F Westward Eleonora

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Transcript of F Westward Eleonora

WestwardEleonoraBro08F R O M
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So declared Captain Charlie Barr at the launching of the dazzling 160- foot schooner Westward. His prophetic pronouncement would reverberate throughout the career of this awe-inspiring vessel as she sailed her way to super stardom during the Golden Age of Big Class racing.
The press heralded Westward as “the new Herreshoff flyer,” and fly she did. Less than a month after her launching on March 31, 1910, she sailed to Europe to challenge the world’s most formidable schooners in the premier regattas of England and Germany. Sailing fast, strong, and proud, she took first place in all eleven starts during her first season.
In ensuing years, she regularly showed her stern to all of her exalted contemporaries, including Lulworth, Meteor II, and Germania, and raced against King George V’s cutter Britannia no fewer than 174 times. She even took on the towering cutters built as America’s Cup challengers, and left them all in her wake more than once.
Conceived by “The Wizard of Bristol,” built for “the world’s richest bachelor,” and originally helmed by the finest captain of all time, Westward was indeed a wonder.
Westward charging along in a 1910 race (opposite)
“She’s a wonder.”
Drawing courtesy of Hart Nautical Collections of MIT Museum.
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TheWizard of Bristol Alexander Cochran, Westward’s first owner, was an avid yachtsman who had already owned several competitive vessels. He had been especially impressed by the performance of the America’s Cup contender Defender, designed and built by Nathanael Herreshoff, and so he put the creation of his stunning new schooner in the hands of “the Wizard of Bristol,” giving him free rein to specify the very best of everything for her.
Nathanael Greene Herreshoff is certainly the most famous and most accomplished American yacht designer and builder of all time. Many believe that he is the most outstanding in the world. For some 75 years, Captain Nat, as he was called, dominated the naval design fraternity as an innovator who created vessels that were advanced and extreme, but always, always beautiful.
He and his brother John founded the Herreshoff Manufacturing Company in Bristol, Rhode Island, in 1876. Educated at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Nathanael was the Chief Designer and Engineer while John primarily ran the business. John had gone blind at the age of fifteen, but he never lost his natural ability to evaluate the seaworthiness and speed of a design.
Together, the brothers turned out several thousand vessels ranging from steam torpedo boats for the U.S. Navy, to storied sailing and power yachts, to fine little catboats and dinghies. Most prominently, the Herreshoff Manufacturing Company designed and built all the America’s Cup defenders — all of them of course successful — from 1893 through 1920 (Vigilant, Defender, Columbia, Reliance, and Resolute), and those years are commonly referred to as “The Herreshoff Era.” The defenders they created were the largest, fastest, and most expensive ever to sail in the America’s Cup races. As if designing and building these vessels weren’t enough, Captain Nat also helmed some of them. The Herreshoff Manufacturing Company also built America’s Cup defenders designed by Starling Burgess in 1930 (Enterprise)and 1934 (Rainbow) and, between 1890 and 1938, Herreshoff designs also won the Astor Cup (won by Westward in 1911), the Puritan Cup, and the King’s Cup.
Captain Nat was quiet to the point of being nearly uncommunicative. Considering
Westward on her launching day, March 31, 1910 (above) and
racing off the Isle of Wight in the summer of 1910 (below)
Launch photo courtesy of The Herreshoff Marine Museum.
Photo of Nathanael Greene Herreshoff, 1894, ©Mystic Seaport, Rosenfeld Collection, Mystic, CT,
#B443; photographer: James Burton. Sailing photos, above and opposite, by Beken of Cowes.
Nathanael Greene Herreshoff
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the range of his inventions, it is perhaps not surprising that he kept his cards close to his chest. Among the many innovations with which he is credited are hydrodynamic fin and bulb keels, below-deck winches, folding propellers, sail tracks and slides, cross-cut sails, metal masts, and the formula for handicapping dissimilar yachts for racing. Captain Nat even received the first patent for a catamaran sailboat way back in 1876.
When Alexander Smith Cochran asked his captain, Charlie Barr, how he might prevail upon Nathanael Herreshoff to design and build a schooner that could cross the Atlantic and race in Europe, Barr’s advice was as follows: “All you will have to do is run up to Bristol and tell N. G. Herreshoff you want a yacht for that purpose and be sure not to tell him how to design her for if you do he probably will not take the order. You may have to show him some credentials for he doesn’t like to design a large yacht unless he thinks the owner can afford it.” Captain Nat began the design for Westward in the autumn of 1909, and she was launched just six months later, the longest sailing yacht that Herreshoff had built at the time.
The Wonder When Charlie Barr called Westward “a wonder,” he knew whereof he spoke. Many years later, in Yachting, A Pictorial History (Viking Press 1972), author Peter Heaton hailed Westward as “perhaps the most famous of all racing schooners.” She was also the swiftest schooner in the world in 1910, and remains one of the fastest ever to cross a finish line. Also the largest Class-A racing schooner of her time, Westward measured 41,50 meters/135 feet on deck and 49 meters/160 feet overall.
Herreshoff hull number 692 was made of riveted steel, with pine decks over the steel plating. Westward’s masts were of solid Oregon pine, and when the mainmast was stepped, it weighed four tons including the rigging and hardware. Launched on March 31, 1910, Westward was a breathtaking sight to behold, her long bowsprit and tapering overhangs creating a vision of gracefulness and a sleek and slender profile to be reckoned with on the racecourse. Overhead, canvas blossomed like a magnificent, many-petaled flower from her towering masts as she sailed before the wind.
For nearly four decades, from 1910 until 1947, Westward’s name was always in the forefront of any discussion of yacht-racing’s grandest spectacles. She not only was the fastest schooner, she also regularly left the biggest cutters behind. Even today, no account of the greatest moments in yacht racing is complete without a deep bow to the sublime Westward.
Newsclip (with misspelling of Cochran’s name) from The New York Times, April 1, 1910.
Westward, carrying a spectacular amount of sail, leads Britannia on a downwind leg in 1927
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Westward was owned, treasured, and raced by a series of owners, each with his own intriguing story. Her first owner, Alexander Smith Cochran, was the heir to a family fortune, while her last owner, T. B. Davis, was a self- made multimillionaire. These two men, more than any of the others, savored the excitement of owning one of the world’s most spectacular vessels and sailing her to victory on the racecourse.
1910–1911: Alexander Smith Cochran Westward was commissioned by Alexander Smith Cochran of New York City, fabulously wealthy heir to the Alexander Smith carpet-manufacturing empire. His maternal grandfather, Alexander Smith, had invented the motorized Moquette loom and founded a very successful carpet factory in Yonkers, New York. In later years, Cochran became active in the progressive Republican Party and ran for the U.S. Congress.
Cochran only briefly abdicated his position as “world’s richest bachelor,” a moniker given him by the press, when, in 1920, he fell under the spell of the glamorous Madame Ganna Walska. Ravishingly beautiful, Walska fancied herself an opera singer, but her talent was questionable at best. People came to her concerts primarily to gaze on her and her elaborate costumes; they winced at the sound of her voice, which was described generously as “tiny,” and less generously as “screeching.”
Cochran was the third of Walska’s six husbands, and their marriage lasted mere months. Her lawyer stated that “Alexander Smith Cochran has been joy riding all over the world, buying and selling houses and yachts by whim and caprice. If Mr. Cochran thinks that he can dispose of his wife the way he disposes of toys and playthings, he is much mistaken.” Walska declared “If Cochran wants to get rid of me he must pay until it hurts for his own good.” The divorce cost him $3,000,000. By her fifth divorce, Walska was an extremely wealthy woman.
Cochran gave his money to the arts far more willingly. He donated an important collection of Near Eastern tapestries, books, and miniatures to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and, at his alma mater Yale University, he founded the Elizabethan Club with his donation of a collection of astoundingly rare manuscripts including the first four
Alexander Cochran, Westward’s first owner, at her helm with Captain Charlie Barr (above)
Cochran helps the crew raise the mainsail (below)
Cochran in the uniform of a commander in the Royal Navy, a commission he received
in 1917 (in oval). Cochran was very pro-British and donated his large steam yacht Warrior to the
Admiralty right after the start of the war in 1914. He subsequently ordered the building of five
motor torpedo boats for the Royal Navy. These must have been among their first PT-type boats.
Photos courtesy of the Cochran family.
Alexander Cochran
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Shakespeare folios, a 1604 copy of Hamlet, and original essays by Francis Bacon. He was also a major benefactor to his hometown of Yonkers, giving the city, among other things, a hospital.
Cochran was on board for Westward’s maiden voyage from Rhode Island to Southampton, deciding as he embarked to quit smoking in a dramatic way by throwing all of his cigarettes overboard. Even a man of his wealth could not purchase more cigarettes in the midst of the Atlantic, so his fate was sealed. As the story goes, he was less than pleasant during his smoking abstinence and, as soon as they had anchored in the Solent fourteen days later, set off to find a tobacconist.
1911-1924: Norddeutschen Regatta Verein Seefahrt, Hamburg; Clarence Charles Hatry; and Warwick Brookes When Cochran’s captain and friend, Charlie Barr, died of a heart attack in January 1911, he was dejected and his interest in racing Westward began to languish. He had Barr’s former mate, Chris Christensen, bring her back across the Atlantic to the U.S., where she won the Astor Cup. At the end of the 1911 season, however, Cochran sold Westward to Norddeutschen Regatta Verein Seefahrt, Hamburg, a syndicate of German sailors who renamed her Hamburg II. In 1912, she sailed away to join the German fleet of steel schooners. There she continued to earn first-place finishes, but her time there would be cut short by the outbreak of World War I in 1914.
In 1919, Westward was purchased as a war prize by the flamboyant London financier Clarence Hatry, who restored her original name. Hatry had begun his rise to success by transporting Eastern European immigrants to the United States and Canada. He subsequently enriched his vast fortune with investments in photographic supplies, vending machines, and loan offices.
Unfortunately, Hatry was able to race Westward for just one season, the summer of 1919. In the slump that followed the end of the First World War, his empire had become increasingly shaky, and he had been forced to turn his attention away from Westward as he found himself in dire financial and legal circumstances. By the time he sold her in 1924, she had spent four seasons in retirement, mostly in a mud berth near Southampton. Westward’s next owner was London businessman Warwick Brookes, a keen yachtsman known for racing six-meters. He had also owned and raced a famous Fife schooner, and other yachtsmen were hopeful that he would soon be racing Westward. Instead, she moved on to her fourth owner the same year.
Mr. and Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt and other
guests being welcomed aboard Westward by
Alexander Cochran for the Emperor’s Cup Race
on August 3, 1910 (above)
Cochran and his guests enjoying the downwind leg
as Westward leads the fleet with Charlie Barr
at the helm (below)
Newsclip above from The New York Times, June 21, 1910.
Photos courtesy of the Cochran family.
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1924–1947: T. B. Davis Westward’s final and most devoted owner was the hero of a true rags-to-riches story.
Thomas Benjamin Frederick Davis was born on Jersey, in the Channel Islands, the son of a fisherman and ship’s carpenter. When just fifteen, he went to sea on board the merchant schooner Satellite. Off the Norfolk coast, the ship encountered a March gale and ran aground on the Haisborough Sands, and young Davis was ordered into the longboat, tied to the ship by a painter, to stand by to receive the ship’s papers. Suddenly a huge wave struck the Satellite, broke the longboat free, and swept Davis out of sight. The Satellite managed to survive the storm and subsequently floated free, but Davis’s family was notified that he was lost and presumed dead. However, after nineteen hours at sea, a frostbitten Davis was rescued by the crew of a Norwegian trading schooner. Davis arrived back on Jersey just in time to attend his own memorial service.
Davis was undeterred by his near-death experience and soon returned to the sea, served in the Royal Naval Reserve for three years, and attained his Extra Master’s ticket. He then moved to East London, on the East Coast of South Africa, where he established a stevedoring company that in a few short years was handling all stevedoring business from East London to Mombassa. Having amassed a fortune, he returned to Jersey following the First World War. A few years later, in 1924, he purchased Westward.
For the next eleven years, he raced her against the leading yachts of the era, including King George V’s cutter Britannia. These two behemoths went head to head no less than 174 times, usually leaving the rest of the fleet far behind. The king and the ex- stevedore became friends, with a mutual respect based on the fact that they were both true seamen, the former trained in the Royal Navy, the latter in commercial shipping.
T. B. Davis was known for his gruff exterior and colorful language, but it was his competitive nature that became legendary. A particularly memorable match took place in 1932, when a southwesterly gale kept all the competitors except Britannia and Westward at anchor. The two tacked and jockeyed for 45 miles, and when they came out from the lee of the Isle of Wight, Westward’s greater sail area not only propelled her to giddy speeds, but also made her nearly unmanageable, requiring at times three men on the helm. The two great ladies finally crossed the line at Southsea in a virtual photo finish.
In those days, Westward carried a crew of twenty for cruising, with another ten strong sailors coming aboard for races. In addition, she carried a sailmaker, shipwright, electrician, two chefs, two stewards, two officers, and her sailing master.
One member of the crew later recalled the day when Davis took Westward out on a 90-mile course despite the race’s having been canceled for rough weather. “We weren’t far
T. B. Davis at the helm of Westward (above)
Westward leading Britannia, center, and White Heather, left, in a 1926 race (below)
Photo of T. B. Davis courtesy of Société Jersiaise. Racing photo by Beken of Cowes.
Background information on T. B. Davis’s life provided by Philip Jeune of Jersey.
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out when the wind really got up and the rain started and she lay over so far in the water that it seemed she would never get up again. It was really exciting, I can tell you, and Mr. Davis was so proud of the way she was getting along. He called for the log to be streamed and they did for an hour, and it recorded that we were going at eighteen-and-a-half knots!”
Despite the fact that Davis is said to have called out “Women below, ready about, lee ho!” when tacking, he encouraged his daughter Marjorie to take the wheel, and she became so proficient she sometimes helmed when racing. When Nathanael Herreshoff read a press account of her ability, he was so charmed by the thought of the young woman at the helm that he wrote a letter of congratulations to Davis.
Westward spent her racing seasons away from Jersey, competing in Mediterranean and British waters, but she was laid up every winter in St. Helier Harbour with a huge wooden cradle below her bow to keep her stable at low tide. It was in the off-season that Davis himself masterminded all repairs, maintenance, and improvements to Westward. Unlike other wealthy owners of Big Class yachts, he was very much a hands-on owner. He even traveled to America to select two trees for Westward’s new masts.
King George withdrew Britannia from racing in 1935. Without his favorite opponent, Davis decided to retire his racing flag as well. The King died the following year and, according to his will, Britannia was sunk near the Isle of Wight in the English Channel.
From then on, Davis only used Westward for cruising, fitting her with two Ailsa Craig 48–60-hp six-cylinder diesel engines as well as other accoutrements designed to enhance comfort on board. Davis continued to cruise, including an extended trip to Norway and Sweden, until Westward was laid up in Dartmouth at the start of World War II and remained there for the duration.
Davis had moved back to South Africa, and died in Durban in 1942 at the age of 75. His will specified that if a new owner with sufficient means to maintain Westward could not be found, she should be sunk. Sadly, no member of his family felt capable of looking after Westward and, after she had also been offered unsuccessfully to three different sail-training establishments, the final clause of Davis’s will came into play. On July 15, 1947, stripped of all hardware, equipment, and interior fittings, she was towed out to the Hurd Deep in a shroud of fog. At 12:45 p.m., the dynamite was ignited and Westward sank to her grave some 60 miles from her old friend Britannia.
For 37 years, Westward had graced the international yachting scene with her grandeur, embodying the very best in design, workmanship, beauty, and speed. Her departure left a very large void. Photos from The Racing Schooner Westward, by C.P. Hamilton-Adams.
Marjorie Davis, at right facing camera, and guests (above)
Crew and guests of the Davises stretched out on the windward deck
while racing (below)
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Westward’s most celebrated captain was her first: Charlie Barr. A Scot who was apprenticed as a grocery clerk in Gourock, a seaside fishing village on the Firth of Clyde, Barr eventually yielded to the siren song of the sea, joining a flounder trawler and subsequently following his older brother to the U.S. to become a yacht skipper.
“Wee Charlie,” as he was fondly called, stood barely five feet three inches tall, but he was a towering force among the racing elite. A dapper man with a waxed moustache and a cigar usually clenched in his teeth, Barr quickly came to be regarded by all as the best professional captain ever, in the U.S. or Europe. Known for his unflinching determination to win, he drove the grandest of yachts to the very limit in the world’s most famous races. When Cochran asked him to take command of Westward, Barr had already defeated America’s Cup contenders Shamrock I, II, and III and, in 1905, set the transatlantic record aboard the noble three-masted schooner Atlantic —…