One of the most revealing aspects of Martin Black’s tenacious research for his book, G.L. Watson – The Art and Science of Yacht Design, is his new take on the performance of the four Watson designed, Clyde-built America’s Cup challengers: Thistle (1887), Valkyrie II (1893), Valkyrie III (1895) and Shamrock II (1901).
We learn how three of that quartet contrived defeat when they were quite capable of winning, something that G.L. Watson’s respected foe at the drawing board in Bristol, Rhode Island, Nathanael Herreshoff, was well aware of. In fact, the performance of the tank-tested 1901 challenger, Shamrock II, frightened the Americans more than has been revealed in the past.
G.L. Watson declined to take on the stress of another commission from Sir Thomas Lipton for the tea baron’s third attempt at “The Auld Mug” in 1903, and Herreshoff almost did the same for the defence. But once the “Wizard of Bristol” took the plunge, he pulled out all the stops resulting in the unbeatable and spectacular by any standard super cutter, Reliance. The William Fife Jr designed Shamrock III didn’t stand a chance, even if Reliance’s Scottish born skipper, Charlie Barr, had had a bad week at the office.
That the defenders went to such lengths to ensure victory reflects rather well on their level of respect for their Scottish foes, we might swagger…
Of course, these highly strung yachts constructed from all manner of self-destructing mixes of metals are long gone. And so extreme were they that, thus far, despite the virtual reality witnessed at the Classic Regattas over the past 20 years, no one has attempted to replicate them.
But now, back at base, on the original site of Reliance’s construction at Bristol, the Herreshoff Marine Museum has recently begun a fascinating project to build a one-sixth scale museum-quality fully rigged model of her. The finished model will be 33 feet (10.1m) in length and more than 37’ (11.3m) in height.
It’s all we have until one day someone is
mad game enough to replicate full size.
More here on Martin Black’s biography G.L. WATSON – THE ART AND SCIENCE OF YACHT DESIGN.
~ Iain McAllister ~