SHAPE SHIFTERS

Sailing World - - Boty - BY DAVE REED PHO­TO­GRAPHS BY NEIL RABINOWITZ

EACH IN­TER­NA­TIONAL 6 MET RE YACHT POS­SESSES A UNIQUE PER­SONA, GLEANED FROM A CEN­TURY OF DE­SIGN EVO­LU­TION, IN­NO­VA­TIONS AND RE­SULTS, WHICH MAKES THEM PER­FECT FOR COL­LEC­TORS AND T WEAKER SA LIKE.

With the push of a tiller, Greg Ste­wart can eas­ily force His Majesty over the start­ing line early. But Ste­wart, the kind-eyed skip­per stand­ing at the helm of his baby-blue 6 Me­tre, Sprig, isn’t the type to stick it to the 79-yearold for­mer King of Spain. Juan Car­los Al­fonso Vic­tor María de Bor­bón y Bor­bón, on Bribón Gal­lant, is exposed and vul­ner­a­ble, and as the sec­onds wind down be­fore the start, his sails are flap­ping and his crew is jaw­ing in terse Span­ish com­mands.

“Go ahead, King. Go across,” Ste­wart shouts, wav­ing the king across his bow and al­low­ing the Spa­niards to dip be­low the start­ing line to get away clean to the race­course’s fa­vored left side.

It’s good to be king, of course, but on this par­tic­u­lar day at the 6 Me­tre World Cham­pi­onship in Van­cou­ver, Bri­tish Columbia, it’s just fine to be Greg Ste­wart. The au­tumn sun is ra­di­ant, a west­erly is whistling in from the Pa­cific, and a cold spray pelts the deck. Señor Bor­bón is to his left, Lars and Tor­ben Grael — two of the best keel­boat sailors to ever come out of Brazil — are to his im­me­di­ate right.

For Ste­wart, a naval ar­chi­tect, 6 Me­tre en­thu­si­ast, and 57-year-old San Diego bach­e­lor, this very mo­ment on English Bay is ev­ery­thing he imag­ined as he towed his 9,000-pound boat 1,400 miles up the West Coast. As he sails up­wind with white lam­i­nated polyester sails sheeted hard, Sprig’s spruce spar and boom flex nat­u­rally with each gust, the mast pant­ing and spilling wind from the top of the main­sail. The lee­ward rail dips and

the boat surges for­ward. Ste­wart’s feet are pressed against glossy var­nished ma­hogany ribs and planks. Sprig’s tiller tugs at his left hand, and his right grips the main­sheet, which is wrapped twice around a small bronze winch nearby. The slight grin be­tween his round, wind-red­dened cheeks is gen­uine.

Ste­wart steals an oc­ca­sional glance over his right shoul­der, to­ward the fleet on his weather quar­ter, and when­ever he does so, his bow wan­ders off-course.

“Pay at­ten­tion, Stewie!” barks his tac­ti­cian, Chuck Allen, who paces like a tank com­man­der in Sprig’s mid­dle cock­pit, his sail­ing sneak­ers squeak­ing on the var­nished floor­boards. “You’re all over the place!”

Ste­wart cor­rects his course, trains his at­ten­tion on the yarns twitch­ing on the luff of the big over­lap­ping genoa, and the race is on. It’s a race to beat the king out of the left cor­ner.

Here at the Royal Van­cou­ver YC, Ste­wart is in 6 Me­tre heaven. It’s ex­tremely rare to have 45 of these clas­sic race boats in one place, es­pe­cially in North Amer­ica. While tech­ni­cally one class, ex­plains Tim Rus­sell, the In­ter­na­tional Six Me­tre As­so­ci­a­tion ex­ec­u­tive sec­re­tary, the boats are cat­e­go­rized into four different eras of the 101-year-old mea­sure­ment rule. A 6 Me­tre is not 6 me­ters in length, but rather de­rived by a for­mula and a whole lot of mea­sure­ments. Rule 1 boats, which date from 1907 to 1918, were nar­rower full-keeled beasts prone to fill­ing with wa­ter. Rule 2 boats, fa­vored from 1919 to 1933, were longer, more sea­wor­thy, and in­tro­duced over­lap­ping genoas. Rule 3 yachts that fol­lowed em­braced deeper keels, and were used for three suc­ces­sive Olympic re­gat­tas from 1936 to 1952. Then came a re­birth with the Moderns of the 1970s on­ward, em­brac­ing winged keels, trim tabs, alu­minum spa rs, fiber­glass hulls, and ex­otic fiber sin the sails.

While there are four dis­tinct eras, Van­cou­ver world cham­pi­onship or­ga­niz­ers pit them into two fleets, Open and Clas­sic, with all sorts of per­pet­ual tro­phies at play. Within the Clas­sics, how­ever, there’ s a sub­set of five tra­di­tional wood­ies like Sprig, boats with white sails, wooden spars and bronze hard­ware. There’s noth­ing one-de­sign about a 6 Me­tre, and each and ev­ery boat has its known sweet spot. Sprig, built in 1930, for ex­am­ple, likes light air. King Juan Car­los’ Gal­lant, built in 1947, is ex­cep­tion­ally fast in stronger winds.

One guided tour through the boats in Van­cou­ver is all it takes to un­der­stand there’s a rich his­tory of yacht racing floating in the slips. There’s also a lot of tin­ker­ing be­fore, dur­ing and after the racing, and plenty of opin­ions on sail­con­trol set­ups. Yet one thing ev­ery­one agrees on is that all 6 Me­tres present at this world cham­pi­onship are de­serv­ing of preser­va­tion.

“Ev­ery boat we have here has done some­thing — has won a world cham­pi­onship, a ma­jor re­gatta or an Olympic medal,” says Nigel Ash­man, who over­sees the care and main­te­nance of many of the Van­cou­ver fleet. “They’re each fast in their own right, and you know why? Be­cause all the slow 6 Me­tres of the past have ei­ther been cut up or left to rot in the mud. What’s left to­day are the best of them.”

Ev­ery Mod­ern, he adds, has po­ten­tial. With a pile of money or in­no­va­tion, any de­sign can come to life, and there’s more speed for keen de­sign­ers to ex­plore in keel and rud­der shapes, as well as rig and sail con­trols and cock­pit con­fig­u­ra­tion.

The king’s new boat, for ex­am­ple, is the first 6 Me­tre built since 1995. It’s a prod­uct of rad­i­cal and out­lier de­signer Juan Kouy­oumd­jian and is ru­mored to be a weapon. Launched after nearly 10 years of de­sign and de­vel­op­ment, it is also said to be com­plex to sail, and wasn’t ready enough for Van­cou­ver. It isn’t per­fect, says

“THE 6 ME­TRE HAS A SEN­SA­TION, TO BE SO NEAR THE WA­TER AND RE­ALLY FEELING THE BOAT. AFTER TWO YEARS, I AM LEARN­ING THAT EACH BOAT HAS A STORY .” —KING JUAN CAR­LOS

“SOME­THING TH TH A OATS, HT NA V HO ATE BODY IS FAN­TAS­TIC. THE ABOUT THING 6 ME­TRES IS THAT EACH BOAT HAS A LIFE, A HIS­TORY, AND MAYBE EVEN A DARK SIDE .” —RAINER MÜLLER

the king, so in­stead he shipped Gal­lant to Van­cou­ver, a stand­out 1947 vin­tage with its ap­pointed leather seat and coam­ing.

While the Clas­sic and Open fleets start sep­a­rately, it’s all one big happy fam­ily, says Rus­sell, an as­tute his­to­rian of the class. For the bet­ter part of an hour, Rus­sell delves into the in­tri­ca­cies and per­mu­ta­tions of the rule and the al­go­rithms that de­fine a 6 Me­tre. It’s all about dis­place­ment, vol­ume and sta­bil­ity, and each yacht is unique, but given the right light-air con­di­tions, says Rus­sell, a clas­sic can beat a mod­ern, and does so reg­u­larly.

“I’m con­vinced the per­fect 6 Me­tre has never been built,” Rus­sell con­fesses. Nor, per­haps, will it ever be, and that’s the at­trac­tion for col­lec­tors like Peter Hoffman, the skip­per and owner of Goose, which is con­sid­ered one of the best of the Clas­sics, and cer­tainly one of the pret­ti­est.

“You can’t buy the best boat,” says Hoffman, of Bain­bridge Island, Wash­ing­ton. “It’s the sails and the trim­mers. If you get those two things right, you can get a 6 Me­tre to do what you want it to do. Half-inch dif­fer­ences in trim are a big deal. If you put a lousy crew on Goose, you’d be in the back of the fleet pretty quick.”

Hoffman, a gen­teel and sea­soned sailor with snow-white hair and trimmed beard, is al­ways happy to talk 6 Me­tres; they’ve con­sumed him for decades. In the 1970s, Hoffman’s fa­ther, a naval ar­chi­tect and self-made ship­wright, re­lo­cated to Seat­tle and sailed with the ac­tive 6 Me­tre fleet. But in the 1980s, says Hoffman, own­ers there were bail­ing out of the class, and the boats were suf­fer­ing from ne­glect: “My old man ran around and of­fered ev­ery­one $2,500 for the lead — and took the boat.”

Hoffman Sr. even­tu­ally owned seven and un­der­took sub­stan­tial re­builds of three. When his fa­ther passed, Hoffman kept his per­sonal fa­vorites: Llano­ria and Goose, two of the most im­mac­u­lately re­stored Clas­sic 6 Me­tres racing to­day. Hoff man fondly refers to them as his daugh­ters, and ad­mits to dot­ing upon them more than he does his wife.

He’s owned Goose since 1982, and the go­ing con­cern of Hoffman, at age 74, is who will take care of her when he’s gone.

As he pauses to pon­der this mat­ter again, he sud­denly breaks his thought: “Dennis wants to buy the boat, but I’m not sell­ing it to Dennis.”

By Dennis, of course, he means Dennis Con­ner, Mr. Amer­ica’s Cup.

“He’s of­fered me a lot of money for Goose, but he’s not in it for the long term.”

The 6 Me­tre group is a fra­ter­nity that tends to look out for one an­other’s prized pos­ses­sions, says Hoff man. “By and large it’s a gen­er­ous group that’s will­ing to help one an­other,” he says, “but on the race­course, there are some that are a bit pushy.”

A petty protest that got Hoffman tossed out of one race and cost him the pre­vi­ous world­cham­pi­onship ti­tle in Fin­land still stings two years later. He prefers not to talk about the in­ci­dent, but says: “If you’re go­ing to be in a col­li­sion, you’d bet­ter bail out, even if it costs you the race. These boats are too spe­cial, and the amount of money it’s go­ing to cost you to fix the damned thing isn’t worth it. Plus, you’re go­ing to take some char­ac­ter out of the boat be­cause what you fix it with is not orig­i­nal wood.”

The ma­rina at “Royal Van” dur­ing the worlds is a yacht col­lec­tor’s show, and Hoffman has a few on dis­play. Robert and Molly Cad­ranell, of Seat­tle and San Diego, or­ches­trated the char­ter of May Be VII from owner Joth Davis to Amer­ica’s Cup leg­end Dennis Con­ner for the re­gatta (al­though he sailed only four races be­fore re­tir­ing her with a cracked mast). There’s a five-boat syn­di­cate from San Fran­cisco’s St. Francis YC, which in­cludes Cad­ranell’s Arunga and the wood-sparred Clas­sic Lu­cie, owned by class pres­i­dent Matt Brooks, who is an un­mis­tak­able pres­ence in his sig­na­ture black-rimmed and em­bossed skip­per’s cap. The other three St. Francis boats are the three moderns: St­ing, Scoundrel and

Scal­ly­wag. And then there’s Rainer Müller’s per­sonal ar­mada of 10 at the re­gatta. It’s any­one’s guess how many 6 Me­tres Müller ac­tu­ally owns, but at one point, it was up­wards of 20.

This world cham­pi­onship is also Müller’s party, and the com­pa­nies he’s founded or is associated with serve as the re­gatta’s spon­sors. When­ever he ar­rives in the venue, he’s a celebrity to the lo­cals who know him and an enigma for out-of-town­ers. “Who is this guy Rainer?” I hear peo­ple ask. Come to find out, Müller is an ar­chi­tect who splits his time be­tween Van­cou­ver and Zurich, Switzer­land, and he’s ob­sessed with 6 Me­tres. When he gives a guided tour of the fleet with VIPS and guests on sev­eral oc­ca­sions, he’s a walk­ing en­cy­clo­pe­dia.

Müller’s story is a com­mon one in the class. He grew up crew­ing on 6 Me­tres in Europe in the early 1980s, went off and made his for­tune, even­tu­ally re­con­nected

with the class, and in 2010 went all in. “He’s got a mix of clas­sics and moderns, and he’s plowed a lot of money into them,” says Hoffman. Müller is also part owner of Llano­ria, which is the ben­e­fi­ciary of a re­cent $200,000 restora­tion. “That’s what it costs, but now it’s a stronger boat.”

Müller is adamant that the Rule 2 boats are still com­pet­i­tive, and with­out too much money, can be brought into racing form. “We brought Saleema [circa 1928] for $20,000 and in­vested an­other $5,000, and the boat is very good,” says Müller in a thick Ger­man ac­cent. “Peo­ple say 6 Me­tres are a lot of money, but I dis­agree.”

Müller is cred­ited with help­ing spur the 6 Me­tre re­vival of the past few years, and he sees the class’s fu­ture in com­pet­i­tive moderns. There are a num­ber of good boats held hostage in barns and boat­yards in Europe, he says, and if he has his way, it’s con­ceiv­able to have a West Coast cir­cuit with re­gat­tas in San Diego, San Fran­cisco, Seat­tle and Van­cou­ver. “If we can cre­ate such a thing, we have a chance of con­tin­u­ing this re­vival,” says Müller. “There is a lot of pos­si­bil­ity to come into the class, es­pe­cially with the mod­ern. There is al­ways in­trigue: Why is one boat fast? Why is it not fast? Here, you dis­cuss a new rud­der, or per­haps change the wings. It adds an­other level of com­plex­ity, but for peo­ple who like to fig­ure some­thing out, this is the place to be.”

The fastest Mod­ern at the mo­ment, says Müller, is Junior , the 2015 world cham­pion and 1980s-era 6 Me­tre, owned by Philippe Durr, of Switzer­land, who has sailed the boat for nearly 20 years. Junior, com­mis­sioned by the wealthy Swiss Ed­mond de Roth­schild fam­ily, once fell off its trailer dur­ing trans­port and was se­verely dam­aged, but Durr com­pletely re­built it, says Müller, “and be­cause of this, he knows his boat in­side and out.”

The bat­tle of the clas­sics pit­ted King Juan Car­los’

Bribón Gal­lant (’47) against Saskia (’34), char­tered to Brazil­ian broth­ers Lars and Tor­ben Grael. The king’s men tri­umphed by 5 points de­spite ground­ing in the fi­nal race. No one 6 Me­tre is the same then and now: Bribón Gal­lant’s “key­hole” cock­pit and New Swe­den’s mod­ern ap­proach.

As an ar­chi­tect, Müller es­chews to­day’s cook­iecut­ter res­i­den­tial homes and com­pares 6 Me­tres to the eclec­tic houses that dot the neigh­bor­hoods sur­round­ing Royal Van­cou­ver YC. “To have some­thing that no­body has, that is fan­tas­tic,” he says. “The thing about 6 Me­tres is that each boat has a life, a his­tory, and maybe even a dark side.”

As an ex­am­ple, he calls out the Mod­ern blue-hulled New Swe­den, a 1988 Peter Nor­lin de­sign raced by Royal Van­cou­ver’s young match-racing star, Ben Mum­ford. Mum­ford didn’t want the boat for the Worlds be­cause of its rep­u­ta­tion for “not get­ting to the top mark,” says Müller, but they turned to lo­cal yacht de­signer and builder Don Martin to ex­or­cise New Swe­den’s demons.

“The Nor­lin hull of this era is a fine-body boat that is good for Van­cou­ver,” says Martin, “but we changed it con­sid­er­ably, cut­ting the boat in half — lit­er­ally into two pieces — in or­der to lengthen it.”

They lopped 3 feet off the bow as well, and when they put all the pieces back to­gether, it was an en­tirely new boat: longer, lighter, faster, and team­ing with bells and whis­tles. With the ad­di­tion of a new keel, trim tab, rud­der and rig, it was es­sen­tially a new boat. “We knew the cour­ses were go­ing to be three-lap cour­ses in Van­cou­ver, putting a pre­mium on boathandling,” says Martin. “It doesn’t look like any other 6 Me­tre here, but it does look con­tem­po­rary.”

There are plenty of other Moderns such as

“ALL THE S LOW 6 ME­TRES OF THE PAST HAVE EI­THER BEEN CUT UP OR LEFT TO R OT IN THE MUD. WHAT’ S LEFT TO­DAY ARE THE BEST OF THEM .” —NIGEL ASH­MAN

New Swe­den that could benefi t from a face- lift or two, he adds, but re­builds are not for the faint of heart, con­fess­ing that they were “into this boat for what a new boat would cost.”

While there are mixed opin­ions about which is bet­ter: Mod­ern or Clas­sic, Rus­sell, the ex­ec­u­tive sec­re­tary, also be­lieves the class’s fu­ture is in the Moderns. Hoff man does too. “What’s neat is there are guys like Rainer who are into this whole thing, and I’m hop­ing it’s an in­cen­tive to not write off ex­ist­ing boats, but just redo them in­stead.”

King Juan Car­los, who cut his teeth in the In­ter­na­tional Dragon class long ago, had been racing grand- prix TP52S be­fore hip surg­eries pre­vented him from sail­ing for seven years. When he was able to re­turn, his search for an ap­pro­pri­ate boat led him to a 1929-built Clas­sic 6 Me­tre. “I said, ‘This is the boat I need, a lovely sail­ing boat,’” says the king, whose grand­fa­ther King Al­fonso also raced 6 Me­tres in the 1920s. He bought his first boat in Fin­land and then bought Gal­lant in Switzer­land soon after. The king’s home fleet now counts seven boats, three Clas­sics and four Moderns, in­clud­ing his lat­est Kouy­oumd­jian model.

“I have sailed many boats, but the 6 Me­tre has such a nice sen­sa­tion,” he says. “The sen­sa­tion to be so near the wa­ter and re­ally feeling the boat. After two years of sail­ing them, I am learn­ing that each boat has a story.”

Iron­i­cally, be­fore the Van­cou­ver Worlds comes to a close, the king will un­wit­tingly add his own chap­ter to Gal­lant’s story. Among his men for the cham­pi­onship is home­town Star Class Olympic sil­ver and bronze medal­ist Ross Mac­don­ald, whose lo­cal knowl­edge helps keep Gal­lant in the top three in the fi rst six of eight races.

With a mar­ginal lead on the score­board over Hoffman’s Goose go­ing into the fi­nal race, Mac­don­ald guides his team to the fa­vored left side of the race­course to es­cape a strong flood tide. All is well un­til Gal­lant comes to an abrupt stop as its long keel plows into the mud on — of all places — Span­ish Banks.

Hav­ing hap­pily waved the king across at the start 10 min­utes ear­lier, Ste­wart en­joys the benefi t of wit­ness­ing Gal­lant’s ground­ing be­fore suff er­ing a sim­i­lar fate. A quick tack away from the shal­low hazard springs Sprig to a fifth-place fin­ish and a 10th over­all stand­ing among the Clas­sics.

The king and his crew, mean­while, man­age to sail off the bot­tom and fi nish eighth in the race to win the cham­pi­onship by only three points over Goose. After fi ve long days of racing in drift­ing to near- gale con­di­tions, it is an im­pres­sive re­sult for a helms­man of his age, es­pe­cially one who walks the docks gin­gerly with the help of a cane.

Philippe Dunn’s Junior is vic­to­ri­ous over Mum­ford’s New Swe­den in the Moderns and now stands as the ruling 6 Me­tre of the day. Dunn and his team are highly re­spected in the class but in­tensely com­pet­i­tive on the race­course, which leaves one to wonder whether when, or if, the king com­petes in La Tri­nite, France, at the 2019 World Cham­pi­onship with his state-of-the-art Juan K de­sign, might Junior al­low His Majesty a lit­tle le­niency on the start­ing line as Ste­wart did? Si, señor.

“YOU CAN’T BUY THE BEST BOAT. IT’S THE SAILS AND THE TRIM­MERS. IF YOU GET THOSE TWO THINGS RIGHT, YOU CAN GET A 6 ME­TRE TO DO WHAT YOU WANT IT TO DO .” — PETER HOFFMAN

Peter Weal­ick’s Max’inux, a 1985 build, was the home­town new­comer to Van­cou­ver’s 6 Me­tre fleet. Max’inux dis­masted dur­ing pre-worlds racing, but a re­place­ment spar was lo­cally sourced in time for the first race of the Worlds. To weather is Hen­rik An­der­sin’s Evelina (’95), from Fin­land, and Steve Kin­sey’s Blade (’87), from Van­cou­ver.

Peter Hoffman, of Bain­bridge, Wash­ing­ton, in­her­ited Goose from his fa­ther, who re­stored the 1938 vin­tage 6 Me­tre to racing trim. Hoffman and his crew won the fi­nal race of the Worlds to fin­ish sec­ond over­all in the clas­sic divi­sion.

World cham­pion Phillippe Durr, of Switzer­land (left), has cam­paigned

Junior (’89) for 20 years, and the team’s con­sis­tency earned them the ti­tle over Ben Mum­ford’s New

Swe­den (CAN 129), which was mod­i­fied for the Worlds. Bob Cad­ranell’s

Arunga (’82) is from Seat­tle, and Rein­hard Suh­ner’s

Courage IX (’88) hails from Switzer­land.

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