Preview: Fine Boat Designs – SPARKLE, A Speedy Sloop With A Whaleboat Heritage

March 31, 2015

Avatar Maynard Bray

SPARKLE was built in 1947 by aeronautical engineer Alex Irving in his back yard. Alex owned and raced her in Southern California for the next 32 years, winning the prestigious Lipton Cup and countless other races. She was the “boat to beat” for many years in Southern California.

The hull was drawn up by fellow engineer Norman Schwartz and the rig (the original one shown here) was by Ted Carpenter. Inspired by those long and lean whaleboats of New Bedford, she’s just under 40′ long, 8’2″ wide, and draws 5’6″ of water. She displaces about 12,000 lbs with nearly half of it (5,000 lbs) in her ballast keel.  She sleeps four, has a small galley and head, and is altogether a snappy little sloop that’s proven the boat to beat on the racecourse. In profile, she looks a bit like an enlarged Rozinante by L. Francis Herreshoff that came out a few years later.

In 1997, Brian McGinn discovered SPARKLE languishing in San Diego, bought her, got her to Port Townsend and fixed her up enough to sail and race. She proved a winner, Guy Hupy signed on as a partner in the boat and together they rebuilt the boat, giving her a spade rudder instead of a keel-hung one, and a masthead rig to go with it. It took them two sessions and five years in all. Amidst the rebuilds, Alex Irving and his racing friends got to sail her again in 2007—on the boats 50th anniversary and for the first time since 1979.

SPARKLE is as good an example of successful do-it-yourselfing as you’re apt to find—an inspiration for all of us!

SPARKLE’S original sailplan as shown in the May, 1951 issue of Yachting

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