April 9, 2020

This Week in Herreshoff History: April 9

RELIANCE launched to great fanfare and a class begins a 23 year evolution

April 11, 1903

RELIANCE makes the front page of the Bristol Phoenix on April 14, 1903, for her launch the previous Saturday, April 11. Note JBH's properties for rent on the same page, and a local pharmacy already attempting to capitalize on RELIANCE's hoped-for success in their advertising. The christening party is described in detail, down to the silver and mahogany hammer the 17 year old Nora Iselin used to smash the christening bottle. Noted also the presence of a team of Edison's men filming the whole twelve minute process from a steamer named TOOT. You can see later Edison Inc. footage of the racing that summer via the Library of Congress. The expected pickpockets and gamblers and a taxidermied eagle also make an appearance. Business as usual for well-attended HMCo. Cup Defender launchings!

Launch day for RELIANCE (HMCo. #605) at HMCo.; image from the HMM historic photo collection

April 11, 1896

126 years ago HMCo. launched COCK ROBIN (HMCo. #461), a very fast contender for the Twenty-One Footer Knockabout racing class. The boat was famous for her speed, and would go on to become an important stepping stone in the evolution towards the S-Class design which NGH drew in 1919. As Bray and Pinheiro wrote in "Herreshoff of Bristol,"

Cock Robin grounded out for bottom cleaning, August 6, 1896, and demonstrating Bray and Pinheiro's point that "In NGH's later bulb-keel designs, the rounded profile shown here gave way to keels that were straight on the bottom and had some drag so that the boats, when grounded on a sloping beach or railway, would set level without tipping forward."

"Designed for Massachusetts Bay racing, Cock Robin became well known as 'the boat to beat.' ... Although in 1896 fin-keelers were still very fashionable for afternoon 'round-the-buoy racing, it was not long before bulb-keeled boats with hull shapes like Cock Robin's showed their superior speed in light airs and surpassed the fin-keelers in popularity. Over the next twenty-five years, NGH would go on to design a great many outside-ballasted day boats based on the Cock Robin concept. They would be of about the same size, with deep, comfortable cockpits and small cabins outfitted only with a couple of settees and a couple of storage shelves. The S-class boats of 1919, for example, stem from this design."