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

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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8 Responses So Far to “Fine Boat Designs – SPARKLE, A Speedy Sloop With A Whaleboat Heritage

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    David Clayfield says:

    Would plans for Sparkle be available somewhere?

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    Charles Haines says:

    I recently purchased a “Tiffany Jane” designed by Paul Kotze. She’s a 34’ double ender, 8’ beak, pretty light displacement with finn keel and spade rudder. Marie J which has performed well at Egg Reach is a wooden version of the design. A West Coast boat, she looks like a direct descendent of Sparkle.

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    Alan Roberts says:

    This promises to be a wonderful series of designs, and the first I have read for years. In the 1950s I was given a lareg pile of ‘Yachting World’ (U.K.) magazines by a boat builder in Porth Navas, on the Helford River in Cornwall. As a teenager, learning to sail, I lapped up every detail of the thick paper design drawings bound into the centre of each magazine. They became a rich source of education for me. Years later, before a house and career move, I gave all the magazines to a young, Flying Fifteen owner. He was thrilled to have them.

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    dave lathrop says:

    Such inherent beauty in a double ended with that fantastic shear

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    Arthur Wester says:

    The hull and layout bear a strong resemblance to LFH’s Rozinante.

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    David Isbell says:

    Very interesting! Very similar to a 1951 Sidney De Wolfe Herreshoff ketch, ARION, usually recognized as the first large vessel built of fiberglass. She was double ended at 42′ LOA by 10’1″ and 10,500# displacement but unlike SPARKLE had a spade rudder aft. She was restored by Damian McLaughlin in Massachusetts. Sometime before 1966 she was donated to the U.S Coast Guard Academy in New London, CT where as a young cadet I had the pleasure of skippering her for 2 years. I am guessing SPARKLE sails every bit as well as ARION.

    Dave Isbell

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      Bob Wallace says:

      Hi Dave-Re: Arion- I had discovered and followed Arion for years after I had built a Rozinante myself around 1978. Many years later my friend and boatbuilder, Damian McLaughlin , was looking for a follow-on to Rozinante so we tracked down what remained of Arion in a field in Dartmouth, Mass. Damian bought the remains and then at his shop went on to completely rejuevenate her and got her sailing again and amazing lots of people with his 1952 Sidney Herreshoff boat. For photos of Arion go look in Damian McLaughlin boats. This Sparkle was a near design but looks unrelated except for the fact that those Rocket scientists came to the same conclusions as LFH and Sidney H.