Cats and the Cup: the first encounter over a century ago

by Foiling Week.

Nathanael Greene Herreshoff 1st was an American naval architect and mechanical engineer. “Captain Nat,” as he was known, revolutionized yacht design, and produced a succession of undefeated America’s Cup defenders between 1893-1920.

amaryllis

©Herreshoff Marine Museum – Amaryllis II, 1933 (Amaryllis – 1876 – replica)

Amaryllis was a catamaran sailboat designed by Nathanael Greene Herreshoff and launched in 1876. It was notable for its significant victory in the 1876 New York Centennial Regatta, which resulted in multihull sailing vessels being banned from organized sailing competitions. Ironically, Herreshoff was later to become a celebrated monohull designer. His America’s Cup winners were Vigilant, 1893 (of which Herreshoff was the helmsman); Defender, 1895; Columbia, 1899 & 1901; Reliance, 1903 and Resolute, 1920.

Extracted from 1870-1887 American and British Yacht Designs (François Chevalier & Jacques Taglang, 1991)

Extracted from 1870-1887 American and British Yacht Designs (François Chevalier & Jacques Taglang, 1991)

On June 24th, 1876, the day after the Centennial Regatta, The World printed:
The catamaran Amaryllis, constructed by Mr. Herreshoff, of Providence […] fairly flew along the Long Island shore, passing yacht after yacht as if they were anchored. As Amaryllis dashed over the line a winner she was saluted by guns from the yachts that were lying at anchor, and the excursion steamers screeched their loudest in honor of her victory.

The World also printed an editorial on page 4, excerpt:
A Revolutionary Yacht
Nobody protested against entering her for the race yesterday, for the reason probably that everybody expected to beat her, but everybody seems to have objected to being beaten by her. It behooves the owners of the large schooners, however, to take counsel together lest somebody should build an Amaryllis a hundred feet long and convert their crafts into useless lumber. It is a matter quite as important as keeping the America’s Cup.

Amaryllis blew the hatch covers off the crack sandbaggers, leading her nearest rival home by more than 20 minutes. The upstart boat, which her inventor called a “catamaran,” was instantly banned from organized racing. The excuse was Amaryllis had no cruising accommodations. Capt. Nat pointed out his cockpit could be completely enclosed with a boom tent, giving standing headroom, and was quite comfortable to sleep in on an air mattress. But this fell on deaf ears.

The Centennial regatta and the little catamaran aberration would have seemed very distantly related to the traditional America’s Cup schooners of very large size, but the reporter spelled out a glaring premonition: the future of regattas, and indeed, the America’s Cup itself, were put into question on the day that the very first American catamaran set sail. Eventually, the America’s Cup was defended with a catamaran, Dennis Conner”s Star & Stripes in 1988 and since 2010 seems to be the new way.

Bibliography:
– wikipedia.org/wiki/Nathanael_Greene_Herreshoff
– sailingtrivia.ravenyachts.fr/2013/08/the-evolution-of-sailing-multihulls.html
– “Multihulls Discovered: Part 1: Their origins, myths, magic, mana… and caveats that go along with these craft that have evolved from ancient heritage.” by Randy Thomas on Yachting, June 1985
– sfbaysss.org/forum/archive/index.php/t-655-p-4.html

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *