This bright and detailed portrait depicts the near sister Herreshoff Schooners, ELENA and WESTWARD leaving Newport, Rhode Island prior to the 1911 Astor Cup.
After some early successes racing smaller yachts, New York Yacht Club member A.S. Cochran wanted a schooner that could make the Atlantic crossing and compete in Europe, and so commissioned Nathaniel "Nat" Herreshoff of Rhode Island to build him the WESTWARD. Steel hulled and 96 feet in length at the waterline, WESTWARD was the largest sailing vessel to be built by Herreshoff's yard at the time, and it didn't disappoint. WESTWARD's first season in Europe was an unqualified success, winning every race in German waters and eight of nine in England. Upon her return to the U.S., Cochran set her to compete against his fellow New York Yacht Club members, setting off from Newport alongside the newly built ELENA.
Hearing of WESTWARD's success in Europe, NYYC club member Morton F. Plant sold his champion schooner "Queen" and commissioned Nat Herreshoff to build him an improved WESTWARD in the hopes of the new yacht, ELENA, being the fastest on the water. She is fresh from the yard here, sailing out to compete against the vessel which had inspired her.
During the summer of 1911's New York Yacht Club Cruise, the two yachts were very closely matched, with ELENA winning, taking home the "Schooner Cup". However, WESTWARD would go on to win 1911 Astor Cup, second only in prestige to the America's Cup in yachting's great annual races.
Couch depicts a perfect departure for two of the world's finest yachts of their day. Both are at full sail in a strong wind, the sun illuminating sails and shining off the sea below. In the background fine brushwork brings to life the busy port and buildings of Newport's harbor, including the spire of Trinity Church off the bow of ELENA in the lead position. To their aft, a three masted schooner is at dock next to a fine steam vessel, a perfect illustration of this transitional age where both ships of sail and steam traveled the seas.
On both yachts large crews stand ready to test their strength and skill for the prestige of their ships. With his trademark fine coloration and attention to detail, Shane Couch has captured the moment when both yachts step onto the American stage to compete for yachting glory.
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