Interview with S20 class founders Tom & Jane Schock
By Andrew Kerr
Tom & Jane Schock live in Newport Beach, CA. They run the W.D. Schock production facility in Corona, CA and have been building a wide variety of sailboats from the Sabot to the Schock 55 and many classes in between. Tom’s father Bill Schock founded the company in 1946.
In 1976 they built the first S20 and have been instrumental in the development of the class ever since. Between them they have won the class National Championships four times – Jane was a 3-time class champ in the 1980’s with her team, and Tom won in 1997 with his team. They are very active in supporting all the classes they build and are also very supportive of the continuing growth and well being of the sport of sailing.
AK: What was the original concept behind the S20? Did you think back in 1976 it would be such a durable and popular class?
I.O.R. was ruling the sailboat-racing world, and it was clear that custom one-offs would rule I.O.R. Although one-design racing was in a slump, we felt a boat similar to the mini-tonners in Europe might be a huge success – especially if we could build it cheap enough to get a one-design fleet established. We wanted the boat to have an I.O.R. “look”, so we combined our one-design experience with Shad Turner’s great eye for design and came up with a cute little boat that will always look great on the water. We introduced the S20 at the Long Beach Boat Show in October of 1976. The boat was priced at $3995 including the main and jib, and we sold 50 boats at that show. We were pleasantly surprised, of course, but knew the boat was well on its way to success.
AK: Tom – tell us about your father Bill and his vision of the sailing industry.
Although my father loved to sail, he was not an avid racer. He thought racing would always be a really small part of the sport because only one person (the winner) is happy at the end of the day. He was a yacht club member and supported yacht club activities but saw them as being restrictive and ultimately bad for the sport. If it weren’t for his more competitive sons, W. D. would have built quality cruising boats with really good sailing characteristics and he would have pushed for cruising clubs. He was in favor of making sailing as easy as possible – he would have loved the Harbor 20. He was very innovative and always on the leading edge. He was the first to switch from wood to fiberglass construction; he was the first to promote family sailing.
AK: Tell us about the early days of the class and the production facility in Sarasota, Florida.
The first class meeting was held in my father’s office at our factory in Santa Ana. The room was filled to overflowing – I think there were about 40 people. The only name I can remember is Kas Kastner. I had a draft of the class rules ready. They were strict one-design rules. Kas and a few others wanted more open rules so they could fiddle with their boats. They were especially unhappy that all adjustment equipment had to be above deck. After going round and round, we ended the meeting on the right track – strictly one-design. And we took orders for about 10 more boats right after the meeting.
By February of 1977 the whole year’s production was sold out. We made three complete sets of tooling, and by the end of the year we were completing three boats a day. Jane and I worked hard to put together a good board of directors. With their help, the class was up and running in record time.
A high percentage of the boats were shipping east, so it seemed to make sense to have an East Coast factory. After looking at property up and down the coast, we built a factory in Sarasota, Florida. This helped to spread the Santana 20 fleet across the country. Sarasota is a terrific place to sail during the winter. Everyone sails on the inland waterway in smooth water and good wind. We hosted a number of great Midwinter regattas there.
We closed the Florida factory when the market fell through the floor in the mid-80s.
AK: Question #4: You have both sailed the boat for many years what are your favorite memories and regatta’s? There must be many!
We both love sailing the Santana 20 because it is one in a thousand where handling and performance are concerned. The only boat that holds a candle to the Twenty is the Schock 40. Traveling is another great advantage! There aren’t very many boats that can be taken to oceans, bays, lakes and rivers. We stayed in luxury hotels in the San Francisco Bay area, exquisite vacation homes in Valle de Brave, seedy no-tell motels on the way to Canyon Lake, Texas, in the boat, in the back of the car, in motor homes and in tents. Each venue was a terrific experience.
AK: Question #5: How does the competition on the racecourse in the S20’s these day’s compare with the earlier times of the 70’s and eighties?
We had more entries in the 70s and 80s and great competition at the top, but I think the class today has more top sailors. This makes it a lot harder to win.
AK: Question # 6 Do you sail together often?
We have actually sailed together a lot and it works really well EXCEPT when Jane wants to be the skipper in a race. Then it is definitely much better for Tom to step off the boat.
AK: Question #7: How do you think we can continue to grow the class and attract more members?
A high level of competition helps the class thrive, but camaraderie and sharing of knowledge make the really big difference. Putting Andrew on the Board to focus on communication is spectacular. We need everyone to know that the Santana 20 Class has great people, great sailing, and great fun. And we need all of the members to feel a part of the whole. High visibility at regattas is important, good magazine coverage is also critical. We need to submit stories and photos after every event. Our Board is focusing on marketing the class and making it the best possible class for its members. This is how we will make it grow.
AK: Question # 8: It was great seeing you at the Huntington Lake Nationals this last summer – what was it like observing the class racing and gathering together on the land?
Huntington Lake has always been one of our very favorite places. And it is a spectacular venue for Santana 20s. We watched the two practice races and were reminded, once again, that it is the little things that make the big difference. Those at the top work their boats hard, stay calm and cool under pressure, work on solutions rather than fretting over errors, and choose high percentage moves rather than going for miracles. Watching you makes us proud to be a part of such a great group. And nothing beats standing around a campfire with friends!
AK: Many thanks Tom & Jane.
You are welcome!