Constellation’s august pedigree revealed

I read with sadness your piece on the loss of Constellation (“Classic schooner’s sad end,” Issue No. 90). She was a gallant and beautiful lady. The discussion of her rig change, however, was in error. My Dad purchased her from the Navy after World War II for $7,000. She was then gaff-rigged fore and aft. In readying her for a trip to California from Lake Michigan (via the St. Lawrence River) the mainsail was converted from gaff to marconi. The foresail was left gaff-rigged. Our trip (I was seven at the time) was cut short by the outbreak of the Korean War. In 1953 Constellation was sold to Frank Hoykass. Frank got the racing bug, and under the watchful eye of Dick Sutton the rig was “heated up,” as they would say today. The mainmast was moved to the foremast position, and a new, taller mainmast was installed. At this point the foresail was converted to a triangular sail plan, and a huge fisherman staysail and an unbelievable gollywobbler were added to the wardrobe. In the 1955 Transpac, Connie was second across the line at Diamond Head, just 12 hours behind the much larger Morning Star, and won class A on handicap and corrected out second overall. The only boat to beat her on handicap was Staghound, at 36 feet LOA the smallest boat in the fleet. Most of her blocks, turnbuckles, and winches were custom made at National Tapered Wing, Frank Hoykass’s company, to designs by Dick Sutton. If my recollection is correct, in the late 1950s Dick Sutton’s single-spreader rig was replaced with a double-spreader configuration at Abeking and Rasmussen. Constellation did a circumnavigation during the late 1970s. We had the pleasure of sharing several anchorages with her in Polynesia and the Indian Ocean, and it was great fun taking our young children aboard to show them where their Dad had lived when he was their age. We take solace in the fact that she died cruising, rather than sitting on a mud bank on the New River in Florida.

By Ocean Navigator