Great Britain pulsed with pride over Prince Albert's concurrent Great Exhibition and its centerpiece, the Crystal Palace. His Majesty invited yachtsmen from all over the world to admire the works of the Industrial Age, and to join in friendly sport off England's southern coast.
|The British cutters and schooners assembled for the international race featured complex rigs, huge loose-footed mainsails and two or more jibs.1|
|Her steeply raked masts, simple rigging, and low black silhouette prompted wary observers to the conclusion that yacht America looked piratical.2|
In the Illustrated London Journal, a few days after, appeared a cartoon which showed the interior of the cabin of a royal yacht, with the Queen at lunch, waiting the return off the Needles of the yachts. Her Majesty says, 'Signal-master, are the yachts in sight?'
'Yes, may it please your Majesty.'
'Which is first?'
'Which is second?'
'Ah, your Majesty, there is no second.'
Though not a yachtsman Benjamin Butler invested lavishly to restore America to her winning ways. In 1875 he retained Donald McKay, the great builder of clipper ships, to supervise alterations making her more competitive among a new generation of yachts. McKay modified her rig, added two cabins, and replaced the tiller with a steering wheel.
|Donald McKay's rendition of 18755|
|The Burgess rendition of 18856|
|America, August 18917|
1. John Rousmaniere, The Low Black Schooner: Yacht America 1851-1945, 1986. "YACHTING/Scene Off Cowes, Isle of Wight." Colored lithograph, "Fores Marine Sketches Plate 1" published in London 1851. Courtesy of New York Yacht Club.
2. Rousmaniere, ibid. "America Approaching the Castle at Cowes,” A. Fowles, 1852.
3. Photograph courtesy of Paul St. Germain, Cape Ann Granite, 2015.
4. General Benjamin F. Butler, "The Story of the America," Harpers Magazine July 1885.
5. Rousmaniere, ibid. Edwin Hale Lincoln photo c. 1884, courtesy of Mystic Seaport Museum.
6. Rousmaniere, ibid. "Schooner yacht America at anchor c. 1886," Mystic Seaport Museum.
7. United States Library of Congress, Detroit Photographic company collection.