Snipe USA


March 09
12:22 2014

Originally published in Scuttlebutt, March 9, 2014 | by Editor

Earl Elms, one of the legends of the sport, died March 5, 2014 at home in San Diego, CA at the age of 74.

A person is not defined by their accomplishments, but if they were, Earl was a god. He had the Midas touch in any boat, but his reputation was deepest in the Snipe class.

He won the Snipe U.S. Nationals for five consecutive years (1966-70), adding a sixth title in 1972. During that span, he was runner-up at the Snipe World Championship in 1967, then took the title at the next two Snipe Worlds (1969, 71).

“Earl is quite possibly the most natural sailor I have ever crewed for, or competed against,” said Dave Ullman.

I had gotten on a bit of run in the Snipe class, returning to Mission Bay Yacht Club with my second consecutive National Championship. One of the first people I saw was Earl, and he made sure my feet were firmly grounded. “Kid, let me know when you have won five in a row.” Always the teacher.

But Earl wasn’t just about winning; he was about making. The DNA of the modern Snipe is that of Earl. The spar, the sails, and the hull are all his contributions. In later years he built a Snipe triple-deck trailer that I called the ‘jig’ because the hulls fit in so snugly.

“Earl will always be a legend,” said Bill Hardesty. “A true inspiration to all of us. He taught me most that if someone else could build it, we can build it better. Everything he taught us kids will forever make us better.”

Earl’s hands-on approach was not limited to sailing. He was a fisherman, and San Diego is a fishing town. God knows what he made better in that sphere. With Earl, there were no limits.

He was just one of these guys, from an era where you learned how to do things yourself. Earl would not only do it better than you, he would do it with a beer in his hand.

I saw him shortly before he died. He knew his grip on life was running out, but he still had his humor, and he still had a beer in his grip. He was emotional, not ready to leave, but surrounded by admirers. The stories flowed, as I hope they continue to do so.

Please send your Earl story to

Cap, rest in peace. I love you. – Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt
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Earl Elms and crew John Wegard US Championship


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