Category: 1881 : CHALLENGE N°4



Copyright © The New York Times - Published: October 14, 1881 : The first of three test races between the first class sloops of the New-York Yacht Club, the object of which is to determine the fastest, so that she may be matched against the new Canadian sloop Atalanta,...

... in case that boat ever reaches this city, was sailed yesterday over the club course, which is from Stapleton, Staten Island, around buoys Nos. 10 and 8½, to the Sandy Hook Light-ship’ and back to buoy No. 15 on the west bank. The participating yachts were the Gracie, Mischief, Hildegarde, and Pocahontas.

The Pocahontas is the new sloop built jointly by Commodore Waller, Vice-Commodore Smith, and Mr. Herman Oelrichs, with a view to beating any sloop afloat. As the Gracie enjoys the reputation of being the fastest sloop now in existence, the chief interest in yesterday's race centred on the trial of speed between herself and the Pocahontas. The Gracie is somewhat the larger boat of the two, and under the club rules is compelled to allow the Pocahontas 38 seconds, but the latter carries rather more canvas.
The other boats are much smaller, and an idea of the difference may be had from the fact that the Gracie allows the Mischief 4 minutes 56 seconds and the Hildegarde 7 minutes 55 seconds.

03849SThe start was made at 10:52 o’clock. There was very little surface breeze blowing at the time, but a west-north-west wind was sweeping in pretty stiff puffs over the tops of the Staten Island hills. The tide was a strong flood. The Hildegarde, which was the leading boat, crossed the line at 10:52:55, the Pocahontas followed at 10:53:33, the Gracie at 10:53:40, and the Mischief, which was some stance behind, at 10:55:03. All the boats had huge club and jib topsails set, owing to the peculiarity of the wind just noted; the boats being close in under the Staten Island shore, the chief strain was on their topmasts.
The Gracie and the Pocahontas were very close together, but the former was to the windward and evidently outstripping the latter. Hardly a minute had elapsed, however, after crossing the line when a heavy flaw struck the Gracie’s immense club topsail, careened her suddenly, and then snapped the topmast with a report like a. shot-gun. Down went the jib topsail and stay almost upon the deck of the Pocahontas. Fortunately, nobody on either boat was hurt. All hands on the Gracie were set at work in a twinkling to take in the fallen sails and rigging. The Pocahontas forged at once ahead, but she had not sailed 40 yards when with another startling report, her topmast broke off even with the masthead sending the jib topsail into the water and hurling one side of the heavy iron stretcher with great force to the deck.

04868VIt was evident now that there would be two races, one between the uninjured and another between the disabled sloops, for the Captains of both the latter promptly decided to go over the course anyhow. Both accidents happened before the Mischief crossed the line, but she now passed the disabled sloops as if they were at anchor, and went flying after the Hildegarde. The race between those two boats from Fort Wadsworth to buoy No.10 was very close and exciting. The Mischief, however, gained steadily, and rounded the buoy only 30 seconds behind. As a matter of fact the two boats came about together, but the Hildegarde was slightly in advance. Meanwhile the other two boats, after being becalmed for some time in the Narrows, had worked their way into the Lower Bay, and were making good time under shortened sail. The Gracie was some distance ahead of the Pocahontas when Fort Wadsworth was passed, but the latter, as soon as she felt the breeze, began to close up the gap and in a little while showed the Gracie her heels. The Gracie, however, was not without resources. A stump of her topmast was left standing, and to this a spar was lashed, so as to form a temporary topmast on which the working topsail could be carried. This was not rigged until she was well below Hospital Island, but the moment the topsail was set she began to gain on the Pocahontas. The latter, however, rounded buoy No. 10 at 12:49 o’clock, six minutes in advance of the Gracie.

The other boats were by this time going before the wind well on their way to the light-ship and nearly three miles ahead. A short time before reaching the light-ship it became evident that the Mischief would pass the Hildegarde, and the latter attempted to prevent her by luffing, but she luffed too, and when the Hildegarde eased off again went to the front. The Mischief rounded the light-ship at 1:56½, about a minute and an half ahead of the Hildegarde.03849S Soon after rounding the light-ship the Hildegarde made a bad tack, by which she lost considerably, and left the race easily in the Mischief hands. The Gracie gained steadily on the Pocahontas in the race to the light-ship, and actually went to the front before that objective point was reached, but the Pocahontas, being to the windward, eased off and crossed her bows. Both boats were now close on the light-ship, and the Pocahontas was brought up suddenly, to prevent the Gracie from passing between her and that vessel. The sailing-master of the Gracie, however, held the vessel on her course, and for a few seconds it seemed inevitable that she would telescope upon the Pocahontas‘s stern. That, however, was avoided, but only to encounter a new and terrible danger. The room between the Pocahontas and the light-ship was so scant that the end of the latter’s boom caught in the starboard shrouds of the Gracie, and it looked as if everything would be torn away, and that even the mast must go overboard. The men on board the Pocahontas, whose stern was within a few inches of the Gracie‘s lee gunwale, saw the danger, and crowded forward to get out of the way of falling fragments. But when the blow came the light-ship lurched heavily and the Gracie bounded away unhurt.

The Gracie beat the Pocahontas in and crossed the line in 9:50.21 seconds ahead of her, but it was conceded on all sides that the latter showed remarkable sailing powers, especially in view of the fact that, having nothing left to rig a topmast on, she could not use either topsail or jib topsail. The race was of course won by the Mischief, which finished 6:32 ahead of the Hildegarde. The race was for a sweepstakes of $50 a yacht. The tug E. Lukenback carried the judges, a number of members of the New-York Yacht Club over the course.

Following is the official record of the race:

  Start. Finish. Actual
   H.  M.  S.  H.  M.  S.  H.  M.  S.  H.  M.  S. 
 Mischief  10  55  22  33  27  25  22  29 
 Hildegarde  10  52  55  28  51  35  56  28 
 Gracie   10  53  40  48  40  55  55 
 Pocahontas   10  53  33  59  28  50 


The second race of the series was appointed to come off to-day, but, has been postponed in consequence of the accidents of yesterday, and will not be sailed until next week.