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administrator 10-04-2012 05:16 PM

For Pride and Glory
 
<h1 class="main-title">For Pride and Glory</h1><div class="dek"><i>Coronet</i>, the massive schooner that rose to legendary fame during a transatlantic duel in the Gilded Age, is now on tap for a splendid restoration</div><div class="author">by David W. Shaw</div><div class="article-extra-right"></div><p><span style="font-weight: bold;">A brisk northwesterly wind kicked up<br /> whitecaps that grew more robust beyond the lee of Staten Island, out<br /> toward Romer Shoal and the open Atlantic east of the Sandy Hook<br /> Lightship.</span>

The front that brought the northwester and the cold on<br /> March 12, 1887, had scrubbed the air clean of fog and clouds, making<br /> the sailing vessels and steamers under way in the Main Ship Channel,<br /> leading from Sandy Hook bar to the snug upper bay off the Battery in<br /> New York City, stand out in perfect clarity against the low, purple<br /> backdrop of Long Island's southern shore.</p><p> Amid the procession of inbound and outbound coastal traders,<br /> transatlantic liners, and tramp steamers in the lower bay were two<br /> graceful schooners, the symbols of opulence that so typified New York<br /> in the Gilded Age and the pride of the men who owned them. These fine<br /> craft were the talk of the town. The chatter arose from the interest<br /> surrounding the transatlantic race slated to start within minutes. One<br /> of the boats was an unknown quantity, the 133-foot <span style="font-style: italic;">Coronet</span>,<br /> a schooner designed and built almost two years earlier for her owner,<br /> industrialist Rufus T. Bush, as a world cruising boat. She sailed<br /> against the swift schooner <span style="font-style: italic;">Dauntless</span>,<br /> a long-time winner in New York racing circles and the pride and joy of<br /> Caldwell Colt, son of Samuel Colt, inventor of the Colt .45-caliber<br /> revolver.</p><p> It had all started with a letter from Bush challenging any comers in<br /> the New York Yacht Club to a race of approximately 3,000 miles to<br /> Queenstown, Ireland, for a prize of $10,000. Colt, who considered <span style="font-style: italic;">Dauntless</span><br /> the fastest keelboat afloat, readily accepted, and so it was that a race<br /> that inspired banner headlines in the city's largest dailies went from<br /> the boasts of both men in the clubhouse bar to the reality of a closely<br /> matched pair of thoroughbreds braving the spring storms of the North<br /> Atlantic. Most wealthy members of the New York Yacht Club put their<br /> money on <span style="font-style: italic;">Dauntless</span>, though a few placed substantial wagers on <span style="font-style: italic;">Coronet</span>. Bush's schooner was designed after the swift New York pilot boats and might sail like the wind.</p><p> Favoring the warm confines of his mansion, Bush didn't sail in his<br /> schooner, rightly believing the passage would be rough. He'd spent<br /> $30,000 outfitting <span style="font-style: italic;">Coronet</span> for<br /> the race, including shortening the topmasts and having 10 additional<br /> tons of lead ballast bolted to the keel. These expenses brought the<br /> total cost of the boat to $100,000. The $10,000 prize meant little to<br /> Bush, nor did it matter much to Colt, who sailed aboard <span style="font-style: italic;">Dauntless</span> during the race for the sheer thrill of it. For them, the purse was of secondary importance. Winning was everything.</p><p> At 1314, <span style="font-style: italic;">Coronet</span> crossed the starting line ahead of <span style="font-style: italic;">Dauntless</span>, and <span style="font-style: italic;">Coronet</span>'s captain, Christopher Crosby, put the boat on an easterly heading with the wind off the port quarter. <span style="font-style: italic;">Dauntless</span><br /> followed fast, but gradually the distance between the boats broadened,<br /> and soon the crews saw nothing save for the heaving sea. The five<br /> newsmen aboard <span style="font-style: italic;">Coronet</span>,<br /> official observers of the race, tired of the cold and went below,<br /> stepping down the marble stairs of the main companionway and proceeding<br /> through the stained-glass doors to the 18- by 18-foot main saloon, with<br /> its fireplace, upright piano, sofas and chairs, deep-pile carpet, and<br /> chandelier. The six staterooms were equally palatial.</p><p> As the men enjoyed drinks while bracing themselves against the violent<br /> motion of the boat, it came up in conversation that all of their<br /> editors had asked them to write their obituaries prior to departure and<br /> that their respective publishers had all denied them life insurance for<br /> the voyage. Yacht racing was dangerous, and racing across the ocean in<br /> mid-March was thought especially so. There was reason for concern,<br /> though no one, of course, knew it at the time. Gathering far to the<br /> west were several of the most powerful low-pressure systems any mariner<br /> had seen in decades, and they were streaking toward the two racers.</p><p> Captain Crosby pushed the schooner hard, ordering sail changes with every wind shift. <span style="font-style: italic;">Coronet</span><br /> carried a 3,000-square-foot square sail, which boosted her overall<br /> canvas to more than 8,000 square feet. Crosby deployed it whenever<br /> possible, racking up a run of 246 miles and hitting 13 knots at times<br /> on March 13. He did almost as well the next day. <span style="font-style: italic;">Coronet</span><br /> closed with the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, increasing the danger of<br /> encountering icebergs riding the Labrador Current southward to threaten<br /> the shipping lanes. New York lay far astern, and <span style="font-style: italic;">Dauntless</span> was nowhere in sight. The reporter for <span style="font-style: italic;">The New York Times</span> wrote, "Cloth after cloth unfolded to the breeze, and the <span style="font-style: italic;">Coronet</span> went swirling over the sea like a flying cloud."</p><p> It was sailing at its best, despite the high winds and seas and the<br /> cold, threatening weather. By March 16, the ship's logbook recorded a<br /> total of 892 nautical miles made good over the ground from New York, an<br /> average of 10 knots and often better. <span style="font-style: italic;">Dauntless</span> was also sailing well. The race could go to either vessel.</p><p> Thursday, March 17, St. Patrick's Day, came in with light winds from<br /> the southeast and a heavy swell from the west. Dawn revealed a thick<br /> layer of low clouds stretching from horizon to horizon. Later in the<br /> day, Crosby noted a dramatic plunge in barometric pressure within a few<br /> hours. The wind shifted south and kept clocking west. A veteran mariner<br /> at the age of 57, he knew the signs of an impending blow, and as the<br /> schooner ghosted along with all sails set, rolling with seas almost<br /> dead aft, the captain ordered his men to make ready for the storm.</p><p> The wind built. It was exhilarating to stand on deck and gaze forward<br /> as the schooner surged through the waves. But then, almost as if a<br /> switch had been thrown, the wind and seas rapidly increased, so much so<br /> that Crosby specifically mentioned the quick deterioration of<br /> conditions in the ship's log. He was worried. Dusk was deepening, the<br /> storm was upon him, and the iceberg threat lay ahead. He shouted orders<br /> to strike the remaining sails, leaving only a reefed fore-trysail<br /> flying, as he hove the yacht to in the mounting gale. He did so just in<br /> time.</p><p> "Then followed a scene that beggars description," wrote the reporter for <span style="font-style: italic;">The Times</span>.<br /> "Terrific squalls tore across the sea. The roar of the battling<br /> elements was deafening. The stricken vessel reeled like a falling man.<br /> The sky was an unbroken expanse of heavy leaden clouds, and dingy brown<br /> scud swept across the face of the heavens."</p><p> By midnight, the schooner was running with the storm. Winds in excess<br /> of 80 knots lashed the boat, and seas over 30 feet often swept the<br /> deck. Foam filled the air, and wind-driven spray stung the faces of the<br /> sailors on deck. Down below in the main saloon, some of the officers<br /> and all of the passengers gathered together. "We had enough to do to<br /> think of ourselves," <span style="font-style: italic;">The Times</span> reporter wrote, "but many a time during this day . . . our thoughts flew to <span style="font-style: italic;">Dauntless</span>."</p><p> The westerly gale held throughout the following day, and the<br /> temperature dropped below freezing. However, Crosby got the schooner<br /> under way, setting a reefed storm trysail, then a staysail. An<br /> interlude of fine weather followed, but it lasted only a day before<br /> another strong gale bore down on the yacht. Her progress slowed as she<br /> battled the sea and a northeasterly wind, and on March 22 she logged<br /> only 38 miles. The 15 men in the crew were exhausted, but Crosby drove<br /> them as hard as he did the ship, and the pace picked up once again. By<br /> March 26, all aboard knew the Irish coast drew near, and all aboard<br /> were amazed at <span style="font-style: italic;">Coronet</span>'s<br /> speed; she hit 16 knots at times in the strong southwesterly wind. Her<br /> run for the day was 291 nautical miles. "It took our breath away," one<br /> reporter wrote.</p><p> But where was <span style="font-style: italic;">Dauntless</span>?<br /> Ahead? Astern? Had she made it through the storms? Those were the<br /> questions everyone was asking. At 0740 on March 27, Fastnet came into<br /> view. Not long after that, Crosby hove to and took on a pilot. When<br /> asked of <span style="font-style: italic;">Dauntless</span>, he said<br /> she'd not been seen. Cheers rang out on board, but many were also<br /> "inwardly praying that our little antagonist was as safe and sound as<br /> the <span style="font-style: italic;">Coronet</span> was,"<span style="font-style: italic;"> The New York Times</span> reporter wrote. (She was; she finished 30 hours after <span style="font-style: italic;">Coronet</span>.)</p><p> Crosby cracked on all sail. <span style="font-style: italic;">Coronet</span><br /> surged on, finishing the last of her 2,949-mile run from New York to<br /> Queenstown, Ireland. She covered the distance in 14 days, 19 hours, 3<br /> minutes, and 14 seconds, a time equal to that of the fleetest of<br /> American packets back when sail still ruled the seas 40 years before<br /> and New York yards turned out some of the fastest sailing ships the<br /> world had ever seen.</p><p> ___________________________________</p><p> The author of seven nonfiction books, including <span style="font-style: italic;">Daring the Sea</span>, David W. Shaw is a <span style="font-style: italic;">Cruising World</span> associate editor.</p>

Aqua Equus 11-01-2013 02:49 PM

Re: For Pride and Glory
 
Is this Capt. Fatty?

desert rat 11-01-2013 03:04 PM

Re: For Pride and Glory
 
woah, I love schooners. More names and races to research. TY.

Aqua Equus 11-01-2013 03:10 PM

Re: For Pride and Glory
 
Is this Capt. Fatty?


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