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

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J Russell Scott

Naval architect J Scott Russell advocated a wave approach to the problem of resistance to hulls moving through water

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

‘Between the years 1823 and 1844 the Royal Thames, Royal Northern, Royal Western, Royal Eastern, Royal St George’s, Royal Southern, Royal Harwich, Royal Mersey, and Royal Victoria Yacht Clubs had been established, additional, of course, to the Royal Yacht Squadron. Thus, in all parts of the country the builders and designers of the fore-and-aft craft received every incentive to create the best which materials and existing knowledge could bring about. Presently these clubs were to be added to by the instituting of many more similar organisations in almost every suitable harbour or estuary in the United Kingdom. Royal patronage had also helped, and the first royal cup was given by William IV to the Royal Yacht Squadron in the year 1834.

‘All sorts of theories had for the previous hundred years been advanced in connection with the resistance of water in the progress of a vessel, and many an attempt had been made to design such a hull as would offer the least possible resistance compatible with seaworthiness. Of these theories many were of Gallic origin. But in the ‘forties Scott Russell made very valuable contributions to this science, suggested certain theories for dealing with resistance, and advocated a wave-like system. Others have since increased this body of information by further experiments. It was during the ‘forties that designers began to realise thoroughly that the old ‘cod’s head and mackerel’s tail’ was a long way from the ideal design. So in the year 1848 there was built on the Thames a cutter named the Mosquito, which was entirely original in that she posessed a long hollow bow, and a short after body of great beam, and generally was in conformity with the lines advocated by Scott Russell. She was of 70 tons displacement, and built not of wood but of iron. However, so great was the existing blind prejudice that she was not popularly received.

‘But in the meantime the Americans had developed the schooner and improved on the pilots and fishermen until they were able to produce a schooner yacht. During the early ‘forties the yachtsmen of the United States had been engaged in racing both in sloop and schooner. In 1844 a memorable race took place between two American yachts, of which one was the 178 ton centreboard sloop Maria, which had a clipper bow, and the other was the schooner-rigged Coquette of 74 tons. The result was that the schooner won, for, thanks to the influence of the Gloucester fishermen and pilots, this type of vessel had been  brought very close to perfection considering the amount of knowledge then extant.

‘There was a man in New York of the name of George Steers, who had obtained a first-class reputation for the building of crack pilot schooners, and to him now came the commission to build a racing schooner yacht that was to cross the Atlantic on her own bottom and see what she could do in English waters against English craft… when we say that she was the famous America, after which the historic races for the America Cup have been named, the reader will not feel himself disinterested.’

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.