November 4, 2021

Alison Langley Named 2021 Rebecca Chase Herreshoff Award Recipient

Accomplished marine photographer and videographer recognized for a lifetime of excellence by the Herreshoff Marine Museum & America’s Cup Hall of Fame 

BRISTOL, RI – At the Herreshoff Marine Museum’s 50th Anniversary Gala, Alison Langley received the Museum’s highest honor: the Rebecca Chase Herreshoff Award.   

 This annual Herreshoff prize, known affectionately as ‘The Becky’, celebrates the extraordinary life and attributes of the founder of the Herreshoff Marine Museum as well as those pioneering women who follow in her footsteps. As the Museum’s Executive Director and CEO Bill Lynn frequently says, “Without the impassioned leadership, contagious enthusiasm, and tireless advocacy of Rebecca Chase Herreshoff, this small maritime museum in Bristol, Rhode Island, with larger-than-life ambitions, would not exist.” 

Alison Langley, a professional photographer who resides along the rocky coast of Maine, was surprised and delighted by her comparison to Rebecca Chase Herreshoff. Langley’s nautical images artfully capture the pure essence of sailing and the world of classic boats. After studying film at New York University and photography at Rhode Island School of Design, Ms. Langley moved to Australia where she learned to sail, spending several years sailing around the world. At sea is where she honed her creative talent and embraced a passion for sailing.  Combining her artists eye and an intimate knowledge of wooden boats, Langley has earned international recognition for her exquisite fine art photography and documentary films.  

Trustee and Chair of the award committee Alison Ponder explained the choice of Langley: “Recipients of this inaugural award, always women, must share the same exceptional qualities of Becky.” Those qualities include:  

  • – Being passionate about boats and harbors; few things make them happier than finding themselves underway and making way!  
  • – Being action-oriented in their pursuit of building community and educating the public. Leading from behind and from ahead, they demonstrate through actions their beliefs and values.  
  • – Being selfless, generously donating time, talent and treasure to preserving history, advancing the sailing community, and offering hope and inspiration to the youth of Rhode Island.  
  • – Being tireless in their advocacy of this museum, enlisting others to participate, encouraging others to dig deeper, and offering sound advice!  

 On the waterfront campus of the Herreshoff Marine Museum, in a newly renovated space-turned-art gallery on Burnside Street, surrounded by her striking photography, and with nearly 200 people in attendance at the Gala, Ms. Langley received well-deserved public recognition.   

After reviewing nominees, it was the committee’s unanimous decision to bestow the honor on Ms. Langley for holding so many attributes in common with Becky. An abridged version includes contagious passion, tireless commitment to community, and a relentless interest in the maritime community. For example:  

 Anyone who has ever seen a Langley photograph, often taken underway in serious weather, knows well her passion for boats, racing or day-sailing, or under renovation.  

  • – Ms. Langley has donated hundreds of hours and countless images to various charities including the Herreshoff Marine Museum, Penobscot Marine Museum, Maine Public Television, Habitat for Humanity, Rippleffect, and more.    
  • – Ms. Langley’s images have inspired and educated sailors, young and old. Her images have accompanied stories in international and US-based maritime publications, including Classic Boat, Cruising World, SAIL, Soundings, Yachting, Yachting World and WoodBoat. However, few know of her work in video, also impressive, and includes a documentary that featured the beloved classic Herreshoff New York 40, MARILEE.  
  • – Ms. Langley has covered Herreshoff’s Classic Yacht Regatta for years, making her images available to the museum to assist in story-telling and fundraising purposes; dedicating time away from Maine in the summer, to capture these centenarian behemoths under sail and in competition.    

 On hand to present the award and comment on its distinction was Halsey C. Herreshoff, co-founder of the Museum with his mother. Also in attendance was Norene Rickson, the archivist of the Museum for 20 years and herself the winner of the inaugural Becky Award last year. Ms. Rickson presented the award to Langley, saying,“It gives me great pleasure to present the award to such an impassioned sailor and gifted photographer.” 

 Upon receipt of the trophy, a half-hull replica of Becky’s sailboat, a Herreshoff 12  named MINX, a visibly emotional Langley, stated: “it is a fine honor to be recognized for three decades of service to the maritime field and that to be compared to Rebecca Chase Herreshoff was a compliment beyond compare!” 

Nominations for 2022 are being accepted throughout the year. Please email Musuem trustee Alison Ponder at Adpsail@gmail.com to submit a candidate for the 2022 Rebecaa Chase Herreshoff Award. 

Becky, as she was known, was born in 1894.  Born on the crest of a wave and rocked in the cradle of the deep, she was often seen accompanying her father, Captain Halsey Chase, aboard the ferry boat, HARVEST from Prudence Island to Bristol.  

 Becky was a pioneer. In adulthood, she would become the first woman to be licensed as a pilot of a commercial vessel in New England operating HARVEST at the age of twenty-seven. Given the novelty of a female boat captain many newspapers of the day ran articles some entitled “Rebecca at the Throttle”.  

Becky was an avid and competitive sailor and a yacht racer, winning many races aboard MINX in Narragansett Bay. She was also an accomplished swimmer, often swimming with her friend Johnny Weissmuller (aka Tarzan). She also enjoyed acrobatic aqua-planing atop the shoulders of her husband, A. Sidney DeWolf Herreshoff.  

Becky was a woman of action. Along with her twin sister, Rachel Chase Boynton, she co-founded the first Mariner Girl Scout Troop in Bristol. It’s even been said that she was instrumental in creating the national Girl Scout Mariners Manual!   

Becky was an impassioned community organizer and fundraiser. She was one of the first to take pollution seriously; she started the anti-litter movement in Bristol. And, legend has it, she created a giant rummage sale, raising funds for war-torn Bristol, England.  

Rebecca Chase Herreshoff’s selfless good deeds are too numerous to mention in a single sitting. But near and dear to her heart was her role as co-founder of the beloved Herreshoff Marine Museum, remaining as a trustee until her passing at 96 years old in 1991.  

L to R: Alison Ponder, Museum Trustee, Alison Langley, 2021 Rebecca Chase Herreshoff Award Recipient, Norene Rickson, Museum Archivist
 L to R: Halsey C. Herreshoff, co-founder of the Herreshoff Marine Museum, with Alison Langley, 2021 Rebecca Chase Herreshoff Award Recipient
Photo Credits: Bob Baglini

Photo Credits: Bob Baglini