Sabot Fleet History

Formed in the 1960s, the SSSS is a vital group of people who love to have fun sailing Sabots.  It started with a group of San Diego Yacht Club women who wanted to learn to sail and skipper their own destinies rather than be second mate.  Today, the fleet also attracts men who enjoy the unique challenge of competitive Sabot sailing.  Many of our racers are erstwhile “juniors” who learned to sail in Sabots and have returned to the enjoy the fun and the stiff competition.

When Jack Wood came to SDYC in the late 1960s to head the junior program, he tried to get women interested in sailing Snipes, but the experience left them bruised, battered and bewildered.  He succeeded with Sabots, a boat that has been described as a tricky boat filled with fun, and often, water.  Connie Melhorn, Debby Blum, Marge Oliver, Mardy Pritchett, Monica Manzer, Katy Sabin, Sandra Hope and Helen Wood were the first to answer the challenge.

Soon, Connie found an invitation to a regatta at Alamitos Bay Yacht Club and asked if the SDYC group could participate.  The answer was “welcome.”  So off went the fledglings … ignorant of rules, wind shifts and tactics, they carefully avoided causing trouble and dropped out quickly if anyone accused them of wrongdoing.

Now a name was needed.  One day after sailing, Marge Oliver looked over the wet, disheveled group and with tongue in cheek said, “we’re the Sexy Sabot Sailing Set,” and the name was born.  Later, the name was shorted to the SSSS.

In 1969 the Southern California Women’s Sailing Association (SCWSA) was formed.  We joined with other Southern California yacht clubs and racing began in earnest.  Regattas were held and trophies given for overall winners of the year.  In the years 1982 to 1998, 15 of 16 winners overall in the A Fleet were from SDYC.  A winner’s litany of Betty Becker, Jane Kenny, Pam Lindley and Monica Manzer became the rule.  Once, the SSSS won four of the top overall trophies.

In the 1970s, Men’s Mayhem was born, and it continues to be a highlight.  Initially, the event was designed to show husbands the difficulty of Sabot sailing.  Today, Mayhem is open to all men over 18, drawing some of the best young adult sailors.

The SSSS also started to join in on the Dutch Shoe Marathon to Coronado about this time.  The ladies were asked to come along as “on-water mother hens.”  It turned out the juniors didn’t need mothering and serious racing could be done.

After the SCWSA was formed, the Sabot Masters Regatta began for men and women sailing together in fleets divided into age groups.  Again, our sailors have brought home the top awards many times.  Jane Kenny, Geves Kenny, Betty Becker, Chuck Sinks, Pam Lindley and Arlene Simpson have all won the right to have a gold Dutch shoe on their sail, indicating that they’ve won first place in the Sabot Masters --more than once, in most cases.

Many sailors who still win trophies today started sailing Sabots as adults in the early 1970s.  Dorothy Wheeler sailed every Tuesday until she reached her 80s!  Our fleet’s new generation were children in the 1970s who learned to sail in Sabots and never stopped loving it.  Fun and competition bring them back to their roots.

May the SSSS tradition of filling our boats with “fun and water” continue!

— by Dorothy Wheeler and Norma Johnson

Links & Documents


Danny North
Fleet Captain

Upcoming Sabot Fleet History Events

Sabot Fleet History Event Archive