The Saga Saga
The Saga saga
by Paul Longridge
Originally published in ISMA News, 2nd half 1978
Updated August 2017 by Matt Cockburn
When the Monarch of Bermuda docked in Hamilton, Bermuda on Monday, November 25th, 1935, amongst her cargo was a gleaming new Six Metre yacht under shipment from Fredrikstad, Norway. Her name was SAGA, and she had been designed and built by Bjarne Aas for the well-known Bermudian yachtsmen, Eldon and Kenneth Trimingham.
The Triminghams had previously owned Viking (K1), one of three "one-design" Sixes designed and built for them and two fellow yachtsmen by Aas in 1930. Her sisters were Lloyd Jones' Sea Venture (K2), and Achilles (K3), owned by James Pearman, Rear Commodore of the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club. These three Sixes had enjoyed much success in the annual spring series held in Bermuda between the Sixes of the U.S. and Bermuda. In 1930 and 1931 they raced for the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club Trophy for the highest scoring yacht. In 1932 the Prince of Wales sponsored a magnificent trophy in his name for this series, and it was first won by Viking. She placed second in 1933 and 1934, and won the trophy again in 1935, edging out Achilles by one quarter point.
The appearance of newer and better American designs no doubt prompted the Triminghams to consider replacing Viking, now six years old. Bjarne Aas' designs were having great success in Europe so they went back to him and commissioned the design and construction of a new yacht. Saga was designed to be a heavy weather Six (by 1935 standards) and was accordingly strongly built, using full length planking glued on edge, a technique used by Aas in many of his constructions. This method left the seams so invisible that the topsides were said to shine ".. . like the side of a porcelain bathtub." Her oak frames were strengthened by solid teak floors, through which ran her keel bolts. Her keel itself caused comment from William Taylor in Yachting Magazine: "The lead itself is a work of art.” As Bert Darrell pointed out when Saga was hauled out, the casting might have been molded from the body of a tuna, and a tuna is a fish that gets around through the water with little fuss." Her spruce deck and mahogany covering boards and king plank were varnished and remain today as one of Saga's trademarks. A small canvas in front of the mast helped the foredeck man's footing on the otherwise very slippery deck.
Saga began her racing career in the Prince of Wales Trophy in April, 1936, sailing under the British number K49. In the four races the breeze varied between twelve and twenty knots, which suited Saga perfectly, as she finished first, first, third, and first, easily defeating the other new boat, Herman Whiton's Indian Scout (US 66), which was sailing for the first time and not at all tuned up. These races were followed by team races for the cup put up by the former Governor- General of Bermuda, Sir Thomas Astley-Cubitt. In the three races Saga got two firsts in twelve knot breezes, and a third in a light air race. However it was a losing cause because the U.S. team of Indian Scout, Challenge, Lucie, and Silroc won the cup by a score of 59 1/4 points to 50 1/2.
A very important person in Saga's history took part in these races. He was the well-known Long Island Sound yachtsman, Cornelius Shields, racing aboard his brother Paul's Six, Challenge. He writes in his book Cornelius Shields on Sailing about his first encounter with Saga... "The minute I saw Saga, I fell in love with her. I thought she was the most beautiful boat I'd ever seen. I loved her shape, her sheer, her dainty transom, and her long, straight counter. The sheer ... gave her great grace and beauty." And from an article in Yachting Magazine: "It was terrible. All I could think of on the way back to the States were the lines of that darned boat. She literally haunted me." It so happened that Shields and some of his fellow skippers were looking for a bigger and faster replacement for their Sound Interclubs, then a ten year old design. Through his friend and rival skipper Magnus Konow, he asked Aas to send him designs for a boat about 33 feet overall, with a 6 foot, 9 inch beam and a small cabin, based on the lines of Saga. When the initial drawings arrived Shields made one or two small changes, which Aas agreed upon, and then formed a syndicate of four friends to underwrite the construction of 25 boats. His brother Paul gave the class its name - the International One Design Class. All the boats were to be identical and to this end the Norwegian survey company, Veritas, were employed to oversee all aspects of the boats' construction. The first boats arrived in December, 1936, and the cost, including full rigging, sails, insurance, a shipping cradle, and the cost of shipping, was only $2670 each. A very strict set of regulations was set up and with few exceptions remains in effect today, ensuring the true one design nature of the class. The I.O.D.'s enjoyed rapid success, and fleets were soon established in Long Island Sound, Marblehead, Bermuda, the Solent, Norway, and Sweden. The class attracted many important yachtsmen throughout its history - such names as Bob Bavier, Briggs Cunningham, George Hinman, Arthur Knapp, Magnus Konow, Bill Luders, Bus Mosbacher, Olin and Rod Stephens, and Herman Whiton are linked with the I.O.D.'s. A recent visit to Victoria, B.C. by Thornton Clark, the I.O.D. World Commodore from Boston re-established the connection between the I.O.D.'s and their 'godmother,' Saga.
Saga's second season began in April, 1937 with the Prince of Wales Trophy. After three races she was one half point behind Briggs Cunningham's new Stephens-designed Six, Lulu (US 72). The day of the fourth race brought the strong breezes that Saga loved. However, Eldon Trimingham, in true sporting fashion, offered the Americans a lay-over day, which they readily accepted. The next day the wind never got above five knots, Saga finished dead last, and dropped to third place in the series behind Lulu, Rebel (US 76), and Bob Kat II (US 68). In the King Edward VII Cup match race Lulu defeated Saga in a good breeze. Although Saga's performance couldn't have disappointed the Triminghams too much, this proved to be her last major racing as a Bermudian yacht.
The Triminghams were very keen on team racing and, as Bermudians were eligible to sail on the British team in the important British-America Cup races, which had been held every two years since 1923. However, it was required that they have a British-designed yacht. To this end they sold Saga to Johnston de Forest of the eastern U.S., and commissioned Charles Nicholson to design and build a new Six for them. She was christened Solenta (K 56), and began her racing in the Prince of Wales Trophy in April, 1938, but was never very successful for the Triminghams. She finished fourth behind Indian Scout, Viking, and Fun (US 77). In the British-American team races she was built for, she had finishes of 5th, 4th, 3rd and 3rd in a losing cause. She later raced as the British entry in the 1938Scandinavian Gold Cup, which was won by Goose (US 81), the first of her four straight Gold Cups. In 1939 Solenta placed a dismal fourth in the Prince of Wales Trophy to Goose, Djinn (US 80), and old Achilles. In fact it was Achilles, not Solenta, who raced and beat Goose in the King Edward VII Cup that year. Solenta was later sold to the U.S., where she became US 84, and went to the Great Lakes. After a spell in Detroit and Rochester, she went across the border to become Buzzy (KC 5), was subsequently renamed Solenta, and still races in the Lake Ontario Six Metre Association.
In the meantime, Saga (now US 73) began her American career in the spring of 1938 on Long Island Sound, where her results for her new owner were less than spectacular. Racing in twenty races that year she only managed one first, one second, and one third, against such new boats as Goose and Djinn. The following year the Sixes did not race as a fleet on Long Island Sound, and all the major events were elsewhere. The Americans were represented in Bermuda by Goose, Djinn, and Starwagon (US 79), with Goose winning the Prince of Wales Trophy. The 1939 Gold Cup took place in Finland, where Goose won for the second year in a row.
The Sixes had never figured extensively in interclub racing in the East, and lost several of their supporters to the increasingly popular I.O.D.'s, who provided much of this racing. There were, however, growing fleets of Sixes on the Great Lakes and the West Coast. It was to one of these fleets that Saga migrated. She was bought by Myron Spaulding of San Francisco and raced there in 1939 and 1940. In March, 1941 she was sold to Ray Elliot of Seattle, who must be looked upon as one of the biggest promoters of Six Metre sailing in Puget Sound, having owned as many as five Sixes at one time! By 1947 there were ten boats in the Seattle fleet and the interest was growing.
After a few years as the property of the Murray brothers, Saga was sold in 1956 to Kirk Hull, and in the North American Championship in 1958 she finished second to Alarm (N 66 - ex Vema IV). She won the same Championship three years later in 1961, representing the Tacoma Yacht Club. Hull sold her in 1966 and soon thereafter, because of unpaid loans, she was chained to the wharf, only to be later sold again in a sheriff's auction. Fortunately, in 1968 Saga became the property of Bill Buursma, who set to work to restore her to racing condition. He added a new aluminum mast and boom, new winches, and strengthened her hull where necessary. Her present excellent condition is largely a result of his efforts. Through consistent sailing she became a constant threat to the newer designs and the other well sailed older boats in the Puget Sound fleet. In the 1973 World Cup in Seattle, Saga placed seventh out of twenty boats, of which five were recent constructions. She was the second oldest Six racing, and the only veterans to beat her were Goose and May Be VII.
However, by 1976 Buursma decided to get that little bit of extra speed a new design would offer, and so formed the Rule Syndicate which then commissioned Britton Chance Jr. to design Frenzy (USA 107). He then sold Saga to Paul Longridge, and she became a Canadian Six on September 19, 1976, taking KC 33, one number after Llanoria (KC 32, ex N 84, ex US 83). She was followed to Victoria in 1977 by Buzzy III (KC 25, ex US 97, ex KC 25) and Toogooloowoo IV (KC 34, ex US 95, ex KA 6).
With the addition of some new sails, Saga continued to be one of the best older Sixes racing in the Pacific Northwest. While based in Victoria, she made the 150 mile round trip to Seattle at least twice a year to attend the more important regattas, and the results were usually gratifying. She was third in both the 1977 and 1978 King Olav V Cup, both times racing in a fleet of twelve Sixes. But perhaps a more significant series was the Classic Regatta, held in August on Lake Washington for those Sixes built before 1960. Saga won this event, defeating eleven other boats, including Ylliam VIII (Z 42), May Be VII, Lulu, and Llanoria, the last three all successful Stephens designs.
Saga participated in the 1979 World Cup held in Seattle, placing 16th of 25 and narrowly missed winning the Djinn Trophy, which was awarded to Ylliam VIII (Z42) as the highest placing “Senior Six”, which was the term used before “Classic” came into use to describe sixes built before 1965. Saga had her revenge, however, when she went to the 1983 World Cup at Newport Harbor, California, where she was the oldest competitor by 37 years. In the lumpy, challenging conditions of the Pacific Ocean, she still managed to place 13th of 15 and collected the Djinn Trophy for the highest placing Classic.
Following this event, Paul Longridge purchased the Modern design St. Francis VIII, ex. Arunga VI (KA 11) and sold Saga to Bjorn Sundt of Seattle in 1984. Back to the U.S.A. she went, spending much of her time at Cozy Cove on Lake Washington amid the collection of Kutter one-designs that Bjorn and his father had imported from Norway.
Bjorn eventually sold Saga to Paul Stohlman, who moved her to Brownsville. It was shortly after this time that Kimo Mackey discovered Saga in poor condition and rescued the boat. Saga’s ownership has included partners Mike Jackson and Paul Harrison in the past decade. In the early part of the 21st century Saga has often been the boat to beat, having won the King Olav V Cup, the Sir Thomas Lipton Cup several times, among other wins and accolades, beating many more Modern designs. Saga also placed 3rd of 10 boats in the 2006 North American Championships and was the highest placing Classic, winning the Olin J Stephens II trophy for the North American Classic Champion. Also in 2006, Saga went through some extensive repair to her frames under the hands at Jespersen Boatbuilders of Sidney, B.C. and received other work to her mast step and sail plan. Beginning in 2010 Saga received a 5 year intensive refurbishment of her cockpit design, cockpit sole, her decks, sail plan and repair of her counter stern, among many, many other items. Saga's future will hopefully be as interesting as her past has been; her present condition indicates she will sail for many more seasons to come.
Designer: Bjarne Aas
Design year: 1935
Builder: Bjarne Aas, Frederikstad, Norway
LOA: 11.435 metres
LWL: 7.724 metres
Beam: 1.897 metres
Draft: 1.64 metres
Sail Area: 43.845 sq. metres
Displacement: 4250 kg.
Eldon & Kenneth Trimingham 1935 to 1937
Johnston de Forest 1937 to 1939
Myron Spaulding 1939 to 1941
Ray Elliot 1941 to 1950
Murray Brothers 1952 to 1956
Kirk Hull 1956 to 1966
Bill Buursma 1968 to 1976
Paul Longridge 1976 to1984
Bjorn Sundt 1984 to ?
Paul Stohlman ?
Kimo Mackey partnership 199? to 2010
Kimo Mackey 2010 to present