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A rose blossoms

Behind every man, a woman stands. If Rose Dorothea Perry hadn’t cajoled her husband into entering a 1907 fishermen’s schooner race, Capt. Marion Perry of Provincetown, Mass., wouldn’t even be a footnote in history.

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Rose Dorothea had her eye on the big, beautiful silver loving cup — the Lipton Cup — that represented first prize, put up by the race organizer, British yachtsman and tea entrepreneur Sir Thomas Lipton. (There was also $650 in cash involved, a princely sum a century ago.) So Capt. Perry joined a fleet of working fishing schooners at the starting line off Thieves Ledge by Boston Light, ready to take on the 42-mile course to Davis Ledge, on to Eastern Point off Gloucester, and back.

Perry’s ship, named for his wife, was an “Indian Head” schooner, with the distinctive round bow that allowed it to sail close to the wind. She was new — just 2 years old — 108 feet overall and built by Thomas McManus at the James and Tarr yard in Essex, Mass. And she sailed well, staying near the leaders well into the last leg. Then fate stepped in: The Rose Dorothea lost her topmast.

Capt. Perry called for a course change to keep his stricken vessel from further damage. The skipper, John Watson, complied, but it looked as if the race was over for the Rose Dorothea. Not so. A sailor’s breeze is fickle — blowing foul, blowing fair. The Rose Dorothea caught a favorable wind shift and kept right on sailing, the “toothpick of a topmast,” as Perry later called it, hanging by her rigging, as seen in the photo here. She won the race by less than three minutes.

In 1977, Francis A. “Flyer” Santos and a group of Provincetown, Mass., volunteers began a 10-year project to build a half-scale replica of the schooner. Dedicated in 1988, she’s housed in the Provincetown Library as a “grand tribute to the fishermen of Provincetown and to the New England shipbuilding tradition.”

December 2012 issue