The Blue Jay continues to be one of the leading one-design, sloop-rigged sailboats in existence today. Fathered by Drake H. Sparkman, head of the New York designing firm of Sparkman and Stephens, Inc. after his tenure as chairman of a yacht club junior sailing program, the Blue Jay was pencil drawn in 1947. Designed as a “ baby Lightning” it became an all-around junior training boat and now has numbers over 7,200. It is used not only in novice programs in yacht clubs from Florida to Maine, but also in teen’s, men’s, and women’s events. Originally constructed of wood, the IBJCA voted in the early 1960s to allow fiberglass, however, wooden boats are still being made today. It is interesting to note that when a friend of Drake Sparkman suggested that he name the boat “Blue Bird” he decided on the “Blue Jay” which could effectively be marked by a blue “J” on the sail. (Perhaps he thought noting the junior aspect).
The International Blue Jay Class Association was formed in 1954 by Allegra Knapp Mertz. President for 35 years, she built the class with active board members. Among those, Bob Sparkman, Drake’s son, who was treasurer for 20 years. James Rousmaniere was President in 1960 and 1961; Ed Hoffman, President in 1971. In 1984, at American Yacht Club’s Blue Jay Nationals, Leggie turned the gavel over to Bill Dunbar who had been an active board member for ten years. He continues in this position today.
The Association (IBJCA) is made up of voluntary officers and executive board members from different sailing areas on the East Coast. They continue to maintain a strict one-design class, publish a yearbook and newsletter, coordinate regional regattas and clinics, offer a National regatta ( Championship winner may apply for Champion of Champions ) and Master’s regatta plus have added a website
In 2005, Jim Hansen of Formula Boat Works, Ledyard, CT donated the Blue Jay mold he acquired from Salle Evelyn,(deceased), of Formula Yachts, to the Association in her memory. Both Jim and Salle were dedicated to the Blue Jay and its continued growth for many years and this offer was graciously accepted. The Association has made arrangements to have a new builder, Allen Boat Co., use the newly acquired mold, noting that Tom Allen has been the builder of the Lightning for many years. We welcome him “ on board”.