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Camper & Nicholsons Archive
February 2022 Newsletter

Yachting in Wartime


It is common among yachtsmen to give the name of their first vessel to her successors, and the name of Shamrock is perhaps one of the most widely known and loved. Six yachts named Shamrock were built for Sir Tomas J. Lipton. Five of them, Shamrock I to Shamrock V, were specifically built to challenge for the America’s Cup. The first Shamrock (with no number) was designed and built by Fife in 1908 as a First Rule International 23 Metre racer and had a very successful racing career in British and European racing.

The Shamrocks built for the America’s Cup between 1898 to 1913 were the following:
- Shamrock I, a Fife design built to challenge for the 1899 America’s Cup;
- Shamrock II, designed by G.L. Watson for the 1901 challenge;
- Shamrock III, another Fife design and build, this time for the 1903 challenge.

As we all know, none of these marvelous British yachts managed to win a single race against Nat Herreshoff’s racing machines. But in 1913 Sir Thomas Lipton decided to try again and ordered Shamrock IV from Charles Ernest Nicholson for the 1914 America’s Cup.

Shamrock V was built under the J-Class rule in 1930. This masterpiece by C. E. Nicholson will have an entire newsletter dedicated to her.

This yacht was designed by C. E. Nicholson to the American Universal Rule as a 75 foot waterline cutter for Thomas J. Lipton as a Challenger for the America’s Cup.
She was built in our Gosport yard and launched on the 26th of May, 1914. She had a very innovative hull structure and rig. Much of the hull framing and fastenings were in a new alloy called Navaltum, while the hull had three skins: the inner one in diagonal laid cedar, the middle skin in diagonal laid spruce and the outer in fore and aft laid mahogany. The deck was of five layer Venesta plywood, only 7/16” (11 mm) thick, and canvas covered.
The rig was also complex with four jumper stays that had to be set up after the mainsail was hoisted. There was even a canvas sleeve passed around the mast and attached to the mainsail. The topsail yards and spinnaker pole were made by the Mc Gruer Hollow Spar Co. of Gosport by rolling and glueing veneers around a mandrel.
They were so light that two men could carry the spinnaker pole. These were large rigs, the topmast being 146 feet above deck and the topsail spar 176 feet! (54 m!)

Quoting from Uffa Fox ‘s “Sail & Power”:
Rigged as a yawl for the Atlantic passage, Shamrock IV was accompanied by Mr Lipton’s steam yacht ERIN.
Steam Yacht Erin - Guash A. De Simone, 1907
Shamrock IV rigged as a gaff yawl to cross the ocean to New York, July 1914.

Leaving during the Fleet Review on the 18th of July, 1914, they were still at sea when war was declared, so on arrival in New York she was laid up at Jacobs Yard for the duration. There was a serious fire in the yard in 1919 which destroyed her light spars and much of the rigging. These were replaced, but there had been some hogging of the hull as the ends had not been properly supported.
This was the last America’s Cup to be sailed with gaff rigs, the last in New York, and the last using handicaps. SHAMROCK had to give RESOLUTE seven minutes but still won the first two races, one of the best British results in the history of the America’s Cup.

John Nicholson, son of E. Charles wrote in his book Great Years in Yachting :
Known at the time as “the Ugly Duckling “(due to its unusual shape, scow like bow and extreme solutions, editors note) Shamrock was, I suspect, the fastest yacht of her size ever built for her own special conditions; these embraced really fresh winds, but not too much of a sea, as her extreme bulb keel affected her speed of lift in a seaway and her U-sectioned forebody was unkind in heavy swells.
THE NEW YORK TIMES - Wednesday 27 May 1914 - GOSPORT, England, May 26 - “Shamrock IV, the
challenger for the America’s Cup, was launched today and christened by the Countess of Shaftesbury.
The new challenger took the water on the stroke of noon. There was no hitch in the arrangements, and she slid down the ways easily as the Countess of Shaftesbury, who had done similar service for Shamrock III, christened Sir Thomas Lipton’s latest champion.
The little shipping town was gayly decorated with American and British flags, with which was intermingled the yellow flag with the big green shamrock of the Royal Ulster Yacht Club, while everybody present also wore a shamrock.
The British battleships in the harbor were firing a salute in honor of the Queen’s birthday as Shamrock IV was launched, and most of the inhabitants of the town thought the firing was a salute for the yacht.
Very few of the hundred guests of Sir Thomas Lipton obtained a glimpse of the yacht, as the shed in which she has been hidden since her keel was laid is still standing.
The company consisted chiefly of Sir Thomas Lipton’s personal friends, but a few yachting experts were
present..... Many cablegrams and telegrams with good wishes were received today by both Sir Thomas Lipton and Charles E. Nicholson, the designer.
Sir Thomas entertained his guests at luncheon after the launching. In reply to a toast to his health, Sir Thomas said it would do the America’s Cup good to return to its native soil, and he hoped, with the assistance of Mr. Nicholson, to gratify the wish of his lifetime and bring it back. He declared that Mr. Nicholson had tried by the boldness of his design to give American yachtsmen the greatest fright they had ever had... The designer, Charles E. Nicholson, in a brief speech, said he had done his best and that it was now for the sailors to do theirs.
William P. Burton, who is to command the Shamrock IV, also spoke....”

Freak Shamrock IV, Built to Lift the America’s Cup, Takes the Water - YACHTING OPINION ON HER -
Either a Huge Success or a Colossal Failure, Experts Say - Nothing Like Her Ever Seen - Special Cable to THE NEW YORK TIMES - Sir Thomas Lipton’s America’s Cup challenge yacht Shamrock IV was launched without a hitch at Camper & Nicholson’s yard, Portsmouth Harbor, at noon to-day. Just by a happy coincidence, the guns of Nelson’s flagship Victory boomed out a salute in honor of Queen Mary’s forty-seventh birthday as Countess Shaftesbury, wife of the Commodore of the Royal Ulster Yacht Club, through which the challenge was made, succeeded, on her second attempt, in smashing a champagne bottle, and then the duly christened freakish

  • Designer: Charles E. Nicholson
  • Builder: Camper & Nicholsons, Gosport, England
  • Sailmaker: Ratsey, Cowes.
  • Year of building: 1913-1914
  • Launched: May 26, 1914
  • Owner: Sir Thomas Lipton
  • 1932 On Lipton's request, Shamrock IV is broken up
  • Construction: Composite type, frames made in 'navaltum' Steel alternated with Mahogany frames
  • Length overall (LOA): 33.63m
  • Length waterline (LWL) 22.86 m
  • Beam: 6.35m
  • Draft: 4.16m (plus centerboard)
  • Displacement: 108.3 tonnes
  • Sail area: 971.70m2
  • Mast: 32m
  • Boom: 26.82m
  • Bowsprit: 4.57m
  • Topmast: 15.03m
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