Monthly Archives: November 2012

Nathanael Greene Herreshoff and the America’s Cup: Part 9 – Building the 1903 Defender

Curator’s Log November 2012

Sometime, possibly late July 1902, NGH starts considering his design for the defender at his home Love Rocks. A new challenge from Lipton is expected. At 54 he is reluctant to take on the responsibility ”my best years of work are past. I have not the ability or stamina and endurance I had 5 years ago”. (1897 when Lipton first challenged). Looking at the power & beauty of RELIANCE it is hard to understand where he maybe lacking. He designs the most powerful Cup vessel ever. He incorporates within its hull and rig improvements from his previous designs. She will achieve the fastest time over the 30-mile course.

In early September he writes C. Oliver Iselin that the model is very nearly complete, but Iselin pushes him to do more. Nat responds with a second design that is more powerful and more extreme in type. In Iselin’s words “Pikes’ Peak or Bust”.

Shortly after the contract to build the defender is signed on Oct. 16, W. Butler Duncan sees the half model and writes Iselin, “Nat has gone far enough this time… she ought to be fast if you can hold her sails and hull together.”

Nat, assisted by 4 draftsmen goes to work on the drawings and material bills necessary to order plating, shapes, castings and forgings. as well as start construction. Designs developed for COLUMBIA & CONSTITUTION are adapted or further improved.

One of the first construction drawings is the mold for the lead keel that is to be built on the marine railway cradle in the South Shop. This is a major structure as it must contain the molten lead until it cools to a solid. The form is built and on Nov. 26, in seven hours (plus several more hours of finish pouring) 204,000 lbs. of molten lead keel is poured into the mold from a house and furnace specially set up for the job.

This is one month earlier than previous defenders. Construction of the new defender will be pushed to achieve an early delivery. The mistakes of 1901- an ill prepared CONSTITUTION- will not be repeated.

John Palmieri

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Club Topsail Club

Several bloggers have asked (off-line) for more structure to our posting of pictures, which also coincides with our project documentation requirement. So, I thought I would organize the discussion by spar. We can offer our observations about the engineering of the RELIANCE from the novice standpoint, but I’ll leave the real insight to engineer bloggers amongst our group.

There were three sizes of club topsail sails in addition to a gaff topsail. To support the sail there were three club topsail yards (68’, 58’ and 48’ long) and at three club topsail clubs (57’6”, 50’ and 41’6” long). We started with fabrication of the club on our spar bench.

This bench has two sides: one for layout of the pieces and one for glue-up and varnishing. The bench is long enough to layout our longest spar – the boom (112’ long). On the glue-up side we added and shimmed a perfectly flat board so that we can space out temporary “keel-blocks” on station marks to get the correct taper for each spar.

We are attempting to fabricate prototypically correct spars with the same types of wood, scale dimensions for length, width, and depth, hollow where appropriate, the same number of internal bulkheads, and etc.

#1 Club Topsail Club:

This is a hollow spar, tapered at both ends and rectangular in cross section as shown in the sketch below.  Hollow spars offer strength and flexibility at minimum weight; attributes important to Capt. Nat and ourselves.

–          The scale spars lengths and centerlines were laid out on our layout table, stations marked along the length at perpendicular angles and distances measured off the stations (stations being points where the widths are measured in the drawings) on each side of the centerline to get the proper widths. Long battens were then used to fair the curves for the tapers. When satisfied with these drawings, the measures were transferred to our 4 rough-cut pieces (cut slightly longer and wider than required, but to correct thickness).

–          We were then able cut out and shape perfectly book-matched sides and top/ bottoms.

–          Since the sides were the “outside” dimensions, a side was laid on the keel-blocks. The walls are so thin, it fell into shape on the blocks and no clamping was required.

–          Rectangular blocks were temporarily glued to the sides to create 90 degree angles for gluing the top to the side. The top was then clamped in place.

–          While drying, bulkheads were glued in place at designated bulkhead points , which in many places differ from the stations

–          After the glue for bulkheads and top had dried the temporary blocks were removed and the bottom glued in-place

–          Liner and scotchmen were glued and fastened in position, and then the last side was glued in-place.

–          Final sanding was accomplished with a long-board to remove any imperfections, and then the spar was sealed with shellac and multiple coats of varnish.

When adding the liners and scotchmen we noted that the “as-raced” configuration differed from “as-designed.” Photos of RELIANCE during the America’s Cup races show a third liner and presumably a scotchman. This is further confirmed in the sail plan drawings. Since we are trying to build our RELIANCE in the “as-raced” configuration we elected to add the third position.

Roger Williams University Collaboration

I thought I would take a break from telling you about building spars, to tell you about another aspect of our project – our collaboration with Roger Williams University (RWU).

Shortly after starting on RELIANCE we became aware that our project was much, much more than building a model; there are tasks that involve:

–          Designing a display cradle

–          Advice on structural integrity and materials use

–          Designing an atrium in which to display RELIANCE at the museum

–          Communications and project documentation

–          Developing related exhibits

–          Capturing oral histories

–          Understanding Herreshoff Manufacturing Co. (how they delivered RELIANCE 190 days after receipt of order while completing many other boats as well; advanced design, engineering, and manufacturing; HMCo’s place in the industrial revolution etc)

We have project commitments with RWU on the first five topics and expressions of strong interest in the others. Please contact us if you’d be interested in participating/ mentoring these projects.

Last June we contacted Roger Williams University’s Community Partnerships Center about RWU support. After discussions, we prepared 11 proposals; six of which RWU responded to affirmatively-the seventh fulfilled through student intern assistance.

The RWU School of Engineering cradle design project has progressed well. We just held our Design Concept Review meeting last week. Dyer Jones, Larry Lavers, and I met with the RWU student design team, faculty sponsors Professors Bill Palm and Jim Brunnhoeffer, and CPC sponsor Arnold Robinson. The student team members are George Dalton, Sean Damico, Eric Doremus, Brian Fortier, and Jeff Goncalo. We were most impressed by capabilities of the team, their ideas, and enthusiasm.

I enclose sketches (not to scale) of three of their concepts which allow RELIANCE to be heeled over at a slight angle for viewing and to enable the sails to draw well:

–          Cantilever cradle

–          Free Floating cradle

–          Cutting edge

We believe a hybrid of the cantilever and free floating design appears best. It would have a forward support piercing the hull directly under the mast, and an after support piercing the bottom of the hull aft of the rudder. These would be supported by angle bracing; both of which are attached to a base plate. The top of the supports would be attached to a center beam internal structure which secures load-bearing stays and halyards, since the existing fiberglass hull and deck are not reinforced. What are your thoughts?

This week the student team is presenting their project at a Professional Engineering symposium, hoping to gain P.E. support to enter this project in a national university competition.  If any of our readers are certified engineers and willing to mentor them, please contact us. The museum and student team would be most grateful for your support.

I must also recognize RWU student intern Kellie Fox who has single handedly helped shape our communications capabilities including this website/ blog space. We are using the blog site to document our project.

Thank you to all these students, their faculty and the CPC. You are critical to our success!

Completing the Spinnaker Boom & Bowsprit

As we progress on our model we become more intrigued with RELIANCE’s “configuration management.” As in the real world, there are “as designed,” “as-built,” “as-initially sailed,” and finally “as-raced” configurations. We are working from the original drawings, yet when we look at various pictures of RELIANCE we note differences. And then there are books, periodicals and folk-lore differences, too; all of which add the mystery and intrigue of RELIANCE.

We have almost completed our “Oregon Pine” (Douglas fir) spinnaker boom; having fastened 4 thumb cleats in place for boom guys and lifts. We’ve also drilled a hole in the outboard end for the strap of a block and have tapered the mast-end to receive the boom holder (4 ½” diameter, 5” deep cup on the original) attached to the mast by a swivel. The boom appears to have stayed in place by pressure only since there aren’t fastening shown on the boom holder drawings. The original boom was 83’4” in length(~14’ in scale), and according to Temple to the Wind was a solid spar weighing over 1,000 lbs, but our drawings show it to be a round, hollow fabricated spar with 1 ½” walls, 9 bulkheads 1 3/8” thick, and 12 ¾” diameter at maximum girth.

Our team is completing the Douglas fir bowsprit by working on the outboard end. We initially thought this was a round conical shape but now find it has flat sides with rounded top and bottom to accommodate a steel strap along its sides and front. Most interesting and confusing to us is the rigging at this end, purpose for the sheave, and attachment of the footropes and topmast stay. Your thoughts? On the RELIANCE the bowsprit was solid Oregon pine; 40’ 7 ½” in length and 14 3/8” maximum in girth.

We have lofted the Douglas fir hollow Club Topsail Club and cut the pieces; and are amazed at how light and flimsy the parts are! On the original club the dimensions were 57’ 6” in length and 7 ½” x 6” at maximum cross section. It was held in place with an 8” scotchman at its foot and a 12” scotchman 20’ further on. The top and bottom walls were 1 1/8” thick and the sides 7/8” thick with internal bulkheads.