An historic one-design dory daysailer with classic lines

Marblehead Harbor is home to the largest fleet of Town Class boats anywhere—numbering 38, and has the distinction of being the oldest continuously raced fleet in Marblehead—some 85 years strong.  Town Class sailboats are 16 12-foot-long lap strake one-design dories.  The Town Class was designed as an affordable boat for townspeople, hence its name.  One did not need to belong to a yacht club to sail a Townie.  The first Town Class sailboat was designed and built (in wood) in 1932 by Marcus Lowell in Amesbury, MA.  Marcus’ son, Pert Lowell, later took over the business and relocated to Newbury, MA.

In 1936, the Town Class sailboat was adopted as a one-design class boat, and quickly became a popular racing boat from Maine to Florida. By 1939, it was the most popular sailboat in the harbor.  In the late 1960s, fiberglass models became available. More than 2,000 wood and fiberglass Townies have been built to date. Pert Lowell & Company, which is now operated by Pert Lowell’s son-in-law, Ralph Johnson, continues to construct these boats today in either wood or (since 1969) in fiberglass. 

In a January 2009 Wooden Boat magazine article, Stan Grayson tells us that many Townie sailors treated their boats as family members. Gail Anderson, quoted in the article, recalls “Growing up with the Town Class in the ’40s and ’50s—it became a way of life, like having a dog…. In the winter we skied. In summer we sailed…. I remember my folks drying sails on the porch and once even on the living room floor of our apartment. That’s how it was in those days.”

The National Town Class Association was formed in 1962, also marking the first year of the Town Class National Regatta, which has been hosted in Marblehead.  The Marblehead Town Class Association is a friendly, welcoming group.  It’s racing season starts in June and runs thru September, and has one of the best racing schedules among local One Design Fleets. You can  choose to participate in our Thursday Twilight Series, our Sunday  Morning Series, our MRA (Marblehead Racing Association) Saturday Races,  Marblehead Race Week (National Offshore One Design “NOOD”) Regatta, the  annual Town Class Nationals Regatta. Every week during the season offers at least 3 days of competitive one-design racing.  It’s a classic sight.  The fleet includes Advanced Warning, Annie B, Aufblitzen, B50-1, Believe It or Knot, Blue Bird, Blue By You, Boaty McBoatface, Breezing Up, Camille, Celtic Lady, Christy B, Clam Belly, Daisy, Duchess, Elusive, Fortitude, Frolic, Jean, Lille Venn, Magdalena, Mambo Tango, Mulligan, Nolo, One Love, Patience, Periwinkle, Princess Buttercup, Rogue, Sail Loft, Second Wind, Show Girl, Stoic Goat, Suerte Verde, Third Time’s A Charm, Tonic, Wabi Sabi, and Wind Power.

What do you think of these classic day sailers?  Let us know in the space below.  To see a great example of a Town Class sailboat, see John Hope’s Second Wind in the Harbor Directory.