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Thornton Clark shares some personal history of the IOD Class

posted Aug 10, 2011, 3:24 PM by Danielle Lawson   [ updated Aug 10, 2011, 5:45 PM ]
Thornton Clark served as president of the World Class Association from 1974-1988. He was in the travel business and this gave him the opportunity to scour Europe for missing IODs. He brought the Scottish Fleet into the World Class Association, and found one French team from Marseille to join the worlds in Marblehead in 1980. As described below in a note to Tom Allen and Herb Motley, he also made the negotiations between the World Class and the Aas heirs to purchase the rights and tooling for the fibreglass molds and bring them to the United States for construction here. When his original 1937 hull number 16 deteriorated, he took her lead keel, rudder, and fittings to a new glass hull as he describes below. 
Here is a a link to the registry of hulls that Thornton compiled in 1974 listing all active IODs around the world. (for best viewing recommend that you use the "File" menu to download the newsletter as a .pdf file.)

Thornton Clark (left) in Norway to secure the molds for World Class Ownership
Thornton Clark (left) in Norway to secure the molds for World Class Ownership

Hi Herb and Tom. 

Hope I can help a little with IOD history during the late seventies. One thing that would be very helpful is a copy of the newsletter I wrote in about 1975, which I think was shortly after I became President of the Class. Herb, you are right. Henrik Aas always insisted that he had the exclusive rights to build IODs, emanating from his father, Bjarne Aas, in Fredrikstad. The newsletter would give the date that I flew to Norway, met with all of the old IOD owners, and negotiated the purchase of the molds from a man who owned the Mercedes dealership in Oslo, and the elderly gentleman, Odd Hals, who was still looking after the abandoned boatyard. The newsletter had pictures of the Aas Yard and some of the key people in Norway.

Odd Hals with the original fibreglass mold in FrederikstadOld Hals with the original fibreglass mold in Frederikstad

One very interesting part of the IOD history is that all of the wooden boats were built on a single frame, ensuring that the hulls were all identical. When the Nazis were invading Norway during the early stages of World War II, a big hole was dug in the boatyard and the frames were buried so that they would not be found or damaged. They were subsequently dug up after the war and all of the postwar wooden boats continued to be built from those frames. The molds for fiberglass construction were made from wooden plugs molded from a very carefully finished wooden hull and a few fiberglass boats were built in Norway, one of which was Jim Bishop's. Shipping of the molds was arranged paid by one of the wealthiest and most famous men in Norway, Fred Olsen. He had the most beautiful office I have ever seen, magnificently paneled and full of ship models. I knew I was in for a pleasant surprise when I arrived at the classic building and noted that it was on one of the oldest streets of Oslo, Fred Olsen Gate (which means street or similar in English). He owned a shipping company and, if you flew into Oslo airport, you would see the numerous white planes with his name on them. Please note that Mr. Olsen was an early World Champion of the IOD class. I'm not sure, but I think he is related to our IOD sailor, Jan Petter Roed. Anyway, this was long before I met Jan Petter.

My fiberglass IOD was the 8th fiberglass hull built from the original fiberglass molds. Don Mackenzie's IOD, which went to Larchmont, was the first IOD built from the fiberglass molds after they were moved to the United States. For ease of keeping track as well as logic, I tried to get everyone to agree to sequential numbering of new boats, as is common in most classes, but New York insisted that in the old days they had more boats than were allowed to race and that those authorized to race had to have numbers between one and twenty-five. They also blocked my campaign for one-design, insisting on changing to the higher headstay so they could sail faster and keep their historic first time on the starting line in Western Long Island Sound. Despite the increased speed, the Etchells ended up winning out and the class is stuck with the problem of having some IODs that are not one-design with respect to jib size. 

Anyway, Henrik built a few boats before working with me to build my hull. My boat was launched in July of 1976, so Harry Farmer could not have become a builder until at least several years later. [Farmer had five new boats under construction in the fall of 1979, when on New Year’s Eve his shop suffered a fire which destroyed the molds and all but one of the new boats. ] 

I believe the boat built after mine was an atrociously equipped one for Dr. James Lee, who I believe was an eye doctor in Boston. The boat had many strange details, such as extra heavy fittings and stained glass doors on the storage cabinets in the cabin. I think Jon Wales ended up owning this boat at some point. [This boat is presently owned by Todd Sparling in Marblehead.] 

The story of launching 107 and sailing it to Boston was interesting. Bob Duff drove us up to East Boothbay in his Volkswagen bus. We planned to spend the morning placing and attaching all of the winches and deck fittings. Of course, it took longer than anticipated, so we were racing to get underway and down the river into the ocean before dark. We were working on the boat on the North side of an area about fifty feet wide, tied starboard to the dock with the stern toward the open water. Bob Duff was driving his van back to Marblehead, so I instructed him very carefully on the need to be sure we had swung back head to wind far enough to guarantee we could back the jib and head toward the open water on port tack before letting us go. He had tied a couple of lines together at the bow as we cast off and, of course, the knot slipped loose with us stuck on starboard tack with the wind honking and the bow aimed straight at the concrete wall at the end of the dock. 

There were large expensive yachts tied up on each side as Dr. Lee steered on a reach straight down the middle toward disaster. He was frozen and would not listen to our urgent pleas. I ended up having in knock him down, grab the tiller, head down and skim the yacht on our port side before finding a moment with enough room for the stern to swing to leeward during a hard over swerve toward the boat on the upwind side of the water. Screaming people had run out onto the stern of the closest boat to help fend off.  We made it around and out without damage and got into open water just as the sun set. 

Ready for dinner, we found that Dr. Lee, responsible for food, had brought things like canned meat that required heating and no equipment for warming it up. We were one hungry and unhappy crew. By the way, Jay had a date who we believe stayed forward of the mast and did not say more than three words for the entire trip. 

As we were approaching Cape Ann it was still blowing hard from the West and Jay Lee, new to sailing, did not yet have any feel for working the hull through the waves. I was the nearest the stern of the row of us sitting on the deck to weather when Jay hit a wave that tossed us up in the air, landing in the cockpit. I was sore for days from landing on the tiller, breaking it just above the bracket that attached it to the rudder post. This made for interesting steering in strong winds and rough seas. A well-known IOD sailor from San Francisco, Hal Nesbitt, succeeded in strapping the tiller to the rudder post using a rod so that, as long as we were gentle on the helm, we could make it into Marblehead Harbor and secure to a mooring. We were one tired and hungry crew when we finally came ashore.

Phil Somerby, Bob Duff and David Smith preparing the keel for the new hull
Phil Somerby, Bob Duff and David Smith preparing the keel for the new hull

I may still be the only person to have built my own IOD. It took two weeks in the Hodgdon Yard in East Boothbay to do Tango's hull and attach the keel from my old wooden number 16 and then 29 days in Hood's boatyard in Marblehead to build all of the interior, install the mast step and the frames for the head stay and backstay, paint her and launch her. As you know, I wanted here to look as much like a wooden boat as possible, so she has teak on the inside and outside of the cockpit and cabin as well as a planked teak cabin top. Installing the teak as the headliner of the cabin was the most interesting part of the job. We rushed to have her launched so that sailors coming to Marblehead that August for the Worlds could see how you could convert a wooden hull. I did it for about $6000. Tango led around the weather mark and almost won her first race if the wind had not died. 

 The new Tango arrives in Marblehead, 1976
The new Tango arrives in Marblehead in 1976

Anyway, I think the molds came over from Norway in 1975 and Henrik controlled them for at least a few years after my boat was built, so say the late 70s. The person most familiar with builders after that was class construction chairman, Ted Cook. I kept having to collect from Henrik and remind Teddy to insist that deals with subsequent builders had to take into consideration my commitment to pay Odd Hals $50 for every fiberglass boat built in the U.S. I don't think he received but about $200 and he would certainly be dead by now. Henrik was impossible to work with and the owner, Mr. Tillotson, told me he ended up being fired by Hodgdon Brothers in East Boothbay and moved to Houston, where I think he became a boat broker.

That old newsletter also includes, I believe, an article I wrote about the current status of Saga, the Bermuda 6 meter upon which the IOD design was based by Corny Shields and Bjarne Aas (who had designed Saga). I flew to Vancouver, BC sometime in that period and sailed Saga out through the Straits of Juan de Fuca and around Victoria. I may be able to come up with the name of the owner, who was assistant landscape manager at the beautiful Bouchart Gardens in Victoria. Saga was still in beautiful condition and is a magnificent hull. [Saga is still sailing actively in the Vancouver 6-metre fleet.] 

Herb, while I am thinking about it, I have some things that will be lost in the shuffle and nobody will have any clue what they are when I die. Maybe the class would like to use some of them. One is a beautiful pewter mug with the IOD emblem and the names of all of the IODs in Scotland engraved on it, It was presented to me by the fleet when I flew to Edinburgh sometime in the late seventies, found the fleet and got them involved [in the world class]. I gave the sets of plans I had printed and the negatives from which they were made to someone in the class years ago. 

Best wishes,