You never know what you’ll find in the used boat market. Ted Boynton was one of the lucky ones. He uncovered a forgotten piece of yacht racing history, got it up and running again with a group of sailing enthusiasts and took top honors at one of the East Coast’s most prestigious classic yacht regattas.
Boynton’s 36-foot racing sloop Dagger is one of a series of prototypes designed by Ray Hunt in the mid-1930s, progenitors of the International 110, which is one of America’s most enduring sailboat designs. Yacht racing was a major sport at that time—along with baseball, college football and boxing—with national coverage of boats, designers and sailors. It was also an expensive sport. Hunt, along with engineers Bror Tamm and Gordon Munro, drew up plans for a new racing sailboat. It was “a long boat with a small sail area,” as Hunt described it, with an affordable price, high-quality construction and solid performance. It was made to strict one-design rules.
Built by George Lawley and Sons in Neponset, Massachusetts, the 36-foot plywood prototypes were radical. They were long and slim, flat-bottomed, double-ended and slab-sided—all shapes that were kept in the International 110. “They shrank this design down to 24 feet using the same proportions, and that’s the International 110,” says Boynton. “Dagger is a 110 on steroids.”
The new racing sailboat made its debut at the 1939 Marblehead Race Week Regatta, with Hunt at the helm. It beat the fleet boat for boat, except for the International One Designs. Proven to be fast and priced at just $480 (a new car cost $750 on average at the time), more than 400 hulls were built in two years.
Boynton found Dagger in Soundings and bought it for around $5,000. “It was parked at the Museum of Yachting. It had been passed around a bit in Newport,” says Boynton, who runs Sound Boat Works in Westbrook, Connecticut. “The boat was in okay shape, rigged with an old J/24 mast and a set of used sails. To me, it looked like a relatively inexpensive way to get into classic yacht racing. I thought we could go out and have some fun with it.”
Boynton grew up sailing in Riverside, Connecticut, aboard a Luders 16, Quincy Adams 17, Lightning and the International 110. He has a penchant for wooden boats. “I’ve always been attracted to them,” he says. He also owns a Chris-Craft runabout.
On its first sail in Newport, Dagger performed as he thought it would, says Boynton, but there were improvements to be made. “It had the wrong rig and the wrong sails, but we knew we had something special.”
The J/24 mast and sails were eventually put aside in favor of an Etchells rig, using the original sail plan as a guide. “The Etchells mast is almost identical in length and very close to the original. [Sailmaker] Kevin Farrar built a new jib, then a new mainsail,” Boynton says. The improvement was marked. Dagger’s performance was kicked up a notch.
There was structural work to do on the 80-year-old hull. “The floor was weak and the keel would pump when the wind got up,” Boynton says. “We sistered the frames and built a keel grid.” Dagger crewmember Brian Lenihan fashioned a new rudder with the original foil shape and installed it with a new rudder post.
It all came together at the 2014 Museum of Yachting Classic Yacht Regatta in Newport. Over a fine weekend of sailing, Dagger took top non-spinnaker class honors along with the Overall Winner title in the Grand Prix Class.
Dagger sails its best in 12 to 18 knots of wind with a crew of three or four, says Boynton. “It’s like a racehorse. When you get into the 20s, it becomes a water management problem. You take a lot of water in the boat. It goes okay in light air with the new rig and sails.” In one Long Island Sound race, Dagger reached the first mark ahead of the class that started before it.
Boynton has sailed Dagger in other classic yacht regattas, including Eggemoggin Reach, Marblehead, Greenport, Indian Harbor and Race Rock on Long Island Sound. Last year, he put sailing plans on hold due to the pandemic, but he hopes to make up for lost time on the water this season. When we talked with Boynton in May, he said the first stop on Dagger’s race schedule was the New York Yacht Club’s Tiedemann Regatta in Newport, honoring Bob Tiedemann, who revived the 12 Meter fleet in that location. “It’s been a fun boat,” he says. “A blast for the buck.”
Dagger is 35-feet, 6-inches long with a narrow 5-foot, 11-inch beam. Because of its 6-to-1 length-to-beam ratio, the subsequent International 110s, at 24 feet with a 4-foot beam, earned the nickname “flying splinters.” The double-ended boat’s nearly flat bottom has a slight rocker, and the bow and stern are both plumb. The shape allows the hull to plane going downwind under the right conditions. The cockpit is small, located in the center of the boat, with the rudder post just aft. The original mast and sail plan features a high-aspect mainsail and a fractional jib with around 225 square feet of sail area. The long, slim hull carried a deep fin keel with approximately 1,000 pounds of ballast; draft was near 5 feet. Hunt’s prototypes were built with newly developed Harborite or Weldwood “waterproof” plywood over a box-like spruce and oak framework, rather than conventional plank-on-frame construction. (The International 110 was built with four 12-foot plywood sheets.) Stringers and chines were made of fir. The mast and boom were spruce, with Duralumin and bronze fittings.
Draft (approx.): 5’0”
Keel: Fin w/bulb
Ballast (approx.): 1,000 lbs.
Sail Area (approx.): 225 sq. ft.
Ray Hunt began as a first-class helmsman and Olympic champion and grew into an inventive designer whose accomplishments run from the creation of the Concordia yawl to the Bertram 31, with a Boston Whaler thrown in for good measure. “He was an idea man. [He] saw things, dreamed things, drew things that none of his contemporaries ever did,” wrote historian Stan Grayson. The International 110 continues as a popular racing class.
This article was originally published in the August 2021 issue.