The Lark Scow; the Laser of the early 1900’s

From an article from the blog "Earwigoagin" Monday July 28, 2014

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In the winter of 1897 – 1898, C.G. Davis designed and built a 16-foot chined scow for his own use. It was a simple build for that time, the hull featuring a shallow arc bottom like the Clapham designed Bouncer (a designer Davis highly respected). Davis claims he designed the Lark scow as a general daysailor but, in 1898, he raced his newly built scow in the fifteen-foot class in several Long Island regattas and won. Sensing a great deal of interest in his little scow, Davis, at the time the design editor of Rudder, printed the plans over three issues in the fall of 1898. The response was enormous and readership inRudder exploded. When you tap into a successful market, you keep going and Rudder started a How-To series of cloth bound boat plans offering several different boats with the Lark advertised as “How to Build the Racer”.

In the early 1900’s the Lark scow was built everywhere, worldwide. Fifteen Larks were built at the Yokohama Y.C. Builders built to plans and those who couldn’t help themselves built smaller Larks, bigger Larks, Larks with counter sterns. By the 1920’s Lark fleets in the U.S. seemed to be concentrated around the Great Lakes. By the 1930’s the Lark was disappearing as Crosby, a later editor at Rudder, in 1931/32 introduced his own design, the home-build V-shaped centerboarder, the 15- foot Snipe. Rudder republished the plans for Lark in 1940 but by then, on the eve of World War II, the Lark was now in competition with several popular chined centerboarders available in the United States; the aforementioned Snipe,  as well as the Comet, Moth, and Lightning classes.

As far as I can determine, there is one Lark fleet remaining in the world (there are two Lark variants still going – I’ll cover those further down this post). Rondeau Bay in Ontario, Canada (just across Lake Erie from Toledo, Ohio), specifically Erieau Y.C., has a fleet of about a dozen. The Lark fleet on Rondeau Bay got going in the 1930’s.

From a comment by Don Weir on the Roneeau Lark builders: “I am proud to say my grandfather Fred “Pop” Weir and my Uncle Al built the fleet of them in Rondeau. I first learned to sail in one of them.”

The Lark fleet at Erineau YC bucked the gradual extinction of the Lark by achieving its greatest popularity after World War II. In 1972 between 30-50 Larks were racing on Rondeau Bay. In 1963 Bill Kerr produced plans to build the Lark in plywood and the current fleet in Erieau Y.C has a combination of some new builds as well as restorations. They still retain the traditional wooden spars and have made the rig a gunter rig compared to the original gaff rig.

Lark variants still going strong are the LarkenKlasse of Germany and Holland and the Monotype de Chatou of France. TheLarkenKlasse is a smaller Lark, a 13-footer singlehander with keel, a design that came out in the 1920’s. The LarkenKlasse is the most popular of any Lark type today, the class experiencing a resurgence with upwards of 30 attending regattas. The LarkenKlasse sports the full battened, gunter rig that Manfred Curry popularized in the 1920’s and 1930’s.

The Monotype de Chatou was a French variant that combined the Lark with a Linton Hope design and was built at the beginning of the early 1900’s. It is hard to see a direct connection to the Lark when looking at photos of the Monotype de Chatou as it appears to be round-bilged and not chined. Those still sailing, as far as I can determine, are restorations.

This ad comes from a 1901 issue of Rudder. The plans for the Lark were so successful that Rudder began a very popular How-To series at the turn of the century. They would also add another scow, the Mower designed 24 foot Swallow scow, the plans first published in the magazine and then a cloth bound How-To book.


A Erieau Y.C Lark. Nice varnish job on the deck! The fleet retains the wood spars. (Doug Kerr & Crew in Sandhopper)


The Erieau Lark sports a gunter rig (the original plans called for a gaff). It still has a big mainsail for a 16 footer. (Stephanie Pirscher & Louise Marshall in Hangover)


One can get an inkling on the shape of the arc-bottom design from the shape of the transom.


Compared to the original plans the Erieau Larks have elongated the cockpit (made the back deck shorter) and have changed the rudder design to improve handling. (Tug Worst, Jeff Graham & Jack Graham in Boweevil)


A photo of a the shorter German LarkenKlasse stuffing her bow into a wave. (John & Mackenzie Graham in Pinky II)


A photo of the French Monotype de Chatou. The dimensions are the same as the Lark scow but the design is round bilged and doesn’t have a scow bow. Photo by Pascale Guittonneau.


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