Former Glory

After years of restora­tion and care, an Amer­i­can ti­tan of the max­i­boat era re­turns to con­nect gen­er­a­tions.

Sailing World - - Starting Line -

O Ex­pe­ri­enc­ing Kialoa III power through waves with a grace and beauty rarely found in mod­ern sail­boats to­day is a sen­sa­tion not lost on Roland Pieper. The 61-year-old Dutch en­tre­pre­neur helmed the 43-year-old Spark­man & Stephens clas­sic to a first in class, with seven race wins, at the most re­cent An­tigua Sail­ing Week.

“It was a tough com­pe­ti­tion — we had plenty of waves right over the boat in the early part of the week,” says Pieper, “plus a young, new crew who were ini­tially very in­ex­pe­ri­enced in racing such a big boat with so much power.”

The re­gatta was the se­cond time Kialoa III had been back in true racing form since be­ing pur­chased in 2013 by the K3 Foun­da­tion and re­stored for two years. The foun­da­tion first dis­played the fruit of its labors at the Rolex Big Boat Series in 2015, an event dur­ing which Pieper re­calls deal­ing with many fail­ures and is­sues that trig­gered an­other phase of restora­tion. In 2016, Pieper raced An­tigua Sail­ing Week and fin­ished se­cond over­all.

“We did pretty well, given a num­ber of break­ages and fail­ures, which hurt our end re­sult,” he says. “An­tigua Sail­ing Week 2017, how­ever, marked the com­ple­tion of her restora­tion with no break­ages.”

The K3 Foun­da­tion was cre­ated to man­age the preser­va­tion and on­go­ing main­te­nance of the clas­sic beauty. The foun­da­tion has a num­ber of goals, fore­most among them to make the boat avail­able to young peo­ple for sail train­ing and en­sur­ing the boat con­tin­ues to fly Old Glory off its tran­som.

“You can­not take the flag off Kialoa III — it’s im­pos­si­ble,” says Pieper.

The idea be­hind the K3 Foun­da­tion, he ex­plains, is to bring the four-decades-old maxi back to life and make big-boat sail­ing more avail­able to young peo­ple. “There’s a lot of small-boat sail­ing, but big-boat sail­ing — prac­tic­ing and feel­ing the boat and how that works — well, there are just not enough big boats,” says Pieper. “So, it’s one of our goals to take young peo­ple along; the av­er­age age on board [in An­tigua] was about 23. We had a cou­ple of train­ing days be­fore racing, and it’s amaz­ing how ma­neu­ver­ing went by the end of the week. It was im­pres­sive to see the kids move this big boat around.”

A fa­ther of six boys, Pieper’s youngest son, Daniel, 21, was on board for his first ever re­gatta. “He’s worked his butt off, but he also en­joyed it, so I am happy with that,” says Pieper. “He’s now in the camp of [think­ing] this is pretty cool.”

Get­ting Kialoa III race-ready is a big part of boat cap­tain Stephen Ste­wart’s job. Ste­wart says the re­cent fo­cus has been work­ing on winch sys­tems, which are un­der con­stant main­te­nance be­cause they are so old. Next up, he’d like to see a full boom and mast re­fit so it’s ad­e­quately pre­pared for big-wave con­di­tions. He was im­pressed with how the boat per­formed dur­ing Sail­ing Week, hard work aside.

“Kialoa III was re­ally built as an ocean racer, so around the cans is in­ten­sive,” says Ste­wart. “It re­quires a lot of peo­ple be­cause we have no self-tail­ing winches, and get­ting the sails up and down re­quires a lot of man­power.”

At 79 feet long, with 2,733 square feet of sail, the boat is phys­i­cally tax­ing on short cour­ses, he adds, but it’s im­mense fun on long cour­ses: “a hugely pow­er­ful boat and such a lovely ride, smooth and com­fort­able.”

Over the course of An­tigua Sail­ing Week, Kialoa III proved it still has pace up­wind, but like any big boat, it will have a tough time when the breeze is light and waves are high.

“No boat likes [ those con­di­tions], and of course we are heav­ier, which means we go into the waves,” says Pieper, “but down­wind is our fa­vorite spot, and per­haps we have the ad­van­tage be­cause most of our com­pe­ti­tion uses asym­met­ric spin­nakers, and thus were un­able to sail the an­gles we could.”

Pieper, a fa­mil­iar face on the in­ter­na­tional racing scene, hav­ing owned and raced var­i­ous Swans (he helmed Favo­nius, the Swan 82, to vic­tory in the 2008 Swan World Cup), con­fesses that sail­ing Kialoa III is no walk in the park.

“Some­one jok­ingly re­ferred to her as a ‘man’s boat,’” says Pieper, laugh­ing. “And that’s true — I feel it ev­ery­where in my body, and I think a lot of my crew feels the same. Nonethe­less, she is fan­tas­tic to sail and she is his­toric. The 1974 de­sign is just amaz­ing and still works to­day. Now I think she is back, and at the least, we have pre­served her for an­other 10 years.” Q

Years later, a clas­sic max­i­boat sees a com­pet­i­tive come­back thanks to the K3 foun­da­tion and its ded­i­cated sailors. P H O T O : PA U L W Y E T H / AN­TIGUA SAIL­ING WEEK

From left to right: Arnold Tas, Roland Pieper, Arend van Bergijk and Eric van Vu­uren bring the pres­tige back to Kialoaiii, sail­ing her in An­tigua Race Week. P H O T O : PA U L W Y E T H / A N T I G U A S A I L I N G WEEK

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