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cook and its butler we were enabled to set the weather at defiance. The state of the coffee-room, however, indicated that the interest taken in the Grand National was fast falling away, and instead of the Noble Lords, members of the Jockey Club, M.P.'s, and fashionables, who used to be grouped about the steps, puffing away care, and knocking favourites about like nine-pins, there was not above a dozen tables taken, and those by sporting tradesmen and betting men.
Ireland was but poorly represented both with man and horse ; and really with such a hurricane, it is not wonderful the list of absentees should have been so great. Anxious was the discussion of “to be or not to be;" and the decision of Mr. George Payne, the only steward who was present, was awaited as keenly as a judge's number on the telegraph. At last, when the postponement was gazetted, one-third of the visitors went back, like the prisoner in the dock, to the place from whence they came ; but, not liking to show the white feather, we remained to the end, although it was as difficult for a sporting-man to kill time in Liverpool, as it is for an ensign in an out-quarter in Ireland. At last, when the Grand National was really put upon the scene, it must be owned that the riders were fairly entitled to the “Order of Valour," as never was ground in worse order, and escapes from falls appeared impossible.
Black Tom, once more a freeman, and not afraid to give his address, looked as well as ever, and his mount was rather fancied, for people will back Oliver across a country, just as freely as they will Fordham at Newmarket. Knight of the Shire seemed to have found steeple-chasing disagreeing with his constitution, for he was as thin as a hurdle, and Tom Moody had no legs. Mr. Merry's couple, Escape and Lough Bawn, were strongly patronised, and the secret of the real Simon Pure was well preserved. The race is now matter of history, and therefore we need not add more than our impression, that the number of falls in it gave it more the appearance of what we had seen at Astley's than a real Grand National; and that to the jumping powers alone of Little Charley it is due, that Cheltenham may congratulate itself on having sent another winner from its downs.
The following week found us at Doncaster, where we were again doomed to disappointment; but the stud-farms of Yorkshire, which are spread about in the vicinity, made us feel the delay less than at Liverpool. As at Aintree, we saw little to record during our stay in the cleanest and prettiest of all Yorkshire towns; but the Hopeful brought out some nice two-year olds; and if Fusee, the winner, was not a roarer, he would be a very promising colt. In Costrel, Messrs. Thornbill and Sextie, who, with their Cambridgeshire winnings last year, have established a stud nearly as large as that of Saxon and Barber, have got a horse that will make great havoc among these stakes, which Mr. Parr, with whom they were formerly so associated, has for so many years farmed. Warwick was but a shadow of its former self—for Trainers do not like the Clerk of the Course, on account of the difficulty in getting the stakes when they win — and the fields were small and bad. Captain Little won, as he almost invariably does do, the Willoughby; and Mr. E. R. Clarke's run of luck, with his famous Vandermeulin, continues inexhaustible; but he must for ever regret his having scratched him for the Chester Cup, wherein he was so well handicapped as to have been about winning, barring accidents. Horsetamers are now all the rage ; and one half of the sporting world are supporting Rarey, and the other half Telfer. The former is the aristocratic favourite, as his advertisement will show; but the latter has the call of the million-probably because he springs from among their ranks, and his fee being only a guinea instead of a tenner, and no guarantees required for secresy, and all comers heartily received. Both systems are the same, and of the simplest kind; but it would be unfair to explain them, although "Argus" has given a bint of it in the Post, and his challenge to Rarey to tame Cruiser, whose history he gave, has bad the effect we understand of bringing him over from France to accept it; and should he be successful— which the Rawcliffe manager deems improbable—he will be entitled to every reward, not only for his sagacity but also for his courage—both of which ingredients must be used with the receipt. Rarey, it is said, is an educated person, with good address, which will aid him in making his living ; wbile Telfer's Northumberland patois is much against him in giving an explanation of his system, which ere long will be extant in every hunting and training stable in England.
The betting on all the great races has been singularly dull, and we know of several parties who have given up going to Tattersall's, because they never see a Derby bet laid, or, indeed, any wagers, except for a trifle, upon some forthcoming handicap ; for the truth must ooze out, that the gentlemen have no money to bet with, and the Legs have only themselves to prey upon.
Clydesdale's aspect in the market for the Two Thousand has given his friends just cause for alarm ; but we are not disposed to think Mr. Howard has shunted any portion of the large sum he has backed him for, which includes one bet alone of seven monkeys; and, if his horse was not to go for the race, Sedbury would suffer for it in the Derby, which would, we believe, be quite contrary to the policy of Mr. H., who invariably likes to see his horses favourites for all their engagements. The Peer, on the contrary, is very firm for the Two Thousand, and the Melton folks do not hesitate to state he is the best of the team; and from all we can learn we are not inclined to dissent from their notions, and shall anticipate his success on “the great days” of Newmarket and Chester. For the Derby, the Cock's freinds have ceased their support, while the band of Toxopholites are daily getting more powerful, and the Longranges more diminished. Hadji is fancied much all over the north, and every stableboy of Middleham has his sovereign upon him ; but Gildermure, they say, is not improved an ounce, so that the reputed trial between them may be wrong. Ditto is doing very well, and Sedbury, it is said, will have a better day. But another month will disclose many secrets which are now hidden from us, but which when let out shall be put before your readers by
“ The merry May bath pleasant hours, and dreamily they glide,
upon a silver tide;
THE Spring is upon us, May is at hand—that merry month when land flowers bloom, and “ocean flowers” begin—"To fit out!" ejaculates some grim old mariner, "so avast with your poetry and begin with the prose.'
Every succeeding season that opens upon the yachting world is, of course, expected to be the best; but of late years the “noble science has been so much on the increase, and so many gallant recruits have enlisted beneath the brilliant standards of the pleasure navy, that the success of a season is not looked upon now as problematical, but has become an established, or, as a Brother Jonathan would phrase it—"A real fact!”
A British family, now-a-days, possessed of a promising son or two, would as soon think of being without a yacht as a box at the opera. What?--the ne-plus-ultra of all modern luxuries !-oh, no! fuerant vitia mores sunt,” and so accordingly we do the Mediterranean or the West Indies, Cowes or Cherbourg, California or Cape Cod, just as Fancy pricks us with her spur. “ Mother of Moses !” as the Vicar of Wakefield (were the poor reverend gentleman now alive) might be tempted to call his “superior moiety," should Christoper Columbus drag his anchors and drive to sea again, what would he say on meeting some of the gossamer-rigged, all legs-and-wings ocean-spiders of 1858? He would probably deliver himself to the Editor of the Irish MetroPOLITAN thus
“My liege ! unaccustom'd as I am to speaking
In public-an art I'm remarkably weak in-
Only be guessid !” No matter, however, what the old muff would say (O mores! Columbus ?) it is a rery comfortable, very aristocratic, and very autocratical mode of travelling; and countries, counties, and sea-coast shires, seen through the brilliant rose-coloured glass which always forms the field lens of a yacht's telescope, assume a novelty and beauty rarely if ever seen through any other medium.
With your wardrobe at your head, your dressing-room at your feet, your bath alongside of you, and a gallant craft bearing you joyfully o'er the summer seas, what hath Care to do in company with the snowycanvassed yacht? A fearless crew of old Neptune's sons obey your every word or gesture ; earth, air, fire and water are your only enemies, ay, even they, the kind friends by whose daily aid you live-terrible enemies they are, too, when vexed; but with your hardy tars at your back, and the pluck of a British yachtsman, why you do get along; and, as Mr. Mark Tapley might be pleased to remark, Jolly under the worst of circumstances !”-or
“ Like a blue-bottle fly on a rather large scale,
With a rather large corking-pin stuck through his tail." Some men hunt because its the fashion; others keep race-horses because its the fashion, and a leetle more; coursing, shooting, fishing, cricketing, all in turn have their votaries ; some through passion, others through fashion. Yachting, likewise, but with this exception, that, pursued in its purity as a sport, it is the most manly and noble pastime in the world. Every other sinks into insignificance compared to it, for truly you have earth, air, fire and water to contend againstno child's-play, when the elements become your steed, and you are astride upon the winds—when ocean heaves on high, and opes a mighty « yawner,” within which you might drop, not quite out of bounds, but still sufficiently so to be bowled out.
One great comfort of yachting is, that wherever you go, “your house is thatched,” “your hat is on,” your home is along with you, your rent is paid, and it is the only position in which you can snap your fingers and hurl a most aggravating “Boo!” or any other contemptuous sound that pleases you, at the head of the “meek and polite (?)” tax-collector.
We are on the eve of '58, so therefore, royal burgees, arouse yourselves, and let not “The hand of procrastination belay your signal halliards !” Come! that is-isn't it?
So therefore now to “strut our hour upon the stage !” Ne'er mind the strict accuracy, we mould such things like timber, to suit our fancy and the hour.
Chopping and changing, building, buying, and bartering, already herald an early and busy season. We find Lord Dufferin the first in the field of purchasers; he leaves his old ship the Foam, 85 tons, for the well-known Erminia, 220 tons, and rumour hath it that he is about to circumnavigate the globe ; should such be the case, we may look for some more valuable contributions in yachting literature. The Lancashire Witch schooner, of 94 tons, is now the property of A. H. Davenport, Esq. A letter appeared in Bell's Life of the 10th of January, signed “C. M.” in which the writer implies that we have arrived at perfection in the science of yacht-building, and that nothing more remains to be done, in consequence of the new yachts having been beaten by old ones. Verily “C. M.” we disagree with thee; very much remains to be done, and perhaps the new yachts may show some fun this year. If the South of England clubs would only show a little more liberality to the yachtsmen visiting their waters, there would be no doubt a larger infliction upon them in the shape of vessels from the St. George's Channel. There is no doubt that, until a universal system of measurement for tonnage, the prohibition of shifting ballast, and a recognized aquatic body similar to the Turf Club be established, together with a universal code of sailing laws and regulations, to be by them promulgated, yacht-racing must always be subject to the fluctuations consequent upon caprice and want of judicious encouragement. If we had our aquatic Derbys, and Doncasters, and Ascots, under the management of such established laws and regulations as a man might know what he was building for, what tonnage he was building to, and what prize was to reward him, we should see a very different state of things. Now-a-days we go to a regatta : the rules may be improvised a few hours before our arrival, and of which a faint idea is hardly to be procured, even from the printed list, and even that suffers wonderful changes from the lively imaginations of members of sailing.committees, who invariably are in a fuss, when they ought to be cool, at the moment of action; then when a dispute arises, one party are sticking out to award the prize at home, whilst the others go the whole hog for the stranger, because he came the furthest, and thus neither party is satisfied, least of all the “ belligerents.”
Well, then, at one port we are measured by old measurement along the keel, and at 50 tons; the next, perhaps, we go to, we are measured along the deck, and are made 60 tons of, whilst a third brings us to 55, a fourth allows shifting ballast, a fifth seals you down, and claps a man aboard of you, perhaps, to prevent it, a sixth limits your number of hands, and a seventh cries " take as many as you like !"
Then this is not all: the victorious gentleman, in the flush of success, will do the generous thing, and give his pilot an exorbitant douceur ; crew are likewise fee'd largely, especially the spare hands, so that the unfortunate outsiders, when they come to square up, have a pretty to-do, and begin to think that, what between new balloon sails, shot bags, and spare hands, yacht-racing is rayther an expensive concern. The committees of yacht-clubs should turn their attention to this; but we are sorry to say, in many instances, it is the "club house," and its “cuisine," and the “wines,” the colour of the carpets, how the blinds work, and whether the billiard-table is in good order, occupies more of their attention than the purposes for which they are associated.
If we want to bring yacht-racing and yacht-sailing to perfection, let shifting ballast be abolished, let vessels be sailed with their ordinary work-a-day canvas and crews, and with universal rules to guide us, we shall know what we are about, and improve accordingly.
The Royal Victoria Yacht Club is the first fixture we perceive in the Aquatic Register of "Bell.” These early announcements by established Clubs are admirably adapted to facilitate arrangements along the different coasts.
The Royal Thames Yacht Club open the season on the 22nd of May, with a first-class prize of £100, for yachts exceeding 35 tons; and a second-class prize of £50, for yachts exceeding 20 but not exceeding 35 tons; half-minute time allowed for difference of tonnage up to 60 tons; no allowance of time beyond 60 tons; course, from Erith, round the Nore Light Ship, and back. The entries to close at 10 P.M., on Thursday, the 13th of May.
Their second sailing match is fixed for Tuesday, the 22nd of June for schooners only. First class, exceeding 75 tons, a prize of £100; second class, not exceeding 75 tons, a prize of £50; quarter of a minute time allowed for difference of tonnage ; no time allowed beyond 150 tons; course, from off Rosherville, round the Mouse Light Vessel, and return to Greenhithe. Entries to close at 10 o'clock, P.M., on Monday, the 15th of June.