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Historical Materials: 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 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 and , 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
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.
The U.S. Nautical Magazine and Naval Journal, vol. 5
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.
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.
unidentified newspaper clipping
16 October 1846
Robert Bennet Forbes Scrapbook
volume 1, p.55
Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum (SCR 4)