January 21, 2021

This Week in Herreshoff History: January 21

A steam yacht, a schooner and a Cup defender under construction, HMCo. builds a boat to beat its own (again), an especially fishy Fish fleet, and a valued employee leaves the firm

January 20, 1903

Things are very busy at HMCo. this winter, and several injuries to HMCo. employees were reported this week in the Bristol Phoenix. Additionally, RELIANCE (HMCo. #605) is "progressing about as fast as possible," lumber and roughed out spars have been delivered, a steam yacht WANA (HMCo. #230) is nearing completion, and would be launched shortly on February 4. Construction on Morton T. Plant's new schooner INGOMAR (HMCo. #590) will begin as soon as WANA leaves the North Shop.

January 21 1907

114 years ago on this day contracts for AVENGER (HMCo. #666) and AURORA (HMCo. #667) were signed. Robert W. Emmons and then Commodore if the NYYC Cornelius Vanderbilt III (respectively) were the clients in question. The contracts, totaling $18,500 and $24,500, would have made for a good winter day at HMCo.

AVENGER was classified as an L-Boat and measured 75'9" overall and 53' on the waterline. She was very successful in racing against Captain Nat's three New York 57-foot one designs, the previously mentioned AURORA (HMCo. #667), and ISTALENA (HMCo. #663) and WINSOME (HMCo. #664) over the next two seasons. AVENGER's hollow spars may have given her some advantage over the solid Oregon pine rigs of the 57-foot class members, and the 1910 SHIMNA (HMCo. #694) would be built to the same model as AVENGER three years later.

AVENGER (HMCo. #666) photographed by Nathaniel Stebbins on the day of the 1909 Astor Cup Races off Newport; image courtesy the Historic New England Stebbins Photographic Collection

AVENGER's name was aptly chosen. According to an August 8, 1908 dispatch to the New York Times, "the Avenger made luminous her name... It was three years ago that Robert W. Emmons, second, of Boston, entered Humma [HMCo. #553s] in the race for the Astor trophy. Humma won, but before the victor had time to admire the cup he received a letter from the official measurer of the New York Yacht Club, in which it was stated that there had been a mistake in measurement, and that, therefore, he must surrender the cup. Emmons protested and asked for a remeasurement. This was refused. Then he demanded a remeasurement of the yachts he sailed against. This was also denied. Then he set about the building of a new yacht, and savagely naming her The Avenger, sent her into this race last year to retrieve the cup. Avenger won last year and has now repeated the triumph. The event to-day was over a 38-mile triangular course and was sailed in fast time to a freshening wind from the southward and westward. But, owing to the smaller boats realizing that it was futile to continue, only six of the yachts finished. These were Queen, Vigilant, Elmina, Istalena, Aurora, and Avenger, all in the order named. Avenger, although last to cross the finish line, was adjudged first in the sloop class, her time allowance making this apparent defeat a signal triumph..."

AURORA (HMCo. #667) photographed by Nathaniel Stebbins on the day of the 1908 NYYC Kings Cup races off Newport; image courtesy the Historic New England Stebbins Photographic Collection

The original 57-foot class boats were larger than AVENGER, and so AVENGER had a more favorable rating when they raced against one another. AURORA (HMCo. #667), ISTALENA (HMCo. #663) and WINSOME (HMCo. #664) were 85'3" overall, with a 62'8" waterline. Their owners' desire to carry more sail lead to later modifications of keel and rig that changed their rating. This in turn shifted them to an entirely new class in 1909 - escaping the slippery and more favorably rated AVENGER entirely. AURORA would go on to win both the Astor and King's Cups in 1910, and Vanderbilt owned and raced AURORA until 1917. AURORA burned along with QUEEN (HMCo. #657) and many other yachts in a fire on City Island in 1920. The last known sighting of AVENGER came from Jeff Davis in his "Yachting on Narragansett Bay" column from the Providence Journal: "1940. ... John Silva bought three old Herreshoff sloops, the Avenger [#666], Patsy [#1074] and Shimna [#694], with the intention of starting a packet line from Providence to the Cape Verde Islands, but the war prevented that and two of them, Avenger and Patsy, have been laid up at Warren ever since. ..."

January 21, 1916

105 years ago today the contract was signed for the Seawanhaka Fish Class SARDINE (HMCo. #807). The Fish Class was a one-design class built to the same model as the Buzzards Bay Boys Boat (today more commonly known as the 12 1/2). The Fish were larger than the 12 1/2s, 20'9" overall and 16' on the waterline compared to the 12 1/2s 15'6" LOA and 12'6" LWL. SARDINE, called SEA ROBIN after 1917, was part of a fleet of 18 Fish built for the Seawanhaka Corinthian Yacht Club of Oyster Bay, NY, almost all named for fish (for example, COD, GRUNT, ANCHOVY, SNAPPER, TUNA, MINNOW, and EEL) There were also a number less strictly fishy but still in keeping with the general theme, such as SHARK, PERIWINKLE, SHRIMP and MANATEE.

January 21, 1921

The Bristol Phoenix announces that veteran sailmaker and long-time HMCo. employee Col. Asa W. Hathaway will be leaving HMCo.: