“If your eye is on the Twelve-Meters and the America’s Cup, a real live Six is better than tank testing. But racing a Six-Meter is sufficient reward in itself. Faster boats for their length and sail area have been designed, but none with quite the same feel, nor more deserving of the term thoroughbred.”
- Bob Bavier, America’s Cup winner and six meter veteran in Yachting, July 1979
Preparations have been made and boats from the USA West Coast, East Coast, Europe and New Zealand have converged on Newport, Rhode Island for the 2009 International 6 Metre World Cup. This is the 17th running of the event which was first held in Seattle in 1973. Back then there was no distinction between the Moderns and the Classics, so it is somewhat ironic that for a class that has brought much innovation and development to sailing through the past century, the vast majority of interest these days is in the old boats, the Classic division, which are defined as boats designed before 1965. Much more so than in the past, and we’ve seen this borne out in a number of relatively recent regattas, it’s the rider as much as the horse with Classic sixes, so predictions will be difficult to make. As we get further along in seeing the results of various recent major 6 metre regattas, the more convincing the argument that the great Holm, Aas and all-conquering Sparkman & Stephens designs of the 30’s benefited greatly from the talent they had on board at the time, as much or more than they benefited from great design. Throughout the various selection series and the “Great Events” of the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s the results show that great sailors were rewarded, as they are today, as much as the designer of their boats, though having a great design never hurts.
This regatta will provide a fantastic look at the range of development and variety of styles employed by various designers through the past 100 years. The oldest entry by far (and the furthest travelling) is New Zealand’s NZL 1 Scout, designed in 1909 to the first version of the Rule and the only 6 metre in New Zealand now or within memory of practically anyone living. The International Rule never caught on in New Zealand, so it’s pretty rare to see this time capsule of a boat, though her once gaff rig is now a more modern Marconi style.
Next comes a handful of boats designed in the early 20’s to the 2nd iteration of the International Rule (1920 – 1932), with 2 of them built specifically to compete for a position in the British - American Team Races. US 14 SYCE (an acronym for Stamford Yacht Club Entry, rhymes with slice) was built to try for a spot on the 1922 American team, but did not qualify. The weather was horrible in the trials, with SYCE losing her mast on the first day. She went out for the next day with a replacement, but did not do well enough to make the team. US 21 Madcap competed with 13 other boats for a position on the 1924 American team, but did not qualify. Interest in this 4-on-4 series was on a scale almost unimaginable today, with daily coverage in the New York Times, multiple yachting journalists, huge crowds of spectator boats were kept away from the competitors by US Navy destroyers (!), brass bands on the beach, etc… It was all very new and novel, with accounts of the day saying this type of competition “knocks the America’s Cup into a cocked hat!” Design was evolving and being refined rapidly in this time, and next comes the lovely Fife – designed, Thornycroft-built, D22 Clarity, owned by Newport’s own Jed Pearsall. Clarity has an Olympic Games pedigree, having won a Silver medal for Denmark under Wilhelm Vett at the 1924 Games in Paris, France.
Perhaps the next group will be the most interesting to watch - a solid range of boats from the Golden Age - the 30’s, who will prove that newer isn’t always better and there will be some surprises. Despite the crash of 1928 and a global financial crisis (sound familiar?), the year 1930 alone saw the production of approximately 60 boats worldwide, the biggest production year ever for sixes. Combine that with the production totals of 1931 & 1932 and you have approximately 107 boats – more than the combined total of all Moderns produced to date (1965 – present). Bill Luders’ own boat, US 51 Totem, has been rebuilt from the keel up and looks nearly as she did when she won the US Nationals in 1931. The young Bill Luders vexed Olin Stephens, who noted in later life that Totem was untouchable in light air. This is one of the narrowest sixes ever, at 5’ 9” in the middle. The Fife designed US 52 Alana will be a real unknown, as she has been on the speed gain ladder this year and has started to show her potential. David Pedrick drew a new keel for Alana a few years back, as the previous custodian had taken a blow torch to the original lead. Both US 53 Cherokee and US 56 Jill perfectly represent a time when S&S was building steam. Both boats were built for famous, competitive owners and both look today as they did in 1931. Imagine you’re looking at them through a black and white filter, and you’ll swear you are looking at a Rosenfeld photo. US 60 Nancy is of a slightly later time, and a little more modernized, but the same can be said of her. All the way from San Diego, California comes the sole representative of Clinton Crane’s genius, US 43 Sprig. Not as famous as his last design, US 55 Lucie, but equally as fast. Greg Stewart has taken her back to a vintage ideal and I hope you’ll like her soft blue topside paint and white mast. FIN 12 Fridolin is very competitive in Finland, which is the largest national fleet of Classics in most years and with the greatest depth of competition. The Tore Holm boats have not been in much evidence in the USA, and Fridolin is a beautiful example. She will surprise all but those who have sailed against her previously. The Canadian entry from Vancouver is KC 19 Saskia II, another lovely Fife design who has shown some speed, especially in the light stuff. Her helm, Don Martin, is an accomplished designer, and will be competitive in the series. One of the unknowns of the series will be GER 17 Sleipnir II, which was recently treated to a near complete and period-faithful restoration, complete with copper riveted frames. She is a 1935 Abeking & Rasmussen design named for the Norse god Odin’s mighty steed. From the last of the 30’s comes NOR 71 Flapper from the board of the less famous of the Anker & Jensen partnership, Christian Jensen. She is a lovely example of this underappreciated designer. She was rescued from an uncertain fate, restored at Brion Rieff's in Maine and in the past 2 years has gone to the USA West Coast to do battle with her Puget Sound cousins and went to the 2008 European Championships in France.
The Sparkman & Stephens pre-war greats, Goose & Djinn, long lost sisters, are together at a regatta for the first time since at least 1948. Much has been written about these 2 boats; how they were built for Father-in-law and Son-in-law at Henry B. Nevins’ yard on City Island, how Goose was a little later and benefited from an anomaly discovered in a tank test that Olin was hard pressed to ever fully explain, how Goose won the Scandinavian Gold Cup 4 times, and much more. Djinn went out of sight of the international 6 metre brotherhood after 1952, before being rediscovered and rejuvenated to her original specifications. Goose never went away, stayed in the competition and the light, was rebuilt, modified and developed, constantly sailed hard and in some cases put away wet. Goose is perhaps the most famous ‘six’ in the world. She won a host of regattas, including the Scandinavian Gold Cup 4 times, the Seawanhaka Cup, the initial Australian-American Challenge, sailed in the 1973 & 1979 World Cups, as well as many other local races. By the mid’ 50’s, after many regattas on the East and West Coasts of the USA in the late 30’s and 40’s and at least 6 trips across the Atlantic and back on freighters, the plank-on-frame original version of Goose was getting tired. She was rebuilt in 1957 at the Luders yard in 4 layers of hot molded wood strips and shortly thereafter moved to Lake Ontario, then to Puget Sound in the 60’s. Goose was modified in the early 70’s, with her counter stern chopped and a ‘kicker’ added behind and above her rudder. The current owner, Peter Hofmann, spent 5 years removing the modifications and making her look like original. Djinn has a distinguished record, as well, having won the Seawanhaka Cup in 1947 and Olympic Silver for Argentina in 1948. Djinn was rescued in 2001 from Argentina, where she had been converted to a cruiser. Her 50 years of gunkholing around the River Plata left her in terrible shape, but the current owner, Henrik Andersin, shipped Djinn to Finland and trusted Red Sky Yachts to perform the miracle. Red Sky paid incredible attention to all details to make Djinn into the time capsule she is today. Henrik Andersin flew Olin Stephens to Finland for the re - launching and I have heard Olin could hardly believe his eyes. Olin always favored Goose, regarded her design as superior in her time, and said so in his books. Between Goose and Djinn, their various destinations and homeports included Oyster Bay, Bermuda, Helsinki, Cowes, Stockholm, Los Angeles, Rochester, Buenos Aires, Toronto, San Francisco, Seattle and now they both come to Newport. It will be great to see these 2 together again after all these years.
Will youth be served in this battle of the Classics?Of the 7 post – WWII boats, the most dangerous is likely to be NOR 80 Elisabeth X. Hans Oen has been the World Cup winner once, and vice champion twice. He’s won the European Championships once, and also been second. Doug Peterson once remarked that the way Elisabeth X goes through the water is unlike any six he’s seen and that the boat leaves virtually no trace. Very close to Elizabeth X is US 90 Fokus3, another 1948 Aas design, the two designs differ only slightly. It is said that Bjarne Aas was not one for storing and saving plans, with many of the subtle changes to his designs being made in full scale right on the lofting room floor. It is for this reason that plans often don’t exist for specific Bjarne Aas designs. The radical designer Arvid Laurin is represented here by KC 10 Gallant, which is actually a more conventional boat than his other 2 sixes, Sinkadus (rebuilt as the stunning replica DEN 64 SunRay) and Trickson VI. GER 30 Mena is a wild card, as her recent track record is not well known and Nicholson designs have made something of a comeback, especially in light of recent performances by sister craft such as GBR 57 Erica. FRA 111 Dix Aout, which is a reference to a significant date in the French Revolution in 1792, has challenged at times, been near the top, and will be a boat to watch. Brian Pope on GBR 22 Titia has been a winner at recent regattas and will be a constant threat. His bringing Titia to Newport is something of a homecoming for the boat, since Titia was in a garage here for 20 years before being sold to the UK. Brian has completely buffed out the boat; she is perfect and will be fast. The youngest Classic in the series is DEN 65 Great Dane, formerly Buzzy III, a 1956 S&S design. She is now bright Danish red, has a new mast, reconfigured sail plan, all new equipment, and a new ballast keel. Her owner has 2 other sixes in Denmark, knows what he’s doing and has spared no expense to make Great Dane absolutely perfect from the bottom up. Be sure to look for the Danish flag painted below her waterline. It will be very interesting to see how she does.
The Moderns range from 1979’s USA 112 Ranger to the 1994 Peter Norlin designed SWE 132 Sophie II. Since this is a development class, many of the boats have been updated with full draught rudders, winged and/or bulbed keels and sail designs made with the most current materials. All of these pocket racing machines have been developed and refined to a sharp point and will take your breathe away with their sleekness, grace and efficiency.
We are blessed to have Peter Norlin competing in the event with his own SWE 133 Jungfrun. Peter has been sailing and designing sixes for over 30 years. His design versions of the International 2.4 Metre set the standard for this single handed Paralympic class mini yacht. Norlin’s designs have won several World Cups, but the title has eluded him in the past.
Hugo Stenbeck’s SWE 132 Sophie II will be a boat to contend with – painted flat black top and bottom, she is a polished racing machine and should exhibit the type of speed, windward height and professional sail handling you would expect from an owner who initiated Sweden’s Victory Challenge for the America’s Cup races in New Zealand 2003 and Valencia 2007.
SWE 115 May Be XIV takes her name from a long line of sixes created for the Salen family. Sven Salen introduced the overlapping “Genoa” jib to the yachting world at the 1927 Scandinavian Gold Cup on Long Island Sound with the first May Be. Owner/Helmsman Patric Fredell won the World Cup in 1975 with then-partner Christer Salen on SWE 75 May Be X and would love to get a podium finish once again.
GBR 90 Lyonesse and BAH 1 Conch Fritters are both owned by Great Britain’s Robert Leigh-Wood. Scoundrel is a beautifully varnished mahogany Stephen Jones design. It is rumored that Mr. Leigh-Wood will be leaving BAH 1 Conch Fritters in the USA for use by his step-son, Jack Roosevelt. This would be an interesting addition to the New England Fleet and would be a great way to start more interest in the Moderns here.
GBR 96 Scoundrel is well travelled and successful, having won the World Cup at the 1997 event at Cannes under the first owner, Bruce Owen. She too is a lovely varnished mahogany boat. Her designer is Ian Howlett and she will show her speed and style.
As with many sixes, USA 118 Arunga is well travelled and has participated in 3 previous World Cups; 1981 in Switzerland, 1983 in Newport Harbor, California, and 1985 at Cannes, France. She was built in Sweden, first sailed in Switzerland, lived in Sydney, Australia for a time, came to the USA, then lay mothballed in Canada for 10 years. She is Bob Cadranell’s 7th six metre and has a brand new keel and rudder.
Last minute entry USA 123 Finnegan comes from Seattle, where she has dominated the local scene under Andy Parker. As ‘Steverino’ the boat competed at the 1985 Cannes event, as well as the 1987 World Cup at Oyster Bay. She is from the first generation of wing keeled sixes. If it gets light – watch out for Finnegan.
GER 60 Phillippa has been close to the top before and shares the same design and mold with 3 time winner SUI 77 Fleau, which was a late withdrawal from the regatta.
Local favorite USA 112 Ranger is the oldest Modern at the regatta. Designed by Gary Mull for Ted Turner’s Yellow Rose Syndicate, she was built at Rhode Island’s own Goetz Custom for the 1979 World Cup in Seattle. Keel design and hull shapes have evolved since she was conceived, though in the right conditions, anything can happen.