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Catalog entry

inv. 270
New York Yacht Club Regatta
1856
Oil on canvas
28 x 48 1/8 in. (71.1 x 122.2 cm)
No inscription found

Commentary

Of Lane’s four known depictions of the New York Yacht Club Regatta at New Bedford (August 8, 1856), this view appears to be second in sequence. The four paintings include this work, New York Yacht Club Regatta, 1856 (inv. 66), New York Yacht Club Regatta, Mid 1850 (not published), and New York Yacht Club Regatta, 1857 (not published).The starting gun at 10:50 am signaled all participants (anchored at the starting line) to raise sail, the third class (smallest vessels) to start first. At 10:55 am, the second gun signaled the second class to proceed, as is depicted in this painting. Some of the first (largest) class are still raising sail, while the large sloop in the foreground is jogging, waiting for the third gun at 11:00 a.m.

In this painting, Lane was off the Fairhaven shore, looking west toward New Bedford on the far shore, the heart of the city to the far right. The rural peninsula stretching south to Clark’s Point is largely hidden. The committee boat (schooner “Emblem”) is anchored near the beacon (not visible) marking the west side of the harbor channel. The starting line extends from there, south-westerly, to Butler’s Flats. The yachts under way at far left are close-hauled, sailing south-south-east to the harbor entrance, then tack to the south-west until off Clark’s Point. From there it will be a long leg south-south-east, close-hauled, to Naushon Island and another long tack westward.

The strong breeze and choppy sea are very typical of summer sailing conditions in Buzzards Bay, and Lane has depicted them without exaggeration. So skillfully are they shown in this series of paintings that there should be few if any reservations about his ability to depict weather and seas in unfamiliar coastal locations.

 Erik Ronnberg

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Subject Types:   Coastal Scene »
Vessel Types:   Named Vessel »   //   Yacht / Pleasure Craft »
Massachusetts Locales:   New Bedford »
Objects:   American Flag / Ensign »   //   Vessel Signal Flag / Pennant »

Historical Materials
Below is historical information related to the Lane work above. To see complete information on a subject on the Historical Materials page, click on the subject name (in bold and underlined).

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publication
1856 U.S. Nautical Magazine and Naval Journal v. 5
John W. Griffiths, ed.
October 1856–March 1857
The U.S. Nautical Magazine and Naval Journal, vol. 5
pp. 16–18

Article about the New-York Yacht Club regatta held at New Bedford on August 8, 1856, as painted by Lane. Includes lists of participating yachts and times in New Bedford.

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publication
Regatta at New Bedford, August 8, 1856
Robert Bennet Forbes
1856
Reprinted in American Neptune, Vol. 10, 1950, pp. 213-234

First-hand account by Robert Bennet Forbes of the 1856 New-York Yacht Club regatta. 

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New York City Locales, Businesses, & Buildings: New-York Yacht Club

Yachting in New York Harbor had its beginnings in the early nineteenth century, largely through the efforts of John Stevens who, as a young man, built boats of his own designs with highly varied hull forms and rigs. By the early 1830s, he had others designing and building yachts to his specifications, including three notable schooners: “Wave”, “Onkahye”, and in 1844, the schooner “Gimcrack”. (Ref. 1)

It was on board “Gimcrack” that the New York Yacht Club was formally organized on July 30, 1844. The following week, the club held its first cruise – to Newport, Rhode Island. Thereafter, cruises were a regular event, with annual regattas held in New York waters or nearby ports. Newport became the most popular and enduring (to this day) vacation port for members on their summer cruises. (Ref. 2)

Perhaps the club’s most lasting mark on the world of yachting was the building of the schooner yacht “America” under the sponsorship of its members. In winning the “100 Guinea Cup”, this vessel caught the attention and respect of yacht builders and naval architects everywhere. The trophy was soon called “The America’s Cup” and became the most prestigious prize in international yachting – successfully defended by American yachts for over a century. (Ref. 3)

“America” caught Lane’s attention too. The first time was in New York late in 1850, when he saw her under construction. George Steers probably granted him access to the half model and sail plan, and from that he depicted her under sail in three views (on the same canvas). After her victory at Cowes and the publication of Dutton’s lithograph, Lane painted a copy of that image The Yacht "America" Winning the International Race, 1851 (inv. 255) with some alterations to the deck arrangement. (Ref. 4)

Growth of the club fleet was evident at its regatta at New Bedford in 1856, when eight sloops and five schooners participated to the delight of a large local audience. Lane’s depictions of the event and the vessels New York Yacht Club Regatta, 1856 (inv. 66) and New York Yacht Club Regatta, 1856 (inv. 270), coupled with Robert Bennet Forbes’s newspaper account, offer what is possibly the most complete extant visual and verbal description of an early American yacht club regatta. (Ref. 5)

New York Yacht Club’s growth was just beginning. From nine vessels in 1844, the fleet grew to eight sloops and five schooners at the New Bedford regatta. By 1860, their numbers grew to 24 sloops and 21 schooners, and by 1868 there were 13 sloops and 28 schooners. (Ref. 6)

– Erik Ronnberg

References:

1. William P. Stephens, “Traditions & Memories of American Yachting” (Camden, Maine:International Marine Publishing Co., 1981), pp. 5, 7.

2. Ibid., p. 7.

3. Ibid., pp. 8 – 10.

4. Erik A. R. Ronnberg, Jr., “Fitz Henry Lane”s ‘Yacht America’ from Three Views’: Vessel Portrait or Artist’s Concept” Antiques and Fine Art. (Summer/Autumn, 2010), pp. 174-179.

5. Robert Bennet Forbes, “Regatta at New Bedford, Massachusetts, 8 August, 1856” (Document contributed by Llewellyn Howland in The American Neptune, Vol. X, 1950), pp. 231-234.

6. Stephens, “Traditions & Memories of American Yachting”, pp. 7, 28.

publication
1856 U.S. Nautical Magazine and Naval Journal v. 4
April 1856
The U.S. Nautical Magazine and Naval Journal, vol. 4, no. 1
pp. 464–65.

Contains brief announcement of the line-up of the August 8, 1856 race depicted by Lane.

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publication
1856 U.S. Nautical Magazine and Naval Journal v. 5
John W. Griffiths, ed.
October 1856–March 1857
The U.S. Nautical Magazine and Naval Journal, vol. 5
pp. 16–18

Article about the New-York Yacht Club regatta held at New Bedford on August 8, 1856, as painted by Lane. Includes lists of participating yachts and times in New Bedford.

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PDF
view ]
publication
Regatta at New Bedford, August 8, 1856
Robert Bennet Forbes
1856
Reprinted in American Neptune, Vol. 10, 1950, pp. 213-234

First-hand account by Robert Bennet Forbes of the 1856 New-York Yacht Club regatta. 

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PDF
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publication
Unidentified newspaper clipping
John C. Stevens
"American Yachting"
unidentified newspaper clipping
16 October 1846
Robert Bennet Forbes Scrapbook
volume 1, p.55
Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum (SCR 4)

Also filed under: "Northern Light" (Yacht) »   //  Regattas »

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New Bedford is a coastal town in Massachusetts, and in the nineteenth century was one of the most important whaling ports in America. New Bedford Harbor (with New Bedford on one side and the town of Fairhaven on the other) is the estuary of the Acushnet River. The river empties into Buzzards Bay past Clarks Point, the southernmost point of the city. In 1856 the New-York Yacht Club Regatta took place in New Bedford, and Lane made several paintings of the event.

 

New Bedford and Old Dartmouth: A Portrait of a Region's Past, New Bedford: Old Dartmouth Historical Society, 1976.

PDF
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publication
1856 U.S. Nautical Magazine and Naval Journal v. 5
John W. Griffiths, ed.
October 1856–March 1857
The U.S. Nautical Magazine and Naval Journal, vol. 5
pp. 16–18

Article about the New-York Yacht Club regatta held at New Bedford on August 8, 1856, as painted by Lane. Includes lists of participating yachts and times in New Bedford.

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"Emblem" was a merchant schooner, probably owned by a New Bedford merchant, recruited for the job of starting the New York Yacht Club race and monitoring the finish and the order in which each yacht crossed the finish line.

– Erik Ronnberg

Related tables: New-York Yacht Club »  //  Regattas »
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"Party boat" is a colloquial term for any kind of small craft adapted or used for taking guests (customarily for hire) on sightseeing trips or fishing for pleasure. (1) The term survives to this day on Cape Ann and other places for vessels engaged in the same activities. (2) In Lane's time, party boating was a calling of opportunity, and a fisherman's boat might be used in season - regularly or occasionally - to take "rusticators" fishing. Likewise, a boat used for its owner's own pleasure might be hired to take sightseers sailing for an afternoon. The latter use is seen in Lane's 1844 view of Gloucester Harbor from Rocky Neck (see the yawl-rigged sailboat in the foreground of Gloucester Harbor from Rocky Neck, 1844 (inv. 14)).

By the early 1850s, summer visitor activity, encouraged by the building of the Pavilion Hotel on Gloucester's waterfront, led to increased pleasure boating activity, if Lane's painting Gloucester Harbor, 1852 (inv. 38) of Pavilion Beach and Sidney Mason's hotel is any indication. (3) Lane's Gloucester Harbor scenes from this decade show a number of pleasure craft suitable for taking passengers for hire (see Fresh Water Cove from Dolliver's Neck, Gloucester, Early 1850s (inv. 45), Coming Ashore near Brace's Rock, Gloucester, Massachusetts, c.1860 (inv. 60), and View of Gloucester from "Brookbank," the Sawyer Homestead, c.1856 (inv. 95)). Small working craft suitable for this purpose are seen in The Old Fort and Ten Pound Island, Gloucester, 1850s (inv. 30), Gloucester Harbor, 1852 (inv. 38) (right foreground), View of Gloucester, 1859 (inv. 91) (foreground), and Watch House Point, 1860 (inv. 292) (right foreground). In View of Gloucester Harbor, 1848 (inv. 97), we see passengers boarding a small sloop-rigged boat hidden by the rocks at Duncan's Point (left middle ground).

In coastal waters south of Gloucester, a few of Lane's paintings offer pleasure craft as candidates for taking paying passengers. Phantom of Boston, c.1850s (inv. 574) depicts a cruising yawl "Phantom" of Boston, beached with hunting gear unloaded alongside while two of the crew await an approaching party in a rowing boat. The location is unidentified, but a possibility is the barrier beach around the marshes of Lynn, Massachusetts, which were once very popular hunting grounds for migrating waterfowl. A second candidate is a small sloop with a party of four on an evening sail off Halfway Rock in Becalmed Off Halfway Rock, 1860 (inv. 344) (far right).

Lane found similar uses of working watercraft in Maine, where the families of a small coastal community would travel by their workboats to a gathering place for a clambake or similar festive outing (see View of Indian Bar Cove, Brooksville, Maine, 1850 (inv. 61)). The artist became a "rusticator" himself when he, Joseph Stevens, and friends explored Mount Desert Island and vicinity in the "General Gates," a sloop-rigged Maine version of a New England Boat (View of Bar Island and Mount Desert Mountains, from the Bay in Front of Somes Settlement, 1850 (inv. 177) and Castine Harbor and Town, 1851 (inv. 272)).

When Lane traveled to New Bedford in 1856 to observe and sketch a regatta held by the New York Yacht Club, he observed and sketched it while on board an unknown vessel near the starting and finishing line, formed by the race committee boat "Emblem" and her yawl-boat.

Close by was a small party boat with observers on board, probably a fishing sloop, given its work-a-day looks. In the ensuing year, Lane painted four detailed views of this race, the party boat appearing in New York Yacht Club Regatta, 1856 (inv. 66) (right foreground); New York Yacht Club Regatta, 1856 (inv. 270) (right margin); New York Yacht Club Regatta, Mid 1850 (not published) (center); and New York Yacht Club Regatta, 1857 (not published) (left foreground). (4)

– Erik Ronnberg

References:

1. M. H. Parry and others, Aak to Zumbra: A Dictionary of the World's Watercraft (Newport News, VA: The Mariners' Museum, 2000), 436.

2. Ibid.

3. Proctor's Able Sheet (a Gloucester newspaper), January 1857: "Gloucester House reopened—refitted—boats always ready to take parties cruising or fishing..." 

4. John Wilmerding, Fitz Henry Lane, 2nd ed. (Cape Ann, MA: Cape Ann Historical Association, 2005), 52–54. Lane's 1852 cruise in the Mount Desert region in the sloop "Superior" was reprinted as an appendix to Wilmerding's essay in Paintings by Fitz Hugh Lane (Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art, 1988), 125–26.

artwork
Gloucester Harbor from Rocky Neck
Fitz Henry Lane
1844
Oil on canvas
34 x 45 3/4 in.
Cape Ann Museum, Gloucester, Mass., Gift of Mrs. Jane Parker Stacy (Mrs. George O. Stacy),1948 (1289.1a)

Detail of party boat.

Image: Cape Ann Museum
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artwork
The Old Fort and Ten Pound Island
Fitz Henry Lane
1850s
Oil on canvas
22 x 36 in.
Cape Ann Museum, Gloucester, Mass., deposited by the Collection of Addison Gilbert Hospital, 1978 (DEP. 201)

Detail of party boat.

Image: Cape Ann Museum

Also filed under: Ten Pound Island »

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publication
1846 Gloucester Telegraph 8.19.1846
8.19.1846
Newspaper
Ad in Gloucester Telegraph

FISHING AND SAILING PARTIES

"Persons desirous of enjoying a SAILING or FISHING EXCURSION, are informed that the subscriber will be in readiness with the Boat EUREKA, to attend to all who may favor him with their patronage. JOHN J. FERSON"

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advertisement
1857 Gloucester Advertiser, 9.15.1857, "Gloucester House"
9.15.1857
Newsprint
Ad for Gloucester House
Courtesy of the American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, Mass.

See p. 4, column 2.

Image: Courtesy of the American Antiquarian Society
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artwork
View of Gloucester Harbor
Fitz H. Lane
1848
Oil on canvas mounted on panel
27 x 41 in.
Frame: 41 5/8 x 55 3/8 in.
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Museum Purchase, The Adolph D. and Wilkins C. Williams Fund (62.32)

Detail of party boat.

Image: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
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Yachts and yachting in ninteenth-century America were the preserve of the wealthy, and in Lane's early career were just beginning to organize as yacht clubs with scheduled regattas. The New York Yacht Club, founded in 1844, was the first such organization and had few rival clubs for racing or cruising until after the Civil War. (1) In Boston, by contrast, yachts of any size were few. Instead of regattas, competition was in the form of match races, between two vessels, with cash prizes as a substitute for trophies. Often, the only serious competition for a Boston-owned yacht was one of the crack pilot schooners, and it was not uncommon for a yacht to be sold for pilot service or vice-versa. (2)

If Lane had opportunity to portray any yachts in Boston, only his depiction of schooner "Northern Light" (see The Yacht "Northern Light" in Boston Harbor, 1845 (inv. 268)) has been found to date, and that was based on a drawing by Robert Salmon. (3) It seems likely that he would have depicted more Boston yachts, some of which images might still exist in private collections not currently accessible. For more depictions of yachts by Lane, we must look to New York.

Lane is known to have made two paintings of the schooner yacht "America." The more familiar one The Yacht "America" Winning the International Race, 1851 (inv. 255) was based on a lithograph derived from a painting by Oswald Brierly who witnessed and sketched "America" as she raced for the trophy that now bears her name. (4)

The other painting Yacht "America" from Three Views, c.1851 (not published) was very possibly based on sketches of the designer's half-model, or even the actual vessel under construction. In either case, Lane's drawings and any notes would have been made before the hull and deck details were finalized. (5)

It would not be until August 8, 1856 that Lane would see and sketch a major yacht regatta—held by the New York Yacht Club at New Bedford, Massachusetts. From this event, he painted four known views, each depicting a different moment in the race. The earliest New York Yacht Club Regatta, Mid 1850 (not published) shows the yachts under way to the starting line, with the smallest yachts (third class) starting at 10:50 a.m. The second class would start at 10:55 a.m. and the first (largest yachts) at 11:00 a.m. The second view New York Yacht Club Regatta, 1856 (inv. 270) shows the start of the first class; the third New York Yacht Club Regatta, 1857 (not published), the race after the start with the large sloops and schooners taking the lead. The fourth New York Yacht Club Regatta, 1856 (inv. 66), depicting the finish, shows the winning sloop "Julia" over the line, lowering her racing sails, while the rest of the fleet follows her to the finish line. (6 and 7)

As interest in yachting increased, so did leisure pursuits in smaller craft, using rowing and sailing boats for rowing, fishing, and day-sailing. These activities had a commercial side which is covered in the Party Boats descriptive essay, but this essay will deal with boats used for non-commercial recreation.

Hull types and rigs for small pleasure craft were varied, some being traditional work boat designs with a few added amenities for comfort. Others were designed and built for leisure boating, often in the styles of yachts, but smaller and simpler. Among rowing boats, the dory was a logical choice, the version in View of Gloucester, (From Rocky Neck), 1846 (inv. 57) (right foreground) being smaller, with a wider bottom for greater stability. New England boats (see Norman's Woe, Gloucester Harbor, 1862 (inv. 1), View of Gloucester, 1859 (inv. 91), and Castine Harbor and Town, 1851 (inv. 272)) are also to be found in settings more akin to leisure than to work. (8)

Sailing craft custom-built for pleasure were also depicted by Lane. Examples with sloop rigs are found in The Old Fort and Ten Pound Island, Gloucester, 1850s (inv. 30) (left foreground), Fresh Water Cove from Dolliver's Neck, Gloucester, Early 1850s (inv. 45) (center left), and Coming Ashore near Brace's Rock, Gloucester, Massachusetts, c.1860 (inv. 60) (right foreground). The yawl rig is seen in View of Coffin's Beach, 1862 (inv. 41) (right middle ground), and schooners in Fresh Water Cove from Dolliver's Neck, Gloucester, Early 1850s (inv. 45) (right middle ground) and View of Gloucester, Mass., 1859 (not published) (foreground). These rigs differ only moderately from today's versions; their hull designs remain popular among admirers and owners of "traditional boats."

– Erik Ronnberg

References:

1. William P. Stephens, Traditions and Memories of American Yachting (Camden, ME: International Marine Publishing Co., 1981), 157–59.

2. Ibid., 159–61, 164–66.

3. John Wilmerding, Fitz Hugh Lane, 1804–1865: American Marine Painter (Salem, MA: Essex Institute,1964), 29–30.

4. Erik A.R. Ronnberg, Jr., "Fitz Henry Lane's Yacht America from Three Views: Vessel Portrait or Artist's Concept?," Antiques & Fine Art (Summer/Autumn 2010): 175.

5. Ibid., 174–79.

6. U.S. Nautical Magazine and Naval Journal V (October 1956–March 1857): 16–18.

7. The American Neptune X, no. 3 (July 1950): 231–34. Reprint of an unidentified newspaper account of the 1856 New Bedford Regatta by Robert Bennet Forbes.

8. See the descriptive essay on "New England Boat."

artwork
New York Yacht Club Regatta
Fitz Henry Lane
1856
Oil on canvas
28 x 50 in.
The Preservation Society of Newport County / Collection at Chepstow (PSNC.8727)

Detail of yacht.

Image: The Preservation Society of Newport County
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artwork
Norman's Woe
Fitz Henry Lane
1862
Oil on canvas
27 1/4 x 49 1/4 in.
Cape Ann Museum, Gloucester, Mass., Bequest of Margaret Farrell Lynch, 1999 (1999.76)

Detail of pleasure craft.

Image: Cape Ann Museum
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artwork
Drawing showing lines of the yacht "Northern Light"
William P. Stephens
Illustration from William Picard Stephens, Traditions & Memories of American Yachting (Camden, ME: International Marine Publishing Company, 1981).

See p. 163.

Image: International Marine Publishing Company
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publication
Arouse ye gay comrades
Bufford (in image); Thayer (lith.)
1840
Parker & Ditson
Courtesy American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, Mass.

Dedicated to the Tiger Boat Club.

Image: American Antiquarian Society
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PDF
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publication
Article in The Rudder magazine about "Northern Light"
Winfield M. Thompson
1904
The Rudder Vol. XV Part 1–3; pp. 387–390, 456–460, 483–486
"Historic American Yachts: Early Boston Vessels, The Northern Light and Coquette."
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model
Model of the yacht "Northern Light" based on Lane's painting
Model by Rob Napier, photo by Erik Ronnberg
1991
wood, metal, cordage
Model of schooner yacht "Northern Light" of Boston, 1839
Scale 1:32
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model
Model of the yacht "Northern Light," stern view, based on Lane's painting
Model by Rob Napier, photo by Erik Ronnberg
1991
wood, metal, cordage
Model of schooner yacht "Northern Light" of Boston, 1839
Scale 1:32
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Provenance (Information known to date; research ongoing.)

Exhibition History

1966 DeCordova Museum: DeCordova Museum, Lincoln, Massachusetts, Fitz Hugh Lane: The First Major Exhibition, no. 42.
2010 Vero Beach Museum of Art: Vero Beach Museum of Art, Vero Beach, Florida, Ships and Shorelines: William Bradford and Nineteenth-Century American Marine Painting.

Published References

American Neptune 1965: The American Neptune, Pictorial Supplement VII: A Selection of Marine Paintings by Fitz Hugh Lane, 1804–1865, plate XXII, no. 79. ⇒ includes text
Wilmerding 1966a: Fitz Hugh Lane: The First Major Exhibition, no. 42. ⇒ includes text
Wilmerding 1968: A History of American Marine Painting.
Wilmerding 1971a: Fitz Hugh Lane.
Muller 1976: Paintings and Drawings at the Shelburne Museum, no. 192.
Wilmerding 1991: American Views: Essays on American Art.

Related historical materials

New York City Locales, Businesses, & Buildings
Other Locales
Vessels (Specific / Named)
Vessel Types
Citation: "New York Yacht Club Regatta, 1856 (inv. 270)." Fitz Henry Lane Online. Cape Ann Museum. http://fitzhenrylaneonline.org/catalog/entry.php?id=270 (accessed April 23, 2017).
Record last updated January 28, 2016. Please note that the information on this and all pages is periodically reviewed and subject to change.
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