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Identification Help Needed - Challenger 15?

Posted by dubhelix 
Identification Help Needed - Challenger 15?
August 14, 2010 06:26AM
Alright everyone, I'm new to this forum. I just bought my first sailboat. I've sailed approx 20 hours and decided it was time for a nice daysailer... so this is what I bought. I thought it was a Redhead 17 at first, but I then realized my LOA is 15'.

I think it is a MFG hull, but I am finding little info on Leon F. Irish CO. or SAILAND... is this a Challenger 15? The trailer I picked up with the boat was manufactured in 1972.

Oh yea, I need sails. I'm trying to hunt them down on eBay (insert your comments here).

Here is what I got from sailboatdata.com: [sailboatdata.com]

The photos attached were from my initial cleaning of the boat. It was last registered in 2000 and probably sat outside since then... not covered.

Thanks in advance. Any and all input welcome.
Re: Identification Help Needed - Challenger 15?
August 15, 2010 11:02PM
Also, what is this wheel / line for? See arrows on image.

Attached is a photo of the boom, looking down on the top.

Re: Identification Help Needed - Challenger 15?
August 15, 2010 11:04PM
Ok, answered my own question. Outhaul, right? Pulls the main sail towards the edge of the boom?
Re: Identification Help Needed - Challenger 15?
August 18, 2010 05:07AM
Your boat looks pretty good for being outside for so long. Have you had any progress with getting sails?

And yeah, I was thinking outhaul, too. (I'm pretty new to this sailing thing).
Re: Identification Help Needed - Challenger 15?
August 20, 2010 06:30AM
Hey arknoah,

Thanks for the post. I just cleaned it up with some car wash soap and a nylon brush head. It looked a lot worse than that... funny story.... but I got the boat and trailer for a steal (no, not literally, but it felt like it).

Anyways, no go on the sails yet. It looks like the JY 15 sails would actually work for it. I have verified that they attach to the mast/boom just like this Challenger 15 does. I need to double check on the jib still. I've been searching ebay for used sails, jibs seem the easiest to find as "storm jibs" for larger boats would probably work.... still looking to score a used mainsail for cheap.

Yesterday I sanded down all of the wood and took off any remaining gloss / stain. Wood was very weathered, to my surprise, its coming back to life with some 120 grit on an orbital sander. I'm attaching a photo of my tiller extension arm to show you what I mean. I'm not a woodworker by any stretch of the imagination. I just know its sand it down, sand it with some more fine sand paper, stain it, then coat it with something to keep the water out.

Fiberglass is a little 'bouncy' on the hull. I'm not going to say soft because I will start to get posts on how I have to replace it... its not 'that' bad yet. I don't even know if you can do that on one of these smaller boats. I just see it talked a lot about other MFG boats from the same time period.

I'm pretty new to sailing as well. I logged about 20+ hours of lessons on a Catalina 20 on Lake Michigan this summer. Still have a few more days to go out, then hopefully a successful small boat certification checkout. I wanted a boat but I didn't want to jump in all the way to something bigger that would require much more $$$$ to keep up.... but I see that coming in the near future.

These are pretty sweet boats. 15' isn't a tiny boat. I'm sure that it will serve my purpose and help me become more confident in sailing.

Re: Identification Help Needed - Challenger 15?
August 20, 2010 06:39AM
Image upload issue.
Re: Identification Help Needed - Challenger 15?
August 20, 2010 06:40AM
Here is the image at imageshack.

Re: Identification Help Needed - Challenger 15?
August 20, 2010 02:16PM
Some of the things I may work on this winter are the rudder, tiller, extension and centerboard. They're all painted blue and white, and while that's not necessarily a bad thing (marine paint) I may want to get them back to a more natural appearance. In the meantime, they're all functional, so it's not a matter of fixing a problem. The bottom of the boat was painted a nice burgundy by the previous owners, and that looks really good, but when I see natural looking tillers, etc., I kind of like that look versus the painted surface.

We'll see if my motivation holds over the winter.

F. J.
Re: Identification Help Needed - Challenger 15?
August 20, 2010 04:56PM
Dub - your boat's cabin looks kind of like a Bandit, but not exactly. If it's an MFG-made hull, the Hull Identification Number (HIN) is located on the transom, probably near the location shown in this picture:


My hull's been painted a couple times, so the HIN is pretty hard to see, even within a couple feet. If there's nothing there, I'd suggest looking all over the hull, very closely, to see if you can find any other identification.


P.S. Orbital sanders can leave scratches sideways, across the grain of the wood, so I don't tend to use them for straight pieces like your tiller. I just hand sand, back-and-forth with the grain of the wood...
Re: Identification Help Needed - Challenger 15?
August 20, 2010 05:27PM
I think what you have is not an MFG boat, but was built by a company run by the designer of the Bandit 17. If you compare pictures, you can see the same cabin bulge where the mast attaches, but the line of the bow is different.

The challenger is a totally different boat... wider in beam relative to length and more squared in the bow. See the pictures on the website.

The length of the boat is determined as the overall length, LOA. The length at the waterline (LW) is often much shorter, but does not define the length of the boat.
Re: Identification Help Needed - Challenger 15?
August 20, 2010 10:03PM

Thanks for a reply. I'm lost on the id of this boat. I am now thinking that this isn't a MFG boat at all. The boat was built by Leon F. Irish CO. out of Walled Lake, MI. They were in business from 1972 to 1984. According to [boat-manufacturers.findthebest.com] they made sailboats, catamarans, and trimarans.

I thought I was onto something with MFG. What I read was that they wanted to just make sailboat hulls and sell them to builders... later they got into building boats themselves through a division of MFG. Because the design of this was so similar to a Redhead, I thought I was onto something.... but it seems as though this is a Challenger 15 designed by F.S. Ford Jr., link here: [sailboatdata.com] .

I have been unable to find any decent amount of information about the Leon F. Irish CO. In my original post, the first photo, it shows the Leon F. Irish CO. badge on the rudder and then a impact label tape with C 199 on it. C 199 also matches C 199 written on the side of the trailer, C 199 engraved into the hinge of the wooden mast holder used for trailering... it's too bad the sails didn't come with this... I have a hunch they would have 199 on them.

Now that I see that an MFG Challenger looks like this: [www.sailmfg.com] I can safely say this isn't a MFG Challenger.
Re: Identification Help Needed - Challenger 15?
August 21, 2010 03:48AM
I was recently at a marina here in Nashville and noticed a couple of boats that shared alot of designs with MFG. After coming home and doing some internet research, I found that Gibbs was a designer for Chrysler also. Here is the info I found.......

Back in the '60s and '70s the Chrysler Corporation had a Marine division that built sailboats and power boats. The small sailboats were designed by Rod Macalpine-Downey and Dick Gibbs. The two most popular boats that Chrysler built during that period were the Buccaneer and the Mutineer. There were close to 6000 Mutineers built out of Chrysler's Plano, TX plant. In 1980, when Chrysler re-organized under the guidance of Lee Iacocca, one of the first things to go was the Marine division. The molds for the boats were initially sold to a group that called themselves Texas Marine Industries, but they quickly sold to Wellscraft Marine. Wellscraft built the Mutineer from 1982 through 1983 and they did make some modifications to the boat. These modifications were made without approval from the designers so their license to build the boat was pulled. That was not the only reason the license was pulled, there were also royalty issues. The molds were then sold to Gloucester Yachts that built them for a year then they sold their whole business to Cardinal Yachts that owned the molds up until August of 2005 when they sold to Nickels Boatworks who is our new licensed builder who plans to brings the Mutineer and Buccaneer back into production. Nickels Boatworks is also the current builder of the Lightning, Snipe, and Rebel class sailboats.

The modifications that Wellscraft made are still part of the current design. They were made to strenthen the area under the mast. This area is a weak spot on most of the old Chryslers. The fix to this weakness is the installation of a compression post right under the mast step area. It is a very simple repair. I have done it to mine.

With 6000 of these babies built and sold, there are alot of them just sitting around waiting to get back on the water.

Written by Rey Garza

Here is the link to the site with some picture.

I couldn't find anything like what you have, but some may find it helpful.
It looks like Gibbs was quite busy in the 60's and 70's.

Sidewinder #327
Re: Identification Help Needed - Challenger 15?
August 21, 2010 06:51AM

You are amazing. Information like this needs to be out here on the Internet or, suffice to say, this knowledge will die with those who have it.

I have done more research in the past two weeks than I have actually put the time into working, no joke. Through all of the information I have discovered about the Chryslers, I didn't see anything like this come up. It seems like Dick Gibbs was all over the place in the 60's and 70's designing boats. Thanks also for turning me onto Nickels Boats. I've seen older Snipes and Lightnings... its pretty cool to see them making them again.

Today I stumbled upon the address of where Leon F. Irish CO. was actually located, and thanks to Google Street View, I was able to narrow it down to one or two buildings. I also found out they went out of business in the 80's. I have a feeling that my boat manufacturer was a small shop and I was lucky enough to stumble upon one of their products, nearly 40 years after it was originally built.

See you on the water,

Re: Identification Help Needed - Challenger 15?
September 23, 2010 08:34PM
hey dub. you are a lucky guy. the C15s are a lot of fun. I've got #175 from Mr Irish's shop. I know you will enjoy her.
Re: Identification Help Needed - Challenger 15?
March 16, 2011 01:12AM
I too have a challenger 15,,,,I have some history of these boats. Hope I can help. They were built from a ford sailboat plans by Leon F Irish along with his Wife and Son, The were built in a small shop In walled Lake Michigan on Haggerty road. each boat was made out of love for the boat. These are totally hand made boats,they were made two at a time. they hardly stopped to have lunch. I was the owner of boat 230. the number of the boat was put on the sails and the rear of the boat itself. They did not like to just sell the boats to anyone, you had to put your name on a waiting list. Then when it was time to build your boat, you were asked to come and help, right down to polishing the molds, to installing the hardware and placing the two halves together.
This was so you knew everything that was needed to build you boat so you could care for it. I spent a lot of time on the building of mine, I still remember Mr Irish a bit light headed from the glass spray, then we would grab a roller and roll the mat in place. I no longer own boat 230 but i would love to have her back. many years have passed and I am proud to say I now own another....

By the way..these were built as race sailboats as the hull is very thin..try not to stand in her unless it is in water and then be careful. Mr Irish took pride in that it was the fastest boat for its size at that time. He would also took you out for your maiden voyage on Kent Lake or Union Lake. he would spend about a hour with you then say he needed to get something out of his car,,,as you waited thinking he would return..he would wave and say "You'll do just fine take care of her" Have fun.

The Boats are few anymore lost to abuse and lack of care. I have been told that you only sell it to someone that will care for it. You bought a boat that has a soul....kind of a tough thing not to make it back like it was. It deserves it.

The building was last known to me as Kofels Place they did Hot Rod Cars. I was searching for the molds but I think they are long gone.

Colors were:


they had only a few options:

up grade of hardware and rigging
Mahogany trim on upper seat area
Hidden screws of mahogany trim

later was offered rainbow sails

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 03/16/2011 01:42AM by challenger15guy.
Re: Identification Help Needed - Challenger 15?
June 06, 2011 09:52PM

Thanks for all the info. I knew this boat was special, I can't wait to get her out on the water. I was going to try for this weekend but the mailsail that I picked up (from a Neptune 16) doesn't seem like it is going to work unless I can get a boltrope put into the foot of the sail...

It has been a major pain finding sails that are a good fit... but it is probably just my lack of knowledge that is holding me back.

Thanks again for all your help, I can't wait to get her on the water.

Re: Identification Help Needed - Challenger 15?
August 27, 2011 03:45AM
Anybody want one? I have one sitting in my yard. Was given to my daughter and she doesn't want to spend the time or energy to get her in shape. She's rough but everything but sails is there. Green and white. First one to come and get it it's yours. Southgate Michigan. Got until next Friday to contact me or it goes to scrap. Wife is POed. Don't want to see her go to waste.

Send an email.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/27/2011 02:38PM by res283.
Re: Identification Help Needed - Challenger 15?
February 04, 2012 07:30PM
I just posted some information about the challenger 15 - I'm the guy that built the challenger 15 and sold it to Irsh.

Sail - Mor
Re: Identification Help Needed - Challenger 15?
May 24, 2013 02:30PM
I purchased a Challenger 15 recently. Not sure of the keel set-up.. Mine will destroy the wood on the top rail lowering the keel. would appreciate picture or detailed description of set-up.


Bill Kirch
Re: Identification Help Needed - Challenger 15?
June 02, 2013 02:51PM
I might be able to help...how is it destroying the wood? On sides? I will need to get cam and look into pic's


Re: Identification Help Needed - Challenger 15?
July 16, 2013 05:11PM
Hello everyone,
I just bought a Challenger 15' myself. I bought it from an elderly couple who had no idea how to rig it. I've looked online for manuals, instructions, or even pictures of the rigging on a Challenger 15, but came up empty. I'm new to sailing and this is my first boat. I'm hoping to get it on the water at some point, but first I need to become fluent with this riggining. If anyone had any digital pictures or anything of their rigging that they could send, I would greatly appreciate it, as I've exhausted most other avenues. Again, thank you in advance for any assistance you could provide.

Re: Identification Help Needed - Challenger 15?
September 02, 2014 07:21PM
I owned a Challenger 15 #249, bought in 1974 from Leon Irish Co., and sold it here in Kansas City back in 1999. What I can remember about rigging is:
The mainsail has 3 battens that fit into the mainsail prior to hoisting.
The Mainsail is cranked up the mast with the halyard
The sheet for the mainsail goes thru the rigging in the middle of the boat (centerboard) where it can be clamped down
The jib is then hoisted up the mast and the sheets are run thru the rigging on each side (about even with the mast)
The centerboard can be dropped to any setting, but typically is all the way down once in deep enough water.
We usually sailed on inland lakes in Michigan, with my wife handling the jib and I handled the mainsail and rudder(the rudder also is capable of being raised up in shallow water). It can be sailed with one person, but a lot easier with 2.
The boat is extremely stable--we never tipped it over despite being in some heavy air.
Back in the 70's there were races almost every weekend on either Walled Lake or Kent Lake, with typically 20-30 Challengers, and a National race in August. Leon Irish also put together trips to Silver Lake State Park adjacent to Lake Michigan.
Re: Identification Help Needed - Challenger 15?
August 08, 2017 06:01PM
Hi All, I have a Challenger 15 sailboat that I need to sell for my father; this boat has been very precious to him but he is having too many health issues to be able to use it any longer. The white main sail has #123 on it. The boat and sails are in decent condition although the trailer is a little rusty. I am looking for any interest or advice from people in this thread for selling the boat. The boat is in northern Michigan but was bought in Fenton, MI in the mid 70's. I was planning to list the boat on Craigslist unless this group has more specific thoughts. I appreciate any thoughts or advise you can offer.
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