Category: 1885 : CHALLENGE N°5

A painting of the Puritan, which hangs in the dining room on the Eastern Yacht ClubTHE YANKEE OUTFOOTS THE GENESTA AND BEATS HER AT EVERY POINT

Copyright © The New York Times : Published: September 15, 1885
Capt. Jake Schmidt's sloop yacht Alice, resplendent with bunting, was anchored off 0wl’s Head as the stakeboat, and the Luckenbach, having sounded the call to the line at 10:10 o'clock, was dropped anchor about 300 yards due west of her.

An interval of 15 minutes followed before the giving of the preparatory signal, and the yachts employed this in manoeuvring for position. Both boats were at a considerable distance to the northwest of the Luckenbach, the Puritan the further away and further westward toward Robin‘s Reef Light-house. As the wind was southeast, the Puritan's position was well taken to enable her to run down with a comparatively free sheet and take the windward position. There she stood with her nose pointed in the wind so well that her head sails were perfectly flat. The Englishman ran above her, went about under her stern, and gradually worked up on her lee quarter. Still the Yankee sloop stood motionless.

The wind had been fresh all the morning, but, as if it were determined to be exasperating, it began to fall very soon after the call was sounded. The tide was on the last quarter of the flood. The preparatory signal was given at 10:25, yet the boats still remained motionless. The Genesta's head sails were trimmed to the windward, but the Puritan was simply holding her nose in the wind as if to snuff it. Two minutes of the five minutes between the preparatory and the starting signals glided by and still the boats did not move. Neither was going to be caught in the predicament of getting to the line before the time to cross. The end of the Genesta‘s bowsprit lapped the foot of the Puritan's staysail, the latter being on her starboard side and to the windward. The Englishman would probably not have chosen this position, but he found himself in it and had no time to get a better one. The Puritan, in fact, had taken the initiative and gotten so far to windward that the Genesta could not go any further without running the risk of being handicapped. It was a well-conceived and farsighted move of the. Yankee skipper. At 10:23:30 both yachts trimmed down their head sails and slowly started ahead. They move as one boat. Their pace increased, and yet their relative positions did not vary an inch. Then the Puritan slowly drew ahead, and as she uncovered the Genesta the latter picked up again, but, as her head sails became covered up once more, the two boats again moved as one. In this way they came down to the line.
When the starting signal was given at 10:30 the yachts were still some distance from the line. As they neared it the Genesta set a small jib topsail, but the Puritan did not follow her example. 1t was dead to windward through the Narrows and Skipper Crocker, relying on the weatherly qualities of the Puritan, prepared to beat without a jib topsail. Both boats were on the very verse of the line when a blast from the Luckenhach’s whistle admonished them that the two minutes allowed for the start had expired, and that they were both handicapped. The Puritan led across the line and was handicapped two seconds, her time of crossing being 10:32:02. The Genesta crossed at 10:32:06 and was handicapped six seconds. The time of both yachts was officially recorded as 10:32.

The effect of the Genesta's jib topsail was soon apparent, and she began at once to go through the water faster, and the inexperienced supposed she was walking right ahead of the Puritan. But they had a surprise in store. Both boats had crossed the line on the starboard tack, consequently carrying their booms on the port side and heading for Bay Ridge. At 10:37 they went about simultaneously, and then it was plain that in that brief space of five minutes the Puritan had gained something more than a hundred yards to windward. Previous trials had shown that the Genesta could not go to the windward as fast as the Puritan under like sails, but in this case the forrner’s jib topsail was simply sending her to leeward like a crab. It took the English skipper about 10 minutes to discover this fact, and then he took in his jib topsail.
Just prior to that discovery of the Englishman, which was at 10:40, the wind hauled somewhat to the west, and headed both boats off noticeably. They were still standing on the port tack for Stapleton. At 10:46 the Genesta went about on the starboard tack between Stapleton and Clifton, and the Puritan went about on the same tack 10 seconds later, between Clifton and Quarantine. She had considerably increased her lead, but now the Staten Island hills cut off nearly all of the little wind there was from the two yachts, and they made slow headway against the adverse tide. The Puritan was the first to enter the doldrums, and for a time the Genesta closed up materially the gap between them.
But she also lost the wind in a few minutes and then they moved evenly, the Puritan still with a lead of fully a quarter of a mile. At 10:52 the Genesta again set a jib topsail, but a larger one than that she ran up at the start. The wind had then hauled so far toward the southwest that it seemed as if the yachts would be able to lay their course down the Lower Bay for Buoy No.10 on the southwest spit, so four minutes after the Genesta’s jib topsail was set a similar one went up on the Puritan.


At 11:03 the Puritan, having worked down abreast of Fort Wadsworth, was setting a better wind than the Genesta and running away from her very rapidly. Seven minutes later she was well in the Lower Bay with the wind slightly forward of midships on the starboard side, her boom to port, and going through the water as if propelled by a steam engine, and leaving a broad belt of foam in her wake. She seemed, too, to be laying her course for the Southwest Spit. The Genesta was three to four minutes behind in entering the Lower Bay, but she had encountered two annoying drawbacks off Fort Wadsworth. First, the only and unexcelled stern-wheel steamer Wilbur A. Heisley, which plays the Shrewsbury River, coming up the bay, passed her to the windward, and then a huge three-masted coasting schooner did the same thing, completely blanketing her for a few seconds.
At 11:17 the Puritan was off the upper end of Hoffman’s Island, while the Genesta was off Buoy No.15, over a mile behind. About this time the steamboat men began to manifest a disgraceful want of consideration for the racing yachts, which they displayed on every possible occasion thereafter, despite the admonitory toots of the judges’ boat and the strenuous efforts of the police boat Patrol to keep them from interfering. It was remarked near the close of the race that the steam yachts of gentlemen supposed to be yachtsmen were quite as careless of bothering the racers as ordinary steamboat men. The unworthy example was set in the first instance by the steamboat H. T. Baya, which ran at full speed through the Genesta’s lee, close enough to interfere with her wind, besides troubling her with wash. She paid no heed whatever to the vigorous tootings of the Luckenbach's whistle.
So far the yachts, notwithstanding the loss of wind under the Staten Island shore, had made pretty fair time. The Puritan had sailed more than six miles in considerably less than an hour. But as they ran down the Lower Bay they gradually lost the wind, and it could be seen by the appearance of sailing craft below that they were running into a calm. The Puritan was the first to enter this calm zone. She did so at 11:20, and showed it at once by standing up straight, whereas a minute before she was heeling over with a stream of foam fluttering from her lee rail. This, of course, gave another favorable turn to the Genesta, which again proceeded to diminish the Puritan's lead. However she did not pick up very much on this occasion, for she soon entered the calm herself, and was thereby put on even terms. The Puritan at 11:27 was off the north end of Dix’s lsland, while the Genesta was off Hoffman‘s Island, possibly a mile and a half astern. The wind at that time was -about southwest, very light, and both boats had it about alike. At 11:35, however, the Puritan was altogether becalmed. She jibed her boom from port to starboard, and then again from starboard to port, while her head sails hung perfectly limp. She was then a mile below Dix’s Island, and the Genesta was off the upper end of that landmark creeping along with a light draft of air. Five minutes after the Puritan was becalmed, however, the wind also deserted the Genesta and left her limp and motionless fully a mile and a half behind.


When the Puritan had lain 11 minutes becalmed she caught a slant of air from the south-west and started slowly ahead again. That occurred at 11:46, and two minutes later the Genesta got a share of it. The breeze gradually freshened for the Puritan, and she correspondingly increased her pace, but it steadily worker to the south and thus headed her off her course. At 12:08:45 she went about on the port tack, a short distance above Buoy No. 14 and stood westward toward Buoy No. 9, one of the black buoys on the west bank. The wind continued to freshen and the Genesta was likewise getting the benefit of it. Still, it was neither strong nor a steady wind, and as it inspired little confidence of its intention to stay fears were freely expressed that this day‘s attempt, like those which had preceded it, would prove abortive.
Still, there were some old salts who knowingly eyed the sky and serenely argued from the mares’ tails, &c., that there would be a good sailing breeze before evening.
The Genesta followed the Puritan’s example in going on the port tack at 12:17, but she was at that time considerably higher up the Bay than the Puritan was when she went on the same tack over eight minutes before. The Puritan was, in fact, already across her bows when she went on the starboard tack 30 seconds afterward. The actual distance between the two boats at that time was over two miles. Both had then a fair breeze and were slipping nicely through the water.

The Puritan now made a succession of short tacks and worked along the West Bank for the Southwest Spit, while the wind kept hauling to the east and heading her off. The Genesta pursued different tactics by which she made a remarkable gain, and really saved herself a very bad beating. She held the port tack mentioned above until 12:32, when she went about above Buoy No. 9, and stood eastward toward the beacon on Romer Shoals. She had breeze enough to give her a decided heel. At 12:48:30 she went about again, and stood on the port tack westward into Raritan Bay. Holding this tack far into the Bay she got a stronger as well as more favorable slant of wind than the Puritan, which enabled her to diminish the distance between them at least one-half before the latter rounded the buoy on the Southwest Spit. For some time at this stage of the race the Genesta held a wind fully two points more favorable than that held by the Puritan. Still the Yankee sloop was close to the turning point, and, even after losing half her lead, had along strip of water between her and her adversary.
The Genesta at 1:05 went about on the starboard tack away to the westward in Raritan Bay and stood for Buoy No. 10 on the Southwest Spit. At first it seemed as if she could not fetch, but she had the benefit of the strong ebb tide setting down toward the Hook, and suddenly she got a westward slant of wind, which enabled her to fetch the buoy with ease. Meanwhile the Puritan had gone also about on the starboard tack, and laid her course for the buoy. For five minutes after she went about she had much lighter wind than the Genesta, but at 1:14, she caught a good puff and came down for the buoy with the water boiling about her. The racers rounded the buoy as follows, amid a diabolical screeching of steam whistles: Puritan, 1:16:22: Genesta, 1:19:25.


The Puritan was just about to round Buoy No.8½ as the Genesta rounded Buoy No. 10. The distance between the two buoys is about a mile. The Puritan rounded Buoy No. 8½ at 1:18:33 and the Genesta at 1:23:12. The two boats were now once more on even terms, and in that short run the Puritan gained 36 seconds. From Buoy No.8½ the course lies something more than a mile to Buoy No. 5 off the point of the Hook, the general direction being north-east. As the yachts rounded the former buoy they eased sheets and ran very nearly free.
02127S.jpgThe Puritan had made no change in her sails, but the Genesta, as she rounded Buoy No 10, had taken in her working staysails and set a balloon in its place. Nevertheless the Puritan made the gain just noted between the two buoys, and by their times of rounding Buoy No. 5 it was shown that she had made a further gain of 51 seconds. They rounded Buoy No.5 thus: Puritan, 1:31:30; Genesta. 1:36.

“Never mind," said the cutter sympathizers, “wait until they get outside in the seas and the strong wind and see how the Genesta will overhaul her.”

The Puritan was just at that moment beginning to nod a good afternoon to the "billows Atlantic." Still they did not seem to trouble her a bit, for having caught the fresh breeze of the ocean, whenever she met a wave of unusual size she seemed to leap clear over it upon the crest of its neighbor beyond. And now was seen as spirited a bit of sailing as was ever looked on. The wind was a fine wholesail breeze from south by east. There was a moderate sea on and the surface of the ocean was bristling with white caps. It was a picture of white and blue, and the indications just then were that Boston would furnish the red before night. 04888S.jpgThe yachts were carrying their booms on the port side, laying their course for the Sandy Hook Lightship, and running like race horses. They were heading into the seas, and foam and spray were flying all about them. The Luckenbach was between the two yachts straining every iron muscle to catch the Puritan, but overhauling her very slowly and plunging into the seas with a vigor that sent sheets of spray over her pilot house. No opportunity was afforded to the committee to see how the Puritan’s cut-water parted the waves, but the Genesta was coming along behind with her lee rail under water and a bed of foam at her stern that would have done credit to a steamship. The cutter men declared that she was picking up the sloop hand over fist, while the sloop men vehemently maintained that the cutter men were "another." But a little thing happened that showed plainly enough the English skipper was not satisfied with the way things were going. He took in his balloon staysail and set his working staysail. The cutter was burying too much by the head, and it was soon evident that she did much better with the smaller sail. At 1:54, the Puritan was abreast of the Scotland Lightship, and few of the tugs in the fleet could keep pace with her. The Genesta also was sailing as she had never before been seen to sail in these waters, but, for all that, she was not gaining on the Yankee sloop. They rounded the lightship as follows: Puritan, 2:14:54; Genesta. 2:19:16.
The Puritan had run out from Buoy No. 10 to the lightship, ten miles, in 5S minutes 32 seconds, while the Genesta had taken 59 minutes 51 seconds, the Boston sloop gaining l minute 19 seconds. The cutter men analyzed the figures and relapsed into silence, and any suggestion about breeze and seas was quickly resented. The reach back to the Hook was with freer sheets, but against the tide, so the yachts did not make as quick time as on the reach out. However, they made excellent time until they not inside the Hook, where they found the wind very light. Neither of them made any changes in their sails on the reach back. The Puritan passed Buoy No. 5 on the return at 3:04:35 and the Genesta followed at 3:09:13. The Puritan, therefore, had gained 16 seconds. The yachts had to make a tack to fetch Buoy No. 8½, and this little bit of windward work, though accomplished very slowly in a very light wind, netted the Puritan an additional gain of three minutes. The Puritan rounded buoy No. 8½ at 3:33:35 and the Genesta at 3:42:30. The Puritan before rounding buoy No. 10 sent up a balloon jib topsail in stops and broke it out just as she was paying off. She rounded the buoy at 3:38:05 and the Genesta followed at 3:46:05
The Genesta had set her balloon staysail after coming inside the Hook, and she now lowered her spinnaker pole and set her spinnaker, but the wind was not quite far enough aft to make it draw well. The skipper of the Puritan saw this, for although he lowered his pole, he did not set his spinnaker. The run up to Buoy No. 15, where the race finished, was made with a light wind and against a strong ebb tide, and was necessarily slow. The Puritan gained 8 minutes 47 seconds on the run up, and finished at 1:38:05, 16 minutes and 47 seconds ahead of the Genesta, which finished at 4:54:52. The Puritan had to allow the Genesta 28 seconds, and, therefore, beat her 16 minutes and 19 seconds on corrected time.

Following is the official record of the race:
Start. Finish. Actual
H. M. S. H. M. S. H. M. S. H. M. S.
Puritan 10 32 00 4 38 05 6 06 05 6 06 05
Genesta 10 32 00 4 54 52 6 22 52 6 22 24