Keble Chatterton on the early development of racing yachts, part III

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America schooner yacht painted by Bard

America, schooner yacht, oil on canvas by James Bard – taken from the Wikipedia

Here’s another scrap from Keble Chatterton’s history Fore and Aft Craft. See the previous extracts here and here.

Writing about the America, he says:

‘We may briefly add that after being built at a cost of £4000 she reached Cowes in August of 1851, and on the 22nd of that month won the special cup offered by the Royal Yacht Squadron. She beat the best of our crack cutters and schooners so handsomely, and was so great a departure in many of her features from the existing British convention, that it did not take our fellow countrymen long to realise that the America was mostly right and we were mostly wrong. To begin with, the America had similar lines to the depised Mosquito of a few years earlier, and the characteristics of the Yankee were, briefly, small displacement, small midships sectional area, and her hull was distinctly small in proportion to her dimensions. Her waterlines were also much sharper than had previously been attempted in the case of large yachts.

‘She was also a contrast in other respects as compared with the best contemporary English yachts. Firstly, she was a schooner, whereas most of our yachts were cutters. Secondly, her sails, unlike those horrible looking windbags which we have seen from Daniell and Cooke, were cut so that when set they were tight and flat.l Consequently, with the fine entrance lines of the hull and the well-fitting sails to propel her the America went to windward in a splendid manner.

After her departure there remained her influence. As the America had been a schooner, the Alarm (193 tons) was in 1852 lengthened by 20 feet at the bow and rigged as a schooner, which made her to be of 248 tons. As the America had the newer type of close-fitting, flat sails, so the Alarm copied her example, and she subsequently appeared with one enormous triangular jib but no staysail, the foresail having a gaff but no boom and the mainsail with both boom and gaff. In other words, she was very similar to the prevailing pilot schooners of North America. Furthermore, instead of the old idea which England had copied from the Dutch, to which she still clung, in having the loose-footed mainsail, the latter was laced to the spar, the jib worked on the forestay and was laced along the foot to a boom also.

The net result of all this was that English sail-makers began to cut better sails and English designers began to evolve better hulls. For a time, from about 1852 to 1865, there was a craze for American centre-board craft, but there was also a craze for schooners, thanks to the America’s success. In the ‘sixties the yawl rig also became the fashion, following the popularity of the schooner, for it provided a half-way stage between the schooner and the single-masted cutter.

Amazon has a few copies of Fore and Aft Craft, and more information about the history of the America’s Cup can be found in this discounted book from Amazon: The Story of The America’s Cup: 1851-2007 Keble Chatterton on the early development of racing yachts, part II.

The Medway by paddlesteamer

VIC 56 Medway

VIC 56, just outside Chatham Dockyard. Click on the images in this post (and most others!) for much larger photos

The weather forecast predicted strong winds and thunderstorms – so I decided against going sailing. But what to do instead? Julie and I decided to take a river trip down the Medway on the wonderful paddlesteamer Kingswear Castle, starting  from Rochester Pier, just by the city’s impressive Norman castle, and these are a selection of photos from the outing.

I hope you’re seated comfortable, for there are lots of shots here – and quite a few questions. If you know the answers, please fill me in using either the Comment button below, or by emailing me at gmatkin@gmail.com.

TID 164 steam tug Medway redundant lightships houseboats medway

TID 164, VIC 56, redundant lightships on the Medway

unusual schooner - who designed and built her? Pretty motorsailer Medway paddlesteamer

The river had a lot to show us that was intriguing, to say the least. What’s the story, we wondered, behind this neat little schooner? Or the pretty and comfortable-looking motorsailer?

Sweet cutter - is she a conversion? Pretty little clinker yacht outside Medway cruising club's premises Elegant wooden yacht, apparently on the brink of going somewhere

There was this beautiful old cutter – is she a conversion? And this pretty little clinker built pocket cruiser. And what about this elegant cruiser apparently on the brink of going somewhere?

Old fashioned yacht A smack moored opposite the dockyard

Two photos of the same old-fashioned yacht, and a smack yacht moored near Upnor Castle

This old fashioned chine-hulled dayboat, much like one I've seen many times moored at Queenborough Roskilde - very pretty, but what is she? Sinking building in the Chatham Dockyard grounds

This old fashioned chine-hulled dayboat, very like one I’ve seen many times moored at Queenborough – I wonder whether they were made by a local builder? I’m sure generations of visitors have been intrigued by this sinking building in the grounds of Chatham Dockyard

Smacks moored and ready for a race Harvest Queen looks like a converted wooden motor fishing vessel

Old smacks stand ready for a race; Harvest Queen looks like a converted wooden motor fishing vessel

Dutch tjalk Small Thames barge Whippet

There was this pocket cruiser – I haven’t figured out to which design she was built, but will be looking her up – and this smart Dutch tjalk, and the small Thames barge Whippet

Hope of Porthleven

Hope of Porthleven, and cormorants guarding their buoys

Paddle steamer tug Mystery yacht

Steam tug John H Amos – I gather there’s hope she will be restored; a mystery yacht I’d like to know more about; one of the forts known as Palmerston’s follies

A squib returns from racing Double ended motor fishing vessel Double-ended motor fishing vessel

A Squib returns from Sunday racing; a motor fishing vessel that looks a lot like Jay Cresswell’s model of a ring-netter

Another double-ended MFV Edith May is still looking very smart following her restoration at Lower Halstow

Another very well looked-after MFV conversion, Thames barge Edith May is also looking great following her restoration

Russian submarine in the Medway conning tower Russian submaring Black Widow on the Medway

The Medway’s Cold War-era Russian sub, however, is very down-at-heel

No vessel to anchor opposite Powder magazine

You can’t moor here; and here’s why

Bella something of Dover

Finally, what’s this craft? I’ve never heard of the Bella-something of Dover, and the Internet seems to be unaware of her also. What is her future to be, I wonder?


The Medway Pilots webpage has a useful history of the River Medway.

Victorian racing cutter Leila in the shed

Leila, cutter, victorian, southwold, rob bull, restoration, sail training, appeal, leila trust

Leila, cutter, victorian, southwold, rob bull, restoration, sail training, appeal, leila trust Leila, cutter, victorian, southwold, rob bull, restoration, sail training, appeal, leila trust Leila, cutter, victorian, southwold, rob bull, restoration, sail training, appeal, leila trust

Leila, cutter, victorian, southwold, rob bull, restoration, sail training, appeal, leila trust Leila, cutter, victorian, southwold, rob bull, restoration, sail training, appeal, leila trust Leila, cutter, victorian, southwold, rob bull, restoration, sail training, appeal, leila trust

A kind invitation from Rob Bull of the Leila Trust took us to see Leila in the shed at Southwold where Rob and his colleagues are restoring the old boat to sailing order.* She’s certainly impressive as she towers over visitors with that 8ft keel – the photo at the top of this post tells no lies.

Talking with Rob, one can’t help but be awed by his enterprise and determination, and that of his co-workers. For more about Leila’s story and the appeal, see a previous post.

If you like what you see and can offer the Trust money or help to get her back on the water to begin her new life in sail training, you know what to do!

*Special thanks to Derek Simpson for tea in bed and a killer breakfast.