Document No 3769: Captain Lemon and William Cranfield at the tiller of Valkyrie II

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AUTEUR : American School

REF : 0

EDITION : 1893

DATE : 1893



From the book: The big class racing yachts
by John Leather.

Valkyrie II racing in 1893. Its captain, William W. Cranfield of Rowhedge, sits on a fender with his hands on the tiller and its lines. His brother, Lemon Cranfield, acting as "racing pilot", is on board to assist the skipper with his special knowledge of local tides and wind conditions. Both men were among the small hand of leading racing captains, and Lemon was considered by his fellows as the greatest racing genius of them all, though his restless personality led to his being captain of only two large racers - the Neva, and the Galatea when she was new. Immediately behind William is Mr. Wadley, who had been first mate at the beginning of the season but who became a hand at his own request because he felt too old for the drive and hustle of a mate's duties although he had carried them out well. Instead, William Cranfield chose young William Taylor, seen here on the far right in his cheesecutter cap. Some of the thirty-five members of its crew are lying on the wheather deck.

The low stanchions and guardwires in way of the tiller were the only concession to safety on deck, and they were only there because the helmsman's attention could not be diverted in any way from handling the yacht, watching his opponents and working our tactics. Many skippers also preferred or needed to stand to leeward of the long tiller, especially in light weather, or to see clearly ahead when going to windward. The well-scrubbed white pine deck, varnished teak skylights and companion hatch, sparkling sunshine and a fair wind added to the smart and pleasant atmosphere of a large racer in some way similar to that of a man-of-war.

When this photograph was taken, William Cranfield was thirty-seven years old, Lemon about fifty years old. Their beards, cheesecutters and clothing style make them appear much older. William was then at the pinnacle of a thirty-year career as a brilliant racing skipper. He died in 1914 at the age of fifty-eight. Lemon, who frequently acted as a racing pilot until the early 1900s, also commanded the 40-rater Corsair and the 20-rater Stephanie for one season each. His later years were spent fishing and sailing his smart cutter Neva from Rowhedge. She was the fastest of the large fleet of smacks working from the Essex coast and she and her owner became a legend in the autumn regattas on the Colne, where the helmsmen tended to settle old scores from the past racing season.


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