The Snipe was designed in 1931 when RUDDER editor Bill Crosby attended a meeting of the Florida West Coast Racing Association. In answer to a request for the creation of a class of racing sailboats suitable for trailering to regattas, Crosby promised to give the proposed class a send-off by designing and publishing plans of such a boat in his magazine.
The name Snipe was chosen in accord with RUDDER’s custom of naming all its designs for sea birds, and the Snipe plans appeared in the July issue of RUDDER – which quickly sold out.
The boat was designed as a 15 foot 6 inch hard chine hull to conform to the standard 16 foot plank, and was designed for easy home building (so simple that a schoolboy could build one). The original 100 square feet of sail area was increased to 116 square feet, with the introduction of the overlapping jib which replaced the working jib in 1932. Currently the sail area is 128 square feet in mainsail and overlapping jib. Spinnakers are not permitted. The hull has remained essentially unchanged through the history of the class with only slight changes due to tightening of tolerances. The largest single change made over the 50 years of class history was the weight reduction from 425 pounds to 381 pounds in the early 1970s.
Early Snipes were all of wood plank construction, but through the years plywood and fiberglass have come to be accepted as building materials. Most boats are now built by professional builders and are of fiberglass, but plank, and plywood are still used, and amateurs can build boats from plans obtainable from the SCIRA office, or buy fiberglass boats in kit form from the manufacturers for home finishing. All boats are required to be measured and to carry current SCIRA decals in SCIRA competition.
The Snipe is a 15-1/2 foot, 2 person, one design racing dinghy with a rich history. It has evolved into a modern, tactical racing dinghy with fleets around the world. Nearly 30,000 boats have been build worldwide – construction quality is excellent and older boats are both comptetive and affordable.
Snipe racing is organized and runby its members through their organization, the Snipe Class International Racing Association (SCIRA). The class emphasis is on one-design sailing, thus encouraging sailing skills rather than design breakthroughs.The tight one-design measurements and minimum weight of 381 pounds encourage sound boat construction. Crews include many couples and family teams and although the recommended crew eight is between 270 and 325 pounds, the only prerequisite is a keen interest in sailboat racing. The Snipe is very reasonably priced and maintains its competitiveness and resale value for years. Numerous used boats are always available.
I have owned two Snipes, including a mahogany boat in 1957 and a f/g boat at present. Never have I raced either one. My point: The Snipe is always presented as a hot racer but it’s more than that. One or two people can have a delightful day sail, over and over again. That’s what my wife and I do. Why a Snipe for this? Well, it’s above all weatherly, also seaworthy, and always fast but not ever really out of control. You can beach it quickly for a run ashore, or simply make a passage across ten miles or so of semi-protected water. Should it capsize, you can easily learn the drill to right it. Are you a single-hander? When the going gets heavy you can get the Snipe back on her feet by dropping the jib. With main only, be sure you don’t pinch up in the puffs. Rather, hold your course and ease the main so you keep moving well. I have done this many times. For a few bucks, take an old main and have a good sailmaker adapt it to take a slab reef. What’s a good Snipe choice? I would recommend finding a McLaughlin from the early 1990’s. The cockpit is open enough to permit stowage of sails, lunch, and even some light camping gear. With my old Snipe I was fond of 3 day camping trips. So yes, the majority are not very salty: Launch, race, back on trailer, then party the night away. Believe me, the Snipe can do much more than that.
I would love to hear more about cruising the Snipe. I was thinking about buying a racer for my kids and I but fancy the idea of taking a daysail, too. I’d like to know about setup and stowage for a daysail. Any advice would be helpful.
I’ve contemplated this boat or perhaps a Lightning. The Lightning competition may be more cutthroat because everyone fancies themselves to be Olympic-worthy or some dumbness like that. Then you are obliged to round up three people any time you want to race… good luck with that. Sounds like a royal pain in the rump.
I could have written the first comment about single handing the Snipe, because that is exactly what I do with my McLaughlin Snipe 27777. I sail in Hood Canal and Admiralty Inlet. Up to 8 knots of wind I can carry both main and jib. Up to 15 I go main only. Above 15 I reef the main, which brings the head of the main down to the level of the forestay. My reef band is exactly five feet above the foot, as close to the the top of the lowest batten as it will go.
I know about capsizing too. The glass Snipes carry a lot of their flotation under the cockpit floor, so when you go over the boat wants to completely invert. That’s a bad thing to have happen for self rescuing. I fixed this tendency by siezing a foam pool noodle to the masthead, then down along the mast. It will keep your boat on its side. Climb out on the board and up she comes. Be sure the mainsheet is clear to run, so the water filled sail can dump its load. Always have a line cleated over the top of the board, because it likes to slide over the side and sink. Without the board one is helpless again. I weigh in at 155# and am 72 years old.