Lark sailing in the USA

A small boat dealer in central Massachusetts, about an hour from Boston, imported Larks in the early 1970s. A small one-design class was born. Meanwhile a couple of nearby Universities got Larks; first Tufts University, then MIT, then Harvard. Bowdoin College got their Larks in 2001 but they are moving to Flying Juniors, just as MIT and Harvard have done. Flying Juniors are cheaper and more standard for our college racing but not nearly as fun to sail.

Tufts University is the only remaining team to train in Larks and we are on our fifth fleet. Joe Duplin (Tufts coach 1967-1980) took the risk of being the first to purchase Larks.

1972: 14 JB Larks
1977: 20 JB Larks
1985: 20 Parker Larks
1994: 20 Parker Larks
2005: 24 Rondar Larks

Our current Larks represent the greatest departure from class rules. Since there is no one-design Lark class in the USA anymore we donít bother with class rules. We opted for eight different deck colors as we team race 40% of the time. Our biggest home regattas are team racing. The last US Lark nationals were at MIT on the Charles River in 1977. As the winner, I guess that makes me the perennial US Lark champion! In that championship I opted for a mast with no spinnaker gear because I liked the stiffness, my crew (we were college champions the year before) had never set a spinnaker before, and it was windy.

We now use a carbon mast which we made a bit taller than the original mast. The jib is also a little bit taller than class rules. The boom is also carbon. Due to side bend with our carbon tubes, we added mainsheet bridles. We eliminated both the jib halyard and forestay to save weight and simplify. The jib is attached before stepping the mast and the rig is tensioned with shroud levers. You can find some pictures of Lark sailing from the Tufts fleet on Upper Mystic Lake in Medford MA from both long ago and more recently in this gallery.

Our next two big regattas in 2010 are the Joseph Duplin Trophy for womenís team racing in late March, followed two weeks later by the Jan Friis Trophy for coed team racing (a full fixture list can be found here). This winter we are getting all new mains and jibs. Weíre increasing the mains again with a fat head design and will be adding graphics. Iím thinking two colored waves stretching from jib luff to main leech to match the deck colors.

As a side note, MIT is purchasing a fleet of 18 Fireflys. Their sailing master, Fran Charles, is a former Tufts sailor and likes doing things differently. By next year MIT on the Charles River (considered the Mecca of college sailing) will have 18 FJs, 18 Fireflys, 6 420s, and 30 Tech Dinghies. Every other US college has FJs or 420s, or both FJs and 420s.

Ken Legler
Tufts University Sailing Coach 1980-present

© Ken Legler
© Ken Legler
© Ken Legler