Category: AMERICA

America by Theodore WalterAn English owner

After her race against Titania, August 28th, 1851, the America was sold by Commodore Stevens, acting for all the owners, for £5,000, to Lord John de Blaquiere, an officer in the Indian army, who cut down her spars five feet, stiffened her with iron braces, which impaired her speed, ...

... and raced her the remainder of the season of 1851 and the next summer with an English crew, losing to the cutters Mosquito and Arrow, July 22d, 1852, in a Queen's cup race, by less than two minutes, and winning, October 12th, 1852, from the Swedish schooner Sverige, the latter quite as much a clipper as the America, and considerably larger.

The match-race against the schooner Sverige

The Swedes at that time were building the finest schooners in Europe. They adopted the lines of the America, which were more like their own than were the English, and in the spring of 1852 launched at Stockholm their copy of the famous American schooner, which, like the America, was named for the country in which she was built.

Année 1851 1852
Longueur 30,86 m 33,83 m
Flottaison 27,38 m  
Maitre-bau 6,96 m 7,62 m
Tirant d'eau 3,33 m 2,28/3,66 m
Déplacement 170 tonnes 188 tonnes
Surface de Voilure 498 m² 830 m²
Hauteur du mat 22,30 m 28,20 m
Flèche   4,49 m
Bôme 18,90 m 17,83 m
Beaupré 9,25 m 8 m

She had the clipper bow carried to extreme, with a bowsprit but eight feet outboard. She was 280 tons British registry, against the America's 208. Her dimensions were: Length over all 111 feet, beam 25 feet, deck to keelson 11 feet, draft, aft, 12 feet, forward 7 feet 6 inches, mainmast 92 feet 6 inches, foremast 87 feet 6 inches, maintop mast 18 feet, foretop-mast 18 feet, main-boom 58 feet 6 inches, main-gaff 30 feet, fore-gaff 30 feet.

Maquette de la goélette SverigeThe match with Sverige was the first challenge match the America's English owner could secure for his vessel. It was for £100, the course to be from Ryde Pier to a point twenty miles to leeward of the Nab light, and return, the wind to be seven knots or better at the start. Studdingsails were not allowed, and the start was to be from anchor, by slipping cables. Lord de Blaquiere, owner of the America, and Nicholas Beckman, Esq., of Stockholm, owner of Sverige, sailed on their respective vessels. Mr. Beckman had a mixed crew of Swedes and English, and steered his vessel himself. He was accompanied by Commodore Gordon of the Royal London Yacht Club.

The schooner yacht 'Sverige' by Thomas Sewell RobinsThe wind at the start was E. N. E., a smart breeze. Each vessel carried mainsail, fore-and-aft foresail, staysail, maintop mast-staysail and gaff-top-sail. Sverige led the America around the mark vessel by 8 m. 26 s. In rounding the mark she carried away the jaws of her main-gaff, which had to be lashed up and favored in the beat home. At the Nab, the weather being thick, the Swedish vessel over stood the light twenty minutes. She finished 26 m. behind the America. The America proved quicker in stays, and handier in turning to windward than the Swede, while the latter was not well handled, owing partly to confusion among her mixed crew in understanding orders.

In this race the cutter Wildfire, forty-seven tons, of the Royal Victoria Yacht Club, beat the America 15 m., 38 s., and the Sverige 7 m. to the outer mark, but did not finish with the racers.

The Illustrated London News (11 juin 1853)Lord de Blaquiere followed the example of Commodore Stevens in throwing down the gauntlet for the America to all England, but found no one willing to sail him among his countrymen. A challenge posted by him the day before the race with the Sverige, offering to sail any vessel in England — not of American build — for from £500 to £1000, found no takers.

A first rebirth

Lord Templeton bought the America from Lord de Blaquiere, and after using her one summer laid her up, in 1854, at Cowes, where she remained until 1859. In that year she was hauled out at Pitcher's yard in Northfleet, near Gravesend, and was found to be dropping apart from dry rot, caused, no doubt, by lack of proper ventilation while laid up. It might be said that the original America ended her career here, if ships did not have a way of taking on new life and of retaining their personality, so to speak, no matter how often they are rebuilt. The owner of the North-fleet yard bought the America at the price of old junk and rebuilt her at his leisure, being a keen man and desirous of preserving the famous model. Americans should count themselves indebted to him. Her frames were replaced with new oak ones, and her planking with teak and elm. She was made stanch and shipshape throughout, as good as new in fact, and started forth again when finished ready for many years of service, for she was not again rebuilt until 1880, in Boston. She left the yard at Northfleet minus the golden eagle and scroll that had adorned her stern, and for years that patriotic emblem graced the parapet of the Eagle Hotel at Kyde, a sign of a publican.

This sketch appeared in an 1864 edition of Harper's Weekly and shows the chase of a Confederate Schooner by a Union Blockade fleet.Turbulent comeback in the Stars and Stripes

In 1860 the America was sold to H. E. Decie, Esq., who named her Camilla, cruised with her in the West Indies, and raced her in the summer of that year in England, with indifferent success. She is next heard of on this side of the water, having been bought from her English owner by some person in Savannah, where she arrived in April, 1861, via Porte Grande, Cape de Verde Islands. Her purchaser's name has not been preserved in the custom-house records.

In April, 1862, when the U. S. gunboat Ottawa steamed up the St. John's River on her way to take Jacksonville, her crew noticed the spars of a sunken schooner in the river, and on investigation found the vessel to be the famous America. Commander Thomas H. Stevens, of the Ottawa (afterward rear admiral), a Veteran of two wars, subsequently waived all right to prize money for the capture of the vessel through patriotic motives, on condition that she be turned over to the government for the use of the mid-shipmen at Annapolis.


The schooner America as rigged for war duty in 1863 Here is an evocative print of the schooner America as rigged for war duty in 1863, beating hard to windward. This print is taken from the original painting by the famous marine artist Carl G. Evers in 1975

This was done, and for several years the America, her old name restored, served nominally as a practice-ship for the cadets of the naval academy. Young American sailors felt a big affection for the yacht.