hurricanes and benign neglect. In the early 80s a Fiberglas model was introduced, failed, but was followed by a remarkable renaissance of interest, with old boats dragged out of barns and sent to the restorers, and others built new to the original specifications.

Today it’s pretty common to see two dozen skiffs out on the waters of Cotuit Bay, racing around the buoys, old men and little kids alike.

I’d say most of my happiest times were spent at the tiller of #36 — the Snafu II — which was the only skiff to be painted yellow because my grandfather was colorblind but could pick out yellow from the beach. I don’t race very much anymore, gave it up ten years ago, I don’t need competitive stress on my weekends and the fleet is very competitive. Now I’m introducing my 12 year old to the boats and crewing for him. That makes me very glad to sail with him in a boat my grandfather built in a shop attached to the house we live in today.

So, here’s to the Cotuit Mosquito Yacht Club, long may it sail, it has already outlived two attempts to introduce plastic boat alternatives, the kids still run it and tell their parents to butt out of the club’s operations, and every year some would-be Thurston Howell wishes the club had a clubhouse, with a bar. All it has it a beach and a dock and a lot of fanatic sailors.

Here is me sailing #36 with my best friend, Dr. Dan Del Vecchio. This was the last summer I was active in the fleet, the last time I won the coveted Club Championships.

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