“America”: the reputation in question

Whether so rapid was the famous schooner? The answer to this question tried to find Sergey Borisov. His essay-a study published in the July issue of Yacht Russia.

The defeat of the British in a race around the Isle of Wight in 1851 was a turning point in the history of sailing.

No one is arguing that: the schooner “America” was first at the finish line, the Cup of one hundred guineas she went on law and went overseas on absolutely legal grounds. It’s also possible that on Board the Royal yacht “Victoria and albert” actually took place, a remarkable dialogue. “You see that yacht?” the Queen asked. “Yes, Your Majesty,” answered the officer of the watch. “Who’s ahead?”. – “America”. “And second?” – “Second to none, Your Majesty.”

The whole story, including the words of Queen Victoria, has long been apocryphal. Meanwhile, there are many underwater stones, and let them not be able to send the legend to the bottom, but left a gaping hole – a very.

For this you need only to agree that the victory of the schooner “America” was not natural, that it is the result of the insidious calculation of the ingenious Yankee and favorable circumstances. Insist the British, and I have to say, their arguments are very weighty. However here it is necessary in order…

The challenge

By the mid-nineteenth century the British Empire was definitively established in the status of mistress of the seas. She possessed the most powerful Navy, the profession of a sailor was popularly admired, every boy knew the names of cook and Nelson, and each gentleman thought it necessary to be a member of one of the numerous yacht clubs.

It is important that “numerous” as in other enlightened countries, yacht clubs at the time were “custom-made” phenomenon, and somewhere they were not there at all. In Britain, the same sailing was not even a hobby, it became a passion, a sign of national identity.

This is largely explained by the favor of Queen Victoria. In 1840, intending to pay a visit related to the European courts, it is a couple with her husband albert went on a voyage on his yacht. Climbing on Board, the Queen exclaimed in admiration: “I Love the ships!” Later, the Royal couple purchased the estate of Osborne in the Isle of Wight, and this choice was not accidental – next door was the residence of the Royal Yacht Squadron, and Victoria loved to watch as sailing boats parade along the coast.

Seemed indisputable that the yacht, as well as their crews, there is no equal in the world. In fact, evidence of this was not required, but once again to show his superiority, too, was not superfluous. It was decided at the world industrial exhibition of 1851, in which the Prince consort albert and Queen Victoria took the hottest part.

The challenge was thrown down from the face of the Royal Yacht Squadron, however, willing to fight with the British sailors hunters was not. Only the Americans forever, and not without reason.

Commodore new York yacht club John Cox Stevens was a man not only rich and prudent, but also a great patriot. Originally his plan was to send to the coast of England schooner – one of those that was built in Baltimore, and who was loved by the pilots because it was quick and easy to manage. Is it not worthy exhibit for the world exhibition?

However, schooner, shall we say, “mass production” of the commander is not satisfied, the ship was supposed to be perfect in all respects. So Stevens turned to the famous designer George Steers with a request that he made to the traditional design changes based on the latest achievements of shipbuilding. And unexpectedly received a counter offer, wonderfully coincided with a message to the Royal Yacht Squadron.

Challenge accepted

George Stirs promised to design a yacht, which is faster and impossible to imagine. It embodies all that is best in his schooner “Mary Taylor”, built two years ago, but it will be another step to perfection.

Of course, John Cox Stevens knew of the many victories “Mary Taylor”, created on the basis of the theory of the “wave line” (Wave Line) of the Englishman Scott Russell, an ardent supporter of which were Steers. He abandoned the time-tested underwater part of the ship – “the cod head, mackerel tail” in favor of “clipper-nose”, as stern did with great valance to improve the flow. Excellent maneuverability the yacht provided a long bowsprit, which raised great sails. These changes in the most positive way affected the seaworthiness of the yacht.

“Bonus” to the proposal of the Steers was that to build a yacht in the shortest possible time agreed the new York shipyard of William brown. This was a significant moment: the exhibition will open on may 1 sailing race off the Isle of Wight will take place in August, so to build a boat, try it, cross it to the ocean, remained only nine months.

It is clear that Stevens needed assurances and he got them both from the Boston mayor and the owner of the shipyard. In a letter addressed to the Commissioner of the syndicate, created by Stevens, William brown pointed out that will build the schooner, whose body is covered with copper plates, equipped with cabins, a kitchen, all necessary and deserved. Ready to ship with masts and sails will be transferred for testing, which should confirm its claims to be considered the fastest in the United States. If the rivalry with any other sailboat won’t end in his favor, the money requested for the construction of the yacht will be returned to the distinguished Mr. Stephens. And even beyond that: if the schooner will be sent to England to be defeated, the money will also be returned.

It was about 30 thousand dollars, the amount at the time huge, but, on the other hand, John Cox Stevens and his partners in the syndicate risked nothing. In fact, only George Steers – his name and his money, as a “brave man” William brown, just in case, put some not raspasovschika the terms of which sounds very reminiscent of bondage. Nothing personal, just business.

In this situation why not take it? And welcome from the Stevens was obtained. In England were sent a telegram, in which the commander of the new York yacht club, informed the commander of the Royal Yacht Squadron: “If we built the yacht will meet the expectations of their builders, we will make use of your friendly invitation and show up with our ship in your turbulent waters.”

Donating money and pledging not to interfere in the process of design and construction, the syndicate demanded one thing: the boat should be ready by 1 April. And it looks like it was a trick: build a boat in time was impossible, which opened the possibility for the correction of the agreed amount.

The steers and brown’s “twisted arms”, and yet they agreed. Lost: the schooner was launched on 1 may. However, before the end of the test, the syndicate decided not to hurry with the claims. And a few days in his hands was another trump card.

The first surprise

The yacht, built by Steers and brown, was named “America” and what else? Her length on deck was 28.5 m with bowsprit – 38,25 m. the Width is 6.86 m Displacement – 170,5 T. Ballast – 61 Height of the masts is 24.3 and 24,69 m. the Set was oak, was also used cedar and chestnut. The Board went to the Board of white oak with a thickness of 76 mm, the deck was covered with planks of yellow pine with a thickness of 64 mm. the Coamings were made of mahogany. Total sail area amounted to 489 sq m; the canvas was woven from cotton threads at a factory in new Jersey, sewed sails best master the East coast Reuben Wilson from Port Jefferson. Note to the place that the sails on most boats were made of flax, and before they were doused with water to make it more rigid, and the sails were bellied, while George Steers ordered to cut them flat, so they better “pull” on sharp courses.

The schooner was a miracle as well, though looked unusual. Now I had to test it on the water. As the opponent was chosen 97-foot Dinghy “Maria”, built in 1845, and is able with a strong breeze to develop a speed of about 17 knots. There were several races, and each of them “Mary” ahead of a new schooner.

Yes, it would be good to put up against the English “Mary”, but, alas, she was not suited to ocean crossings. On the other hand, if she was ready for them, we would not be so fast…

Formally commander Stevens had every reason to return “America” to the yard and demand the money paid in advance. However, he did not do so, because, second “Mary”, schooner “America” has surpassed all other vessels that has inspired some hope. However, do not benefit from this provision, John Cox Stevens, too, could not, and the price for the “America” was reduced from 30 to 20 thousand dollars.

In General, no matter how you look at it, the result of the test were disappointing: the schooner “America” was NOT THE FASTEST SHIP in the United States. As such, she went across the ocean.


On Board were 13 people, including George Steers, his brother James, their 15-year-old nephew Henry. The captain was a professional sailor dick brown, a few years as head of the crew of the schooner “Mary Taylor”.

The transition took 20 days. In an average day America took place 200 miles, and one day showed altogether a great result – 284 miles. However, she was favored by the wind, and can be considered indicative of the fact that the boat was not once and easily passed on their way to Europe British barges, which were disadvantageous for the course? WITH A FAIR WIND, THE SCHOONER DID NOT SHOW A HIGH SPEED.

It is noteworthy that the initial purpose of the Americans was not Cowes, and the French Le Havre. There they had to equip the boat, and meet with John Cox Stevens and other members of the syndicate. Those went to Europe in advance to buy champagne in Paris, which most certainly will be needed in England – they apply equally to both celebrate a victory and to drown your sorrows.

The defeat was more than probable, almost inevitable, what Stevens openly told the American Ambassador, advising them to refuse to participate in the race. It also asserted the editor of a new York newspaper Horace Greeley, emphasizing the fact that “your defeat would be an insult to the Motherland, and you’d better not to return, the country will not accept you”.

However, the calls to heed the voice of reason has not worked, and “America” sailed to British shores. By the time she was repainted, her rigging is configured, all detected bugs fixed, and now it was under their sails. In the Atlantic on “America” raised smaller sails of the same “Mary Taylor”, while “mother’s closet” for the sake of uniform was neatly folded in the closet.

Strong wind and opposing current made by dick brown to make a stop in the Solent, 6 miles from Cowes. On the morning of 1 August, “America” was to raise the anchor when in the Bay went the English tender of “Laverock”, known for excellent driving characteristics. The captain of the tender, which was in the Solent is not an accident, being sent “on investigation” the commander of the Royal Yacht Squadron, immediately offered a “racing duel”. And it was done in such a Jesuit form, that the refusal of the Americans from the competition would mean “losing face”. Had to set your sails…

“Laverock” did not hesitate, immediately took the lead. “We are lagging behind by about 200 yards, later recalled by John Cox Stevens. – Could not hear a sound except the beating of our hearts. The men were motionless as statues. The hand of our captain was lying limp on the tiller. And it all issued a sigh of relief. We caught up with the British”.

They bypassed the “Laverock” and the first arrived in Cowes.

The outcome of this informal race is often cited as the first evidence of the invincibility of the schooner “America”. That’s just… it drew the attention of the correspondent of the newspaper Bell’s Life: the captain of an English yacht, going into the race, has not seen fit to leave in the Solent heavy boat, so he towed her behind him. THE ARROGANCE OF THE BRITISH CAPTAIN COST HIM VICTORY. In any case, in England, many hold this opinion.


Further actions of John Cox Stevens are treated differently. One thing is certain: was given an ultimatum. It sounded, briefly, like this: “the Yacht “America” is ready to take part in the race against any number of schooners belonging to any of the yacht fleet of the Kingdom, but held the race on the English channel, in the waterfront, when the wind is not less than 6 knots, at a distance of not less than 20 and not more than 70 miles, the bet in the race must be at least 10 thousand guineas”.

All those years on a sailing race raised a huge amount, but 10 thousand guineas? That was too much. Not surprisingly, Stevens ‘ challenge was not accepted, then the question arose: will there be a General Anglo-American sailing battle?

Americans tend to think of this ultimatum a Testament to the limitless faith Stevens, Boston mayor, the Browns, the team “America” in the capabilities of your vessel. The British simply chickened out, recognizing the superiority of the American schooner. As an illustration, this version is such a colorful fact: after winning the “America” over “Eurocom” on her Board went up, Commodore Royal Yacht Squadron, Lord Walton and Lord Uxbridge, he is the Marquis of Anglesey, and the latter wished to ensure that the boat does not have any mechanical propulsion, he was so impressed by her speed, and when seen in its absence, then exclaimed: “it looks Like this boat really perfect.”

Version of Americans, of course, does not suit the British. They put forward their own: say, after an unexpected victory over “Eurocom” Stevens realized how small the chances of “America” in the main race, and therefore insisted on such an astronomical rate in the hope that it will deter rivals. In principle, this can be considered a symptom of unfair competition. As it is not gentlemanly!

A week in the walls of the residence of the Royal Yacht Squadron was discussing what to do with these annoying Americans. On the one hand, themselves and invited, but the Yankees insist on exceptionally beneficial conditions of the race.

To carefully specify the transatlantic upstarts in their place, they were denied participation in the competition, hosted by the yacht club “Victoria” in the port of Ryde, saying that in these races can compete only yacht that is owned by one owner, and you, gentlemen of the syndicate. This attitude was so humiliating that in other, less important regattas in which “America” participated out of the competition, she came first.

Who knows how it would have resolved this situation, if not sarcastic comments of the British press. Thus, the newspaper “times” wrote: “All this is reminiscent of a hawk and a flock of pigeons, which the sight of a predator, falling to the ground pretending to be dead. And although gentlemen the Solent are neither pigeons, nor even the lark, and the schooner “America” not the Sparrowhawk, however its appearance in the waters of Cowes paralyzed British sailors. It’s hard to imagine, but I guess that stranger will return to his homeland and there with a proud boast to say that she threw down the gauntlet, and in England there was no one who would have raised”.

Other Newspapers expressed even more sharply and foreign press openly gloated. This was due to the General attitude towards Britain: no one likes rulers, dictating its will on the world, and everyone is happy when they stumble.

If the injections of the foreign press could not ignore, as usual, hiding behind the arrogance, get them from their own – it was a stab in the back, to the ego, and the more painful it was. Lord Wilton was deprived of choice, and he decided to retreat but not to surrender. Commander told a colleague of Stevens, which to his great regret, it is not possible any quickly gather at the Isle of Wight’s best British yacht, however, in the previously agreed terms, he proposes to hold the race for the Cup, especially established by the Royal Yacht Squadron: “27 inches tall; 134 ounces of silver; the cost of 100 guineas; made jeweler Garrador style High Vozrojdenie; has no bottom, so triumphed a sober lifestyle, such as commanded her Majesty Queen Victoria”.

After reading other conditions of the race John Cox Stevens realized that it is driven into a corner, because the British are well known features of this area, for them it is like a home. But another was clear: give it, and the same press that is now on his side, immediately showering him with ridicule and glorifying invincible British sailors.

“We agree,” said Stevens.

All the essay-a study by Sergei Borisov – in the July issue of magazine Yacht Russia.

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