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Sandbaggers Bull and Bear

Sandbaggers "Bull" and "Bear"

PSA members will have several unique opportunities this summer to sail the very interesting "Bull" and "Bear". These are 2 identical yachts, 28 ' long on deck but 55' overall sparred length, modeled after 1870 racing vessels. They are ideal for match racing or just daysailing. They are managed by the National Sailing Hall of Fame in Annapolis and winter on the Magothy at the Gibson Island Yacht Yard, receiving quality care and maintenance.

We are always looking for volunteers to deliver the boats to and from Annapolis. This summer, PSA has been offered a chance to form a team of about 8 sailors to participate in a match race against another Club. I will also contact MRSA to see if they have an interest in forming an opposing team. Dates still have to be determined but will most likely be a weekday evening.

If interested, please contact Tom Price @ or John Aellens @


Bull and Bear are lovely boats, quickly becoming an Annapolis icon. As floating ambassadors for the sport of sailing managed by the National Sailing Hall of Fame, they each year turn hundreds of admirers into enthusiasts after only a short sail!

The Sandbagger origins are similar to Chesapeake working craft but are from the New York waters. Their low freeboard, great beam and large sail areas were suitable for oystering and quick sailing to and from the oyster beds, back to the market. It wasn't long before these informal races became sporting events backed by large wagers and professional crews. Winning these races, for greater money than they could get from oystering, became paramount and sail areas grew larger as did the number of crew. Soon the crew weights were supplemented by bags of sand that were tossed to the windward side for movable ballast (hence the name Sandbagger). They became extreme with overall lengths more than double their hull length! From the 1860s to the 1890s, sandbagger racing was a very popular sport from New York to New Orleans to San Francisco. These races mixed working watermen, amateur sailors, and crowds of spectators, most of whom bet on the winners of match races. With few rules, sandbagger racing was exciting, but it died out in the 1890s after yacht clubs developed “Corinthian”-amateur-regulations and measurement rules for handicapping racing yachts.

These sloops were extremely fast for their day but at odds with Corinthian sailing. Like all sports where money becomes the object, Sandbagger racing turned ugly with disregard for rules, sabotage and worse. They became admired but outcast "black sheep", were banned from respectable racing and most returned to oystering. Only one original boat exists, the "Annie", a long time floating exhibit at Mystic Seaport.

Bull and Bear were constructed in 1997-98 at the Philadelphia Seaport Museum by John Brady. They are true Sandbagger yachts, traditional in nearly every sense except that they carry 30# bags of water rather than 50# sandbags! They can capsize but we sail with a somewhat reduced rig and the cockpits are sealed off from the hull enabling safe righting.

Sailing the boats is quite exciting as they are fast, fairly lively and extremely responsive to sail trim. With a long bowsprit forward and the boom extending well beyond the stern, they have ample leverage to develop lee or weather helm! There is plenty to do on the boats yet they can comfortably carry a large crew of "rail meat" shifting sides instead of sand (water) bags.

I hope those who helped with the boats and anyone interested in historic, fine sailing traditional boats will avail themselves of any opportunity to sail on Bull and Bear.

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