- by Carol Standish
Temple to the Wind - The Story of America’s Greatest Naval Architect and His Masterpiece, Reliance (Christopher Pastore, the Lyons Press, 234pp $22.95) is a different kettle of fish: a narrowly focused, well-researched account of the involvement of Nathanael Greene Herreshoff and the boats he built in the America’s Cup contests at the turn of the last century. Leading up to the launching of Herreshoff’s “masterpiece” in 1903, the author sketches the life and times of Captain Nat and his brothers growing up in Bristol and as well as the of the Scottish tea and grocery magnate, Thomas Lipton who will challenge the Americans for the cup several times, unsuccessfully.
The final four of thirteen chapters are devoted to the contests themselves. Blow by blow verbal descriptions of the tactics, the weather, the accidents are provided. Invested with historic significance the story will be mildly interesting to the non-sailing reader but fascinating to racing sailors. Pastore’s prose is serviceable and he provides a glossary for those unfamiliar with sailing terms. Since each race is unique and the stakes are impressive, the race narratives will likely conjure up tense and salty scenes in the imaginations of the sailor or sailing history buff.
What’s missing are photographs…a meager eight pages chosen from among the hundreds, probably thousands of available vintage images from Hereshoff archives and newspapers around the world. Pastore often refers to and describes photographs he’s seen in the course of his research. This approach only serves to make the reader feel like a pauper begging for more. The effort of imagining what is available exclusively to the author makes for crankiness in the reader.
Oddly enough, in 1989 Maynard Bray and Carlton Pinheiro produced Herreshoff of Bristol, A Photographic History of America’s Greatest Yacht and Boat Builders (currently out of print. Used volumes start at $165). While visually stunning, the opposite criticism has been made, that text concerning the lives of the people involved was in short supply. So if you can find (and afford) a copy of the photographic history to keep along side as you read Pastore’s book you will be a lot more satisfied. A definitive biography of the Herreshoff brothers (with pictures) would be fascinating to the general public. They all seem to have been geniuses, mechanical or other wise. And, they lived in an exciting time for inventors of all stripes.