Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Fore-N'-Afters Beat Square Riggers: Schooner Days MCCLXXXIV (1284)
Toronto Telegram (Toronto, ON), 25 Aug 1956
Full Text
Fore-N'-Afters Beat Square Riggers
Schooner Days MCCLXXXIV (1284)

by C. H. J. Snider

THAT was a great hook-up of sailing vessels Schooner Days saw in the English Channel this last July. Twenty ships of eleven different national flags, assembled at Torquay. Square-rigged three-masters, ships, barque and barquentine, schooners of two and three masts, and ketches, cutters, sloops and yawls. Real sea-going ships, sailed by true sailors, naval officers, merchant masters and mates, cruising yachtsmen and women and manned by seagoing crews. All were trainers and trainees in the vanishing art of ploughing waves by wind power.

All were professionals yet all corinthians. It was not for gain but for glory they gathered for a week of hard driving - an 800- mile race, from Devon to Portugal - through the chops of the Channel, past Land's End and Ushant, and south across the Bay of Biscay, past Finisterre to the Tagus River and rock-cliffed Lisbon, capital of ancient Portugal and Lusitania.

Portugal, great in sail from Caesar's day till now, initiated the splendid spectacle through its yachtsman ambassador, and the President of the Republic presented the prizes.

Most picturesque of all the entrants and by far the biggest was the Portuguese training ship Sagres, over 200 feet long, 1,935 tons burthen. She is a three-masted barque with gilt figurehead and scrollwork on her trail boards, and great colored crosses of the Order of Christ inlined in white on twelve of her twenty-six working sails. Portugal, socialist but not atheist, has spread such painted crosses since the days of Henry the Navigator. Sagres, though biggest, was 10th to finish.

In startling contrast to her was a tiny Italian with three sharp triangles of sail, the ketch Artica II of 16 tons, less than one percent of the Sagres' burthen. She was sailed by two army officers and a few cadets. Thanks to her time allowance the Italian gnat won not only first place in her class—under 100 tons—but 5 of the 19 prizes, and all well deserved.

It was a light weather race on a long course, 832 sea miles, and took over a week. The big vessels never really got going, but the lighter, smaller ones reached a maximum speed quickly, and retained it long. The Sagres, which might do 17 knots in a favoring gale, never passed 12, and sometimes did not move at all.

The best actual time was that of the Argentine navy's yawl Juana, 25 tons. She was first of the fleet to reach Lisbon. It was thought that she had swept the board, but the time which she had to allow the smaller Italian put her back to 2nd position in class.

The Norwegian training ship Christian Radich, 806 tons, second largest and second to finish, was second in the over 100-ton division. She was well sailed. She would have done better if she had set more studdinpails, but training ships go light on such sailors torments.

Juana's skipper, jolly Lt. Commander Kollicker, said that what spoiled her chance of winning all five prizes was the number of her crew, 13. Right to the hour of the start they had tried to sign on a black cat in Torquay or Dartmouth to bring them up to 14, but the toms and dabbies were all shy.

The French cutter Sereine took third place in the under-100s. The English had a couple of gaff-rigged cutters, but the favorite rig for schooner, ketch, yawl or cutter, was the jib-headed, sharp triangular one we call "marconi" and the English "bermudian". It requires no gaffs. Even the Turks used it, and to good effect in their big ketch Ruyam of 175 tons, which won 3rd place in Class 1, after the "christian radish" afore said.

Among the tailenders was a Devonshire yacht of under 100 tons, the Provident of Salcomb. Seven men and seven women, members of the Island Sailing Club, pluckily manned her against all those professionals. Their showing was a credit to British pluck and seamanship. It's a long way to Lisbon, a long way to go across the Bay of Biscay.

If the British yacht Providine was near last, another British yacht was first in this eleven-nation race of twenty ships, so Britannia still rules the roost in sail, practical sail.

Snider, C. H. J.
Media Type
Item Type
Date of Publication
25 Aug 1956
Language of Item
Geographic Coverage
  • Lisbon, Portugal
    Latitude: 38.71667 Longitude: -9.13333
  • England, United Kingdom
    Latitude: 50.46198 Longitude: -3.52522
Richard Palmer
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by [more details]
Copyright Statement
Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Fore-N'-Afters Beat Square Riggers: Schooner Days MCCLXXXIV (1284)