Sail away on one of the best examples of yachting genius

Classic H12 wooden sailboats cruising Dering Harbor Sunday afternoon (Credit: Ambrose Clancy)

Classic H12 wooden sailboats cruising Dering Harbor Sunday afternoon (Credit: Ambrose Clancy)

A small regatta of  classic sailboats took to the waters of Dering Harbor from the Shelter Island Yacht Club Sunday.

The six trim and beautiful little wooden boats, called “H12s,” silently cruised in what Jim Pugh, who organized the sail, called a “rendevous.” One, called Little Kittie, was  built more than 100 years ago.

Little Kittie was restored last summer by the Sylvester Manor Educational Farm in celebration of the craft’s centennial year.

Todd and David Williamson, grandsons of Andrew and Alice Fiske, donated the boat to Sylvester Manor last year. Mr. Pugh, along with farm apprentice and recreational sailor Jocelyn Craig, refitted the boat.

After spending 10 years in storage at the Manor, Little Kittie’s wooden hull was in danger of cracking. “All sorts of bad things can happen when a boat is out of the water for that long,” said founder and special projects adviser of the Educational Farm Bennett Konesni, who also was involved in the restoration.

The history of the legendary H12s begins with brothers John and Nathaniel Herreshoff, who formed a partnership in 1878, selling steamboats to the growing American Navy. While creating these technological masterpieces, the brothers also spent time developing recreational crafts, including a 12.5-foot dinghy — “the H12″ — that became a staple of local regattas.

The Herreshoff’s sold  Little Kittie to W.O. Taylor, the publisher of The Boston Globe, on November 14, 1914. According to the Herreshoff Registry, it was just the third H12 ever sold.

Catching the last breezes and lights of day (Credit: Ambrose Clancy)

Catching the last breezes and lights of day  (Credit: Ambrose Clancy)

According to the Herreshoff Museum in Bristol, “This design has long since established itself as one of the foremost examples of yachting genius, for no other type of boat has acquired a more enduring popularity. The mere fact that no significant modification has been made in the design testifies to its perfection.”

Making the sail Sunday:

Little Kittie,  built 1914, sailed by Jocelyn Craig and Max Spielmann, Herreshoff Manufacturing Company.

Man ‘o War,  built 1921, sailed by Tom Wolstenholme. Herreshoff Manufacturing Company.

Captain’s Gig,  built 1974, sailed by Don Jones and Eric Langendal, Cape Cod Shipbuilding Company.

WASP, built 1941, sailed by Nick Voulgaris III and Rob Bannon, Herreshoff Manufacturing Company.

Zephyr,  built 1948, sailed by Ellen and Dennis Clark, Herreshoff Manufacturing Company.

Hawkeye,  built 2004, sailed by Lynne and Chip Whipple and Dona Bergin, Anders Langendal Boatbuilders.