Ocean’s 11 – New York Times – Allison Armour

valhalla05b.jpg

valhalla05b.jpg

Ocean’s 11 – New York Times
At the turn of the 20th century, when the American economy was in one of its epic periods of wealth creation, Europe still had an aristocracy worthy of the name, and flaunting wealth was much in fashion, yacht racing was in its golden age. In 1904, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, himself an ardent if not overscrupulous yachtsman, offered a solid gold cup for a trans-Atlantic race from Sandy Hook, N.J., to the Lizard, near the tip of Cornwall in England. The race began on May 18, 1905, so that the kaiser could present the cup to the winner at the Kiel Week regatta in mid-June. That suited his propaganda purposes as well; he was hoping to present the cup to himself, having entered his schooner Hamburg. But it meant racing across the always dangerous Atlantic in often tricky late-spring conditions.

The challenge quickly attracted 11 boats, ranging in size from the full-rigged ship Valhalla, at 245 feet over all and 648 tons, to the tiny (relatively speaking) Fleur de Lys, at a mere 108 feet and 86 tons. The owners of this fleet were as varied as the boats themselves, except, of course, for the fact that they were all rich. Besides the kaiser, the owners included two British peers: Lord Brassey, the son of a man who had made a vast fortune building railroads; and the 26th Earl of Crawford, the holder of one of the most ancient titles in Europe. Among the American owners were the meatpacking heir Allison Armour, the banker Edmond Randolph, the steel heir Edward Coleman and Wilson Marshall, the heir to a New York streetcar fortune.

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