It’s Sunday morning and the third day of the Songkran holiday here in Thailand. I’ve been out enjoying the festivities each day but spending my limited time at home working on blog articles; yesterday’s was a nearly 7,000-word article on the Lincoln assassination that I finally finished around 10:00 last night. For today, I planned a quick “ASAD is on holiday” and had the perfect stamp in mind — the 1938 King George V Bermuda stamp with the sailboat on it (well, the 1940 color variant as it turns out). However, as often happens when doing a bit of research for a “simple” article for A Stamp A Day, I found quite a bit more information than I’d planned on. In this case, I realized that an explanation of the Bermuda-rigged sloop would be a perfect complement to the recent article on junk-rigged ships. Also, I was surprised that the Scott Postage Stamp Catalogue actually put a name on the sailboat depicted — the yacht Lucie.
The Bermuda sloop is a type of fore-and-aft rigged sailing vessel developed on the islands of Bermuda in the 17th century. In its purest form, it is single-masted, though some ships with such rigging can be built with as many as three masts, which are also known as Schooners. Its original form had gaff rigging, but evolved to use what is now known as Bermuda rig, which had been used on smaller Bermudian boats since the early 17th century, making it the basis of nearly all modern sailing yachts. Although the Bermuda sloop is often described as a development of the narrower-beamed Jamaica sloop, which dates from the 1670s, the high, raked masts and triangular sails of the Bermuda rig are rooted in a tradition of Bermudian boat design dating from the earliest decades of the 17th century.
A Bermuda rig has also been called the Bermudian rig or Marconi rig and is the typical configuration for most modern sailboats. The term Marconi was a much later reference to the inventor Guglielmo Marconi whose wireless radio masts resembled the wires that stabilize the mast of a Bermuda rigged ship.
The rig consists of a triangular sail set aft of the mast with its head raised to the top of the mast; its luff runs down the mast and is normally attached to it for its entire length; its tack is attached at the base of the mast; its foot (in modern versions of the rig) controlled by a boom; and its clew attached to the aft end of the boom, which is controlled by its sheet.
Originally developed for smaller Bermudian vessels, and ultimately adapted to the larger, ocean-going Bermuda sloop, the Bermuda sail is set as the mainsail on the main mast. The Bermuda rigging has largely replaced the older gaff rigged fore-and-aft sails, except notably on schooners. The traditional design as developed in Bermuda features very tall, raked masts, a long bowsprit, and may or may not have a boom. In some configurations such as the Bermuda Fitted Dinghy vast areas of sail are achieved with this rig. Elsewhere, however, the design has omitted the bowsprit, and has otherwise become less extreme.
A Bermuda rigged sloop with exactly one jib is known as a Bermuda sloop, a Marconi sloop, or a Marconi rig. A Bermuda sloop may also be a more specific type of vessel such as a small sailing ships traditional in Bermuda which may or may not be Bermuda rigged.
The foot of a Bermuda sail may be attached to the boom along its length, or in some modern rigs the sail is attached to the boom only at its ends. This modern variation of a Bermuda mainsail is known as a loose-footed main. In some early Bermudian vessels, the mainsails were attached only to the mast and deck, lacking booms. This is the case on two of the three masts of the newly built Spirit of Bermuda, a replica of an 1830s British Royal Navy sloop-of-war. Additional sails were also often mounted on traditional Bermudian craft, when running down wind, which included a spinnaker, with a spinnaker boom, and additional jibs.
The main controls on a Bermuda sail are:
- The halyard used to raise the head, and sometimes to tension the luff.
- The outhaul used to tension the foot by hauling the clew towards the end of the boom.
- The sheet used to haul the boom down and towards the center of the boat.
- The vang or kicking strap which runs between a point partway along the boom and the base of the mast, and is used to haul the boom down when on a run.
The Bermuda rig developed from leg-of-mutton sails in Bermuda during the course of the 17th and 18th centuries. The design was very useful on the gusty Bermudian waters for the boats that were the mainstay of transport around the archipelago into the 20th century. The mean wind direction is from the West, and as the islands generally lie in line with the wind and the numerous treacherous reefs make tacking dangerous, the ability to sail agilely to windward was vital. As Bermuda turned to a maritime economy, after the dissolution of the Somers Isles Company in 1684, the rig was adapted to larger, ocean-going ships, the famous Bermuda sloops.
The development of the rig is thought to have begun with fore-and-aft rigged boats built by a Dutch-born Bermudian in the 17th century. The Dutch were influenced by Moorish lateen rigs introduced during Spain’s rule of their country. The Dutch eventually modified the design by omitting the masts, with the yard arms of the lateens being stepped in thwarts. By this process, the yards became raked masts. Lateen sails mounted this way were known as leg-of-mutton sails in English. The Dutch called a vessel rigged in this manner a bezaanjacht. A bezaan jacht is visible in a painting of King Charles II arriving in Rotterdam in 1660. After sailing on such a vessel, Charles was so impressed that his eventual successor, the Prince of Orange presented him with a copy of his own, which Charles named Bezaan.
The rig had been introduced to Bermuda some decades before this. Captain John Smith reported that Captain Nathaniel Butler, who was the governor of Bermuda from 1619 to 1622, employed the Dutch boat builder, Jacob Jacobsen, one of the crew of a Dutch frigate which had been wrecked on Bermuda, who quickly established a leading position among Bermuda’s boat makers, reportedly building and selling more than a hundred boats within the space of three years (to the resentment of many of his competitors, who were forced to emulate his designs). A poem published by John H. Hardie in 1671 described Bermuda’s boats such:
With tripple corner’d Sayls they always float, About the Islands, in the world there are, None in all points that may with them compare.
Ships with somewhat similar rigs were in fact recorded in Holland during the 17th century. These early Bermuda rigged boats evidently lacked jibs or booms, and the masts appear not to have been as robust as they were to become (a boat rigged with a Bermuda or gaff mainsail and no jib would today be known as a catboat). In 1675, Samuel Fortrey, of Kew, wrote to the naval administrator and Member of Parliament, Samuel Pepys, a treatise entitled Of Navarchi, suggesting the improvement of the Bermoodn rig with the addition of a boom, but evidently nothing came of this. Bermudian builders did introduce these innovations themselves, though when they first appeared has been lost to record.
By the 19th century, the design of Bermudian vessels had largely dispensed with square topsails and gaff rig, replacing them with triangular main sails and jibs. The Bermuda rig had traditionally been used on vessels with two or more masts, with the gaff rig favored for single-masted vessels. The reason for this was the increased height necessary for a single mast, which led to too much canvas. The solid wooden masts at that height were also too heavy, and not sufficiently strong. This changed when the boats began to be raced in the early 19th century. H. G. Hunt, a naval officer (and possibly the Henry G. Hunt who was the Acting Governor of Bermuda in 1835) concluded in the 1820s that a single-masted sloop would be superior to the schooner he had been racing and was proved correct when the yacht he had commissioned won a secret race against a schooner the night before a public race, and the public race itself the following day. Single-masted sloops quickly became the norm in Bermudian racing, with the introduction of hollow masts and other refinements.
The colony’s lightweight Bermuda cedar vessels were widely prized for their agility and speed, especially upwind. The high, raked masts and long bowsprits and booms favored in Bermuda allowed its vessels of all sizes to carry vast areas of sail when running down-wind with spinnakers and multiple jibs, allowing great speeds to be reached. Bermudian work boats, mostly small sloops, were ubiquitous on the archipelago’s waters in the 19th century, moving freight, people, and everything else about. The rig was eventually adopted almost universally on small sailing craft in the 20th Century, although as seen on most modern vessels it is very much less extreme than on traditional Bermudian designs, with lower, vertical masts, shorter booms, omitted bowsprits, and much less area of canvas.
The term Marconi rig was first applied to the tall Bermuda rig used on larger racing yachts, such as the J class used since 1914 for the America’s Cup international yacht races, as – with the many supporting cables required — it reminded observers of Guglielmo Marconi’s mast-like wireless antennas (Marconi’s first demonstrations in the United States took place in the autumn of 1899, with the reporting of the America’s Cup at New York). Although sometimes treated as interchangeable with Bermuda rig generally, some purists insist that Marconi rig refers only to the very tall Bermuda rig used on yachts like the J-class.
On April 14, 1936, Bermuda issued a set of pictorial stamps. The series consisted of nine values from ½ penny to 1 shilling 6 pence, recess printed by Bradbury, Wilkinson & Co. in double plates of 60 stamps each, divided after printing into sheets of 60 in ten rows of six. The ½ penny, 2 pence, 6 pence and 1 shilling 6 pence, which did not incorporate a portrait of King George V, remained in use throughout the reign of King George VI. However, the 2 pence was released in new colors and numerous printings of these values were made. The first plates of all values did not have plate numbers but the printer’s imprint BRADBURY, WILKINSON & CO. LD. ENGRAVERS, NEW MALDEN, SURREY, ENGLAND can be found in the sheet margin below the 57th and 58th stamps, in the color of the frame on the bicolored stamps. The second plates of the ½ penny and 6 pence denominations have both plate numbers and a similar imprint which, however, omits the word ENGRAVERS, as do all plates made for the King George VI issue. The watermark is Multiple Crown and Script CA, and the perforation is 12 single line, with the exception of the 6 pence which appeared after 1951 comb perforated 12×11¾, the bottom margin of the sheet being without vertical rows of perforation.
The 2-pence stamp features the six-meter class Bermuda rigged yacht Lucie owned by Briggs S. Cunningham of Saltport, Connecticut. Through some error, the photograph of the Lucie was substituted for one of the Viking, a similar yacht owned by Kenneth Trimmingham of Bermuda, which had been chosen for the stamp. First issued on April 14, 1936, in black and pale blue (Scott #108), the design was retained throughout the reign of King George VI, but with two changes of color — brown black and turquoise blue issued on January 20, 1938 (Scott #109) and red and ultramarine on November 8, 1940 (today’s Scott #109A). Very slight shifted transfers occur in the seahorses on some stamps.
The stamp appeared in 1936 to little fanfare, purporting to show a “typical Bermuda yacht.” The governor of the British Crown Colony had personally selected the photograph of LUCIE, thinking it to be the Viking, a local six-meter. Apparently, someone in the postal ministry realized the error but decided that nobody would ever notice. In fact, nobody did until Viking’s owner took out his magnifying glass.
However, when Bermuda revamped the set in 1938 to substitute King George VI for King George V, the Lucie stamp sailed on with only a slight color modification. That’s when the furor erupted. A headline in a New York paper declared, “American Yacht on Bermuda Issue Makes Britons Angry All Over Again” and the story appeared in papers wherever yachting was popular.
The last six meter designed by Clinton Crane, and arguably his best. Lucie was built to the second iteration of the International 6 Metre Rule. She was built in Henry B. Nevin’s yard on City Island in New York in 1931, for the noted sportsman Briggs Cunningham, and named after his first wife, Lynn (Lucie) Bedford Cunningham Warren. Lucie was named to three successive British-American Cup teams, her last in 1936. She is the only Crane design to stay in major competition after World War II. In addition to campaigning Lucie, Briggs Cunningham also won both the Prince Edward VII Gold Cup, the so-called “Bermuda Gold Cup” and the Scandinavian Gold Cup in 1937 with US 72 Lulu. Among his many other sporting pursuits, Cunningham also won the America’s Cup in 1958 on the 12-meter Columbia.
Lucie often beat newer designs on the Great Lakes in the 1950’s, such as US 81 Goose and US 87 May Be VII, while named Stork. An interesting anecdote about her comes from Barbara Castle Poole von Schilcher: “The Stork was originally the Lucie, but the first year my grandfather (Wilmot Vail ‘Rooney’ Castle) had her, 1940, all of the guys who crewed in the forward cockpit became fathers, so he renamed her Stork… I was the first of those forward cockpit babies.”
After a successful racing career over 75 years, Lucie was rebuilt in the exact manner of her original construction, including shellac between her double planked hull. She received a new mast in early February 2018. There are two other Crane 6-meter designs still in existence, US 43 Sprig, and US 33 Clytie II.
Type: 6 mR Class
LOA: 37′ O” / 11.27m
LOD: 37′ O” / 11.27m
LWL: 23′ 0″ / 7.01m
Beam: 6′ 0″ / 1.82m
Draft: 5′ 6″ / 1.67m
Displacement: 8,300 Lbs.
Designer: Clinton Crane
Year Built: 1931
Built to: Rule 2
Builder: Nevis Yacht Yard, City Island, N.Y.
Original Owner: Briggs Cunningham
Current Owner: Matt Brooks
Home Port: St. Francis Yacht Club
Sail Area: 456 sq ft
Sail Number: US-55