Category: SAPPHO

00011V«I shall never think of my triumphs in the Sappho without associating them with you, » was the message to the British Captain, George Greenham , who owned the schooner, from the Rear Commodore of New York Yacht Club, William P. Douglass.
Greenham had assisted Douglass as pilot during three races sailed in the Channel against the Englishman James Ashbury's schooner Cambria, ...

... on May 10th, 14th and 17th, in the spring of 1870; three races consisting of a triangle course with 20 mile legs, and two races to windward of 60-miles.

Douglass and Ashbury had fixed the stake for the races as a 50 guineas cup. During the first windward leg and after 40 miles of racing, Sappho was so far ahead that Cambria withdrew. James Ashbury then refused to start in the second windward race. Finally, the match on the triangular course was a simple formality. Sappho finished with about two hours ahead of Cambria.

The Illustrated London News

The Illustrated London News - 28 mai 1870 The Illustrated London News - 28 mai 1870 The Illustrated London News - 28 mai 1870
The Illustrated London News - 21 mai 1870


Sappho soon returned to the United States, but its dominating performance didn't discourage James Ashbury from sailing Cambria to New York some weeks later to compete in the first America's Cup ever sailed.

Salvatore Colacicco : Sappho in the MediterraneanThe schooner Sappho has a double connection to the America's Cup story: first, to encourage Ashbury in his decision to challenge for the Cup; and second, to have defended the Cup during the second challenge, in 1871.

Sappho was a model widely inspired by the lines of America. It was cut by William Townsend, the main modeller of the C. and R. Poillon Bros shipyard, situated in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, New York and then built in 1867 for Richard Poillon. In fact, he built it on speculation, without a commission, thinking he could quickly sell the beautiful schooner.For that reason, it was sailed across the Atlantic to Cowes, England, by Captain Tom Baldwin the following year. The crossing took 14 days.

Upon its arrival, Sappho was engaged in a race around the Isle of Wight, with the cutters Condor and Oimara and the schooners Aline and Cambria, each smaller than Sappho. Cambria, owned by James Ashbury, won the regatta, with Sappho finishing in last place. This success led Ashbury to challenge for what had become the America's Cup, the trophy having been donated to the NYYC in 1857.

Richard Poillon's schooner crossed again the Atlantic without having found a buyer. Shortly afterwards, Sappho was sold for $50 000 to an eminent NYYC member, William P. Douglass who entrusted it to Captain "Bob" Fish, who promptly began to alter the hull. After being stripped the frames were doubled at the bilge and replanked. Only the hull was widened under the flotation, by 7 inches on each side! The stability of the boat was improved with the ballast and the rig modified. After these changes, the boat was vastly quicker and the successes soon accumulated.

Citizens cup race, Newport R.I., August 28th 1871 with Sappho, Columbia and DauntlessAt the end of 1869, William P. Douglass and his Captain Bob Fish made a very fast Atlantic crossing: 12 days 9 hours and 36 minutes between New York and Queenstown - a record which would stand until 1905, (when Atlantic made the crossing in 11 days 16 hours and 22 minutes). A few months later in England, in May 1870, Sappho won all its races against Cambria.

If Sappho did not sail the first 1870 America's Cup, it took part in the last two races against Livonia, James Ashbury's challenger, during the next edition in 1871. Columbia, the other defender selected by the NYYC, had just raced three times against Livonia winning two races and being defeated in one. So, on October 21st, 1871 Sappho raced in a fresh breeze against Livonia and won easily by half an hour. Two days later, on October 23rd, Sappho again beat Livonia this time by 25 minutes and 27 seconds. The America's Cup stayed in New York.

The next year, Sappho returned to England. William P. Douglass, then NYYC Vice-Commodore, registered it for a race in the Channel, to Cherbourg, France, on July 12th, 1872 in which he was to race schooners Guinevre and Livonia. Guinevre withdrew at the last moment, and Douglass refused to sail against Ashbury, who had criticized the NYYC at the conclusion of the 1871 America's Cup. Instead of racing, Douglas took the start, but 15 minutes after Livonia. By the time he reached Cherbourg, Sappho was nearly 90-minutes ahead of its opponent.

Shane Couch - Sappho off Sandy Hook 1870 Oil on Canvas 12x18inchIn 1876 Sappho was sold to Prince Sciarra de Colonia from Naples who often sailed in regattas on the French Riviera. After the noble Italian's death, Sappho again sailed to the Solent. Its new English owner, George Marvin, sailed it for a short while before scrapping it in Cowes, in 1887.

1867: Round the Isle of Wight race. Sappho was beaten by James Ashbury’s schooner Cambria. Ashbury decided then to challenge for the America’s Cup for the first time.
1867-68: William P. Douglass bought Sappho. Hull partially rebuilt by ‘Bob’ Fish.
1869: Sappho sailed across the Atlantic Ocean from New York to Queenstown, in a record time of 12 days 9 hours and 36 minutes. This performance wasn’t bettered for 36 years!
1870: Sappho won three consecutive matches against Cambria.
1871: Sappho won the two last races in the second America’s Cup by crushing James Ashbury’s Livonia.
1872: Sappho sailed again to England. Defeated Livonia on July 12th, 1872.
1876: Sappho was sold to Prince Sciarra de Colonia, Naples.
1883: Sappho was sold to the Englishman George Marvin.
1887: Sappho was scrapped up in Cowes.