US1M History

Bill Turner
Revised by Jim Linville

The US One Meter yacht is fun to sail;
it’s lightweight, fast, and responsive
to the controls. Due to its size and
quick disassembly, it’s easily transported to the
The US One Meter is a developmental class
yacht. It is 39.37 inches (one meter) in overall
length, with 600 square inches of measured
sail area. The nonrestrictive nature of the class
rules (which have been changed only once since
they were approved in 1983) encourages new
designs and experimentation. It is a relatively
inexpensive class for the beginning skipper. The
yacht can be self-designed or built from plans.
It can be purchased as a kit or as a complete
yacht, from one of several suppliers. To help
new or experienced skippers build their own
boats, several plans and a construction guide
are available on the Internet for downloading
or as hard copies from the class secretary.
The class got its start in early 1982.
During its beginning, it was known as the
Olympic One Meter Class. The class was originated
by Bob DeBow and Bob Jensen, of San
Diego, California. To use Bob DeBow’s words,
“the class was designed with some very good
reasons in mind.” Some simple class specifications
were drawn up. They remain basically the
same today. Materials of construction were
optional, so manufacturers who supported
our hobby would be encouraged to manufacture
boats for the class. Hulls were designed to
sail well in all weather conditions. The main
thought behind the class specifications was
that anyone with a basic knowledge of building
could gain entry to the hobby with a minimum
of expense. Bob Jensen was drawing up
plans one after another and was giving them
to anyone who wanted to plank one of these
great wooden boats.
In the latter part of 1982, the class was
rapidly gaining momentum, especially on the
West Coast where there were 23 Olympic One
Meters sailing or under construction. Some of
the hot designs of 1983 were: Sunsong, ORCO
II, Bone, Skeeter, Tadpole, and Tyro. The
Sunsong and ORCO II were available as fiberglass
short kits. The Olympic One Meter was
growing by leaps and bounds and would soon
become a class in AMYA. In the first part of
1983, it was official; the Olympic One Meter
had become a recognized class in the AMYA,
and Bob DeBow was the first class secretary.
In January 1983, the first official Olympic
One Meter Class regatta was hosted by the Rio
Salado Race Club of Arizona. Thirteen One
Meters were entered, and Bob DeBow won the
regatta, sailing a co-designed wooden hulled
Sunsong, built by Bob Jensen. Swede Johnson
was second, sailing his fiberglass ORCO II.
The first Olympic One Meter National
Championship Regatta (NCR) was also
awarded to the Rio Salado Race Club. The
regatta took place in Arizona in November

  1. Rio Salado club member Bob Kruft won
    first place, sailing his own design, the Express.
    As it turned out, four of the eight entries
    were of the Express design. The Express went
    on to become a very popular and fast design.
    John Amen later produced the Express design
    in fiberglass. Other manufacturers were also
    producing fiberglass designs. Chuck Black was
    pumping out the Lona, Swede Johnson was
    laying up ORCO IIs, and Bob Sterne was producing
    the Chinook.
    By 1985, the class was still growing fast
    and became a part of Race Week, which is
    hosted every three years by the Argonauts in
    San Diego, California, and remained a part of
    this prestigious event until recently. The 1985
    NCR showcased the beginning of a new design
    trend: a break from the traditional wide-beam
    hulls to narrow-beam hulls. Swede Johnson’s
    ORCO 85 and Curt Hurley’s Squirt were both
    of this narrow-beam design. Along with the
    narrow beam comes less weight and less wetted
    surface. The 1985 NCR had 33 entries and was
    won by Bob DeBow, sailing a modified ORCO
    85 wooden hull.
    The 1986 NCR was hosted by the Orange
    County MSC in Irvine, California. Based on
    some of the things learned from Race Week
    85, the regatta was somewhat of a departure
    from the normal NCR of that time. With the
    large number of entries, a three-frequency
    conflict matrix would generally be used. This
    matrix had some shortcomings as to how many
    times each of the skippers raced against each
    other so no frequency conflicts existed. Due to
    the number of expected entries, they decided
    to have a four-day regatta, which would allow
    a better-distributed heat matrix. There were
    thirty-two entries; they each sailed six races on
    Friday and six races on Saturday to accumulate
    a score. These scores were used to divide
    the group into the Gold NCR fleet, which
    raced on Monday, and the Silver consolation
    fleet, which raced on Sunday. Sandy Littlejohn
    won the Gold NCR fleet. He was sailing a
    wood-planked ORCO 85 hull, which he borrowed
    from Swede Johnson. Todd Olson won
    the Silver fleet, sailing a fiberglass ORCO 85.
    Since it was a four-day regatta, due to work
    commitments there were a few no-show entries,
    but the regatta was still deemed a success.
    In the 1987 autumn issue of the AMYA
    Quarterly Newsletter (QNL), there was a message
    from AMYA President Ned Helmle concerning
    the class name. He said, “I have been informed
    that the United States Supreme Court
    has decided that only the Olympic Committee
    can use the name ‘Olympic.’ Therefore, the
    Olympic One Meter Class is now the One Meter
    Class.” One year later in the 1988 autumn issue
    of the QNL, Bob DeBow wrote in his column,
    “Since we cannot legally call our ever-growing
    One Meter Class the Olympic One Meter, the
    consensus among those that I have been corresponding
    with feels comfortable with calling
    our class the US One Meter, since the US
    was its place of birth and development.” Along
    with the class name change came the question
    of changing the sail logo. The logo did not
    need to be changed because the logo “O” represents
    the first letter in the word “One,” which is
    still part of the class name.
    The one and only change to the class
    rules came in 1989, and it is an addition to
    the specification. The ballot motion M-1 was:
    “It is moved that the US One Meter Class
    specification diagram be revised to add an
    end view controlling hull extensions that add
    to the effective keel depth,” and the following
    paragraph was added to Paragraph 8.0
    Prohibited: as section “8.2 Any form of platform
    or pedestal, as of wineglass shape, which
    increases effective keel depth, except as noted
    on the drawing.” The note on the specification
    drawing states: “Pad or Flat in hull to facilitate
    keel mounting shall not exceed 1/16” below
    contour of hull.”
    In October 1990, some very sad news
    came to the class. Bob Jensen had passed away.
    His passing was felt throughout the ranks of
    the AMYA and by his many friends across the
    country. He was instrumental in the founding
    of the class and in designing and building
    many good US One Meters.
    This covers the major historical events
    during the early years of the class. The class
    has continued to grow, but at a somewhat
    slower rate. During the past twenty years, the
    number of registered yachts on the class roster
    has remained about the same. That is we always
    have some new registrations, but about the
    same number of skippers don’t reregister their
    yachts or renew their AMYA memberships and
    therefore become unregistered. Based on numbers
    of active skippers who are AMYA members,
    we are currently the fourth-ranked class
    in the AMYA.
    Throughout the history of the class,
    there have been five class secretaries. Bob
    DeBow was our leader from the 1983 inception
    of the class until he retired in midyear,
  2. Steve Andre took over from Bob and
    adeptly guided the class through midyear
  3. When Steve stepped down, Bill Turner
    was appointed to the position of secretary and
    remained there through the first part of 2000.
    When Bill decided to vacate the position, Jim
    Linville was appointed to take over from Bill
    and served until early 2006. Jay Barnes was appointed
    secretary in 2006 and served for more
    than a year, at which time he moved on to become
    secretary of the 36-600 Class, and Jim
    Linville was re-appointed in late 2007. Jim
    is the current secretary of the US One Meter
    An NCR has been held every year since
    the class became an official class of the AMYA.
    That’s 30 good years of racing in the US One
    Meter Class. If you look at the NCR Class
    Champions table, several things become apparent:
    (1) There haven’t been too many repeat
    class champions during the entire class history,
    (2) Swede Johnson’s ORCO design boats have
    been in the winners circle eight times, (3) Bob
    Sterne’s Venom design has led the fleet to the
    winners circle an impressive 13 times in the last
    18 years, (4) four home-built yachts have won
    our National Championship during these same
    18 years, proving that it’s not only the design
    that wins, and (5) over 50 percent of the NCRs
    have been held in California. The NCR is supposed
    to be rotated geographically if at all
    possible, but it’s not easy to find clubs outside
    of California that are willing to take on the
    task of hosting this event. Many thanks go to
    the clubs that have hosted it.