HISTORY OF THE FLYING SCOT
HISTORY OF THE FLYING SCOT compiled by Debbie Cycotte
The Flying Scot is a time-tested design that is comfortable and safe as well as fast and great fun to sail. The Flying Scot is one of the few small boats which have been in steady production since 1957. The Flying Scot was inducted into the American Sailboat Hall of Fame in 1998. A look at the entire history of the boat and class starts with the designer, Gordon K. “Sandy” Douglass. In 1939, Sandy pioneered the use of molded plywood hulls for sailboats. The 17’ Thistle was designed in 1945 and was almost an immediate success. It remains an active racing class today. The 20’ Highlander made its debut in 1951. By 1956, Sandy decided the time was appropriate to introduce a new design in the 19 foot field for a planing family-racing boat that had been dominated by the Lightning Class for many years. He also decided to break away from Douglass and McLeod, Inc. and start his own operation in Mentor, Ohio.
The time had come to make the change into fiberglass construction. This new design should have the safety of wide side decks and also a roomy cockpit. The solution was to lower the deck and to shape it into the form of seats, thus combining the advantages of both. Engineering the structure was another matter. Fiberglass offered opportunities but also presented problems, which included fiberglass was denser than wood, so it must be thinner. Thinner lacks the stiffness and needed to be handled differently, since it is flexible. Flexing can be the greatest enemy since it can lead to cracking. Other manufacturers tried a balsa sandwich construction in an effort to add strength without weight and this is the direction Sandy decided to go too. In the autumn of 1956, a wooden prototype was built for the use of testing and later as a plug for building the fiberglass molds. This boat was completed in late December and was taken south for sailing trials.
Following the trials, Sandy was confident enough of the new boat’s potential that he announced the new design in the January, 1957 issue of Yachting magazine. His biggest problem with the new design was actually deciding on the name for the class and a suitable emblem. With over 600 classes already on record, the field was somewhat restricted. In keeping with the tradition of using Scottish names, Douglass, Thistle and Highlander, the name Flying Scot was chosen. “Flying Scot” has been the name of the famous express train from London, England to Edinburgh, Scotland and also a famous yacht in the 1890’s. The emblem presented even more acute problems with fewer choices. With trying to come up with something that was Scottish but not too intricate for sailmakers (such as bagpipes would be), Sandy decided to use the two letters “F” and “S”, but they did not make a good emblem. After more experimenting, a squiggle was added, transforming the two letters into a good emblem with a recognition value. The squiggle actually is a very stylized word “lying”, which the “F” gives the Flying S.
When the Detroit River Yacht Association decided to replace their 22’ wooden Interlake Cats boats in 1957 with the Flying Scot, it was one of the breaks that Sandy had been hoping for. The first boat was completed in the spring of 1957. Eric Ammann joined the company in June, 1957, knowing little about boats and nothing about fiberglass. Sandy and Eric liked each other and started working together and soon became Sandy’s invaluable assistant.
By May, 1958, Sandy had lost all hope in saving his newly-built house which was in the path of a intended new highway and the idea of a move to Oakland, Maryland and Deep Creek Lake became a reality. This location was selected for being closer to the geographic center of sailing east of the Mississippi and located high on the Appalachian Plateau, Oakland had cool summers, beautiful mountain scenery and nearby Deep Creek Lake for summer sailing. An added bonus was the labor market seemed favorable. An ex-automobile dealership building was selected to set up the boat company and manufacturing plant in August, 1958. Eric and his family agreed to make the move. From a slow and unsure start, the sales of Flying Scots progressed steadily.
The initial enthusiasm of the pioneer Scot sailors helped to build not only the Flying Scot as a One-Design Class but also the Flying Scot Sailing Association as well. This explains why both have taken a forefront in one-design sailing. After about forty boats had been built and another forty were on order, Sandy saw the need to develop a strong Class Association that has a clear sense of purpose right from the beginning. A group of new interested owners met in November, 1959 in Mansfield, Ohio for the purpose of creating an Association. This group decided to call it the Flying Scot Sailing Association since there was already a Flying Scott that was a popular outboard motor and they did not want to attract outboard motors owners. The Steering Committee determined a constitution was necessary and looked at several classes, including the Lightning’s (which theirs were based on the earlier Star Class). With necessary modifications, our Class adopted the Lightning’s format. An election of Officers was held so the Association could conduct business and move forward.
Like the Class, the new publication needed a name. A contest was run for members to offer suggestions and various submissions were tried each month for seven successive issues of the one-page 11” x 14” mimeographed newsletter. Names in the order tried are: Plane Talk, Scot-Tlebut, Scot-Issue, The Pibroch, Scots n’ Water, The Mast Head and Undecided. The name Scots n’ Water was selected and published in a very attractive masthead on the July, 1959 issue. The original suggestion came in as ‘Scots ‘n Soda’ but was changed to suit the editor’s taste. The publication’s name was eventually registered as Trademark #765924 in April, 1964. In the December, 1958 issue, the second ever published, explained the difference between Active and Associate Members. Membership was encouraged to all owners and the dues were $5.00/Active and $2.00/Associate. As members joined, fleets were chartered. The first four fleets were assigned in December, 1958. Fleet growth was rapid with nearly every issue saluting a new fleet or two. Sandy Douglass reported in January, 1959 issue that discussions with several sailmakers had produced the final figures for the official sail plan, which would then become part of the official specifications.
The First National Championship was held in late August, 1959, on Clear Fork Lake in Mansfield, Ohio. A total of 32 competed with two days of racing in light air. The first Annual Meeting was held with 155 skippers, crews and guests attending. The first election of Officers was held. Officers were to be elected annually and generally a one-year term of office planned. In another official action, the Prototype boat was accepted in the Class and assigned the number 0. The first Amendment to the Constitution was proposed in an effort to more clearly specify some items of the Running Rigging.
In the early 1960’s, Sandy and Eric logged many miles delivering boats to the eastern half of the United States. The Detroit Yacht Club decided to use the Flying Scot as a Club boat. In the national advertising promotion to introduce the 1961 Buick, the Flying Scot was in the large magazine ads. The members of the Gulf Yachting Association chose the Flying Scot as their club boat to teach junior sailing and to race. A midwinter meeting of the FSSA was started and the first several of these in the 60’s were held in New York. These were only meetings. Later the location was changed to Ft. Meyers, Florida and then Panama City, Florida and sailing was added to the activities.
The desire to continue to expand the sailing of Flying Scots over the years resulted in Gordon Douglass Boat Company giving license to other builders to construct the Flying Scot. These were: Ranger Boat Company in Seattle, Washington; Loftland Boat Company in Wichita, Kansas; and Customflex in Toledo, Ohio in the United States. In Canada there was for a short time: Tanzer Boat Company and Shark Shop. Customflex had the longest holding of the license from 1959 – 1979. As the 60’s rolled into the 70’s changes were made. In 1971, Sandy decided to retire. He and his wife and business partner, Mary, sold the business to longtime employee Eric and Mary Ammann. The Ammanns also began to focus on an ever-increasing part of the business – replacement parts. FSSA hired their first Executive Secretary, Hal Marcus from Pensacola, Florida in 1973. In 1975, Eric and Mary built a new large customized building just outside of Oakland in Deer Park and also they hired a young college student they knew to teach sailing lessons and do some racing. His name was Harry Carpenter. More fleets were given charters and Districts were formed. More than 2500 Flying Scots were built by 1975. The boats were getting lots of publicity from national magazines and word was spreading what a great boat the Flying Scot was for both day-sailors and racers, it was possible to do BOTH in this wonderful boat. Gordon Douglass Boat Company employed between 10 – 12 people, including Mary Ammann who ran the office and business end of the operation. After graduation from college, Harry Carpenter came aboard full time in 1978. The new boat market was thriving and the used boat market was getting more active as people came back to the plant to purchase new boats.
Also in 1978, Ed Eubanks from Columbia, South Carolina took over the Association’s job of Executive Secretary from Hal Marcus. The first Wife/Husband division was created and was so popular that an entire regatta has been held every year since with large turnouts. The 1980’s went smoothly. Harry had met Karen, an emergency room nurse at a regatta in 1979 and they were married in April of 1981. Karen helped out in the office part time and crewed for Harry at many regattas. The 25th Anniversary Regatta was held at Cowan Lake in Ohio, home of Fleet #1, in 1982. That year also was brought controversy over rigging. The adopted rigging amendment preserved the one-design principle, to Sandy’s satisfaction. Measurement certificates were first issued in 1983 that proved a boon at the NAC’s. Also, Scot #1 was located and restored to winning shape and sailed competitively by Harry Carpenter that year.
Also in 1983, a builder, West Scot, from Sandy, Utah, was licensed to produce Flying Scot boats since there was quite a movement west. In 1984, the prototype wooden Scot #0 emerged still sailing, to the amazement of Sandy. Bob Vance started the successful charter cruises for Scotters in 1986 with trips as far as Turkey and Australia. The 30th Anniversary in 1987 was held again on Cowan Lake in Ohio where 72 boats gathered to celebrate and race.
Eric and Mary Ammann retired in 1991 and sold the company to Harry and Karen Carpenter. Again this resulted in a truly unique succession of ownership that has resulted in boat production without interruption and “keeping it in the family”. Harry and Karen changed the name to “Flying Scot Inc.”. Among the improvements they introduced were transom ports and bow buoyancy bags. A sad note for the class was the sudden death of Ed Eubanks. His wife, Mary Ann Eubanks took over and kept the Association running smoothly.
Today the Flying Scot remains one of the leading one-design classes in the United States and Sandy Douglass’s most successful design. Hand-crafted with the highest quality materials and methods from a committed builder, a well-run class and a boat with characteristics that still ring true from a 1950’s sales brochures: A comfortable, stable, family-style, planing sailboat that performs very well. Over 100 local fleets hold local, district and national level events. The great camaraderie among Flying Scot sailors that is fostered by friendly competition can last a lifetime.
Growth of the Flying Scot thru the Years: