The US One Meter Class History
by Bill Turner, updated by Jim Linville and later by Steve Vaczovsky
Published in Issue #201 of Model Yachting, Fall 2020
The US One Meter yacht is fun to sail; it’s light weight, fast, and responsive to the controls. Due to its size and quick assembly, it’s easily transported to the pond and set up to race.
It has a few basic rules governing hull dimensions, like keel depth and sail size, allowing the designer great freedom to experiment within a “box” of rules. It is 39.37 inches (one meter) in overall length with no restrictions on beam and a maximum keel/bulb depth of 14.25 inches. There is no minimum or maximum weight and up to four radio controlled functions are allowed. It has 600 square inches of measured sail area. Due to how the sail area is actually measured by the rules, total area is much larger resulting in impressive performance, even in light winds. Since only maximum sail area is specified, boats will often have additional multiple rigs with smaller sails and different ratios of jib/main area.
The nonrestrictive nature of the class rules (which have been changed only a few times since they were approved in 1983 – mostly to clarify existing rules and not to obsolete existing boats) encourages new designs and experimentation.
The original boat hulls were planked balsa glued over hand cut ribs and the hull coated with light fiberglass and painted on the outside and diluted resin on the inside for stiffness and waterproofing.
So called “exotic materials” like carbon fiber and Kevlar are permitted, but well built and well sailed wooden and fiberglass boats are competitive.
With standard building materials and techniques, it is a relatively inexpensive class for the beginning skipper since the yacht can be self-designed or built from plans. To help new or inexperienced skippers build their own boats, several free plans and a construction guide are available on the US1M section of the AMYA website for downloading.
The class got its start in early 1982. The class specifications were designed by Bob De Bow in San Diego, California. In 1983 there were 33 boats registered in the informal Class Association at that time, including such well known names as Bob Jensen, Lloyd “Swede” Johnson, Chuck Black, Don Prough, Bob Kruft, Bill Turner and Bill Mercer. Most of the original skippers were members of the San Diego Argonauts. During its beginning, it was known as the Olympic One Meter Class. 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 build boats and kits 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 boats and later Steve Andre contributed several designs.
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 boats 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 1983. 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 and later the Hot Dog. 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 regular part of this prestigious event until recently when other California clubs have occasionally taken on the NCR. 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 using the then prevalent crystal controlled radios, a three-frequency conflict matrix was 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, it was 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 Silver consolation fleet, which raced on Sunday, and the Gold NCR fleet, which raced on Monday. Todd Olson won the Silver fleet, sailing a fiberglass ORCO 85. Sandy Littlejohn won the Gold NCR fleet. He was sailing a wood-planked ORCO 85hull, which he borrowed from Swede Johnson. Due to work commitments, there were a few no-show entries since it was a four-day regatta, but the regatta was still deemed a success.
In the 1987 autumn issue of the AMYA Quarterly Newsletter (QNL), before the current Model Yachting magazine, 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 feel 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”, formerly for Olympic, would represent the first letter in the word “One,” which was still part of the class name.
A change to the class rules came in 1989, and was 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 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 inch below contour of hull.” In 2014 there were several rule changes that addressed placement of registration numbers on the sails, prohibited rotating masts and hydrofoils – a response to the rising popularity of the technology in catamarans – and formally legalized jib boom counterweights.
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.
Over the years, there have been a few commercial manufactures. As noted above, Chuck Black built and sold the imaginative Hot Dog (which really looks like a Kevlar frankfurter) as well as a few other designs. Lee Oliver Yachts in Burnham, England, sold both finished boats and “short kits” for the builder to complete. Bob Sterne built several generations of boats culminating in the legendary Venom. The late Ken Bauser turned out multiple versions of the Steve Andre designed, Talon. Dennis Desprois of Walrus Sails, who retired a few years ago, built the last of the ready-to-race boats, The Gambit. Currently, only Will Lesh of Tippecanoe Boats, is selling hulls commercially (hulls only – not complete boats) . Will’s hull is a second generation Venom in vacuum bagged resin infused carbon fiber and Kevlar, from Sterne’s original molds.
Most of the clubs with active US1M fleets have one or two skippers who like to build and have filled the gap for boats for non-builders, turning out copies of the many plans that have been donated to the class and which the class has put in the public domain, or of their own design. Former Class Secretary, Jim Linville, in Massachusetts, Art Lent in Florida and Bob Eger in Northern California are but a few examples of the builders who keep the class supplied with boats.
Throughout the history of the class, there have been seven class secretaries with one person serving two different terms. Bob DeBow was our leader from the 1983 inception of the class until he retired in midyear, 1990. Steve Andre took over from Bob and adeptly guided the class through midyear, 1993. 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, when he move on to become secretary of the 36-600 class, and Jim Linville was re-appointed in late 2007. Jim stepped down early in 2017. His 17 years of service currently rank as the third longest tenure of AMYA class secretaries. Steve Vaczovsky was appointed to the remainder of Jim’s last two-year term and is the current secretary of the US One Meter Class.
It was a sad day on January 21, 2017, when the news came of the passing of US1M founder and guiding light of the class, Bob De Bow. Among many other things, he left a legacy of a fun to race RC sailboat class that continues to supply entertaining racing. Many of his boats continue to place in regattas across the country.
An NCR has been held every year since the class became an official class of the AMYA. That’s 37 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 ORCOdesign boats have been in the winner’s circle eight times, (3) Bob Sterne’s Venom design has led the fleet to the winners circle an impressive 17 times, (4) seven home builder designed yachts have won our National Championship proving that it’s not only the design that wins, and (5) over 50% of the NCRs have been held in California. The NCR is supposed to be rotated geographically if possible, but it’s not easy to find clubs outside of California that are willing to take on the task of hosting this event. Over the last three years, NCR’s have been hosted in Florida, Connecticut and Ohio, with the 2020 NCR scheduled for the first time ever to be held in Northern California. Many thanks go to the clubs that have hosted it over the years.