THE MARILEE STORY
Nathaniel Herreshoff’s aim, when designing the NY40 class, was to construct a boat that was able to excel on the racecourse, while being comfortable for cruising. The previous Herreshoff New York Yacht Club classes were tailored for racing, and required many crew members to operate and race. There was a desire, at the time, for slightly smaller boats that required fewer paid hands, and that would have Corinthian skippers. Herreshoff’s response to these sentiments was the twelve forties launched in 1916 that had much different proportions from the preceding Herreshoff NYYC classes. Initially, the lines of the boats were criticized. Their wide beam, and high freeboard for accommodations were a completely new style. The forties were referred to as “flying saucers”, as, despite their new proportions, they quickly proved to be quick around the racecourse.
The class saw just two seasons of racing before World War One put a halt on sailing. The 1920 summer season resumed play, and in the six summers that followed, the NY40 class design proved its dominance on the racecourse. The class traded the nickname “flying saucer” for “fighting forty”.
In the spring of 1926, MARILEE, the first of two additional forties was launched. She had a fresh, custom coach house, and a larger cockpit than the earlier forties—attributes that continue to give her a distinct, signature silhouette. It is incredible now to imagine the starting line that summer with fourteen NY40s.
Unfortunately though, just around the time of MARILEE's launch, tides were turning. Interest in the world of sailing was shifting away from larger boats and onto smaller classes. 1926 was both MARILEE’s first season, and the last true season of NY40 class racing. By summer of 1927, many of the forties had been sold out of the New York Yacht Club, and only two of the fourteen raced. A class trophy was not even awarded that summer.
In the years that followed, the boats cruised, and raced inconsistently. In 1933, MARILEE was given an engine, and a few of the forties, including MARILEE, traded their gaffs and massive sail areas for more easily manageable Marconi rig setups.
Though the boats were lightly constructed, and the popularity of the class faded, through luck and love, a few survived the times.
MARILEE entered a restoration in 2000, and in 9 months was on a ship to Europe, ready for racing. Seventy-five years after the last true season of NY40 class racing, two forties, MARILEE and RUGOSA, tied for first overall at the Americas Cup Jubilee Regatta in Cowes, England. To date, this regatta was the largest and most significant assembly of vintage yachts for racing. Their success in such an event is truly a testament to Herreshoff’s design. MARILEE continued to earn podium finishes over the next few seasons in the Mediterranean. Perhaps it is partly due to MARILEE’s huge successes in the 2001 Jubilee season, and the few years after, that brought renewed interest in racing NY40s. Since then, the number of actively racing Forties has doubled. We look forward to seeing RUGOSA, ROWDY, CHINOOK, and MARILEE racing together as a class again soon.