March 24, 2022

This Month in Herreshoff History: “The Vicissitudes of the Famous Pilgrim”

"From a contender for America's Cup defense to a gasolene [sic] fisherman is the story of a craft that once held the attention of the nation..."

What happens to America's Cup participants and hopefuls once the trials and matches are over? From the almost immediately scrapped to the repeat trial horse, or the scuttled, raised, commandeered and recommissioned, America's Cup defenders (and challengers!) have seen it all. This month we return to Yachting Magazine in March, 1912 for a short update on a Cup defender candidate - radical in her day - who never quite made it, but still had quite the afterlife...

PILGRIM was part of a larger-than-usual cohort of Cup defense candidates designed specifically for the defense in 1893. The title of Preeminent American Naval Architect in the Defense of the Cup had been left open by Edward Burgess's untimely death at the age of 43 in 1891, and Captain Nat had yet to prove himself as the Cup-dominating force he would become. As a result, there were four potential defense candidates for the New York Yacht Club that year: two Herreshoff designs, VIGILANT (HMCo. #437), and COLONIA (HMCo. #435), the John B. Payne designed and Lawley built JUBILEE, and PILGRIM, designed by Stewart & Binney and built by Pusey & Jones. Just one of these vessels (VIGILANT) would represent the NYYC against the 4th Earl of Dunraven's George L. Watson-designed VALKYRIE II. JUBILEE and PILGRIM were pretty radical compared to VIGILANT and COLONIA. They were both fin-keelers with lead bulbs and spade rudders, and both had an additional centerboard/daggerboard forward of the keel. Unfortunately, while fin keels had been proven to make very fast racing yachts in the early 1890s (see DILEMMA, HMCo. #412), the concept didn't work as well at the Cup defender scale. These two Cup hopefuls had waterlines around 85' and were more than 120' overall. (By contrast, the very largest HMCo. fin keels, the 20-raters NIAGARA, HMCo. #450 and ISOLDE, HMCo. #451 of 1894 were just half the size of PILGRIM and JUBILEE). PILGRIM and JUBILEE, enormous vessels with extraordinary overhangs and extremely deep fin keels (PILGRIM drew 22'!) suffered mechanically and structurally, and both exited the defender trials early. Even so, PILGRIM was modified several times and went on to have an interesting working career after 1893, as George Story Hudson reported in March, 1912:

Click here to read "The Vicissitudes of the Famous Pilgrim" as originally published in Yachting Magazine

As for the others, COLONIA was re-rigged and renamed CORONA. She was registered as a yacht until the 1930s, at which point she is reported to have joined the cargo trade to Cape Verde into the 1940s. VIGILANT was registered as a yacht until 1910, when she was probably broken up, though some sources suggest she was sold to be converted into a fishing vessel. JUBILEE was reportedly broken up in 1911. But VALKYRIE II had the shortest life of any of the 1893 cohort: she was rammed and sank the following summer during a messy start to a regatta on the Clyde.