April 27, 2020

This Week in Herreshoff History: April 27

Launches in poor weather, reports of life-on-hold due to unpredictable international upheaval, and the delivery of one of a favorite class

Half model of Cup Defender RESOLUTE (HMCo. #725); artifact currently on display in the Model Room at HMM

April 25 and 28, 1914

KATOURA's trials, May 3, 1914; HMM historic photo collection

Another Herreshoff designed and built America's Cup Defender candidate, RESOLUTE (HMCo. #725) was launched on April 25, 1914. The Boston Globe reported on the dismal weather, noting that "in the shadows of a murky sunset and in an atmosphere damp and cold from a sharp southeast wind sweeping up Narragansett Bay, the cup-class yacht Resolute was launched from the Herreshoff shops here today..." Despite the weather (quite familiar sounding to any of you in Rhode Island at present!), the mood in Bristol was still reportedly festive, and a dance was held in the HMCo. sail loft to celebrate the launching. Robert E. Tod, owner of the steel schooner KATOURA (HMCo. #722) was the patron for the dance. KATOURA herself had been launched just a few weeks earlier, on April 2, and was still in the process of being fitted out at the yard. KATOURA was the largest sailing vessel that HMCo. would ever build during their nearly seven decades in operation.

April 27, 1915

Just a year later, the Bristol Phoenix paints a very different picture of the maritime landscape: there is war in Europe, and like so many other aspects of ordinary life, the America's Cup has been postponed indefinitely. While it has not yet become a world war, the paper is overly optimistic in reporting the possibility of racing amongst American yachts in the coming summer months. HMCo. simultaneously reports contracts for 14 launches for the British Navy, a more prescient foreshadowing of WWI activities and production to come.

April 28, 1929

Blueprint of the S-class construction drawing from the Haffenreffer-Herreshoff Collection at the MIT Museum

The S-boat SEA DOG (HMCo. #1119) was delivered on this day 90 years ago. More than 90 s-boats were built at HMCo. between 1920 and 1941. L. Francis Herreshoff described them in honest but (not unaffectionate) terms in The Wizard of Bristol: "If I remember right these little yachts cost less than two thousand dollars the first few years, so they have been a good investment for some owners for they were built well enough to last for years if handled carefully. Perhaps the 'S' boats would even have been more popular if they had been a little better looking but that defect should not be wholly blamed on Captain Nat for it was the request of the original sponsors of the class that they have short overhangs and full bows and sterns. This feature has made them rather queer-looking Universal Rule boats, and consequently they are not particularly fast for their rating. But there have been few all-around better boats for afternoon sailing, cruising, and racing, and perhaps also the last one-design class that was somewhat comfortable..." L. Francis' prediction was correct: more than half of the orignal s-boats built at HMCo. still exist today, testament to both how beloved they are and how well they have held up as a class. Be sure to check our "Links" page to learn more about the 100th anniversary S-Class celebrations last year!