Graceful and rhythmically making way, the Iron Cutter VINDEX leads a pursuing racer round the New York Yacht Club’s preferred course, consummating in the turn around Southwest Spit Buoy #10 (or #8 if you’re seeking contention) and heads for the finish line. Beautifully white and sleek, the cutter holds a special place in American yachting as the first ever designed strictly on paper, by Archibald Cary Smith for Robert Center, whose “Maltese Cross” private signal flies on the mast. The story of her build is well recorded, especially in the important series “Traditions and Memories of American Yachting” by William P. Stevens.
Buttersworth captured something special on this day, as VINDEX is glowing in her sharp white paint over heavy iron construction. Several old guard yachtsmen were critical of A.C. Smith’s and Bob Center’s ideas for the cutter, such as the hollow mast with auger bored holes for tie rods. VINDEX proved quite successful in her inaugural season, and stayed out to sea through her first winter, trading matches with the local pilot schooners to continue to prove her seaworthiness. Her success prompted Smith to abandon the painters easel for a long stint as one of America’s most successful yacht architects, and for the era of the composite yacht to be born.
Buttersworth’s ocean has a soothing rhythmic flow to its shape and movement, seen often in his paintings of the 1870s. The horizon holds another pair of racers approaching the mark, and the illuminated sky glows with an afternoon aura. His layers of clouds, both billowy and gray, accent the texture of the sails being deployed on VINDEX, full of curves and shadows as they are put in place for the home stretch to victory.
Provenance: Charles S. Watkins, American Inventor from Fort Lee, New Jersey; by descent through his family in Colorado and Phoenix.
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