CRUISING BOAT EVOLUTION: The Golden Age of the Cruiser-Racer

From Charles Doane’s blog WAVETRAIN.

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Last we reveled in this topic we examined how early cruising boats sailed by more middle-class yachtsmen in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were often working boats that had been repurposed. This marked the beginning of a trend in which the nexus of mainstream yachting shifted inexorably away from the upper crust of society, which mostly viewed yachting as a social activity, toward less affluent, more Corinthian sailors, who practiced it as a sport. Interestingly, one thing that helped precipitate and accelerate this was a growing interest on the part of small-boat cruising sailors in the sport of ocean racing.

This interest was largely created and then fueled by Tom Day and his evangelist magazine The Rudder. Ocean racing between large “gold-plated” yachts dated back as far as 1866, when a group of flamboyant American tycoons–James Gordon Bennett, Pierre Lorillard, and the brothers George and Franklin Osgood–pitted three vessels against each other in a spontaneous midwinter transatlantic gambit for an enormous wager of $90,000. Subsequent ocean races were occasionally held under similar circumstances, but what Day managed to do was transform ocean racing into an organized sport featuring much smaller boats.

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