The Cocktail Class Wooden Boat Racing Association has its origins in the cottage racing clubs of the 1950’s when small towns across the country were hosting outboard races for family built boats and stock outboards. By the mid 1960’s however, cottage racing had all but disappeared as boats and engines became more sophisticated, expensive, faster and dangerous. But the memories of crowded waterfronts, old outboards and competitive races lingered, at least for a few families in the Northern Neck of Virginia in the Chesapeake Bay.
In August 2007, idle reminiscences became an exciting concept during an evening cocktail hour on the banks of the Corrotoman River. By the end of 2007, a hard plan had been forged by the Bluefeld/Granbery/Fitz families to build and race four outboards by Memorial Day, 2008. The boat of choice was the SKUA, designed by Charles McGregor and published in the August 1939 issue of Rudder Magazine. It was the right size, easy to build and looked awesome.
The first boat, “Miss Bud” (#7), was launched on Presidents’ weekend in 2008. Despite the cold weather, sea trails were a huge success and construction of three more boats began in earnest the next day. On Memorial Day 2008, with bunting hung and holiday colors flying, four boats with old outboards, 12 drivers and lots of friends and neighbors held the inaugural race, the “Founders Cup”. The excitement was overwhelming and a set of building plans were developed so others could build boats and share in the fun.
In June 2009 the boats were shown at the WoodenBoat Show in Mystic, CT as part of the “I Built It Myself” display. The boats were a huge hit and were commandeered for an informal race between WoodenBoat Magazine and Mystic Seaport with WoodenBoat Magazine winning bragging rights. Seeing a perfect fit in their family boatbuilding initiative, WoodenBoat Magazine wrote an article about the boats in their April 2010 issue. The international exposure generated by the article resulted in more than 200 sets of Skua plans being sold within 6 months.
Recognizing the need to channel the enthusiasm, the Cocktail Class Wooden Boat Racing Association was formed in April 2010, with six members from the original families. The purpose was to encourage the building and racing of the Skua, renamed the “Cocktail Class Racer” in honor of the cocktail hour when the idea was first conceived. The CCWBRA was established as a non-profit association in Philadelphia and the Cocktail Class Wooden Boat Racing Association, the Cocktail Class Racer and the Cocktail Class logo were registered with the US Trademark Office.
CCWBRA’s first official regatta “Oktoberfest 2010” was held at Beachmont Warf in Mollusk, VA where the Association was born and the first four boats were built. Of the 26 boats registered with the CCWBRA at the time, 13 boats and 16 drivers raced on the Western Branch of the Corrotoman River. The club grew quickly by word-of-mouth and in January 2011, the Rock Hall Yacht Club signed on to build and race 4 boats. The first Union Lake Regatta was held in September in Millville, NJ and in October the RHYC hosted the first CCWBRA National Championship. By the end of 2011, the CCWBRA had 59 members with 53 boats built or under construction from as far north as Maine, as far west as Washington state and as far south as Alabama and Georgia.
The rapid expansion continued unabated in 2012 and one of the key drivers was the development of a Cocktail Class Racer Kit by Chesapeake Light Craft. A memorandum of agreement was reached between CLC and CCWBRA in 2012. Now anyone, even those with no boatbuilding experience could build, own and race a Cocktail Class Racer.
Explosive growth of the CCWBRA occurred throughout the Chesapeake Bay as well as nationally and by the summer of 2012 nearly 100 individuals had joined the Association. That year also saw the first of many successful Kent Island Yacht Club regattas and our second National Championship in Rock Hall, MD. The town of Urbanna, VA saw it as a way to bring back powerboat racing to Urbanna Creek where it had been absent for almost 50 years. Demonstration races were held in July in Urbanna Creek which led to the establishment of the Urbanna Creek Cocktail Class Boat Association, the construction of 7 boats, and the formation of the Urbanna Cup in May 2013. Attended by more than 30 racers and over 200 spectators, it is now one of the premier regattas for the CCWBRA. By 2015, a mid-winter racing circuit had developed in Florida anchored by the Governor’s Cup in New Smyrna Beach and the Lake Placid Mid-Winter Regatta in Lake Placid, FL. And in 2015, due to popular demand, a youth racing program was established for drivers 12 to 16 years of age.
Today, the CCWBRA is the self-proclaimed leader in small powerboat racing and remains one of the fastest growing outboard racing clubs in America. The excitement and enthusiasm for cottage racing remains as strong as it was in the 1950’s and the CCWBRA is at its forefront.