The experience was an epiphany about just how powerful the person at the helm is. Of course the fact that I managed to jibe with a little too much shift to starboard, surprised me and my parents, who ducked in time to avoid the rapidly swinging boom, which slapped the stays with no small amount of power.
But from that eager moment on I've been hooked. Sailing became an integral part of my life, and I was blessed to be among those who raced in the Olympic trials.
I'm a foredeck man, responsible for getting the jib down fast and the spinnaker out of it's “turtle' in the least amount of time possible. I didn't make the Olympic team, but I certainly had fun trying, and any opportunity to set sail is most welcome.
For sailing enthusiasts like myself, great pleasure can be found in Bristol, Rhode Island at the Herreshoff Marine Museum. Certainly hallowed ground for the sailing elite, it is one of the biggest attractions in Rhode Island. It offers a sizable complement of the famous Herreshoff designs that included the America's Cup racing craft, and even military torpedo boats.
The America's Cup Hall of Fame
The America's Cup Hall of Fame chronicles what took place off of Newport's shores for well over a century: the races held to capture the America's Cup.
The cup's history is forever intertwined with the choppy Atlantic waters where American sailors from different yacht clubs practiced for the quadrennial race, tweaked their keels, fittings and shrouds, then dashed to the starting line for the spirited competition.
Halsey C. Herreshoff, the current president of the museum, wrote, "The America's Cup is the Holy Grail of yacht racing…. This Cup, in competition for a period of 150 years, is the oldest and most distinguished trophy in all sport, outdating the World Cup, Davis Cup, Stanley Cup, Walker Cup, and all others of significance."
It was indeed a quintessentially American event in which foreign boats took part. But it was in this country that the cup remained from 1851 until 1983 when the Australians conceived a top-secret design, beat the daylights out of our best boats, collected the cup, and it hasn't returned to our shores since.
As a museum, the Herreshoff Marine Museum comprises a number of Herreshoff-designed and built boats, historical information about sailing and family exhibits, all of which urge one to hop aboard anything with a sail and set out to sea.
It's also among some of the great New England museums, not only because it offers a stunning collection of boats, boat designs and half-hull models, but rather because it's here that famous sailing ships were made.
Herreshoff is to sailboats what Brooks Brothers is to clothing or Ferrari is to cars. Every sailor worth his or her salt has heard the name, not once, but many times. Indeed, Herreshoff is synonymous with sailing in many circles by virtue of the designs the family has conceived, and most have been stunning.
The Herreshoff Museum section offers excellent specimens of the family's designs and harkens back to the day, not that long ago, when yachts were constructed of wood, not fiberglass, and the craftsmanship was elegant. Among the collections and exhibits are:
Captain Nat Herreshoff's model room, which displays his famous half-hull models and is accessible by appointment only.
The A. Sidney DeWolf Herreshoff Room, which chronicles the family's history as well as the development of the Herreshoff Manufacturing Company. There's also the collection of Herreshoff family portraits.
The Hall of Boats, which features 50 plus classic Herreshoff yachts, ranging in style from the Sprite, a 20-foot catboat, to the 52-foot Belisarius and Captain Nat Herreshoff's last design built in 1938, to the Bat, which was a Herreshoff-designed dinghy.
The Nathanael G. Herreshoff Model Room and Workshop. Here reside faithful reproductions of the captain's model room and workshop from his home, “Love Rocks." Over 500 half-hull models, which were used in the building of all of his yachts, are on display.
Here, visitors learn how the models were created and how they were magically transformed into the Herreshoff yachts of the "Golden Age of Yachting." The equipment and tools he used to create his models are also on display. Because the models are fragile, access to them is by appointment only.
The A. Sidney DeWolf Herreshoff Room. A diorama of the Herreshoff Manufacturing Company is presented here and includes family photos, steam engine and fittings and several small boats.
The Rebecca Chase Herreshoff Library. This is the primary research center and archive for the Herreshoff Manufacturing Company and the family. The Library is home to a unique collection of Herreshoff material that is unequalled in depth and scope.
It includes five-thousand texts, three-thousand images, over fifteen-thousand archival quality materials (rare books, publications, letters and drawings), plus video, film and audiotapes.
The Library includes materials from important yachting and America's Cup collections, including those of the Herreshoff family, Briggs S. Cunningham, Edward I. du Moulin , J. E. Roosevelt, and Charles Moody, among others.
Herreshoff Family Portraits. Oil portraits here portray the family of Charles and Julia Herreshoff. They hung for many years in the music room at Herreshoff House, which was located at 142 Hope Street in Bristol.
The America's Cup Hall of Fame. This is the permanent center designed to recognize those deemed most important to the 150-year pursuit of the most prestigious sailing trophy in the world.
Here you will find, plaques honoring individual stars of America's Cup competition, half-hull models of most challengers and defenders; artifacts including spars, innovative steering wheels, tank test model hulls, brilliant photos capturing the fabulous record of America's Cup matches; a video room with exciting presentations; and special exhibits such as the "Mushrooms" (the support team), the 2003 Cup Races in Auckland, etc.
The museum opens on May 1 and closes on October 31, although there is a Christmas celebration and after that brief period, it closes again on December 31.
If you're a sailor or interested in the sport, this museum is not to be missed on any New England getaway.
TAGS: Herreshoff Boat Design, Herreshoff Family, sailing, saliboat racing, boat design, America's Cup.
Reference Web site: Herreshoff Marine Museum and America's Cup Hall of Fame
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