The 100th anniversary of Cape Cod’s classic Wianno Seniors will be celebrated this summer showcasing classic—and particularly American—Nantucket Sound memories.

A Century on the Sound, July 2014 Cape Cod Life |

Photo Courtesy of John Fallon

For the last 100 years, a small sloop designed and built on Cape Cod has been a vessel for much more than carefree summer sailing. The first Wianno Senior took its maiden voyage in 1914. The boat was commissioned by about a dozen local families and designed and built at Osterville’s historic boatyard, Crosby Yacht. The winds of fate helped this elegant, yet seaworthy sloop with spare clean lines and a sweeping expanse of sails, become an icon for Cape Cod sailors. Some—and certainly those who have sailed them—say the boats have shaped the course of American history along the way.

There are many stories to tell about this unpretentious, 25-foot ‘knockabout’, as recreational sailboats were called in the early days of Cape Cod’s resort towns. Designed by inspired boat designer and superb engineer, H. Manley Crosby, the Wianno Senior was created to handle the climatic changeability and unique geography of Nantucket Sound.

E.M. Crosby Boatworks in West Barnstable and Osterville’s original Crosby Yacht Yard are still building this sailing thoroughbred, although today’s boats cost a bit more than the 1914 price of $650 per boat. Just as it was in 1914, though, the Wianno Senior is being built today at 25 feet in length, 17-1/2 feet at the waterline, with a draft of 2-1/2 feet when the boat’s centerboard is up, making it the perfect boat for the shallow sandbox that is Nantucket Sound.

Seniors continue to carry the boat’s original gaff rig (a modified triangular main sail design that is a steadying factor for often gusty sailing such as that found in the Nantucket Sound) and the design’s imposing 366 square feet of sail. In 1986, Crosby Yacht launched the first fiberglass Senior. The new boats were carefully designed and built to match the original 1914 specifications, a necessity for those who still participate in one-design Wianno Senior races held week in and week out by Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard yacht clubs from June to September.

Wianno Seniors are so cherished by some that the boats are passed down in families like treasured sets of sterling silver, or rare works of art. In fact, the boats are often referred to by their hull numbers, rather than their names, emblematic of the fact that Seniors may change hands and even be given different names by successive owners—but each boat retains its own integrity and identity forever.