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“Onboard Puritan, 1885”

By Russ Kramer
Oil on Canvas, 30″ x 40″

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Captain Aubrey Crocker helms PURITAN in the decisive second race against challenger GENESTA in the defense of the America’s Cup, September 16, 1885. Also shown on board is General Charles Paine (in straw hat), chief strategist of the New York Yacht Club’s syndicate. Designed by Edward Burgess and built in Boston, PURITAN was a radical design, but proved to be the fastest American yacht ever built.

Harper’s Weekly began covering the 1885 America’s Cup competition in July with an illustrated article describing the construction of the Puritan, and its impressive debut at the Eastern Yacht Club Regatta in Boston. The victorious yacht, owned by several men from the Eastern Yacht Club, was designated “a possible competitor of the British cutter Genesta for the America’s Cup.” In early August, the Puritan skillfully won in rough seas at Newport (note the center picture in the cartoon) before entering a trial competition against three other yachts on August 21, 22, and 24 to determine the American challenger to the Genesta. The Puritan triumphed in the first and third races, while an error in judgment allowed the Priscilla to capture the second race. The Puritan was chosen to represent the United States at the America’s Cup contest.

In its September 12 issue, Harper’s Weekly placed great weight on the upcoming America’s Cup challenge: “There has been nothing in the history of yachting in this country more important than the present race between the Boston sloop Puritan and the British cutter Genesta …” The issue provided details on the dimensions and movements of the British yacht. Two weeks later, the newspaper declared, “The Puritan Wins,” and editor George William Curtis characterized the America’s Cup as a friendly, honest “contest of gentlemen.” He identified the Norse Viking heritage of the two nations of Puritan peoples (i.e., Protestants)—the United States and Great Britain—as the force compelling them to race on the seas.

This painting was shown at the Modern Marine Masters exhibition at Mystic Seaport, April 2008, and was sold into private collection.

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