One avid reader claims on December 11, 1866, the three yachts FLEETWING, HENRIETTA, and VESTA took off from Sandy Hook to the Needles in what amounted to the first ocean race. (Emphasis on “ocean.”) HENRIETTA was the first to finish, on Christmas day.
I can’t find much information about HENRIETTA, unless this is her pictured here:
Apparently, the race was started to prove or disprove the superiority of a centerboarder offshore, which VESTA was. (Centerboarder, that is.) The race was called “The Great Race of 1866.”
According to this website (http://www.stormy.ca/marine/old_history.html), the owners of the boats each bet $30,000 that theirs would win. I’m afraid I can’t find much information about any of the boats. Can our readers help?
And here’s an account of the race, as appeared in Charles Dickens’ journal, All the Year Round: books.google.co.uk.
On the other hand, there was also the Great Tea Race of 1866, which started in May of that year and featured ARIEL, FIERY CROSS, TAEPING, and SERICA, from Foochow (Fuzhou), China to London.
Apparently, the tea races — sailed among clipper ships — originated in 1861.
So, there — Which was the first “ocean race?” Or is there another one I have overlooked? And surely there were previous races among the Polynesians, etc.
Thanks so much, Carl