In 1916 the one-design class of New York Yacht Club forty-footers was build. They were in some ways rather homely craft because the committee who ordered them originally told Captain Nat they wanted sort of sailing houseboats that could be run with a small crew. The New York Club Fifties a few years before had turned out to be too expensive to run for the yachtsman who wanted a yacht on which he could live comfortably; Harry Maxwell had figured out in those days it even cost about three thousand dollars a season per man of crew to run a yacht of that type. In other words, a yacht with a crew of four like the Fifties, seemed to cost twelve thousand dollars a year to race, but as a matter of fact the wages of the crew alone were a small part of this sum. The forties were originally designed, however, to be cruisers with good accommodations, which could be run with a small crew and racing was expected to be a secondary consideration, so the Forties at first had rather small sail area.


After the first year their sail area was increased. They were the hottest racing class of their time, and were called The Fighting Forties and The Roaring Forties. It is said that they never reefed in a race, which I can well believe, having seen them hard pressed many times. So the




Forties were used for hard, hot racing instead of sailing houseboats, and mentioning this as many will not know why a racing class was built so wide, high sided, and tubby. The Forties were well built yachts, nevertheless, and have turned out to be able , useful yachts, perhaps a little lively or corky in a seaway, but several of them are still in use and much liked . Two of them under yawl rigs have won the Bermuda race, and it is believed they were the last one-design class of yachts built that were that large or were built in any considerable number of the same builder. There were about fourteen of them built altogether – twelve the first year, and their dimensions, their names, and famous owners are listed below.


Wilson Marshall


Warren Beatty


Nicolai Visser


These yachts were fifty-nine feet overall, forty feet six inches on the water line, fourteen feet six inches beam, and eight feet draft, and rated forty under the Universal Rule.

From the list of owners you can see that many of the Forties have been owned by very famous yachtsmen, and probably that is the reason they were raced so actively, and, in spite of being sailing houseboats, were considered quite fast. Although Captain Nat made them rather homely and tubby some people have said that no one else could have developed such speed with as wide and roomy a model, and certainly this had not been done since, but Frank Paine’s “Gypsy” could be cited as a modern yacht of much room for her water-line length which has shown high average speed. It is interesting to note that many people criticize the Forties as being too deep for cruising, while some of the racers have felt, they lacked draft enough to prevent them from making leeway in a sea and strong breeze, and imaging all future cruising racers will be criticized for these reasons if they do not have centerboards. Although the Forties raced hard their first year the war in Europe was becoming serious, and the following year, 1917, we entered the war which put a stop to yachting for the next-few years.



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