What is a Shark?
ISAF Class Association "Classic Yacht Class"
Click here to see The "Classic Shark"
SPECIFICATIONS: LOA ......................... 24ft LWL
BEAM ...................... 6ft 10in DRAUGHT .............. 3ft 2in
("The Exciting Shark" Courtesy Brian Henson - For full colour
pictures of Brian's restoration of Shark #5
Click here "Insanity" )
THE SHARK - from "A Touch of Class" by Judy Kingsley (#606 Windrift)
published in Canadian Yachting, June 1994:
Judy Kingsley's "Windrift" off Coboug in 1981
When George Hinterholler designed the Shark in 1959, he was looking
for a boat that would "go like hell when the wind blew." Growing up
sailing in Austria's Salzkammergut region, Hinterholler was used to light
displacement finkeelers; fast, responsive and exciting.
The few sailboats he found on Lake Ontario when he immigrated to
Canada in 1952 had heavy displacement hulls. They were ponderous
and had a bad habit of hoppy-horsing in the rough Lake Ontario chop.
The young boat builder/designer was bored by their performance.
Announcing that he could build a boat that would sail circles around the
rest, he retired to the shed behind his Niagara-on-the-Lake home and
built Teeter Totter, a hard-chined 22-foot sloop made of plywood. It was
the forunner of the Shark. And when the wind blew, it did go like hell.
Its designer loved it and so did his friends.
There was an immediate demand for the nimble little boat 35 years ago,
so that winter Hinterholler increased the length to 24 feet and began
building plywood Sharks in his shed. Hull number 5 was for a customer
by the name of Bill O'Reilly who demanded that his boat be built of a
substance relatively new to boat building; fiberglass. He even offered to
teach Hinterholler how to use it. With fiberglass it took 18 man-hours to
produce a hull instead of the 128 hours devoted to a wooden hull, and
fiberglass was virtually maintenance free. That made his boat the
affordable yacht and Hinterholler and Shark were on their way to
Since then, more than 2500 Sharks have taken their place in the fleet,
both on the North American continent and in Europe. It rapidly became
the biggest one-design keelboat fleet on the Great Lakes and today their
are active groups on the east and west coasts and in the Montreal and
Ottawa areas. About 500 Sharks sail the large lakes of Austria,
Switzerland and Germany and the waters off the Swedish archipelago.
There have been changes since Hinterholler first designed it, but they
have been cosmetic. The sleek hull, straight stem, and long flat run at
the stern, fin keel and spade rudder made it a racer that climbs easily
over its bow-wave to achieve speeds in excess of 10 knots. The six-foot
beam and doghouse accommodate a V-berth, two quarterberths with
sink, stove and coldbox, making it a pocket cruiser with sitting headroom.
It draws less than four feet, making it an ideal boat to tuck into
anchorages denied deeper draught boats.
The Shark's prompt success was due in no small part to its early racing
record. In 1960, Hinterholler crewed for George Steffan, later President
of Mirage Yachts, in the Freeman Cup. They cleaned up with three 1sts
using brisk 18-knot winds to put a leg them and their nearest competitor
in the race. In the 1963 Freeman Cup the Shark did it again. For small
boats, the course was from Niagara-on-the-Lake to Rochester NY, 80
nautical miles along the south shore of Lake Ontario. There were no
spinnakers and no genoas on Sharks in those days and the race was
sailed with main and working jib only.
"We thought our biggest competition would be the "Thunderbirds,"
Hinterholler said "but after the first surf, we knew that there would be no
contest. We barreled down the course in seven hours and 44 minutes."
In 1963, using a spinnaker on a close reach across Lake Ontario, Sid
Dakin, one of the first to own a Shark, sailed the blockhouse Bay race
from Toronto to Olcott, NY, with an adrenaline pumping average speed
of 10.2 knots, beating the 56-footer Innisfree on a boat-for-boat basis.
That sort of speed boggled the minds of sailors unaccustomed to
Racing boats come and racing boats go, but the shark remains. With its
flexible rig and planing abilities, it is as up to date as anything on the
market today. And, with its low-aspect, 7/8ths rig and heavy keel, it has
a sea-kindliness and seaworthiness to match its speed.
Hinterholler admits that the Shark's scantlings are better suited to a tank,
but the proof of his wisdom in overbuilding the boat has been in its
longevity. Virtually each of the 2,500 Sharks built in the last 35 years is
still sailing and many of the first hulls off the line are still winning their
share of races.
The Shark is seem sailing happily in all major Canadian cruising waters,
but some owners have taken them much further afield. In 1972, Clive
O'Connor, his wife, two year old baby and their guitar sailed their Shark
from Niagara-on-the-Lake to Melbourne, Australia. They arrived in good
form, still speaking to each other and their Shark, at last report, was still
being used for research on Australia's Great Barrier Reef.
Randal Peart sailed his Shark from Windsor and then crossed over to
England, cruised the French canals, and then sailed BACK across and
cruised the Caribbean for a year. He's still alive and well and eccentric.
If you'd like to correspond with him, he'd be happy to hear from you at:
(Editor's Note: The text of the above paragraph has been changed from the
original, to reflect new information from Randal's wife, Patricia, received on
Sept 11, 2000)
On his return, he reported no structural damage and no
bulkheads adrift, but he did ask for a new set of gudgeons to replace his
More recently, Bob Lush added a foot to the stern of his Shark to bring it
up to a minimum 25-foot size for the OSTAR single-handed transatlantic
race. His biggest problem crossing the Atlantic was getting stuck in the
doldrums and listening to empty sails slap for too many mind-destroying
The Shark is a forgiving boat which makes it appealing to novices, but
with 14 separate lines to tweak, it is as technical as any sailor could wish.
An active class association defined the Shark's measurements and
specifications as early as 1966 and in 1984, the association adopted a
more formal measurement form patterned after a number of international
one-design classes. The fact that all Sharks, both new and old have
been built to these specifications has kept the racing fleet viable and
maintained the market value of the boat.
The association is active at the international, national and regional levels
giving Shark owners who are not part of a local fleet a point of contact
and an active racing program. In addition to regular club races, there are
regional, provincial and national Shark Class regattas. The highlight of
each year is the Shark World Championship, a seven race series held for
two consecutive years in North America and, in the third year, in Europe.
Host for the 1994 Shark Worlds, won by Don Ruddy in #268 Dartos, was
the Niagara-on-the-Lake Sailing Club, the club Hinterholler helped
found. Fifty-six Sharks competed in the 1994 event The World
Championship in 1995, won by John Clark/Don Ruddy was held in
Freidrickshaven on Lake Constance. Several Canadian Shark sailors
competed in this event.
(Editors note: The host for the World Championship in 1996, won by
Jeff Mitchell in #336 Frankly Scarlet, was the Kingston Yacht Club and in 1997, won
by Don Ruddy in #268 Dartos, was the Buffalo Canoe Club. In 1998 the Championship,
again won by Don Ruddy, was sailed June 6 - 12, at the Yachtclub Breitenbrunn,
Neusiedlersee, Burgenland, Austria. The 1999 Championship was sailed at the
Royal Canadian Yacht Club in Toronto, Canada and won by Sid Dakin in #1456 "Duck Soup"
and the 2000 Championships at Parry Sound on Georgian Bay, in Ontario, was won by
Don Ruddy in "Dartos". The 2001 Championship also won by Don Ruddy, was held at
Yacht-Club Kreuzlingen in Switzerland and the 2002 Worlds is scheduled for Toronto,
Ontario at the Mimico Cruising Club)