Heckstall-Smith and du Boulay on the origin of 19th century racing yachts


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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A new lease of life for an old steam tug

ST Kerne was originally built in 1913 and named Viking but even before she was launched, she was sold to the Admiralty and re-named the Terrier and went to work in Chatham and on the Medway.

She then went in 1948 to J P Knight who operated her on the Medway for another year under her new Gaelic name Kerne before being sold on again to a firm in Liverpool where she worked as a lighterage tug until her retirement in 1971.

During 1970 and 1971 a group of steam enthusiasts bought Kerne before she went for scrap and restored her. She is now an extremely rare example of the once common estuarial-dock tug and a living reminder of early 20th century naval architecture.

For more on ST Kerne:
http://www.tugkerne.co.uk
ST Kerne in earlier times