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1958 yacht Weatherly receives federal recognition

by Kirsten Ferguson on 18 Oct 2012
Weatherly Onne van der Wal © http://www.vanderwal.com/
The 1958 12 Metre sailing yacht Weatherly has obtained federal recognition for its contributions to the history of naval architecture, engineering, and recreation. Edward F. Sanderson, Executive Director of the Rhode Island Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission, announced in September that the National Park Service has listed Weatherly on the National Register of Historic Places.

The National Register is the Federal Government's official list of properties throughout the United States whose historical and architectural significance makes them worthy of preservation. Weatherly was the successful 1962 defender of the America's Cup, the most prominent trophy in the world of sailing. Weatherly is also significant as an early and notable example of both the 12 Metre class of racing yachts and yachts of wooden and laminate construction.

'Weatherly has had an enviable second life in Newport, Rhode Island, as one of two flag ships in a charter fleet of 12 Metres that symbolize, for many, the America’s Cup's finer days ,' said George Hill, who started Americas Cup Charters in the mid-1980s with Herb Marshall after the two had respectively returned Weatherly and American Eagle back to racing form and the Newport waterfront.

'It was 1958 when the 12 Meters made their debut in Cup competition in Newport and September 1962 when Weatherly, with Bus Mosbacher skippering, successfully defended the Cup, so you can imagine how overwhelmingly gratifying it is that on the exact 50th Anniversary of that accomplishment, Weatherly was singled out for such an honor.'

Measuring 69 feet overall, Weatherly is built of double-planked African mahogany over white oak frames. To America's Cup enthusiasts, her sail number, US-17, readily identifies her on the water and distinguishes her immediately from her stable mates--Nefertiti (US-19), American Eagle (US-21), Intrepid (US-22) and Freedom (US-30).

Newport, referred to as the 'Sailing Capital of the World' and located in the 'Ocean State,' has more ties to the America's Cup than any other place on the planet. Until 1983, an American syndicate had always successfully defended the Cup in what became the longest winning streak--132 years--in the history of any sport. In 1930, '34, and '37, after the Cup competition moved to Newport from New York, it was sailed in magnificent J Class sloops of over 120 feet in size.

Then WWII came and Cup racing halted, but in the early 1950s, the New York Yacht Club (NYYC) consulted with their English counterparts at the Royal Yacht Squadron about resuming international Cup competition. Rather than the extravagant boats of previous years, they sought something smaller and more affordable. They settled on the largest class of racing yachts actively sailing at that time, the International 12 Metre class.

Three syndicates sponsored new yachts that would compete to defend the America's Cup.


Henry D. Mercer of Rumson, New Jersey led the syndicate that commissioned Weatherly. Naval architect Philip L. Rhodes designed the boat and oversaw its construction. Although Rhodes (1895-1974) had never designed a 12 Metre, he was known as a versatile and painstaking designer who achieved considerable success with his ocean racing yachts. With its graceful lines, Weatherly's design was acknowledged for its artistic quality as well as its racing attributes.

A.E. Luders, Jr. of Luders Marine Construction Company in Stamford, Conn. constructed Weatherly using the best materials and most current laminating techniques of the day.

Although Weatherly did not make it past the 1958 Cup Trials, the boat compiled several wins under skipper Arthur Knapp Jr. Few Cup contenders have ever been given a second chance, but Weatherly’s steadily improving record led her owners to try again in 1962, when Australia challenge with Gretel. At the Luders boat yard, she underwent a series of changes to reduce weight above the water and increase ballast, plus other refinements.

The Americans fielded four boats to vie for the chance to defend against Gretel, and Weatherly prevailed.

The Cup match in September was closely contested, but Weatherly, expertly sailed by Bus Mosbacher and crew, won four of five races to defend the Cup. She remains the only vessel in the history of the Cup to win it after an unsuccessful first attempt. Notably, President John F. Kennedy and his wife Jackie were among the many spectators who watched the competition in Newport.

In 1965, the Henry Mercer Syndicate donated Weatherly to the United States Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, New York, where she was used as a training boat. After serving as a trial horse in the 1967 and 1970Cup preparations, she was sold to private owners in 1970 and converted for offshore racing with a diesel engine and accommodations for her race crew. Following several years on the Great Lakes and in Puget Sound, Weatherly was purchased by George Hill in 1986 and sailed back to Newport via the Panama Canal.

While en route, Weatherly suffered a serious accident in Florida when a boat lift failed, dropping the vessel and then collapsing on it. Repaired in Portsmouth and re-launched in Newport, she resumed sailing as a charter boat in 1988. Weatherly has competed in numerous races since then, winning her division in the12 Metre North American Championships several times. In 2005 she won the 12 Metre World Championship in her division, and the overall Rolex prize.

'Weatherly certainly is a legendary yacht,' said Hill. 'I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to salvage a piece of history as well as create an opportunity through America’s Cup Charters for others to gain a sense of Weatherly’s significance in Cup Americas Cup Charters website

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