Herreshoff, Lewis Francis (1890-1972) USA


herreshoffFVThe Yacht Designer as Artist

Francis Herreshoff was as much an artist as his father was genius.

Lewis Francis Herreshoff (1890-1972) was born in Bristol, Rhode Island, near the waters of Narragansett Bay, an area long noted for its yachting activity.

His father, Nathanael Greene Herreshoff (1848-1938), was one of the most prominent yacht designers and manufacturers of boats in the world. L. Francis developed his father's skills at an early age later becoming equally recognized as a respected and influential designer and builder of pleasure sailing craft. He writes of his apprenticeship at the Herreshoff Manufacturing Company:

HerreshoffFamily Until I was 27 my bedroom was next to the rooms my father used for drawing, model making and experimenting. On the walls were models which represented nearly all of the history of American yachting since the eighteen sixties...When quite young (four of five years old) father used to take me by the hand to inspect the work at the yacht yard...Here he deposited me in the row-boat shop...Soon I was running errands to the stockroom, holding the weight for riveting, etc., and by six years of age was under pay working after school and on Saturdays. As the years went by I was riveting, bending frames, planning. At ten I knew all the woods by sight and was a good judge of timber for bending. Later I served my time, or worked for a time, in the pattern shop, the foundry, blacksmith shop, machine shop, boiler shop, mold loft, sail loft, rigging loft, the steel construction ship, wood construction shop, drafting room and the office.

TiconderogaHe was reputed for his small yachts and a few larger ones such as UNICORN (1940) and TIOGA II rebaptised TICONDEROGA. WHIRLWIND was his biggest yacht. Contrary to the legend, the boat was all his own work - Nat Herreshoff's son did not consult him as he did not get on very well with him. Whirlwind was also in 1930, the biggest of the four American J Class, built to the limit of the rating. She was a unique boat with her canoe shaped composite hull and pointed stern. L. Francis Herreshoff was always fascinated by double-enders.

Overall he built a J which included all possible innovations - copied subsequently by his competitors.Whirling The steering gear (which posed problems), a simple and effective adjustable preventer, two foresails on one stay etc. But the boat just did not work as well as her little sister the M Class ISTANELA. Good on the run, she was outdistanced when reaching. She was broken up in 1935.

In the 1940's he began writing his famous articles for Rudder Magazine, articles which formed the basis for subsequent books: The Common Sense of Yacht Design, Capt. Nat Herreshoff, The Compleat Cruiser, and Introduction to Yachting. In essence L. Francis Herreshoff's life, and this collection, are chronicles of a golden age in American yachting, and we are indeed fortunate that he sensed a need to preserve the record of his thoughts and activities.

L. Francis Herreshoff was an eccentric with a singular personality and an excellent yachtsman. He died in December 1972 at the age of 82.






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