Category: 1885 : CHALLENGE N°5

Puritan, Priscilla and AtlanticThe trial races

The members of the New York Yacht Club did not give much consideration to the Boston boat when word came that one was being built around the Cape, and she was rather slightingly referred to as the “bean boat” and “brick sloop”, the name of Burgess not being known in New York waters at that time.

Puritan devance Priscilla et BedouinHowever, they welcomed her to the trial races, for which they had sent out a general invitation to sloops of over sixty feet waterline length, of any recognized yacht club.

The first time the two new American boats came together was in the Goelet Cup race off Newport, early in August, and to the surprise and chagrin of the New Yorkers the “bean boat” led the Priscilla home in a fresh breeze by over ten minutes. On the New York Yacht Club cruise that followed, Puritan took two more races from the New York crack, which won only once; and when the actual trial races came off at the end of August the Boston boat, sailing most consistently, won two out of the three from Priscilla and demonstrated beyond a doubt her superiority, especially in windward work.

The first trial race - August 21, 1885

Priscilla by John S. Johnston

New York, Aug. 21. The first trial race of the yachts was sailed today. The start was a grand spectacle. Capt. Crocker brought the Puritan down on the port tack just in time to the cross the line when the whistle was blown. At 11:13 Capt. Gibson did the same and both dashed across at exactly the same time, Bedouin and Gracie following at 11:14 4-10 respectively. The race had begun in earnest from the very start. The Puritan went about almost on the line and crossed the wakes of the other three.

As the breeze freshened all took in their top sails and housed their top masts except the Puritan, who carried hers full half an hour longer than the others. At 11:29 the Puritan went about, crossing the Priscilla's wake two minutes later, and speedily, but surely beating up to windward of the iron sloop and "out footing" her as well. At 11:50 the Priscilla came about right under the Bedouin's lee beam. When the Puritan tacked three minutes later, she had a decided advantage and when the Priscilla took in her topsail at 12:13, she was a fall mile on her weather beam and carrying her topsail. The water grew more "lumpy" as the yachts got out in "the open," but the Puritan made the best weather of it. It was noted that she was quicker in stays than the Priscilla. The outer mark was rounded as follows:
Puritan: 2 hours 28 minutes
Priscilla: 2 hours 40 minutes 37 seconds
Bedouin: 2 hours 52 minutes 15 seconds
Gracie: 3 hours 13 minutes 10 seconds.
The Puritan crew worked with a witl. In ten minutes after the white sloop was before the wind they had their top mast aloft and the immense spinnaker swelling in the breeze to port, and soon after a sprit topsail and a baloon jib. The Priscilla's people were not so prompt. it was full twenty minutes before her spinnaker was thrown out and topsails set. The run to the finish was a truly handsome marine picture. As the snowy pyramids of white duck gleamed in the sunlight and the black and white hulls of the yachts swayed on the white crested southerly swells, they fairly flew along to the northward.

TRIAL 1 - AUGUST 21 - 20 miles to windward and return
1 Puritan 11:13:48 2:28:00 4:12:07 4:58:19 4:57:05
2 Priscilla 11:13:48 2:40:37 4:23:05 5:08:17 5:08:17
3 Bedouin 11:14:40 2:52:15 4:40:09 5:25:29 5:15:51
4 Gracie 11:14:06 3:13:10 4:56:39 5:42:33 5:32:58

The judges' boat steaming twelve knots an hour could not catch the Puritan before she finished, but her time was accurately taken by Mr. J. R. Buck on board. When she passed the lightship the Bedouin's pace had proved too hot for Gracie in the work to the windward so she was "hull down" astern when the Puritan finished.

"We are well satisfied with the Puritan's work to-day," said Mr. Stebbins of the committee. "What we want now is a day when there is a light wind in the windward work and a good strong breeze when they run before it."

The table on the right gives the interesting results of the contest :


Triangle 40 miles
1 Priscilla 6:32:53
2 Puritan 6:37:25
3 Gracie 7:02:59
4 Bedouin 7:16:32

New York, Aug. 23. In the second of the trial races between the sloop yachts Puritan, Priscilla, Bedouin and Gracie, Saturday, the Priscilla won by over six minutes over the Puritan, with the Gracie third and the Bedouin last. The course was a triangular one of forty miles. The Puritan led the Priscilla to the last turn, but on the run home before the wind the Priscilla did some phenomenal sailing and came in a winner, as above. The wind was light, which favored the iron sloop.

Another race will be sailed to-morrow, which as the Puritan and Priscilla have each won one of the trial races will be regarded as the decisive contest to settle the superiority of either boat and practically decide which will be the defender of the American cup against the Genesta.


The Priscilla Makes a Handsome Effort and Is Beaten by Only Forty-One Seconds - The Puritan Probably the Genesta's Rival.

Priscilla, Puritan, and AtlanticNew York, Aug. 24. The Boston sloop yacht Puritan won the third and last of the trial races today that are to decide which is the fastest of the centreboard sloop yachts in America and the one best fitted to do battle with the English cutter Genesta in the early part of September. Of the three trial races the Puritan won the first in a strong breeze; the Priscilla won the second in extremely light weather and the Puritan won the deciding one today in a moderate breeze and smooth water, showing to all fair-minded yachtsmen who have witnessed the contests that she is the best "all around" boat. While it is not actually decided that she is the yacht that will be elected to defend America's cup it is almost certain that she will be chosen at the meeting of the New York Yacht club to be held during this week.

A light air from west southwest was rippling the waters of tlie upper bay when the judge's boat steamed down the bay to Tompkinsville, S.I. To the surprise of many the Genesta lay at anchor off that place. Sir Richard Sutton, her owner, came on deck with Sir William Sevinge, his brother in law, and politely declined an invitation of the committee to accompany the yachts over the course.PURITAN Races Towards The Narrows Off Brooklyn At 10:30 the judge's boat anchored off Owl's head. The yachts were then standing off and on with club topsails, stemming ebb tide and awaiting the signal to start. It was given at 10:50 and the echo of the tug whistle had hardly spent itself among the Staten Island hills when the Puritan came down across the line at 10:50:28 with sheets flat aft on the starboard tack, and two seconds later the Priscilla had crossed fifty yards to leeward. Then came Gracie at 10:50:36 and Bedouin at 10:51:01. Away they sped out through the narrows past Forts Hamilton, Lafayette and Wadsworth, almost in the form of a hollow square, with the Puritan holding the windward position in the van. The Priscilla tacked to westward first at 11:21 and the Puritan four minutes later. When both went about again two minutes later for a long leg to southward, the Priscilla was close upon her weather quarter and both were "feeling" the freshening breeze which came out from the southwest covering of the bay.

The first turning point was rounded as follows : Puritan 12:00:11, Priscilla 12:01:33, Gracie 12:06:55 and Bedouin 12:09:00. Away the two leaders fairly flew dead before the now fresh breeze, sending out their immense spinnakers to the starboard as they headed for the point of Sandy Hook. At buoy 5 the spinnakers came in and they hauled up southwest by west for Sandy Hook light ship, the "outer mark". With her big balloon jib top sail pulling like a horse, the Priscilla tried in vain to close the gap between herself and the Puritan. Meanwhile the Gracie had given the Bedouin a terrible drubbing and was increasing her lead every moment. The lightship was luffed around as follows: Puritan 12:51:50, Priscilla 12:53:01, Gracie 1:00:22, Bedouin 1:05:50.

TRIAL 3 - AUGUST 24 - Regular NYYC Course
1 Puritan 10:50:28 12:51:50 2:43:05 3:52:37 3:51:26
2 Priscilla 10:50:30 12:53:01 2:43:48 3:53:18 3:53:18
3 Gracie 10:50:46 1:00:22 2:58:41 4:07:55 3:58:48
4 Bedouin 10:51:01 1:05:50 3:05:33 4:14:32 4:05:22

They came back for the "hook" with everything drawing well and making a pretty contrast to many coasting schooners and other craft surrounding them bound in or out of the harbor. At 1:51:30 the Puritan tacked to southward and undertook to fetch buoy 10. The Priscilla went about at 1:53:30 and four minutes later both were standing in for the buoy. The breeze had been momentarily freshening and the Gracie was piloting the cutter home to finish, never allowing her to gain on her for a moment. The Puritan rounded the buoy 10 at 1:45:35 and the Priscilla at 1:47:11. It was a grand sight, the run for the finish. At buoy 15, where the judge's boat awaited them, with sheets of about three points and every stitch of canvas drawing the Priscilla gradually drew upon the whlte sloop and had there been another two miles to go she would certainly have passed her for she was only 43 seconds behind her at the finish. Every steamer in the vicinity saluted the yachts at the finish. The appended table gives the results of the contest:

Puritan was chosen by the Cup committee as the defending boat and the announcement was made August 30th, eight days before the first international race was scheduled.

Les préparatifs

Puritan & Priscilla off Sandy HookDuring all this racing the English challenger Genesta, which had arrived in this country on July 16th after a fine passage of twenty-four days across the Atlantic, was being tuned up by her designer, Mr. Beavor Webb, and her skipper Captain Carter. Good care was taken, by avoiding “brushes” with any of our yachts, not to let us get a line on her speed.

Earlier in the season word had been sent to the New York Yacht Club that the Galatea would not be brought over that year, but her challenge would be reserved for 1886. Hence the New York Yacht Club had only the one match on its hands after all, and September 7th was set for the first race.

Genesta came off the drydock September 2nd, with her coppered underbody polished by hand until one could see his face in it and with her sails in the pink of condition as the result of the attention of Lapthorne, the English sailmaker, who was brought over for the purpose. Puritan was hauled and had her underbody potleaded until it was as slippery as an eel, and the last touches of her grooming were finished only the day before the first race.