Coronet restoration is back on track

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International Yacht Restoration School gets a partner that will fund the work, then own the classic schooner

International Yacht Restoration School gets a partner that will fund the work, then own the classic schooner

The restoration of the 1885 schooner Coronet at the International Yacht Restoration School in Newport, R.I., is expected to resume in earnest now that a newly formed organization has agreed to help fund and coordinate the effort.

The group, Coronet Restoration Partners, comprises San Francisco-based Jeffrey Rutherford of Rutherford Boat Works and classic-boat restorer Robert McNeil, IYRS says in a press release. It will oversee completion of the work on the 133-footer, a task that will take several years. IYRS officials announced the partnership earlier this year, and the agreement was finalized in November.

“It is our responsibility at the school to make sure that the yacht gets restored,” says IYRS president Terry Nathan. “Now, with this partnership, we have the money and the commitment to the level of standards necessary to restore her. This is a very important development for the school and for Coronet.”

School officials had put the project on hold so they could focus on raising funds for restoring one of IYRS’s historic buildings, the 1831 Aquidneck Mill, which sits on the school’s waterfront campus. They vowed at the time to continue work on Coronet once they again could focus on raising money for the project.

“The school will be relieved of the financial burden of Coronet, yet the bulk of the restoration will resume here at IYRS,” Nathan says. “Coronet will be owned by an LLC that will be owned by Mr. McNeil.”

Over the coming months, Coronet’s hull will be prepared for the full-scale restoration, which school officials say should begin next summer. While master shipwright Rutherford is expected to oversee the project, much of the work will be performed by IYRS graduates.

Coronet was built in 1885 at the C&R Poillon Shipyard in Brooklyn, N.Y. Under her first owner, Rufus T. Bush, the 133-footer in 1888 became the first U.S. yacht to round Cape Horn, then went on to beat Caldwell Colt’s schooner Dauntless in the first trans-Atlantic race. Other milestones include 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.

The school acquired Coronet in 1995 from a non-denominational prayer society that sailed her for 90 years, including a circumnavigation, according to information on a Web site devoted to the schooner. Since then, her interior has been carefully stripped, the pieces cataloged and stored. The school has purchased the wood to restore Coronet’s hull and decks, and has performed a thorough historical study of her. Coronet retains a significant amount of her original structure, particularly in the interior joinery and hull. She contains intricate carvings, gilding and Lincrusta-molded wallpaper.

“[Coronet’s] interior and deck structures reflect an extraordinary time in decorative history,” Nathan says. “She’s not your typical yacht. In that regard she will be an incredible sight to see when the restoration is done.” Nathan says the restoration could be completed in five to seven years.

Once the schooner is finished, Coronet Restoration Partners hopes to sail her as a floating museum to ports along the East Coast and in classic yacht regattas in Maine, Antigua and St. Tropez. Until then Nathan says he hopes the project will attract people to Newport and to IYRS.

“This restoration has been and will continue to be a phenomenon here on campus,” he says. “We all look forward to doing the work and to seeing Coronet back on the water again.”

For more information, visit www.iyrs.org or www.yachtcoronet.org .