BRIEF HISTORY OF THE BLUE JAY CLASS AND
The Blue Jay continues to be one of the leading one-design, sloop-rigged sailboats in existence today. Fathered by Drake H. Sparkman, head of the New York designing firm of Sparkman and Stephens, Inc. after his tenure as chairman of a yacht club junior sailing program, the Blue Jay was pencil drawn in 1947. Designed as a “ baby Lightning” it became an all-around junior training boat and now has numbers over 7,200. It is used not only in novice programs in yacht clubs from Florida to Maine, but also in teen’s, men’s, and women’s events. Originally constructed of wood, the IBJCA voted in the early 1960s to allow fiberglass, however, wooden boats are still being made today. It is interesting to note that when a friend of Drake Sparkman suggested that he name the boat “Blue Bird” he decided on the “Blue Jay” which could effectively be marked by a blue “J” on the sail. (Perhaps he thought noting the junior aspect).
The International Blue Jay Class Association was formed in 1954 by Allegra Knapp Mertz. President for 35 years, she built the class with active board members. Among those, Bob Sparkman, Drake’s son, who was treasurer for 20 years. James Rousmaniere was President in 1960 and 1961; Ed Hoffman, President in 1971. In 1984, at American Yacht Club’s Blue Jay Nationals, Leggie turned the gavel over to Bill Dunbar who had been an active board member for ten years. He continues in this position today.
The Association (IBJCA) is made up of voluntary officers and executive board members from different sailing areas on the East Coast. They continue to maintain a strict one-design class, publish a yearbook and newsletter, coordinate regional regattas and clinics, offer a National regatta ( Championship winner may apply for Champion of Champions ) and Master’s regatta plus have added a website www.sailbluejay.org.
In 2005, Jim Hansen of Formula Boat Works, Ledyard, CT donated the Blue Jay mold he acquired from Salle Evelyn,(deceased), of Formula Yachts, to the Association in her memory. Both Jim and Salle were dedicated to the Blue Jay and its continued growth for many years and this offer was graciously accepted. The Association has made arrangements to have a new builder, Allen Boat Co., use the newly acquired mold, noting that Tom Allen has been the builder of the Lightning for many years. We welcome him “ on board”.
CHAMPIONSHIP DIVISION FIRST PLACE
WET PANTS ASSOCIATION PERPETUAL TROPHY
The Wet Pants Association, a cooperative sailing club on the Great South Bay, was organized over sixty years ago to provide sailing activities to the areas youngsters. In two separate years, 1958 and 1963, Wet Pants held winter Blue Jay building parties, building wooden Blue Jays in various members garages when it was too cold to sail. This created an active Blue Jay fleet and prompted their hosting the 1966 and 1970 Nationals. William L. Pagels, Sr., an active member of the Wet Pants Association and executive board member of the newly established Blue Jay Class Association, arranged for this perpetual trophy along with Leggie in 1962. (Silver urn capped with sailboat)
CHAMPIONSHIP DIVISION SECOND PLACE SAYBROOK PERPETUAL TROPHY
This award was presented to the Class by George Shuck, owner of the Saybrook Yacht Yard and popular builder of Blue Jays beginning in 1949. He started with numbers 77 through 98 continuing through the numbers 6,000 when he decided to retire. In 1996, George and his son donated the Saybrook mold to the Class. (Pewter bowl)
CHAMPIONSHIP DIVISION THIRD PLACE PERPETUAL WESLEY G. VAN
WINKLE MEMORIAL TROPHY
This award was donated to the Class, by, the family of Wesley G. Van Winkle. Wes was an enthusiastic Blue Jay sailor who succumbed to Leukemia at the age of 12 just as he was preparing for his first National Regatta. He loved to sail. The trophy is to inspire all sailors to do their best and to love the sport of sailing. (Silver cooler)
PRESIDENT’S CUP DIVISION FIRST PLACE PERPETUAL PRESIDENT’S BOWL
This award, a Charles Francis Adams bowl, was won by Allegra Knapp Mertz and given to the Class in 1976 to use as a perpetual trophy while she was still President. “Leggie” was a legend in her time, competing eight times for the Charles Francis Adams Cup, winning this as skipper four times. She was also an eight-time winner of the Syce Cup, chairman of US Sailing’s Women’s Division for 24 years, and received the Nathaniel D. Herreshoff Award in 1966 for her accomplishments in the sport of sailing. (Silver bowl)
PRESIDENT’S CUP DIVISION SECOND PLACE FINISH ALLEGRA KNAPP MERTZ PERPETUAL TROPHY
This award, a half hull model of Rosy Future, Leggie’s Blue Jay #94, was given to the Class in 1984 as she retired as President. (Mounted half hull)
PRESIDENT’S CUP DIVISION THIRD PLACE WILLIAM K. DUNBAR III
This award, designed by Julie Dunbar, Class Secretary, was give to the Class by Bill Dunbar, President in 1987. (Wooden circle fitted with brass)
PERPETUAL ALLEGRA KNAPP MERTZ MEMORIAL TROPHY
(Presented to the Top Female Skipper in the Championship Division)
This award was designed in 1991 by Ray Snedeker, now retired, Chief Measurer and Executive Board Member. As stated, it is in memory of Leggie, an avid sailing competitor, champion, great sportsman and promoter of women. (Wooden triangle with half hull model)
PERPETUAL CHAMPIONSHIP DIVISION FIRST PLACE CREW TROPHY
BY BEATON BOAT WORKS AND WADAWAUCK YACHT CLUB
Julie Dunbar, Class Secretary, had always felt there should be a perpetual crew trophy and went to Beaton Boat Works, Mantoloking, NJ where they used to build Blue Jays and found a wooden spinnaker pole which was immediately donated. Upon arrival at Wadawauck Yacht Club for the Blue Jay Nationals, Peter O’Neill, President, completed the trophy, which was presented in the year 2000. (Mounted spinnaker pole)
PERPETUAL HOWARD PIERCE CREW TOPHY
FIRST PLACE PRESIDENT’S CUP DIVISION
This trophy was given by the Dunbars in honor of Howard Pierce, Administration Assistant for Sparkman and Stephens 1954-2001. Howard took over the record/history keeping of the Blue Jay Class as a favor to Bob Sparkman. His precise recording of measurements and boat numbers, sending out plans for home builders helped to further promote the Class. He was always enthusiastic, interested in all the sailors, and went out of his way to answer any Blue Jay request. This award was first presented at the 2003 Nationals, Seawanhaka Corinthian Yacht Club. (Wooden shadow box of knots )