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GLORIANA Sloop

The boat that revolutionized the sailboat racing sport
 

By the 1880s, yacht racing was a huge sport, and the rules had evolved to actually measure the speed-giving attributes of sail area and waterline length, as they understood them at the time.  The Seawanhaka Corinthian Yacht Club adopted the following rule in 1882, and it was soon adopted by most American yacht clubs. 

The formula is the square root of the sail added to the waterline length, divided by two, equals the racing length.  More than any other, the man who showed how this logical rule could be exploited was our hero: Nathanael G. Herreshoff. 

The Herreshoff Manufacturing Company is now synonymous with revolutionary sailboats, but that reputation was born with hull #411 in 1891 – the great Gloriana.  The hull number would suggest that HMCo had built 411 sailboats, but actually, when the first sailing vessel was entered into the Construction Record in 1883, they had already built 100 steam-powered boats; so they made the decision to start the sailing boats with #400.  So, in 1891, Gloriana was only the eleventh – and by far the largest – sailboat built since the company began in 1878 (and four of those eleven were built for the Herreshoff family).

Gloriana was ordered by E.D. Morgan, designed by N.G.H., and built by the HMCo. to compete in a 46-foot (waterline) class against eight other new boats by leading designers.  In Gloriana, the waterline length was only 45′ 3” with an overall length of over 70′.  Not only did she have long overhangs, though, for maximum length on a given resting waterline, she had very full, spoon-like ends.  As important or more so than her shape, she was built very light with wooden deck and planking over steel beams and frames (what Herreshoff called “composite construction”), allowing a higher percentage of her 39 tons of displacement to be in her deep lead bulb keel. 

Gloriana's design was profoundly effective: in her first season, she won every race – immediately giving Nat Herreshoff and the HMCo the reputation of being the most modern American sailing yacht designer and builder, and showing all other designers and builders the direction they must go to win against the waterline/sail area rule. It should be noted, however, that while Gloriana led the way from wholesome cruising/racing yachts towards the dangerous, uncomfortable, structurally deficient all-out racing machines that would follow in the decade after her launch – she was pretty, seaworthy, long-lived, and had comfortable cruising accommodations.

This began an arms race, creating boats with ever longer overhangs, ever more sled-like hulls, ever smaller and deeper fins with bulbs of lead for ballast – not every designer nor ever manufacturer could equal the engineering of Herreshoff to build boats as light as they can be, but as strong as they must be.  By 1900, many of the boats that were most competitive under the Seawanhaka waterline length and sail are rule were exaggerated scows, with no accommodations, that couldn’t sail in many conditions or make ocean passages, and were prone – through structural deficiencies – to catastrophic failure.  In 1902, the New York Yacht Club decided enough was enough – they put out a call for a new rating rule to leading experts around the world. The rule they chose to adopt, and which then was so widely adopted that it became known as the Universal Rule, was written by – you guessed it – Nathanael G. Herreshoff.

      
   

        


This GLORIANA Sloop is commissioned by a private collector.  It features:

50" long (127 cm).  Expected completion date is in May.