Category: 1893 : CHALLENGE N°8

Greater revival of American yacht designing

American yacht designing never had a greater revival than that which followed the acceptance of the second Dunraven challenge. Great progress had been made since the days of Volunteer, which was already far outclassed in theory, if not in actual boats.

A new type had come in, of which the keel forty-six-footer Gloriana, built in 1891, and owned by E. D. Morgan, was the shining exponent in this country. A type of "rating cheaters," narrower and deeper than our old-time sloops, with overall length in great disparity to their load water-line, a condition much to be desired under the system of measurement whose basis is load water-line and sail area only.

Any kind of boat can be built under this system, and the longer body obtained on a short water-line the better. Gloriana was 45 feet 3 inches on the water-line, and 70 feet overall. In her first season she took eight first prizes out of eight starts. Her distinctive features were her small area of midship section in ratio to breadth and draft, and her large area of water-line plane.

While Gloriana was a distinctive boat, she was a direct product of the lessons taught American yachtsmen by two English racers, which had things almost as much their own way in our waters as did Madge. These were the cutter Clara, designed and build by William Fife, Jr., of Fairlie, and Minerva, from the same designer's board. Clara was imported in 1885, with John Barr as her skipper, and became the leader of our fifty three-foot class. Minerva came over in 1889, in command of Capt. Charles Barr, afterward our foremost racing skipper, and led our forty-footers in that season. It was due chiefly to her work here that the need of a new type was seen by American designers, and from her sprang Gloriana, as distinctive among American boats as the America or Puritan, and the first of the modem racing machines which reached their height of development, along their original lines, in Columbia.

When the question of building a cup defender came forward yachtsmen naturally looked for a designer worthy of the highest accomplishment of which the country was capable. The star of Burgess had set, but in its place had risen that of Nathaniel G. Herreshoff, of Bristol, R. I., designer of the forty six-footers Gloriana and Wasp, and other racers with good records. To Herreshoff, therefore, the New York yachtsmen went with orders for two cup-defence vessels, and he produced Vigilant, centre-board, and Colonia, a keel boat, although building at that time Navahoe, his first large yacht.

Boston, though its great designer was gone, entered the field valiantly, and produced two boats of radical style. Jubilee and Pilgrim. Both were fin keels, a type that had been tried in smaller boats, but was as yet an unknown quantity in so large a craft as a ninety-footer.

Vigilant was built for a syndicate consisting of C. Oliver Iselin. Commodore E. D. Morgan, August Belmont, Oliver Belmont, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Charles R. Flint, Chester W. Chapin, George C. Clark, the estate of Henry Astor Carey, Dr. Barton Hopkins, and E. M. Fulton, Jr. She was a distinct innovation in various ways, and was so different from the fuller-bodied Burgess yachts that she may best be described as the first cup-defence boat in which the hull was one distinct member and the keel, or fin, another, although this part of her was by no means so far developed as in boats that came later, where it amounted to a fixed centre-board, on a shoal hull, with a high centre of buoyancy and low centre of gravity.


Vigilant's model embraced the long overhanging bow of Gloriana, which a few years later was to become the "spoon" bow in its fullest development. Her under-water body was of Tobin bronze, a metal new in yacht-building, which from its smoothness, strength, and tendency not to foul, was an ideal metal for the purpose. Her top strakes were of steel. She had a bronze centre-board, sixteen feet long and ten feet deep, plated, with ribs between filled with cement to the weight of 7750 pounds, and operated from below decks by differential lifts capable of raising six tons. Her rudder was of bronze, and solid. Her principal dimensions were: Length overall 124 feet ; load water-line 86.19 feet ; beam 26.25 feet ; draft 13.50 feet. She was built at the Herreshoff works, in Bristol, was launched June 14th, 1893, and was commanded by Capt. William Hansen, though sailed in her races by Nathaniel G. Herreshoff.



Colonia was owned by a syndicate composed of Archibald Rogers, Frederick W. Vanderbilt, William K. Vanderbilt, F. Augustus Schermerhorn, J. Pierpont Morgan, and John E. Brooks. She was built of steel, and was a racing machine, pure and simple, as were all four boats constructed that year with an eye to cup defence.

Her dimensions were: Length overall 124 feet; on the water-line 85 feet; beam 24 feet; draft 14 feet. In type she was an enlarged Wasp. She was the first strictly keel boat built for cup defense. She was commanded by Capt. "Hank" Haff, formerly of Volunteer.


Jubilee was owned by Gen. Charles J. Paine, and was built of steel, from designs by Gen. Paine and his son, John B. Paine, by George Lawley & Son, of South Boston. She was a "ballast-fin" boat. Through her fin, which was weighted with about forty tons of lead bolted along both sides at the bottom, a centre-board worked, while forward she had a small board for use when on the wind.

Her dimensions were: Length overall 123 feet; water-line 84.47 feet; beam 22.50 feet; draft 13.75 feet. She was commanded by Capt. John Barr, the Scotch skipper who sailed Clara and the challenger Thistle, and was managed in her races by Gen. Paine.


Pilgrim was also a steel boat, and was owned by a Boston syndicate with a considerable number of subscribers, of which the chief members were Bayard Thayer, William Amory Gardner and Gen. Chas. H. Taylor. She was from the designing board of Stewart & Binney, successors of Edward Burgess, and was managed by George Stewart of that firm. Charles Francis Adams 2d, of Boston, an able Corinthian sailor, had charge of her in her races. Her sailing-master was Capt. Edward Sherlock.

Her lines were those of a graceful canoe, with a deep steel fin added. She was in every way a low-power boat, being designed to carry a small sail plan and little ballast. She was built by the Pusey & Jones Shipbuilding Company, at Wilmington, and her fin was bolted to the hull at Erie Basin, Brooklyn. At the bottom was a cigar-shaped bulb, in which was run ten tons of lead. This was subsequently increased to sixteen tons.

Her dimensions were: 124 feet overall; 85.28 water-line; 23 feet beam; 22.50 feet draft. Her sail area was 10,261 feet.