America 1851

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America 1851 Half hull. Designed by George Steers. An America's Cup Legend museum quality half hull.

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Hand-crafted plank-on-frame wood hull with black topsides, red cove stripe . Varnished stained wood hull.

Hull size: 60cm.

Board size: 75cm X20cm


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America 1851

America 1851

With over 2000 hulls built, Nathanael Greene Herreshoff’s 1914 design for a “Buzzards Bay Boys Boat” – the Herreshoff 12 ½ – has been in production for 113 years and is likely the most popular small yacht ever. Versions include a fiberglass redesign – the Bullseye, from Cape Cod Shipbuilding; exact fiberglass replicas like William Harding’s Doughdish, and Joel White’s Haven 12 ½ – a centerboard design built to sail shallower water. Uncounted copies from custom wooden boat builders also testify to its appeal.


With a 12 ½ foot waterline, the H 12 ½ is16 feet long. Proposed as a children’s training boat, it handled the choppy seas and brisk breezes of Massachusetts’ Buzzards Bay with an easy motion and a comforting sense of security. The design is informed by Captain Nat’s critical, innovative eye and long experience building trophy winning sailing yachts. By 1914 he was in his mid-sixties and drawing some of his best-loved designs – the Buzzards Bay 25s, Newport 29s and his own Alerion. Instead of rule-stretching high speed sleds his pen now drew human sized, sweet-sailing and uncomplicated boats that spoke of his deep appreciation for the arts of sailing and naval design.


Herreshoff gave the H 12 ½ a short ballast keel for stability and a deep, spacious cockpit to carry multiple kids and/or adults. Sold initially with a gaff and later with a Marconi rig, the sail area is small enough to be handily managed by a boy or girl – steel biceps not required. In experienced hands, however, the rig is big enough to slip along with a bit of a bone in her teeth. Adults have been known to downsize from trophy yacht to H 12 ½ just to relish casual sunset sailing into their golden years. It’s ironic that no one alive sailed on Captain Nat’s masterpiece, Reliance – a brilliantly engineered, extreme racer – but thousands have memories of sailing his “children’s” boat.


Particularly popular in Southern New England, H 12 ½ s are found all along North America’s Atlantic coast. In some families they’re handed down through generations, and rarely is one in need of repair not rescued and relaunched. Surprisingly, they have also traveled quite far afield: they sail in Norway, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia and many countries far from Bristol, RI. The H 12 ½ truly has a hull shape and history for the ages.

Jeff Silva

At the beginning of 1851, Sir Henry Bulwer, British Ambassador to the United States, saw an incredible boat under construction at William Brown's. On his return to England, he mentioned her to his friends, and the Earl of Wilton, Commodore of the Royal Yacht Squadron wrote to his counterpart at NYYC to invite him to Cowes. Comodore Stevens' reply was clear. Of course he accepted the invitation and declared himself ready to measure his boat  America against the best English boats.

On her arrival at Le Havre, America was joined by John Stevens, his brother Edwin and Colonel James Hamilton. On their visit to Paris, they were warned by the United States Ambassador to Paris, William Rives, and the editor of the "New York Tribune" that the risk of a beating by the English was high, and during the Universal Exhibition period, a defeat would be humiliating for The United States.

At her arrival America was met early in the morning by the brand new Squadron fleet cutter, Laverock. Laverock was obviously spoiling for a race with the Americans! They finally gave in and accepted the invitation to race to Cowes, six miles away. Ashore all eyes were fixed on the two yachts. When the schooner anchored off  The Castel, Laverock was still at third of a mile behind. The energetic John C. Stevens had scored a point for prestige, but had lost all chance of winning money by racing America at Cowes.

At the last minute on August 16th, John C. Stevens entered the schooner  America in the  "RYS £ 100 Cup", open to yachts belonging to clubs of all nations, and which would be held on August 22nd. 1851. 

It was 17.50 when America rounded the Needles lighthouse to the acclaim of the spectators. Half an hour later, no one pursuer had yet pointed her stern round the Needles. There was no doubt as to the outcome of the race, and the steamers headed flat out for Cowes to see the finish, to the astonishment of the spectators waiting on the quaysides. They asked, "Is America first" - "Yes" - "Who is second" - " No-one!".

On the same day, the Squadron commodore, the Earl of Wilton, officially handed over the "RYS £100  Cup" to John Cox Stevens, Commodore of the New York Yacht Club and the owner of America.

A legend was born...


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