A grand refit slated for a ‘grand yacht’

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It could take up to five years to repair Coronet, a schooner from the Gilded Age

It could take up to five years to repair Coronet, a schooner from the Gilded Age

The International Yacht Restoration School has celebrated a major milestone in the renovation of the historic yacht Coronet.

The 119-year-old schooner, the first registered American yacht to round Cape Horn, was hauled at IYRS’s Newport, R.I., campus, where work on her exterior will soon begin. The restoration is estimated to cost between

$7 million and $9 million, and will take three to five years to complete. IYRS calls Coronet “the most original Victorian grand yacht in existence” and the last remaining U.S. schooner of that size, period and stage of preservation.

The 133-footer has been in the water at IYRS since the school acquired her in 1995. Her interior was carefully stripped, cataloged and stored, and researchers compiled an exhaustive historical study of the schooner. The next step is to replank her hull.

Danish shipwright Herman Hinrichsen will oversee the restoration. Hinrichsen apprenticed at his grandfather’s shipyard when he was 15 years old and moved to the United States in 1967. He worked at Seth Persson Boatyard in Connecticut for several years and later worked at Derecktor shipyard in Newport. From 1994 Hinrichsen worked as an independent contractor through his company, Scandia Marine. He restored Adventure, the 123-foot Grand Banks dory-fishing schooner based in Gloucester, Mass., and was part of the team that restored Old Ironsides in Charlestown, Mass.

Last year Hinrichsen was given permission from the Danish government to use centuries-old oak from a Danish forest, set aside in the 17th century to provide timber to the Danish Royal Navy. The wood will be used for planking.

“It’s an exciting time,” says Susan Daly, Coronet’s development and marketing director. “It’s going to be a fascinating project.”

Daly, who studied art history in college, has an extensive background in marketing for the sailing industry. She worked with William Koch’s America’s Cup campaigns in 1992 and 1995 (America3) and later worked at the sports information Web site, Quokka Sports. She also worked at Vanguard Sailboats and has been actively involved in US Sailing.

Elizabeth Meyer, founder and former chairman of IYRS, found Coronet in Gloucester. Her J Class Management company is the project manager.

Earlier this year Coronet was towed across the harbor to Newport Shipyard, where she was lifted onto a custom steel cradle. Meanwhile, the school renovated the wharf to accommodate the yacht, fortifying the dock and building a marine railway. The project took several months to complete.

The cradle and Coronet then were lifted onto a barge and returned to IYRS April 28. Coronet was painstakingly rolled onto the railway, where she will remain, supported by blocks. A structure will be built around her for protection from the elements. Eventually, the public will be able to view the work in progress from a balcony. The goal is to restore Coronet to her late 19th-century appearance.

Coronet was built in 1885 by C&R Poillon shipyard of Brooklyn, N.Y., and was one of the leading schooners of her day. Under her first owner, Rufus T. Bush of Brooklyn, Coronet rounded the Horn in 1888 — the first American-registered yacht to do so. Other historical accomplishments include winning the third trans-Atlantic race against Dauntless, completing two circumnavigations, and carrying members of the first joint Japanese-U.S. scientific expedition to Japan to view a total eclipse of the sun in 1896.

In 1905 Coronet was acquired by The Kingdom, a non-denominational prayer society that sailed her around the globe for several years before settling in the Northeast.

Coronet retains a significant amount of her original structure, particularly in the interior joinery and hull. She contains intricate carving, gilding and Lincrusta molded wallpaper. Coronet is as much an example of the Gilded Age as the mansions on Newport’s Bellevue Avenue.

“Yachts like these were floating homes,” says Daly.

IYRS received a $350,000 matching grant from the Save the America’s Treasures historic preservation fund and has about $2 million of the project’s funding in hand.

More information is available at www.yachtcoronet.org.