A memorable American yacht racing moment, preserved as art, has several schooners owned by members of the New York Yacht Club racing in their annual summer regatta on June 11, 1874. Prominent in the center of this painting is CORNELIA, owned by Dr. Joseph Vondy. Vondy was a member of both the N.Y.Y.C. and the Jersey City Yacht Club, and most likely directly commissioned artist Warren Sheppard. Closest in competition is the Schooner VISION, owned by member J.S. Alexandre with his family's burgee atop the main, and a nearby top-sail schooner. In the distance is believed the event's winner, John Walker's Schooner GRACIE. The Sandy Hook Lighthouse is a small white sliver of a tower, visible above CORNELIA's stern rail and light-brightened sails.
Sheppard was well known in the late 19th Century New York art world, and a proponent of maritime activities. This era saw changes in American yacht racing, with a growing audience, the publication of the first yachting annual, Fox's in 1872, and the international debate over measures and ratings that would dominate the coming decade. The New York club's outside ocean course offered a different challenge, and the big schooners excelled over it. CORNELIA, built in 1873 by James McGarrick, measured a respectable 65' 8".
The atmosphere is full of heavy, darker clouds, and CORNELIA has turned into the headlong wind. VISION is preparing to come about, and the rolling swells are breaking against their sharp hulls. The annual regatta, first held in 1845 just after the birth of the club, took slightly more than six hours to complete this year. CORNELIA would leave the club's list by 1877. James E. Buttersworth would also paint this race near the Sandy Hook Lightship; his painting today is in the Mystic Maritime Museum collection.
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