Please select your home edition
Edition
Mondo Travel - Americas Cup 13855

Keeping International 12 Metre Class sailing alive

by Kirsten Ferguson on 12 Sep 2013
The 12 Metre fleet competing off Martha’s Vineyard, Mass. during the annual 12 Metre Regatta hosted by Edgartown Yacht Club Michael Berwind
The America’s Cup will always be a fascinating contribution to the legacy of sailing, and while its current incarnation as a multihull (foiled at that) event kindles mixed emotions in the hearts of die-hard devotees, its Golden Era—from 1958 to 1987 when sleek 12 Metres ruled the waters, succeeding the more elaborate J Boats—has few, if any, detractors. In fact, there is a passionately dedicated 'club' of sailors that is keeping 12 Metre Class racing alive both in the Americas and in Northern and Southern Europe.

'We are always working to spread the word about the joys of 12 Metre sailing and the role that the Twelves played in America’s Cup history,' said Vice President of the Americas Fleet Herb Marshall (Cape Cod, Mass.), fresh off a victory on American Eagle in a 12 Metre regatta that has become an annual tradition each August at Edgartown Yacht Club on Martha’s Vineyard.


'We have eighteen 12 Metres concentrated on the East Coast, most of them located in Newport, R.I. where the Cup was staged from 1930 to 1983, but there are others out there waiting to be resurrected or restored…or simply chartered, with less of the work and all of the fun to be had racing with other Twelves.'

Dennis Williams (Hobe Sound, Fla.), the owner of Victory ’83, which finished second in its class to Courageous in Edgartown, said it 'felt like a fun thing to do' when he decided to save another 12 Metre, Defender, after he saw it anchored on the Intracoastal Waterway, sitting ever so low in the water after its owner had died. 'I knew it would either sink or get hauled and cut up for scrap, so I brought it to Newport. It had an engine in it and was a real mess, but we (Williams and co-owner Jim Gretzky of Newport) picked away at it, to the point that it will now again measure in as a Twelve.'

Williams explained that Defender was built for the late Tom Blackaller’s 1983 America’s Cup effort but never made it past the Defender Trials, as Dennis Conner’s Liberty proved indomitable…that is, until it matched up against John Bertrand’s winged-keel Australia II for the America’s Cup and lost not only the oldest active trophy in international sport but also the USA’s grip on the longest winning streak in sports history (26 challenges over 132 years). 'Defender is a piece of history,' said Williams. 'It should be a rocket ship, too, especially downwind, but it’s still a rescue mission. I don’t need two 12 Metres, so I’m looking for a new owner and more competition.'

While he searches for Defender’s perfect match, Williams, whose Victory ’83 was the British entry in the 1983 Challenger Series for the Cup, will continue supporting the International 12 Metre Class’ overarching goal to preserve the beauty and historical significance of 12 Metres in sailing history. 'It’s pretty impressive to see the Twelves all tied up at the dock at Edgartown Yacht Club or on Bannister’s Wharf in Newport (where Williams won the 12 Metre Worlds in 2009, after buying Victory ’83 in 2008). We need to save as many of them as we can so that they are all out there, consistently on the starting line at all the big events.'

The next big event is the North American Championships in Newport over September 27-29, and there a healthy complement of Twelves – both owned and chartered -- is expected to show, including New Zealand (KZ-3), Laura (KZ-5), and KZ-7 in Grand Prix Division for yachts built for the 1987 America's Cup; Courageous, Intrepid and Victory '83 in Modern Division for yachts built between 1974 and 1983; and American Eagle, Columbia, Nefertiti and Weatherly in Traditional division for yachts built between 1958 and 1970.

And if the past is any indication, plenty of America’s Cup luminaries will seek out their roots to skipper or serve as crew once again on the illustrious Twelves. Last year, two of sailing’s most famous America’s Cup skippers, Ted Turner and Dennis Conner, reunited with their winning tacticians, Gary Jobson and Tom Whidden, respectively. Turner, an American media mogul and philanthropist who successfully defended the Cup in 1977 with Courageous, sailed American Eagle (which he owned and raced in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s to win most of the world’s great ocean races), while Conner, affectionately known as 'Mr. America’s Cup' for having won the America’s Cup four times (three times defending and one time reclaiming it after his famous loss in ‘83), sailed KZ-7—the same fiberglass boat that he challenged was unfair against the slower aluminum hulls sailing in the Challenger Series off Fremantle, Australia in 1986/’87.

'Where else are you going to get opportunities like this,' asked Andy MacGowan (Middletown, R.I.), a veteran of four America’s Cup campaigns who sailed aboard Courageous when it edged out Victory ’83 to win in Edgartown, 'where for relatively little money you can put together a campaign and compete in good, tight racing all the time?'

About the Edgartown Yacht Club regatta, MacGowan added, 'I’m sure the Victory ’83 crew thought, ‘we’ll get ‘em tomorrow,’ but there was no tomorrow.' He explained that the fleet practiced in 30 knots on Friday and sailed four spectacular races on Saturday. On Sunday, however, the wind switched off, so racing was cancelled, and the standings from Saturday determined the winners. 'We were so wiped out by Saturday, we could barely lift our beers off the bar (laughs); we were wondering who was going to be able to do what on Sunday.'

MacGowan, in his 60s, says he is fortunate to be asked to crew as much as he has in recent years but says the 12 Metres are quite accommodating to age that way. 'It’s still strenuous to sail them, but it’s good ol’ basic sailing—the rigs are simple and the jibs aren’t that large.' He, also, is a cheerleader for the class and introduced one of the newest 12 Metre owners, Gunther Buerman (Newport, R.I./Rochester, N.Y.) to Twelve sailing a little over a year ago.

Now, Buerman is hooked.

'Long story short, I had stopped sailing in the early ‘90s, after so many SORCs in the mid- to late ‘80s and lots of Bermuda Races and J/24 sailing, and spent the next 20 years of my life coaching sports as my kids grew up,' said Buerman. 'I crewed while Andy drove US-61 in the 12 Metre North Americans in 2012, and I enjoyed it so much. I forgot how fun racing could be, and I started asking around about the Twelves that were available to buy and was intrigued that you could buy one for 10% of what a new boat would cost to build.'


Buerman bought KZ-3 New Zealand (formerly called Wright on White by a past owner) with the intention of returning it to exactly how it looked, graphics and all, when it was launched in 1985 as one of only three fiberglass 12 Metres ever built. (Its sister ship was KZ-7, which faced off unsuccessfully with Dennis Conner’s Stars & Stripes ’87 in the Challenger Finals for the 1987 America’s Cup.)

'I got all these books from New Zealand and spent a lot of time looking at its history,' said Buerman. 'This was my first boat with a wheel (instead of a tiller), and I didn’t know which way to turn it. It was like a race car.'

Buerman explained that New Zealand was optimized for big breeze in Perth, where it blew 25 knots every day, but when he brought it here, it had to 'Newportized,' which he explained as undergoing moderate keel modification.

'These Twelves are great fun to sail, and they are beautiful and majestic in terms of size,' said Buerman, who has been on a winning streak at his first local regattas for this season. 'And I guess you could say I’ve been blessed by having good people on my crew to help me through the transition of not having a clue.'

Buerman looks forward to the 2014 12 Metre Worlds in Barcelona, where four or five other Grand Prix Division Twelves are expected to show up. 'I’ve never been there,' said Buerman. 'All this is new to me, even the venues.'

Pine Brothers, makers of Pine Brothers Softish Throat Drops, has come aboard as the 12 Metre America’s Fleet sponsor for 2013 after having sponsored the 12 Metre North Americans in 2011 and 2012. The company’s unique 'soft drop' throat lozenge was first introduced in 1870 as America’s first-ever commercially produced cough drop and is a favorite of sailors everywhere. Pine Brothers reflects the passionate spirit shown by the 12 Metre fleet, which works to not only perpetuate 12 Metre racing but also combine racing with charitable efforts when 12 mr Class

Pantaenius - Fixed ValueMackay BoatsZhik Dinghy 660x82

Related Articles

Kiel to host 2017 Para World Sailing Championships
Kiel's announcement as the host falls less than one month after World Sailing released the Strategic Plan for 2017-2020. The Plan outlines four main priorities as well tactics to achieve the goals, ensuring World Sailing presents a strong bid to the International Paralympic Committee for re-introduction into the 2024 Paralympic Games and future editions.
Posted today at 12:29 pm
Iain Jensen wins MS Amlin 'Dash for Cash'
Some crashes were spectacular, with the skipper being launched from the boat in a cloud of spray. Jensen is the longtime crew for Nathan Outteridge, the helmsman for Artemis Racing. As a team they won the Olympic Gold medal in the 49er Class at the 2012 London Olympics.
Posted on 3 Dec
Sailing World Cup Final brings the best to St Kilda
Thirty-six nations have registered sailors across a combined 22 Olympic and Invited classes for next week’s World Cup Competitor numbers are predicted to reach 800 across the two competitions - the final stage of the international body World Sailing’s six-part Olympic class international circuit that will come to a head at St Kilda for the 11 classes, and the 11 Invited classes.
Posted on 1 Dec
Bid process reopened for new venue for the 2017 Youth Worlds
The Bid process has been reopened after the Israel Sailing Assoc withdrew from hosting the 2017 Youth Sailing World The Bid process has been reopened after the Israel Sailing Association (ISA) withdrew from hosting the 2017 Youth Sailing World Championships which were due to take place in Akko, Israel in July 2017. World Sailing will accept bids from MNAs interested in hosting the event in July or December of 2017.
Posted on 30 Nov
World Sailing lead the conversation at the Yacht Racing Forum
Sailing - sport, technology and nature in perfect harmony was the message delivered by World Sailing CEO Andy Hunt Sailing - sport, technology and nature in perfect harmony. This was the message delivered by World Sailing CEO Andy Hunt at the opening session of the Yacht Racing Forum in Valletta, Malta that provided the backbone to much of the day's conversations and presentations.
Posted on 29 Nov
Around the Island Race – Calum Gregor wins for third year in a row
With an ominous grey sky at the start, the sailors were relieved to have the sun come out at around noon. With an ominous grey sky at the start, the sailors were relieved to have the sun come out at around noon.
Posted on 27 Nov
Raja Muda 2016 – round the cans in Penang
This may have been a unique occasion, with a boat scoring 2 points (fleet + 1) in a 1-boat race. For those of us who have been there before, the Penang Inshores have a fearsome reputation for being the day that you get nothing but sunbathing for several hours, and then a bit of sea breeze maybe, followed by a mad scramble to squeeze in two races to fill the card.
Posted on 25 Nov
Delta Lloyd Regatta 2017 – Save the date
We have decided to offer disabled sailors a chance to take part in our event by adding the 2.4 mR class. After the Rio Olympic Games 2016 we are looking into new ways of developing the sport of sailing in terms of formats to offer the highest quality to world class sailors.
Posted on 24 Nov
Star Sailors League Finals – A brief history
The Star Sailors League (SSL) was established in January 2013, the organisation allocates points from Star Class Regatta The Star Sailors League (SSL) was established in January 2013, the organisation allocates points from Star Class Regatta all over the world to define an annual SSL World Rankings for well over 2000 sailors.
Posted on 18 Nov
Zhik Avlare wins 2016 METS DAME Award
Do you know a child or perhaps a dog or a cat that absolutely hates having a bath? Do you know a child or perhaps a dog or a cat that absolutely hates having a bath? Well here are a range of Men’s and Women’s tops that are so hydrophobic the only adjective that describes them is hate.
Posted on 17 Nov