Skip to main content

Classics: New York 30

The most interesting yachting in local waters during the season was furnished by the new 30-foot class of the New York Yacht Club.

Illustration by Jim Ewing.

— Rudder magazine, November 1905

The class was the New York 30, designed by Nathanael Herreshoff and launched at the company yard in Bristol, Rhode Island, as a fleet of 18 earlier that year. Today they are living legends, with many of the originals still sailing and racing — some with their original names — under the aegis of the New York 30 Class Association.

At the time, NYYC members were looking for a racing boat that was smaller than the big schooners that were being sailed. Herreshoff produced a gaff-rigged sloop, 44 feet overall and with moderate overhangs and a fin keel. Measuring 30 feet on the waterline, the boat carried 1,000 square feet of sail. Below were basic accommodations for four.

Word of the NY-30’s racing qualities soon got around, and competition among owners grew feverish. Countess and Lena ended a 37-mile club race out of Newport, Rhode Island, just three seconds apart, with Countess winning. It was “typical of finishes likely to be seen any day the ‘Thirties’ race,” wrote a yachting correspondent.

They were heavy-weather boats, too, an appealing trait for their owners, which included J.P. Morgan, the Vanderbilt family, and NYYC commodores Harry Maxwell and George Nichols. Ogden Reid raced in the 1923 Kings Cup off Newport in 35- to 45-knot winds, winning an award for seamanship. “They must have been built well,” said Nat’s son L. Francis Herreshoff, “for it is said that some of them raced more races than any type of boat ever built.”

The NY-30 represents the first successful effort by the NYYC to establish an ongoing proprietary one-design class, according to the class association. Legendary yacht designer Olin Stephens called it the “most perfect boat and probably the one I most wished I designed.”

— Steve Knauth

This article originally appeared in the May 2016 issue.