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Sandbagger back in water at Mystic

The Seaport museum’s first acquisition had been out of public view for years

The Seaport museum’s first acquisition had been out of public view for years

Mystic Seaport through the years has gathered a collection of more than 500 boats, beginning with a 29-foot sandbagger racer the museum acquired in 1931.

After several years of being out of public view, the sandbagger Annie returned to the Seaport’s waterfront. The sailboat, built on the Mystic River in 1880, was completely restored and launched during ceremonies in May.

Annie was originally built for Henry Tift of Mystic, Conn., who raced her for several years on Long Island Sound and in Florida, where Annie was shipped during the winter.

Racing sandbaggers was a popular sport before 1885, and the key was to carry as much sail as possible. The sails extended twice the length of the boat. To prevent capsizing, crews would position themselves windward and would shift 50-pound sandbags around to keep the boat stable. Marine historians say sandbagger racing took great skill, and was thrilling for both competitors and spectators.

Annie was modified during her early years and was totally rebuilt after a 1902 fire, and again in 1950 and 1968. Each restoration took her further from her original design.

Like many aging sandbaggers, Annie became a working vessel before she was donated to the Seaport by Dr. C.K. Stillman. Annie was put in storage about a decade ago.

The recent restoration project took two years to complete.

Shipwrights Kevin Dwyer and Walter Ansell strove to restore Annie to as close to her original design as possible. They relied on drawings by Charles Davis, a model maker who sketched Annie in 1931. The shipwrights rebuilt much of the hull with mahogany, pine, oak and other woods. A piece of mahogany near the centerboard is the only piece of Annie’s original wood.

Plans call for Annie to sail again and she will be an integral part of the museum’s 75th anniversary celebrations next year.