While Niña now rates as a big boat, and big boat devotees took heart at her victory, first by a Class A boat since Argyll did it in 1950, she was thought of quite differently in 1928. Designed for the race to Spain, she was also named especially for it, since there was also a Pinta entered, and for a while a Santa Maria, which didn’t start. She was built by Reuben Bigelow of Monument Beach, Mass., on Cape Cod, a craftsman who had never built anything bigger than a catboat before. Her construction is double planked, mahogany, with teak decks.
There was a great fuss over “small” boats going in a Transatlantic race for the first time, and the account by Weston Martyr in the Sept. 1928, Yachting of her arrival off Santander made much of the drama of such a little boat being first to finish. The small boats had started a week ahead of the 180-200 footers, such as Atlantic and Elena, in the big class. When Niña was finally identified Martyr’s account says “…we look at each other dazed. For instead of the great, redoubtable Atlantic that we had come out to greet, it is the Niña, the little Niña – the smallest boat in the fleet.”