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A Scow Addiction

“I just wanted a boat I could fit my whole family on. But once people saw it... I had 50 people wanting to come sail.”

February 21, 2014

When Fletcher Driscoll bought his first A Scow in 2000, he had no idea that 13 years later there would be a fleet racing every Monday night during the summer sailing season on his home waters of White Bear Lake in Minnesota.

“I just wanted a boat I could fit my whole family on,” says Driscoll. “But once people saw it, everyone got excited, really excited. In short order I had 50 people wanting to come sail.”

But on a small inland lake, it takes more than enthusiasm to build an 11-boat fleet in a decade. The 38-foot speedsters are not cheap, and you need to find at least seven people to crew and hope some competition will do the same—not the most enticing prospect for a would-be proprietor.

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The answer is best summed up in a little movie wisdom: “If you build it they will come.” This phrase is as true for a fleet of A Scows on White Bear Lake as for a baseball game in Iowa’s cornfields.

“It all started in a serendipitous kind of way,” explains Driscoll. After he found a good deal nearby on a second boat and restored it, he was ready for more. “Well once we had two, it really seemed like we needed a third one.”

Racing started in 2004 when he bought a third from Buddy Melges. After a fourth boat was picked up and led by a women’s team, the momentum really started and more Minnesotan sailors began chipping in.

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With the help of the conservation district, nine A Scows live at Driscoll’s makeshift marina—repair shop and storage barn included. “It really helps having everyone in one place,” says Driscoll, who can be found roaming the docks every Monday night, making sure all the boats have what they need. “If one boat doesn’t have enough crew or anything, we can usually swap around a little bit and make it work.”

Driscoll’s support has taken the logistical challenges out of the equation, making a boat that only the most diehard amateur would campaign from scratch far more appealing to possible owners. He now hopes that others will step in and buy some of the scows: “I decided to take a chance and buy the boats and find the crews first, and then hope other people will want to buy the boats.”

So far, it looks like the chance paid off: White Bear Lake now boasts one of the class’s largest fleets. Hopefully by the time the 81-year-old is finally ready to retire, he’ll have plenty of help carrying the A Scow’s hefty mantle.

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A Scow

A Scow

A Fleet of 11 A Scows races on Minnesota’s white bear lake, thanks to the efforts of fleet father Fletcher Driscoll. Ben Markhart
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