Deceased , Modern

Frances

Wakeman

Frannie

19132005

A four-time winning skipper of the Adams Cup (1935-1938), a prolific judge, and the namesake for three major championship events, Frances “Frannie” Wakeman was not only an ardent supporter of women’s sailing, but she adamantly supported the efforts of all sailors, encouraging them to compete while championing their cause with firmness, fair play and great understanding. She had a particular desire to recognize sportsmanship and to emphasize the pleasure of competition for sailors.

As one of the dominant female sailors of the 1930’s, her years sailing for the Adams Trophy (the women’s national championship at the time) are especially notable. In the history of the Adams Trophy four skippers have been particularly outstanding, winning this championship at least four times, but Frances remains the only skipper to have won it more than twice in a row. Frances, Katherine (Katy) Johnson, and various crew won in four consecutive years: 1935, 1936, 1937 & 1938.

Frances also won the Massachusetts Bay Championship for a 5th year in a row in 1939 (the George Hills Trophy), and continued to race competitively, winning the Wells Bowl at Edgartown in its first year, 1948.  The Wells Bowl is an open 210 regatta each year —Frannie remains the only woman to have won this trophy in its 63-year history. Her husband, the late Samuel Wakeman, a very competitive sailor in his own right and Commodore from 1957-58, recognized his wife’s skills as a sailor as superior to his own: “My wife is a far better skipper than I am,” he once said. “When she’s at the tiller, I raise and lower the sails.”

Accomplishments and Awards

  • Three major sailing championships are named in her honor: New England Junior Women’s Singlehanded Championship, the US Sailing National Championship, and the MASS Bay Women’s Championship
  • 1981, given the Distinguished Service Yachting Award by the Yacht Racing Union of Massachusetts Bay
  • 2003, Inducted into the New England Women’s Sports Hall of Fame
  • 1947-2001, Trustee of the Adams Cup
  • 1935-1938, Four-time winning skipper of the United States Women’s Sailing Championship (Adams Cup)

 

The following is the obituary of Frances Wakeman, written for the Boston Globe in 2005.

Frances McElwain Wakeman grew up near the ocean and never strayed far from it. For her, sailing was a sport, a livelihood, and a way of life.

Mrs. Wakeman died at home in Cohasset on September 18 after a short illness. She was 91.

From a young age, she thrived on competition. ”If she had had her way, she probably would have flown planes,” said her son Sam of Cohasset. ”She enjoyed pushing things to the limit.”

Although Mrs. Wakeman participated in many sports from equestrian events to field hockey, sailing was her first love. During the 1930s, as helmsman of a team, she won the Adams Cup in the Women’s National Sailing Championship four years in a row and the local George E. Hills Trophy five years in a row.

A 1981 article in the Globe described her dominance over all competitors, male and female, young and old: ”Her skills, as much as she would rather not dwell upon them, are incomparable . . . superior to many in the area who are rated in the hot-shot category.”

Mrs. Wakeman also worked behind the scenes to help the cause of women’s sailing. From 1947 to 2001, she served as a trustee for the Adams Cup, and during that period, often judged US Sailing events.

In 1981, the Yacht Racing Union of Massachusetts Bay presented her with the Distinguished Service to Yachting Award. Numerous local and national sailing trophies – including the sportsmanship award in the Adam’s Cup – have been named after her.

In 2003, Mrs. Wakeman, known as Frannie, was inducted into the New England Women’s Sports Hall of Fame.

Raised in Boston and Cohasset, she was the younger of two daughters. Her father was a shoe manufacturer and her mother was a homemaker. She attended Beaver Country Day School and Bennington College.

Mrs. Wakeman was also involved with ships in other ways. She often helped her husband, Samuel, launch ships from Bethlehem Steel’s shipyards in Hingham and Quincy, where he was a manager.

For many years, Mrs. Wakeman and her husband lived near World’s End Reservation in Hingham, and it became a beloved site for walks and horseback riding. She raised funds, which were matched by the Trustees of Reservations, and advocated for the preservation of the site.

An active member in many local institutions – her church, museums, garden clubs, yacht clubs, and charitable organizations – Mrs. Wakefield was especially proud of her contribution to the acquisition and restoration of World’s End.

Mrs. Wakeman is remembered as a dedicated mother and grandmother.

”She was totally supportive to us,” said her son. ”She encouraged us to find something to do, and then do it well.”

 

*Note: Below is a description of the medals arranged in the case with Frances in the photo above *

  • Medal, North American Yacht Racing Union, organized 1925, in the center, sailboat over map of North American in relief with navy blue grosgrain ribbon and pin in black box with Black velvet, dia.1.25″ inscription: Mrs. Charles Francis Adams Trophy Women’s National Sailing Championship, 1935 won by Cohasset Yacht Club Crew: Frances McElwain, Katherine Johnson, Frances Williams (Atlantic Class, Indian Harbor Yacht Club, Greenwich, CN)
  • Medal, North American Yacht Racing Union, organized 1925, in the center: sailboat over map of North American in relief with navy blue grosgrain ribbon and pin in black box with black velvet, dia.1.25″ inscription: Mrs. Charles Francis Adams Trophy Women’s National Sailing Championship, 1936 (Manchester 17, Cohasset Yacht Club, MA)
  • Medal, American Yacht Club Incorporated May 19th 1883 Rye, NY on red, white and blue grosgrain ribbon with silver pin clasp on black velvet in blue and white box Women’s National Sailing Championship, winner, skipper,1937 (Atlantic 32, American Yacht Club, Rye, NY)
  • Medal, North American Yacht Racing Union, organized 1925, sailboat over map of North American in relief with navy blue grosgrain ribbon and pin in black box with black velvet, dia. 1.25″ inscription: Mrs. Charles Francis Adams Trophy Women’s National Sailing Championship, Frances McElwain, Katey Johnson, Joanie Chapin Waters, Barbara Benson and Lorna Whiltesey 1938 (Edgartown Yacht Club, Edgartown, MA)
  • List of medals from “The Adams Cup, a History, 1924–1988”, compiled and written by Ann Newton, Ozona, FL

  • Filter Nominees

  • Reset

Preserving America’s Sailing Legacy

Engaging Sailing’s Next Generation


Stay Connected to the National Sailing Hall of Fame