Wood engraving The Yacht Race – A Sketch from the Deck of a
Competing Yacht, was published in Harper’s Weekly in 1872.
Taken from the Wikimedia Commons
Although Charles II was almost as enthusiastic about yachting as he was about his many mistresses, his collection of 16 yachts do not seem to have had much of an influence on later racers.
From their researches including studying Clark’s History of Yachting up to the year 1815, Heckstall-Smith and Du Boulay say later racing yachts derived their form largely from revenue cutters.
They write: ‘the fashionable type of cutter was about three and a quarter beams to her length, her midship section was so round it might have been drawn with a pair of compasses. She had a nearly vertical stem, and a short counter high above the water. The greatest breadth was just abaft or close abreast of the mast. The bow was therefore bluff, and the run long and often not ungraceful.’
The type was known as ‘cod’s head and mackerel tail’ and had evolved in competition with the craft used by smugglers. This seems to me to be a case of a rather imperfect form of evolution, if faster boats could have been achieved by moving the greatest beam aft, but there are some good stories about how the same boat builders worked for both smugglers and the revenue men.
Living in Kent as I do, this one from Heckstall-Smith and du Boulay appeals to me particularly: ‘it has been recorded that Mr White of Broadstairs, whose descendants afterwards moved to Cowes, used to lay down two cutters side by side, very much as 19-metres and 15-metres are laid down today, and the Government officials used to puzzle their brains to puzzle out which would turn out the faster, knowing that whichever boat they bought, the other would be sold for smuggling.’
For more on revenue cutters at intheboatshed.net, click here.
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