Celebrating its Contributions to Sailing
Published on April 14th, 2017
by Laurie Fullerton, wickedlocal.com
The Corinthian Yacht Club (Marblehead, MA) celebrated 130 years of sailing history and small boat design when it unveiled an elegant, “compendium of luminous personalities, historical details, and major events” in “Marblehead’s Corinthians” during a gala publication party on April 8.
Written by Matthew Murphy, who by day is the editor of “Wooden Boat Magazine,” but by night became absorbed by the archives, rarely seen photographs and newspaper clippings that led to the book about the history of a club.
“It’s really a beautiful book,” said Commodore Robert Howie Jr. “The thing that really struck me though is that the history of the Corinthian is really the history of small boat design.”
Described in 1888 as having “one of the most beautiful views in American waters,” few would argue that the view from the Corinthian Yacht Club is one of the finest in town, but the club is not only known for its location, but also for its unparalleled contribution to small boat racing, design, and innovation in the early part of the 20th century.
When the club was founded in 1885, the idea was to give recreational sailors a place to race their own boats, Howie explained. That gave way to innovation.
Murphy, originally of Salem, proved to be the perfect choice to put the history book together, which took about three years all in all. He not only grew up as a member of the Corinthian Yacht Club and sailed out of Marblehead, but he is a keen expert on classic yachts and has been editor of “Wooden Boat” for over 20 years.
When he embarked on the project, working mostly at night, he began to uncover a treasure trove of classic one design boats designed by greats like Starling Burgess, L. Francis Herreshoff and C. Raymond Hunt, who, Howie said were all members of the Corinthian Yacht Club.
The collection was so great Murphy asked other yachting experts like naval historian Llewellyn Howland, III, “Wooden Boat” expert Maynard Bray and MIT’s Kurt Hasselbach to weigh in on the significance of the designs and the stories behind the owners, sailors, club members and yachting enthusiasts.
Howland offers his thoughts on the club in the preface to the book, where he notes the Corinthian might not be America’s oldest, largest of most famous yacht club, but it has been among the most “forward-looking and influential–and until now one of our most reticent.” He said he applauded the club for ending its long silence and sharing its rich history.
When Murphy began researching the book on the Corinthian Yacht Club, he said he had no idea he would uncover tens of thousands of articles and photographs in newspapers like the Boston Globe or in particular the Boston Herald Traveler, where photographer Leslie Jones worked from 1917 and 1956.
Reporters like Leonard Fowle of the Globe and photographers like Jones, who described the club as having “magnificent ocean scenarios, jolly people who are fond of a good time and banded by geniality,” chronicled Marblehead yachting in the first half of the century with the kind of expertise and enthusiasm.
Murphy was not the only one to make great finds while researching the book.
Howie, who is a trained historian, said he was going through the archives when “I came across this sheet music baking in the heat of the third floor.”
“One Step” was composed by Guillermo Urquidi in 1914 and dedicated by him to “the members of the Corinthian Yacht Club.” Howie said he asked a member, Bill Larkin, to play the piece and it was used as the backdrop to a video on the club’s history.
During the night’s event, Murphy spoke to about 300 people, many who had had helped research the book in their own way. With grandchildren and children of some of the earliest members in attendance, Murphy described some long forgotten summers at the Corinthian, including 1925 when President Calvin Coolidge kept his presidential yacht in the waters off of the Corinthian Yacht Club and came and went from the club to his summer White House in Swampscott.
“Who would have known that Calvin Coolidge would have a floating White House off the Corinthian,” Howie said.
Murphy also spoke of founder Benjamin Crowninshield, Everett Paine, Secretary of the Navy Charles Francis Adams and of course the beginnings of the legendary Marblehead Race Week.
There is a photograph of William Carlton, the club’s longtime Race Committee chairman sailing a “Brutal Beast” to a second place finish in what Murphy called “a colorful one-off Corinthian race.” He is wearing a suit and tie. According to Murphy, Carlton led the effort to open the once invitation only summer race series to the public, which gave way to Marblehead Race Week.
With chapter headings listed by decade the book talks about sailors like Ted and Bruce Hood, Bradley Noyes, Robbie Doyle, Norm Cressy, Richard and Ellie Thayer and many more who contributed to the club’s and the town’s yachting legacy.
It also touches on historic moments like how World War I impacted the club, Hurricane Carol and when in 1985 a measure passed “resoundingly” that offered full membership in the club to women.
On a final note, Murphy spoke of the Corinthian staff and its current stewards whose dedication to maintain a club like the Corinthian is a labor of love, preserving, “one of the most beautiful views in American waters.”
Howie called the publication party a wonderful event and for him the book represents a platform for the club.
“The past is a prologue,” he said “We honor history by really doing today what they did back then, being innovative, pushing the envelop in small boat design and racing and programmably … What we do in the 21st century to continue to move the dial forward.”
Marbleheard Reporter reporter Chris Stevens contributed to this story