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Captain Sarah Armour Sails Brilliant into its 90th Anniversary

Mystic, Conn. (July 21, 2022) – At 28, Sarah Armour has taken the helm as captain of the schooner Brilliant, celebrating its 90th anniversary this year. This exquisite wooden sailing vessel has been serving as an offshore classroom in Mystic Seaport Museum’s education programs for nearly 70 years. The program offers people of all ages the opportunity to learn about sailing on one of the finest wooden schooners ever built.

Brilliant was given to the Museum in 1953 specifically to be used as a sail training vessel for youth. Brilliant was custom-designed as a gaff-rigged schooner by Olin Stephens of Sparkman & Stephens for Walter Barnum, and was built in the Henry B. Nevins yard at City Island, N.Y. After World War II Brilliant was bought by Briggs Cunningham, who had the masts lengthened and sail area increased in the hopes of increasing the vessels speed. It was Cunningham who donated Brilliant to the Museum.

This year marks the 90th anniversary of Brilliant and through those years, the boat continues to thrive and stand the test of time, which is a testament to the original craftsmanship. At the request of Walter Barnum, the construction details were of the highest standard for a possible voyage around the world.

Although Brilliant has yet to complete a circumnavigation, it has sailed the equivalent of five times around the earth, with more than 11,000 students setting the sails and steering its course in the last 70 years. This year, Brilliant is guided by an all-female crew, Captain Armour, along with first mate, Sarah Nevin and cook, Ger Tysk, both of whom are USCG licensed captains.

When asked what makes Brilliant special, Armour notes, “This vessel has such a storied legacy, from her transatlantic record in 1933 to her current role running one of the oldest sail training programs in the country (since 1953!), Brilliant remains extraordinary.” She goes on to say, “Many folks don’t know this, but Brilliant has never had a rebuild! The vessel was built to a standard that I have yet to see matched elsewhere, and that has served Brilliant, her crew, and the Museum well.”

At 90 years young, Brilliant has endured the test of time, with most of its original infrastructure, which is extraordinary. When asked why she chose to become the captain of Brilliant, Armour’s response was, “When Brilliant calls, you answer.” Armour’s goal is to complete a transatlantic journey aboard Brilliant, but for now teens and adults alike are learning to sail and experience life aboard a boat on five-to-ten-day trips that impact the rest of their lives. This will forever be a part of the legacy of Brilliant.


Media Contact

Sophia Matsas
Director of Marketing & Communications
Mystic Seaport Museum
860.572.5317 (o)

About Mystic Seaport Museum

Mystic Seaport Museum is the nation’s leading maritime Museum. Founded in 1929 to gather and preserve the rapidly disappearing artifacts of America’s seafaring past, the Museum has grown to become a national center for research and education with the mission to “inspire an enduring connection to the American maritime experience.” The Museum’s grounds cover 19 acres on the Mystic River in Mystic, CT, and include a recreated New England coastal village, a working shipyard, formal exhibit halls, and state-of-the-art artifact storage facilities. The Museum is home to more than 500 historic watercraft, including four National Historic Landmark vessels, most notably the 1841 whaleship Charles W. Morgan. For more information, please visit mysticseaport.org and follow the Museum on FacebookTwitterYouTube, and Instagram.