The MIT Museum's Hart Nautical Gallery will have a new full-hull yacht model in 1999--a 54-inch scale model of the Reliance, one of the greatest America's Cup yachts of all time and winner of the 1903 race.
The model was commissioned for the Hart collection by John K. Dema, an environmental attorney and yachting enthusiast in the US Virgin Islands, and is being built by master model builder Richard M.-J. De Vynck, also of the USVI. Original drawings for Reliance are among the 13,000 plans in the Haffenreffer-Herreshoff ship design collection owned by MIT. Mr. De Vynck used information from the MIT Museum for a model of the SS Roosevelt, which was recently unveiled at the Peary-Macmillan Arctic Museum at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, ME. He wanted to build a classic model for MIT which made use of the rich plan resources at MIT, explained Kurt Hasselbalch, curator of the Hart Nautical Collections.
The Reliance model is expected to be the centerpiece of an exhibition about the history of the America's Cup, in which many MIT designers have been involved. MIT currently has only one other full-hull America's Cup model: the America3 donated by alumnus William Koch.
The Hart Nautical Collections-which form one of the oldest maritime museums in the country-include models, paintings, prints, photographs and drawings, including those for Reliance, which was the largest single-masted vessel ever built. It was the third of six yachts designed and built by Nathanael Herreshoff (Class of 1870) that won the America's Cup seven consecutive times between 1895 and 1934. Reliance required 66 racing crewmen to handle her 16,159 square feet of sails (enough for eight modern 12-meter boats) and a topmast sprit that was almost 190 feet above the waterline.
Artifacts from the Hart Nautical Collections are exhibited both at the gallery in Building 5 and at the MIT Museum at 265 Massachusetts Ave.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on May 22, 1996.