The noble sport of sailing is based on tradition and history and only more recently on rules. The Quarter Ton fleet at NYC is the only North American fleet still using this name. There are a few others in Great Britain and Australia. The International Offshore Rule, or IOR, used the name ‘Ton’ to define racing classes (2 Ton, 1 Ton, Half Ton, Quarter Ton, and Mini Ton) beginning around 1970 but by the early 90’s the sailing community had migrated to the a new rule for handicapping under the IMS Rule.
So where does this ‘Ton’ designation come from? In the middle ages, a ‘tun’ was a barrel of wine roughly 256 gallons or 2,048 pints/pounds. By 1628, British parliament was imposing an excise tax on imported wines and beers, based on ‘tunnage’. Ships were therefore designated by their carrying capacity or tonnage. The IOR rules used this traditional name designation (capacity to carry ‘tun’ barrels) in its convention for defining racing classes. A ‘quarter tun’, by the way, is equivalent to a hogshead barrel.
The NYC has had an active Quarter Ton fleet for 40 years, conspicuous for racing level rather than handicapping for scoring race results. In spite of the fact that it is not a one design fleet like Sharks or Stars, level racing for the Quarter Tonners at the NYC is a badge of honour. Depending on skill, strategy and weather conditions, each member of the fleet is capable of winning. The name that this unique fleet chooses as its identification is based on history, and not on IOR rules. For the last 20 years this fleet has been mostly self-regulating and self-policing , adding new boat types with similar speed classifications, using PHRF as the guide, to maintain this spirit of level racing (i.e. Viking 22’s, Grampian 26, Alberg 30’s, C&C 24’s, C&C 25 (inboard)). The most current classification for this fleet that would be used to permit additions to the fleet would be PHRF 216 or slower.
Over all these years, Quarter Ton fleet members have been significant and responsible contributors to the volunteer club life at NYC including serving on the NYC board. Fleet fundraising is another Quarter Ton tradition, with contributions resulting in significant benefits for the NYC. For over 20 years the Annual 1/4 Ton Brew Race has been a source of funds for a number of charitable initiatives. The greatest majority of these funds have been directed towards Broad Reach Foundation for scholarships at the NYC Sailing School for inner city youth at risk. More recently, the Quarter Ton Fleet initiated and led the project to raise funds, via membership donations, with the objective of acquiring and installing two defibrillators at the Club. That project has been successfully completed. With the installation of one of these aboard Grand National, the NYC is providing leadership for the other area yacht clubs to emulate, all in the interest of boater safety. Public articles about this project in local boating publications have offered strong support for this NYC initiative.
The Quarter Ton fleet cherishes sailing tradition and history, competitive racing, and active volunteerism. We are proud of our fleet name and our special status at NYC as a level racing class. So…… the next time you see a boisterous congregation of Quarter Ton sailors after a Tuesday night race, come on over and join us for a drink, but bring your own hogshead.
By Tom Harasti, skipper of Takulli II