Kathleen Cup - Race History

On August 25, the Club will celebrate the 125th anniversary of its first sailing regatta, which was held August 26, 1893.  Why was SYC nearly three years old when it held its first regatta?  And why did only three boats compete?
Our written records shed very little light on this first of many SYC sailing contests, but peripheral sources provide likely answers to these questions, and they involve the economy and the weather.

The economy was a rollercoaster in those years.  Older yacht clubs were financially challenged in the late 1880s, and this club, established at what appeared to be the beginning of a rebound in 1890, was so challenged over the next two years that it formed a committee to explore becoming a non-yacht club (“The Shippan Club”) and, separately, considered merging with an older social club (“The Stamford Club”).  The Panic of 1893, caused by railroad overbuilding and shaky financing, was not a time for buying boats or joining yacht clubs. 

The Club really came into being in 1891, with the acquisition and development of its land.  When the economy soured, members who had advanced personal funds for the land and improvements began to worry about being repaid.  The board was preoccupied with such basic issues as whether to hire staff, have the clubhouse electrified, obtain a water supply, and invest in a sewer system.  Even transportation was a problem, because Shippan Avenue was a rough ride in horse-drawn carriages.  (Extension of the horse-drawn trolley was still in planning.)

At a board meeting on August 22, 1891, the directors unanimously rejected a request by the Regatta Chairman to host a regatta at the end of that summer, and things stayed that way until July 17, 1893, when the board authorized “an appropriation not exceeding $200” for the hosting of the club’s first regatta.

On August 24, 1893, The New York Times reiterated the Notice of Race for a regatta to be held on August 26.  Members of the following clubs were invited: New York, American of Rye, Seawanhaka-Corinthian, Larchmont, Athletic, New Rochelle, Indian Harbor, Riverside, New Haven, New York Yacht Racing Association, Field and Marine, Douglaston, Hempstead Harbor, Cedar Point, and Horseshoe Harbor.  SYC was offering a $200 silver cup and the 25-mile course was to begin south of the Cows buoy, proceed around the Watercock Point buoy, then around the Eaton’s Neck Point buoy, and back to the Cows buoy.  SYC members were invited to view the race aboard the steamer Aurora, which would leave the Canal Dock at 9:30 AM.

Only four boats entered: Daffodil (SYC), Alcedo (Riverside), Eurybia (Horseshoe Harbor) and Kathleen (SYC).  Records indicate that only three raced.  They stayed close together over the entire course, with Kathleen in the lead.  She worked her way over the finish line just as the wind died, and the other two drifted short of the line for over an hour before finishing.  (Today, and probably then, the drifting skippers mutter, “The rich get richer!”)  Although Kathleen was owned by F.M. Hoyt, she was sailed that day by her original owner, William Whitlock, and his old crew of 1889. 

Early on the day that the NY Times was announcing SYC’s regatta, the “1893 New York Hurricane” made an unexpected landfall in western Long Island and New York City.  (Another devastating hurricane landed in Sea Island, Georgia at the same time.)  The NY Times of August 25 described the impact as “a mighty war of winds and tumbling of chimneys.”  It was so strong that it killed at least 34 sailors, destroyed an elevated subway and virtually washed away Hog Island on the south shore of Long Island. So, it is little wonder that the newspapers devoted no space to the results of our first regatta or that only three boats appeared to race.

Chris Hynes
history@stamfordyc.com