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Ratsey, Michael Edward (1830-1915) UK

Category: DESIGNERS

RatseyMEVMichael Edward Ratsey comes from a shipbuilder family. His grandfather Lynn Ratsey built the cutter yacht Leopard in 1807. Her dimensions were, length on deck, 64 feet 4 inches; length of keel, 54 feet 3 inches; beam, 19 feet; depth, 11 feet; draft, 10 feet.
His father Michael Ratsey also marked the history of the America's Cup. He designed and built in 1838 the famous cutter Aurora who came close ...

... on the heels of the schooner America in the £100 Cup, conceding only eight minutes after 10 hours of racing. Yes, there was a second that day...

CambriaLinesIn the sixties and seventies, Michael Edward Ratsey continued the family tradition. He designed the famous schooner Cambria for Mr. Ashbury in 1868 and she turned out to be one of the fastest yachts of her tonnage afloat. In 1868 the big American schooner Sappho came to Cowes and many people feared that she would like the America, “clear the deck" when she met the British yachts. On this her first visit she was beaten, and the fact that, later on (in 1870), when she had been “hipped out" and rebuilt, she managed to defeat Cambria, stands for very little when we remember that the American schooner rated at 394 tons, and the British yacht at 193 tons.
In July 1870 Ashbury raced Cambria across the Atlantic Ocean from Ireland to New York in challenge against Bennett's yacht, Dauntless. Cambria won the race by arriving first off Sandy Hook lightship in 23 days 5 hours and 17 minutes; 1 hour 43 minutes ahead of Dauntless.LivoniaLines
The Cambria was beaten in the first Cup race (no series of races was held in 1870), but we must remember that she was compelled to sail against the whole N.Y.Y.C. fleet. The Americans contended that, as the America won the Cup in 1851 against a fleet of yachts, the challenger of 1870 must do likewise.
Some years ago a well-known American writer, referring to the first British challenger, said that there was no model in the Model Room of the New York Yacht Club with better lines than Cambria, and he believed that she was beaten because her sails and rigging were too heavy for New York waters.

NOTABLE RACING YACHTS

YEAR NAME TYPE TONS OWNER
1865 PANTOMIME Shooner 151 Colonel Markham
1865 LUFRA Yawl 208 Mr. Houdsworth
1867 CAMBRIA Shooner 193 Mr. Ashbury
1871 LIVONIA Shooner 265 Mr. Ashbury
1872 KRIEMHILDA Cutter 105 Count Batthyany
1872 CORISANDE Yawl 140 Mr. John Richardson
1873 CETONIA Shooner 203 Mr. William Turner
1874 CORINNE Shooner 162 Mr. Nicholas Wood
1875 VOL-AU-VENT Yawl 104 Mr. John Dempster
1877 MYOSOTIS Cutter 40 Mr. Dunbar McMaster
1878 FORMOSA Cutter 108 Mr. Sloane-Stanley


Mr. Ashbury tried again in 1871, and he commissioned Mr. Ratsey to build him a new schooner. After much discussion the New York Yacht Club gave up the “fleet sailing” idea, but they claimed the right to name their champion on the morning of the race. Thus, if it happened to be blowing hard, the powerful Sappho was pretty sure to overpower the British craft, and, if it was fair weather, a light-wind yacht could be chosen.
In a letter written to the Times in 1871, Mr. Ratsey explained that, in building Livonia, he was unable to follow out his light displacement idea as he would have wished to do, but even so it must be remembered that his fine schooner was the only British yacht (if we leave out the race in which Valkyrie III. finished first, but which she lost on protest) to win an America Cup race. This race was won from the schooner Columbia.

Mr. Ratsey’s fame does not lest upon the two Cup boats, however, for he built many of the fastest yachts of the 1860-1870 era. He was a bold and skilful designer, and would not be bound by tradition.

In 1878, William White and his sons purchased the Shipbuilding Yard from Michael Edward Ratsey at the Vectis Works, 128 High Street,West, Cowes (at the bottom of Shooters Hill) and were trading as W. White and Sons.

Mr. Michael Edward Ratsey, formerly of Cowes, died at Kingston-on-Thames on Oct 29th, 1915, aged 85.

 

THREE GENERATIONS OF SHIPBUILDERS

THE GRANDFATHER : LINN RATSEY
Ratsey1Leopard
LEOPARD - 1811
THE FATHER : MICHAEL RATSEY
Ratsey2Corsair
CORSAIR - 1832
THE SON : MICHAEL EDWARD RATSEY
Ratsey3Pantomime
PANTOMIME - 1865

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