Why Sail A Snipe?

by Carol Newman
Originally published in the Snipe Bulletin, March 1995

Carol Newman is an expert Snipe crew and a regular contributor of Snipe news to Sailing World and other sailing publications. She can be seen racing in Snipe regattas around the country with Ed Adams, Andy Pimental, and Henry Filter.
Pick up any recent sailing magazine and it will remind you (subliminally or otherwise) how many racy new one-design options there are for today's recreational races. What, then, keeps such a large group of sailors from all levels addicted to the sixty-two year old Snipe?

People will only remain active in a class if they have fun at regattas. And regatta fun depends on a combination of three basic ingredients: competitive racing, fun parties, and something unpredictable, which prevents the nagging sensation that you've just been to a repeat of your favorite movie.

The Snipe class has an abundance of these three ingredients. Fleets are deep with diverse racing talent, providing excellent competition at every skill level. Olympic aspirants use the tactically tough racing to hone their skills, but weekend sailors who want to teach their kids to race join in as well. The variety of people and racing goals present at every regatta keeps the class strong and prevents it form becoming too ingrown.

It is not unusual to have world champions from other classes vying with each other for a spot on the Snipe starting line. But unlike more professional classes, these same world champions will be open with advice for their less-experienced competitors at the bar after racing. A friendly atmosphere coexists with tough racing, regatta after regatta. The Snipe class is where college sailors go to die and world champions come to relax. The combination is anything but dull.

Another advantage of the Snipe is that you can start off young in the boat and grow old without ever leaving your age group. At the 1993 US Nationals, Lucas Diaz, then 13, was narrowly beaten by his grandfather for 12th place in the championship fleet. There are usually three Diaz generations at regattas, and it is clear from their example that significant birthdays need not put a halt to future Snipe fun for many years to come.

Kids are welcome at regattas even before they reach racing age, which keeps parents racing. Babysitting is provided at many events, and children of all ages play with their future competitors ashore while their parents enjoy the tough competition on the water.

But enough about the racing, what about the parties? Again, the broad mix of ages gives Snipe socializing a special flavor. So does the Blender. The brainchild of the Cleveland, Ohio fleet, the large metal industrial Blender that travels around the country to all major Snipe regattas has created its own following. One devoted fan even built an insulated travel bag for the gadget, with special pockets for ice, cups and bottles.

So the parties are fun, the racing is highly competitive. That's two out of three. As for that something unpredictable... well, the Snipe class has always attracted strong personalities, and the combination of several usually leads to something memorable. But that's the part you'll have to experience for yourself.

In spite of the traditions which have been established over the years, Snipe regattas never feel like the same old party. The class is deep and broad based enough to provide variety at every event. And each sailor brings the right mix of competitive and social spirit to guarantee a fun time, both on and off the water. If you're a regular, you already know what I mean. And if you've never been to a Snipe regatta, jump at the next chance or make it happen somehow. It's an experience not to be missed.