During a late evening at the Union Club in 1866, Bennett fell to boasting with his friends about the relative merits of their new yachts.
Pierre Lori ll ard had a new centerboard schooner, Vesta, Franklin Osgood had his deep and narrow Fleetwing, and Bennett was eager to pit his skills in Henrietta against the others.
Large stakes were mentioned: $30,000 to enter the race, much more than the cost of the yachts, winner rake all; the stakes rose to $60,000.
These were the largest stakes in any sporting evem even well into the next cenwry, and they were shockin g.
As John Rousmaniere wrote in The Golden Pastime (New York, 1986),
the first impulse ofYachr Club Commodore William H. McVickar was to “refuse to have.
the name of the New York Yacht Club sullied with what promised to be a casteless combination of overheated stakes and big commerce.”
He was eventually persuaded to reverse his decision and agreed to be the official judge.
Thus, the first Great Ocean Race went forward. Rousmani ere writes: Bennett indelibly made his yachting reputation after the war ended,
when he was the only owner to sail in one of the strangest and most tragic events in the history of yachting,
the race in December of 1866 from New York to the Isle of Wight, England, for stakes of $ 60, 000.
To command their vessels, the owners hired the best captains they could find.
Dick Brown, Americas skipper when she won the Hu ndred Guinea Cup, signed aboard Fleetwing but proudly quit three days before the start because,
for some reason, he was listed below Albert Thomas, the navigator, on the vessels clearance papers; Thomas took over the command in fact as well as name.
On Vesta, there was George Dayton, an experienced, cautious square-rigger captain and father of seventeen;
and there was twentyyear-old George Lorillard, sent along by his brother to keep an eye on Dayton.
The real coup was Bennetts. For a fee of $7,500 he brought on the great Samuel Samuels, holder of the transAtlantic record under sail in the clipper Dreadnought.
years at sea honestly earned the nickname “Bully, ” and was guaranteed to drive his men, his yacht, and himself to their limits.
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