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IYRS delays schooner’s restoration

The traditional maritime trades school will instead focus on expanding its classroom facilities

The traditional maritime trades school will instead focus on expanding its classroom facilities

With student enrollment steadily on the rise at the International Yacht Restoration School (Newport, R.I.), school officials in October decided to postpone fundraising for and restoration of the historic schooner Coronet. The school will instead focus on raising money to repair and refurbish school-owned buildings.

“The school is growing. With our existing space we’re running at full capacity,” says school president Terry Nathan. “We simply need more space and feel that changing our focus at this time is the responsible thing to do.”

Enrollment in the school’s full-time, two-year program reached its highest this year at 32, and the recently expanded evening and weekend continuing education program attracts between 200 and 250 students.

“We’ve been getting feedback from our donors about enrollment, and that we should prioritize between expanding our learning space and restoring Coronet. We’re listening to them.”

A major component of expanding the school’s learning space is to refurbish the Aquidneck Mill building, built in 1831, which sits on the school’s waterfront site. “It’s a 30,000-square-foot building that we haven’t really been using,” Nathan says. “We hope to convert it into classrooms.”

The school is also looking to make repairs to its main building on Thames Street. In all, Nathan says repairing and refurbishing the buildings will cost nearly $6.5 million. As of late October, the school had raised about $2 million.

“Our focus on Coronet will continue once the school is deep into restoring the mill building,” says Nathan, who expects that to take about 2-1/2 years. “The boat has very much been a part of the origins of the school.”

Coronet was built in 1885 at the C&R Poillon shipyard of Brooklyn, N.Y. Under her first owner, Rufus T. Bush, the 133-footer in 1888 became the first American 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 The Kingdom, a non-denominational prayer society that sailed around the world for several years. Since then, the boat’s interior has been carefully stripped, catalogued and stored. The school purchased the necessary woods to restore Coronet’s hull and decks, and has performed a thorough historical study of the boat. “Lucky for us, she’s an incredibly well-documented boat,” says Susan Daly, the school’s director of marketing. “We’ve been able to find a lot of valuable information about her.”

Coronet, which was Rhode Island’s first vessel to be named to the National Register of Historic Places, retains a significant amount of her original structure, particularly in the interior joinery and hull. She contains intricate carving, gilding and Lincrusta molded wallpaper.

Once restoration work begins again on Coronet, Daly expects the funding-dependent project to take another five years to complete. Nathan says the school, a non-profit organization, would pick up the restoration again before the school buildings are complete if it had the money to do so.

“If a donor with enough money comes along in the meantime, I think we’d be happy to begin again,” Nathan says. “Unfortunately, money is an issue.”