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America’s Schooner Cup Preview

When the 14 schooners expected for the 31st running of the America’s Schooner Cup cross the starting line in San Diego on Saturday, March 30, they will represent centuries of sea time, some of yachting’s most famous designers, the determination of dedicated owners who have kept them afloat, and a living snapshot of the West Coast’s sailing heritage.

Dauntless and Skookum III
Dauntless (in the foreground) and Skookum III, sailing in the 2017 America’s Schooner Cup.
© 2019 Darrall Slater

A rarity today, the schooner rig has its roots in early American cargo hauling and fishing. The graceful vessels, designed with an emphasis on speed under sail, are treasured as examples of maritime history and widely regarded as the most beautiful of all sailing ships.

Several entrants are on course for the 100-year-old mark. Among them are two John Alden designs, both staysail-rigged: Curlew, 82 feet LOA, built in Maine in 1926; and Dauntless, 71 feet LOA, built in 1930 in Connecticut. Rose of Sharon, a Starling Burgess-designed 61-ft staysail rig was also built in 1930. The three vessels are familiar rivals, having first competed against one another in the 1930 Newport to Bermuda race. A Northern California boat, the 46-ft Legacy, was built in Fort Bragg to a 1924 design. Construction began in 1996. Recently berthed in Richmond, Legacy is the third John Alden schooner in the race.

Legacy by the Golden Gate Bridge
Legacy, leaving San Francisco Bay on her way to San Diego.
© 2019 Pat Hanly

A ‘new again’ entrant, Quascilla, 53 feet LOA, designed by Ralph Winslow and built in 1924, has just emerged from a 15-month restoration undertaken by her owners, Dirk Langer and Theona Stefanis, at the Koehler Kraft yard in San Diego. Quascilla was built in Seattle with stout teak planking, but her iron fasteners had deteriorated, so her restoration entailed complete re-planking with Philippine mahogany, edge-glued and sealed with epoxy, along with significant frame repairs and an engine replacement.

old-timey print of Quascilla
A 1925 photo of Quascilla. Her re-launching ceremony is scheduled for tomorrow (February 23) at Koehler Kraft.
© 2019 Courtesy Quascilla

Like other owners of vintage schooners, Langer and Stefanis were willing to rescue a vessel whose heritage spoke to them.

“There’s something particularly beautiful about the schooner design,” Langer said. “The restoration means that Quascilla can be on the water for many more years, and that matters to us. A historic boat is one of the few places where you can actually experience the lives of people almost 100 years ago in the heyday of sailing. It is a rare luxury to have.”

Modern boats will also compete, including the sleek, black-hulled America, a near-perfect 139-ft replica of the vessel whose victory in 1851 against the British Royal Yacht Squadron began the famous America’s Cup races; and the 142-ft Californian, the state’s official tall ship.

The race, which begins and ends off a public beach on Shelter Island, has three handicap classes, with the first start at 11:30 a.m. The 13-mile course takes the fleet out past Point Loma, around three buoys, and back into San Diego Bay. Spectators can watch from various locations on shore, and paying berths are also available on America, Bill of Rights, Californian and San Salvador.

Californian and Bill of Rights
Californian and Bill of Rights just after the start of last year’s race. We can almost picture cannon smoke…
© 2019 Pat Flanigan

Hosted by the Silver Gate Yacht Club, the America’s Schooner Cup benefits the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, which provides financial, educational, and post-combat support to members of the Naval Service, eligible family members and survivors. See for more info.

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