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THE yacht of to-day is practically the outcome of a development which has been proceeding during the last hundred years. The origin of the word "yacht," as might be readily supposed, is Dutch, and was introduced into the English language early in the seventeenth century.
In Falconer's Dictionary of 1770 the word was defined as meaning — "A vessel of state usually employed to convey Princes, ambassadors, or other great personages from one kingdom to another." Through a very slight process of evolution the yacht has become the pleasure vessel of the wealthier classes of to-day, and a voyage on such a craft may be said to still carry with it some measure of the honour and distinction which it possessed in former days.
Practically, then, all yachts are pleasure-boats, whether propelled by sail or steam, or by a combination of both; and the present luxurious aspect of this kind of vessel is but a natural development of the times.
The building and sailing of yachts that were designed for pleasure alone naturally excited a spirit of rivalry when the boats passed each other upon the seas. Charles II., it is known, was himself especially fond of yachting, and it is recorded that he built several yachts for the purpose of trying their speed against those of the Duke of York, who in these competitions often sailed his vessels himself.
With so extensive a sea-coast, and such favourable conditions, small wonder it is that the art of yacht-building, no less than the art of sailing and handling them, has reached so great a perfection in the British Isles.
The Cork Harbour Water Club (now the Royal Cork Yacht Club), across the Irish Sea, was the first recognised association formed for the promotion of yachting. But the beginning of the nineteenth century saw a large fleet of yachts throughout Great Britain come into being. Some of these boats, owned and sailed in the south of England, met habitually in the waters off Cowes, in the Isle of Wight; and in 1812 a club was formed at East Cowes which was formally organized a year or two later in London. The Prince Regent and the Duke of Clarence favoured the club by becoming members, and soon after the latter came to the throne as William IV. the club's name was caused to be altered to "The Royal Yacht Squadron."
Such were the first beginnings of yachting in Great Britain, and from this time forward it grew in favour, not only on account of its healthful and exhilarating nature, but by reason of the large number of people who could at one and the same time participate therein. The original members of the Royal Yacht Squadron were all yacht owners, the qualification for membership being the owning of a pleasure vessel of not less than ten tons burthen. The majority of yachts of that time were, however, of large size and roomy, being cutters of from fifty to one hundred and fifty or more tons, and with a length approximate to 80 feet and a breadth of 30 feet.
Apart from the questions of pleasure and hospitality, racing conditions were developed by some of the boats of that day, which were constructed of lighter build and fittings than these craft intended solely for cruising, and the design of these boats began to take shape thus early as being the most suitable for attaining a high speed under favourable conditions. Improvements and innovations were the order of the day, various expedients were tried in order to obtain a maximum of lightness, speed and stability, and the methods of ballasting, sparring, and rigging were continually improved, so that it is now very doubtful whether any of the "crack" yachts of the past — say even as little as twenty-five years ago — could possibly compete, on at all equal conditions, against any of the advanced types of the same dimensions at the present day.
The United States is the only other country which has developed yachting to anything like the same pitch at which it has arrived in Great Britain. With a seacoast that affords a well-nigh inexhaustible extent of cruising ground, and an enthusiasm and ingenuity capable of obtaining the highest measure of success in competitive work, the Americans early entered into the full appreciation of the possibilities of the sport. The first public recognition given to the pastime in the United States was in 1844, when the New York Yacht Club was founded.
Early American yachts were of the shallow centreboard type, though they had a tendency, from the first, to develop the schooner on lines resembling those of the since famous America.
At the present day the predominant type of racing-craft in America, as in England, is a big "single-sticker" of the cutter, or fin-keel, type.
Steam-yachting, essentially a sport of the very wealthy, only reached a stage of assured development in the early seventies. In Great Britain, in 1877, there were 280 registered steam-yachts, which had increased by fifty per cent. and aggregated 50,000 tons by 1883, since which time the tonnage has practically doubled, until now the number of pleasure craft in Great Britain depending either upon steam alone, or upon steam and sail, is close upon nine hundred.
The sailing yachts owned in Great Britain, though something over 3,000 in point of numbers, aggregate less than 60,000 tons, i.e. only about 60 per cent. of the total tonnage of steam yachts. Altogether the pleasure craft of both these types number about 4,000 and their total tonnage amounts to 153,420, representing a capital investment of perhaps £7,000,000, which calls for the further outlay of another million per annum to keep them in commission, and which gives employment to as many as 15,000 men.
(b) A LIST OF THE MORE IMPORTANT STEAM AND SAILING YACHTS OWNED IN GREAT BRITAIN,
THE UNITED STATES, AND THE CONTINENT.
STANDART, St. Petersburg; the Emperor of Russia. (Copenhagen, 1895.) Tw. sc., 3 masts, 4,334 r.t., 370 by 50.5 by 36.
HOHENZOLLERN, Kiel; the German Emperor. (Stettin, 1893.) Tw. sc., 3,773 r.t., 382.6 by 45.9 by 32.1.
MAHROUSSA, Alexandria; the Khedive of Egypt. (London, 1865.) Paddle-schooner, 4,200 r.t., 400 by 42 by 26.5.
POLIARNAIA ZVEZDA, St. Petersburg; the Czar of Russia. (St. Petersburg, 1888.) Tw. sc., 3 masts, 3,270 r.t., 336.5 by 46 by 19.7.
VICTORIA AND ALBERT. (Pembroke, 1899.) Tw. SC., 3 masts, 4,700 r.t., 439 by 50 by 18; Belleville boilers, 11,000 h.p.; 17 knots.
VALIANT, New York; W. K. Vanderbilt. (Birkenhead, 1893.) Tw. sc., 1,886 r.t., 307.7 by 39.1 by 13.8.
LYSISTRATA, New York; James Gordon Bennett. (Dumbarton, 1900.) Tw. sc., 2,082 r.t., 285 by 39,9 by 21.5.
SUNBEAM, London; Rt. Hon. Lord Brassey, K,C.B. (Seacomb, 1874.) Aux. sc., 3 masts, 334 r.t., 159 by 27,6 by 13.9.
NIAGARA, New York; Howard Gould. (Wilmington, U.S., 1898.) Tw. sc. bark; 1,443 r.t., 245 by 3.7 by 19.4.
MAYFLOWER, New York. (Glasgow, 1896.) Tw. sc. schooner, 1,778 r.t., 294.1 by 36.7 by 17.4.
MARGARITA, Philadelphia; A. J. Drexel. (Greenock, 1900.) Tw. sc. schooner, 1,780 r.t., 288.1 by 36.65 by 17.5.
VARUNA, New York; Eugen Higgins. (Glasgow, 1896.)Tw. sc., 2 masts, 1573 r.t., 273.2 by 35.15 by 17.3.
VALHALLA, Havre; Comte de Castellane. (Leith, 1892.) Aux. sc., 3 masts full rigged, 1,207 r.t., 239.6 by 37.2 by 20.7.
ERIN, London; Sir Thos. J. Lipton. (Greenock, 1896.) Sc. schooner, 1,057 r.t., 264.7 by 31.65 by 18.5.
NOURMAHAL, New York; J. J. Astor. (Wilmington, U.S.A., 1884.) Sc. bark, 768 r.t., 235 by 29.3 by 18.5.
NAMOUNA, New York; James Gordon Bennett. (Newburgh, U.S., 1882.) Sc. schooner, 617 r.t., 219.4 by 26.4 by 18.
WHITE LADYE, Cowes; C. Lawson Johnston. (Leith, I891.) Sc. schooner, 568 r.t., 204 by 27.15 by 16.45.
Including the second attempt of Sir Thomas Lipton, in 1901, when Shamrock II. was beaten by the Columbia, there have been eleven contests in which the American yachts have been uniformly victorious.
The famous Cup Was won by the America at Cowes in 1851, and Was contested in the following events which have been sailed since that time: —
1870. Magic beat Cambria.
1871. Columbia beat Sironia.
1876. Madeline beat Countess of Dufferin.
1881. Mischief beat Atlanta.
1885. Puritan beat Genesta.
1886. Mayflower beat Galatea.
1887. Volunteer beat Thistle.
1893. Vigilant beat Valkyrie II.
1895. Defender beat Valkyrie III.
1899. Columbia beat Shamrock I.
1901. Columbia beat Shamrock II.
1903. Challenge by Shamrock III.
*By kind permission, from Lloyd's Calendar.
ROYAL DEE — Holyhead.
ROYAL LONDON — River Thames.
NEW THAMES — Southend to Harwich.
ROYAL HARWICH — Harwich.
NEW THAMES — River Thames.
ROYAL THAMES — River Thames.
ROYAL THAMES — Nore to Dover.
ROYAL CINQUE PORTS — Dover.
ROYAL YACHT SQUADRON — Cowes, I.W.
ROYAL VICTORIA — Ryde, I.W.