January 20, 2022

This Month in Herreshoff History: The Dawn of “Yachting”

"Never bid the devil good-morning until you meet him"...

115 years ago this month, the very first issue of Yachting - "A Magazine of Sport and Recreation on Water Salt and Fresh", Vol. 1, No. 1, was published. That first cover featured a colorized James Burton photo of the mighty HMCo. schooner CORONA (ex-COLONIA, HMCo. #435) "on the wind," with Yachting floating overhead in its iconic font, and an overlay of decorative signal flags in color trailing down the side. A subscription cost $3 annually (a dollar added for foreign postage) or 25 cents per individual issue.

This inaugural issue includes much discussion on a topic dear to yachtsmen of the age: the endless concern with the general state of yachting, perpetually at risk of slipping off the edge of wholesome and into the realm of unsporting freaks and monsters. 1907 marked the early days of a new era. After RELIANCE's 1903 America's Cup win, the general consensus of the yachting public was that it was time to abandon the Seawanahaka Rule in favor of something new. The new rule, rolled out in 1905, would promote "safer, saner" boats that could be competitive racers, but could also enjoy long and comfortable lives as cruising boats after their racing days were over.

CORONA was a good cover choice for Yachting's first issue, considering the contents. She was the first HMCo. designed America's Cup contender, though she never made it through the selection trials: that was VIGILANT's year. But though HMCo. #435 never actually raced for the Cup, she was re-rigged as a schooner and went on to have a long cruising and racing career after the 1893 season. At the time of publication, CORONA would have been 14 years old. The yachting public might have considered CORONA to be an ironic example of a racing yacht with an afterlife, for she was also a yacht that came from the desk of the designer who produced some of the most radical and successful "freaks" of that age, and pushed the prevailing rules to their limits. It is a good reminder however that for every Cup Defender that HMCo. produced, they produced hundreds of steam and sail powered vessels that had relatively long and successful careers.

Several pages of this first issue are given over to the topic of the new "uniform" racing rules which had recently been adopted by the American yachting community, lead by the New York Yacht Club, then holders of the America's Cup and therefore dictators of the rules of the competition. Because he was the preeminent designer of America's Cup yachts of that age, the New York Yacht Club had approached Captain Nat for assistance with the new rule, and after two seasons of application it is discussed here in this first Yachting issue by other significant yacht designers of the age - A. Carey Smith, Clinton Crane, H.J. Gielow, and Charles D. Mower. Interestingly, a number of HMCo. designed and built boats (RELIANCE, GLORIANA, DILEMMA, NIAGARA) are named in their commentary about the pitfalls of the old rule, though without the Herreshoff name appearing in print. There is also a short article by Sir Thomas Lipton himself commenting favorably on this new chapter in yachting.

We have excerpted those pages below for a glimpse at this very particular moment in time in the history of yachting: the last decade of the Gilded Age and the Golden Age of Yachting, and a time when the Universal Rule was being adopted, but before it came to be known as such.

Click here to read excerpts from Yachting, Vol. 1, Number 1

CORONA (ex-COLONIA), courtesy Historic New England Stebbins collection