September 23, 2021

This Month in Herreshoff History: “Sailing in a Cup Race”

C. Sherman Hoyt: The Log of the N.Y.Y.C. Observer in the Series of 1920, and the First "Move by Move" Story of the Handling of a Cup Yacht

"Quite recently, in overhauling some old papers, I ran across a battered and weatherbeaten notebook of 1920..."

The battered notebook in question belonged to legendary sailor and America's Cup Hall of Fame inductee, C. Sherman Hoyt. In an article for the September 1934 issue ("America's Cup Number"!) of Yachting magazine, the famous yachtsman reflected on the experience of being the N.Y.Y.C. observer in the 1920 America's Cup races. That year, Sir Thomas Lipton's SHAMROCK IV was pitted against the the HMCo.-built RESOLUTE. Hoyt served as the American representative aboard SHAMROCK IV for the duration of the series. In the end, RESOLUTE (HMCo. #725) prevailed. The bulk of the piece is a straight transcription from the notebook mentioned above. It is a candid blow-by-blow account of Hoyt's real-time observations throughout the series, with some additional annotations added from his reports provided to the N.Y.Y.C. after the series end.

This article is a rare unfiltered glimpse of sailing among giants at the tail end of the golden age of yachting. It is by turns amusing and quite frank - Hoyt was certainly not afraid to record what he saw as tactical errors or poor observations on the part of SHAMROCK IV's crew and afterguard. That said, the piece also manages to evoke the spirit of friendly competition indicated in the Deed of Gift that has governed the competition for the America's Cup since 1857.

After serving as the N.Y.Y.C. observer in 1920, Hoyt would go on serve on the afterguard of ENTERPRISE in 1930 and RAINBOW in 1934. He would later broadcast the RANGER – ENDEAVOUR II series of 1937 for CBS. This he reportedly found trying, as there was sparse action except at starts and rounding marks. There was little question of RANGER’s superiority.

Click here to read "Sailing in a Cup Race"...

RESOLUTE photographed off the HMCo. waterfront May 1914, shortly after her launch. The Cup races originally intended for 1914 were postponed until 1920 due to the start of WWI.
SHAMROCK IV being measured in preparation for the 1920 race at Morse's Dry Dock, Brooklyn; image courtesy Library of Congress digital archives, Bain News Service collection
RESOLUTE and SHAMROCK IV at Morse's Dry Dock, Brooklyn; image courtesy Library of Congress digital archives, Bain News Service collection