Skip to main content

Graduation day is launch day at IYRS

Classic wooden small boats restored by students are splashed and sailed at spring ceremony

Eleven historic vessels, after being painstakingly restored by students at the International Yacht Restoration School, were relaunched in June during the school’s annual Graduation and Launch Day celebrations. The ceremonies were held at the IYRS waterfront campus in Newport, R.I.

“We had a great turnout and nice weather,” says IYRS program directorClark Poston. He estimates that 200 people turned out for the public event. “It couldn’t have been better.”

Poston says this year’s 11-boat fleet, representing the school’s 11 graduates, is the largest the school has ever launched. In all, nine 12-foot Beetle Cats, an 18-foot early 20th-century motor launch and a 31-foot 1896 Lawley gaff-rigged sloop were restored and relaunched. The launching ceremony followed the distribution of graduation certificates and remarks made by keynote speaker David Pedrick, IYRS chairman and founder of Pedrick Yacht Designs of Newport.

After the launch, the students set out aboard their boats on Narragansett Bay to see how their workmanship fared under sail. For good luck, flowers were put into the water once each boat set sail.

“I remember well the feeling of accomplishment as I sailed Newport Harbor in a Beetle Cat that had been rescued from neglect and returned to usefulness,” says IYRS 2002 graduate Seth Hagan, who also spoke at the ceremony. “Still fresh in my mind is the satisfaction of leaning against oak coamings, with the tiller in one hand and the sheet in the other, while we rushed through the sea as if hauled by a great unseen tugboat. The knowledge that my hands had been scalded by steaming hot frames, cut by razor-sharp plank edges, ground smooth by sandpaper, and made sticky with varnish and paint made the maiden voyage of my Beetle Cat a magic memory which I always hold near.”

The school sells many of the boats it restores to help fund its general operating fund.

“Continued use of these boats is just as critical as the skills the students learn while restoring them,” Poston says. “These boats were in such bad shape, they would have otherwise been cut up and destroyed. Hands-on learning like this revolves around a project. It’s as though your diploma is really the completed product.”

For Poston, graduation and Launch Day is a proud moment for IYRS students and their families.

“It’s terrific. These students have successfully accomplished what they set out to do,” he says. “Launch Day is a powerful day.”