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Cotuit Mosquito Yacht Club

While Cotuit sailors have competed at high levels for schools like Tabor Academy, Fordham University, and UC Berkeley, racing in Cotuit centers around its beloved 14-foot wooden boat, the Cotuit Skiff. The Skiff—or the Mosquito, as it was first named—evolved from work boats that shell fishermen would sail to local sandbars. They also very likely raced to the fishing grounds, speculates Larry Odence, club historian and author of the 2009 book, “Mosquito Boats: The First Hundred Years of the Cotuit Skiff.” Odence states that “there was a variety of catboats that sailed these waters before the turn of the twentieth century… and it is well documented that the first regatta on Cape Cod occurred in Cotuit Port on August 22, 1877.” 

When Dr. Woodman commissioned Stanley Butler to build three identical Mosquito boats in 1903, the Cotuit Skiff, as the “one-design” craft that continues today, was born. Throughout the summers of 1904 and 1905, Woodman’s children and their friends raced the new boats, and it was the doctor who encouraged the young sailors to organize; thus the first 15 members established the club in 1906. Despite standardized plans, a number of builders—including Butler, Reuben Bigelow & Co., Chester A. Crosby & Co., Henry C. Churbuck, Fred Boden, and Leonard Peck of Peck’s Boats—crafted their own versions of this “one-design” boat, so there has always been disparity in speed amongst the members of the fleet. Nonetheless, enthusiasm for racing the Cotuit Skiff increased, and Odence states that “based on a roster from 1934 or 1935, there were 47 Skiffs in Cotuit.” The number of racers ebbed during WWII, but the 1950s saw a boom in both the construction of new boats and in racers, often 30 or more. 

In 1950 the voting members requested that the adults form a “Parents’ Association” (ACMYC) that could help provide safety boats and cover other major expenses, but the young people made sure that this association would in no way infringe upon the decision-making and running of the club. Although numbers fluctuated over the years, the organization and purpose of the yacht club remained true to its roots. This would all change, however, in 1959 when the Chesney family arrived in Cotuit from Florida—with two children sailing 8’ bathtub-sized boats off of Loop Beach.

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