Westward leading the pack off Norris Castle, Royal Yacht Squadron Regatta, 1926 signed 'J. Steven Dews' (lower left) oil on canvas 66.8 x 101.6cm (26 5/16 x 40in).
In this gloriously bracing work by the modern master of the genre John Steven Dews, the artist has portrayed five of the greatest racing yachts of their day as they battle for supremacy at Cowes in the summer of 1926.
The race depicted took place on Tuesday 3rd August, the second that day, and offered a prize of £80 to the winner. Lined up at the start were five of the most notable yachts afloat Westward (see below for details), White Heather II (built 1907, owner Sir Charles Allom), Lulworth (built 1920, owner Sir Mortimer Singer), Shamrock (built 1920, owner Sir Thomas Lipton) and the legendary royal cutter Britannia (built 1893, owner King George V). The first yacht over the start line was Shamrock, with Lulworth and White Heather II slightly astern of her but to windward, and Britannia and Westward both on her lee beam. Westward soon gathered pace and was in front as the pack rounded the Solent Bank buoy with an average speed of 11.39 knots. Maintaining the lead once she had taken it, Westward finished first ahead of Lulworth, with the other three yachts following her in quick succession with only 4 minutes and 15 seconds between the winner and Shamrock, the last home.
Westward, 323 tons and the winner on this occasion, was built by the great Nat Herreshoff at Rhode Island in 1910 and was one of the largest racing schooners whose career fell into two distinct phases. Like Britannia, she too had royal connections having been originally purchased at the Kaiser's instigation by a syndicate of German businessmen who renamed her Hamburg. She won all eleven races in her first season and then enjoyed many other successes in the years preceding the Great War. Sold out of German ownership after the Armistice, her new American owner Clarence Hatry restored her original name and his first season in 1920 almost equalled the triumphs of 1910. It was after her sale to T.B.F. Davis in 1924 however, that she finally came into her own when she became a regular challenger to Britannia. Over the years Davis and the King developed a spirited, though very friendly rivalry and Westward became such a prized possession of Davis that he, like George V before him, stipulated in his will that his boat also was to be sunk after his death.