Saturday, September 14, 2013

Columbia Has a "Walkover" -- September 14, 2013

British yachtsman Sir Thomas Lipton, founder of the tea company, tried to win the America's Cup five times between 1899 and 1930, always with a boat named Shamrock.  He never won, but he was widely respected for his sportsmanship.  This article about his first challenge in 1899 is from the the 18-October-1899 San Francisco Call. William A Coulter did many maritime drawings for the newspaper.  Guglielmo Marconi's use of radio to report the results to the shore is interesting. 


NEW YORK, Oct. 17.— Another victory for Columbia! But public interest will hardly survive another triumph of the sort. It lapsed with the fall of the challenger's topmast, and though a part of the excursion fleet followed the Columbia in her solitary ramble around the triangular course there were few to grow enthusiastic over a victory which accident had rendered certain. . Nor was there any applause for the Columbia when after that mishap to the Shamrock the defender continued upon her course. "Magnificent, but it is not war," was a soldier's comment on Balaklava. Mr. Iselin was plainly within his rights when he rounded out the run and claimed the victory, for Sir Thomas Lipton is signatory to an agreement wherein it is stipulated that in case of accident to either yacht the other shall continue on her course and be credited with a race should she finish. There is a deep-seated instinct which protests against the acceptance of victory through the unsuspected weakness of a piece of rigging worn by a rival craft. The hope was freely expressed that the Columbia would not claim and would not take her rights. But when it was seen that there was no intent of relinquishing the advantage gained there was a fervent hope, and one freely and frequently expressed, that the wind would die out and thus prevent the winning of a race through the mishap to a rival.

To every one who went out the disappointment: was keen. A fairer yachting day could hardly be imagined. Moreover, it was the sort of day that the Shamrock people have been wishing for, a fresh wind blowing true and a lively sea running before it. The race itself over the triangular course was another feature which attracted many. All previous efforts in this series have been fifteen miles to the windward or leeward route, but the course of to-day was to be over the triangular run, and in the fresh winds and tumbling seas the contest promised to be as thrilling as any ever witnessed in these waters.

In pure gayety of spirit the excursionists cheered and shouted and waved handkerchiefs and hats when the two racers, with boom and spar buckling to the strain of swollen canvas, went storming across the starting line. A more animated yachting picture was never witnessed than that presented by these splendid yachts dashing along the course, the foam dancing in brilliant rainbows about their weather bows, while to leeward the water swept in glassy curves from the clear knife-like stems. Under mainsail, club topsails, jib, baby jib and staysails the two clipped it along, both pointing high and footing so fast that some of the excursion boats had difficulty in keeping pace. But all set out in pursuit of the winged racers, and all were rejoicing in the prospect of, a glorious struggle, when hopes were dashed by the accident to the Shamrock. She was then the focus for all eyes, for to the many it seemed that she. was outfooting the cup defender, and it appeared also that she had reached out far, enough to cross the Columbia's bow.  A number were expecting that she would attempt that maneuver and were watching the challenger with intense interest, when a cry of dismay arose. Bending to the weight of the club topsail the Shamrock's topmast suddenly snapped and fell, precipitating the, sail's spar into a mass of wreckage, which, suspended by its wire rigging, swung to and fro with the movement of the yacht.

The disabled cutter was promptly headed into the wind, and efforts were quickly made to secure the splintered mast and bagging topsail before it had done any injury to the mainsail. The Erin, with Sir Thomas Lipton on board, promptly stood toward her crippled consort, at the same time making signals to the Shamrock's tender, the tugboat Lawrence. That vessel headed for the crippled yacht, and as soon as the wreckage had been secured a tow line was made fast and the two were headed back to port. The Erin followed and as the procession moved silently by the excursion fleet opened up its whistles and all the passengers cheered the unfortunate vessel and her plucky owner. The Erin ranged near to the Shamrock, and Sir Thomas Lipton spoke encouragingly to Captain Hogarth, who seemed to feel the accident very keenly.

To newspaper men Captain Hogarth would not attempt any explanation. All that he cared to say was that he was glad the broken mast had not come down on deck and that he was pleased no one was injured.

Apparently afraid that she would meet with a similar mishap, the skipper of the Columbia immediately after the breaking of the Shamrock's topmast ordered her baby jib taken in.

The Columbia, however, made a fine race of it, plucklly holding on to her club topsail throughout and setting her balloon jib in the final reach for home. Her time was little short of marvelous. She covered the course in 3 hours 37 minutes, the beat ten miles to windward in 1 hour 39 minutes 11 seconds, the reach to the second mark In 53 minutes 59 seconds, and the last leg In I hour 3 minutes 50 seconds.  As she crossed the finish line she let go her head sails and one of the Deer Isle sailors treated the spectators to an exhibition of daring as he climbed out over the peak halliards eighty feet in the air to loose the club topsail.

Mr. Iselin, when seen after the Columbia had run her race and reached her moorings, said that he much regretted the accident. Sir Thomas Upton declared emphatically that the Columbia was entitled to the race, and that Mr. Iselin had a perfect right to claim it. The two defeats have not discouraged him, however. He has another chance and he hopes to make that one count. The Shamrock . was towed to Erie Basin, where necessary repairs will be made.  After the new topmast has been put in place the vessel will be remeasured and will be ready for the contest Thursday.  That is to be the old fifteen miles to windward or leeward and back, and if the Columbia wins the series will have been completed without giving the Shamrock an opportunity to test her merits in her favorite point of sailing over a triangular course.


NEW YORK, Oct. 17.— News of the Shamrock's misfortune in losing her topmast was flashed ashore by Signor Marconi within a few seconds of the accident. While observers on shore endeavored in vain to peer through the haze, and even those on the Mackay-Bennett cable steamer, anchored four miles away, were in doubt as to what had happened, watchers on the Grande Duchesse saw the challenger's spar topple and fall. Before any attempt could be made to clear away the wreckage a bulletin had been sent by wireless telegraphy to the Herald and The Call.

As in Monday's race, and on days when attempts to race had been made, Signor Marconi led with the news. Every feature was reported from the time when the competing yachts began maneuvering for position at the start to the solitary finish of the Columbia. There were many Wall street operators on board, who improved the opportunity to see a yacht race and at the same time keep in touch with ths stock market.

On the way down the bay Signor Marconi tested his apparatus and made the necessary adjustments. When the two yachts approached the starting line their jockeying for positions, the sails they carried and the direction and force of the wind were reported. As the contestants crossed the line nearly abeam the time of the start was flashed ashore. When the torpedo-boat Dupont fired a gun to compel the yacht Vamoose to obey an order to go outside the guard line Signor Marconi alone telegraphed the news ashore. The fact that a boat was lowered and that the Vamoose was taken in charge was also reported. This was one of the many incidents in a day's working of wireless telegraphy.

According to watches held on the Grande Duchesse the accident to the Shamrock happened at 11:20. A minute 40 seconds later a bulletin was posted in front of the Herald and The Call oflices. While the disabled topmast dangled in the air threatening to punch in the Shamrock's mainsail, excursionists crowded about the entrances to the room from which Signor Marconi was sending his reports. Every one was anxious that the outside world should receive the earliest and most complete story of the accident, and knew that it must be sent from the Grande Duchesse. Among other news bulletins received from the shore on the Grande Duchesse was one announcing the report of an alleged battle at Mafeking, with the loss of three hundred lives to the Boers and eighteen to the British.

Returning from Hampton Roads, the cruiser New York and the battleships Massachusetts and Indiana reached this port to-day. The Indiana anchored off Tompkinsville. The New York and Massachusetts cast anchor off Thirty-fifth street, in North River. It has been reported from official sources that the New York and Massachusetts, as soon as Signor Marconi has finished reporting the yacht races for the Herald and The Call, will be equipped by him with wireless telegraphy. An exhaustive test of the system will then be made by the Government by experiments off Sandy Hook.

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