• Sailing Into History With 12 Metre Worlds


    Image © Nancy Bloom

    Article by LISA McCURDY/Newport Life


    The 12 Metre World Championship July 8–13 will be the largest gathering of 12 Metre yachts in U.S. history, and the second largest in the world, ever.

    A sailor perches on the foredeck of a 12 Metre–class yacht, ignoring the deafening din of flapping sails and fluttering rigging that engulfs him. The bowman wedges himself onto the forwardmost portion of the deck, craning his neck over the bow as his eyes sweep left to right and back again. He calls out the distance to the start line, the information conveyed to the cockpit by the rest of the crew, who dangle their legs over the rail as they angle for speed.

    The tactician and bowman, wristwatches synchronized, look for the best lane amid the other boats, who are all searching for the same advantage. Too early, and there will be a penalty to pay. Too late, and the rest of the fleet will leave them in their wake.

    The bow smacks into a wave, drenching the bowman, but he doesn’t flinch. The yacht picks up speed, crossing the starting line right as the gun goes off. It’s a clean start.

    Now the real work of the race can begin.


    Image © Richard Schultz


    Image © Lisa McCurdy


    Image © Stephen Cloutier





    Racing 12 Metre yachts is not necessarily new — the class of boats was first introduced in 1907 and has since been regarded in the sailing community as one of the most beautiful, tactically-challenging classic racing fleets in the world. But their return to Newport for the 12 Metre World Championship July 8–13 will be the largest gathering of 12 Metre yachts in U.S. history, and the second largest in the world, ever.

    “I think it will be a spectacular experience of classic, famous boats all on the water at the same time,” says Jack Curtin, owner of Intrepid, one of the 12 Metres racing in Newport this summer.

    12 Metre yachts are a class (or species) of boat designed by some of the sailing world’s most prestigious naval designers, including Olin Stephens, Clinton Crane, William Fife III, Philip Rhodes, Johan Anker and Ben Lexcen. The vessels range from 65 to 75 feet in length, and exactly 180 “12s” have been built worldwide — 120 from wood, 57 from aluminum and three from fiberglass.
    How to Watch

    Newport’s 12 Metre Worlds will be a sight to behold for fans of classic yachts and for those who are new to the sport. From July 8 to 13, most of the fleet will dock at Fort Adams when not racing — at the same docks where the Volvo Ocean Race fleet berths when it’s in town — so that the public can observe the ships up close. Racing ends around 4 p.m. each day. On Saturday, July 13, fans can cheer on their favorite teams during the 12 Metre Parade, when each of the participating yachts will pass by each of the downtown wharves on the eastern side of the harbor (including Bannister’s Wharf and Bowen’s Wharf) before heading out for their final races. Fort Adams, Castle Hill and Beavertail are excellent vantage points to watch the 12 Metres head out to the race course. With binoculars, spectators can also expect to see some of the racing from Brenton Point.
    The 12 Metre class has always been internationally renowned, and the yachts raced in the Olympic Games in 1908, 1912 and 1920, in the America’s Cup in Newport from 1958 to 1983, and in the America’s Cup in Australia in 1987. They have a continued history in Newport, where many are available for private charter, and a number of local residents and New York Yacht Club members own the boats privately. The 12s have enjoyed revivals since the 1990s, Curtin says, but now, thanks to the efforts of many class members and organizers, it’s seeing one of the largest resurgences in recent history.

    In most of their regattas, 12s are divided into different racing divisions, based on a number of factors including age, building materials, and a rating that determines a yacht’s maximum speed capabilities. The 12 Metre Worlds in Newport will feature five divisions with at least 23 yachts. They will sail against each other in smaller races, and will participate in a number of events on and off the water as a full class.


    Image © Stephen Cloutier


    Images © George Bekris


    Image © Richard Schultz


    Over time, many of the older yachts have needed massive restoration, including Curtin’s Intrepid, which he bought and rescued after she ran aground off of Nantucket in 1994. Following the initial two-year project, which Curtin calls “a labor of love or insanity, I’m not sure which,” Intrepid was back on the water. Subsequent restorations were required — including a massive amount of repairs after she was hit by the Oliver Hazard Perry in 2017. Today, the crew of Intrepid includes Curtin and a number of friends who can count their years on the water in decades, as well as sons and daughters of friends and famous sailors from Curtin’s long career. Notably, Intrepid is one of only a handful of yachts in the upcoming 12-Metre Worlds sailed entirely by amateurs. “No hired guns aboard,” says Curtin. “It’s a family experience we wouldn’t trade for anything.”

    The crew of Intrepid includes trimmer Reggie Pierce – who sailed in the America’s Cup twice on two different 12 Metres, winning in 1974 aboard Courageous — and his son, Travis, who will be on the bow. Tom O’Brien (who sailed with the elder Pierce in both Cups) will trim, while his son, Ian, will man the cockpit. Each vessel sails with about 15 sailors; they’re complex and tactical yachts that require all hands on deck (literally) to sail to their best potential.

    Gary Jobson, who will serve in the Worlds as tactician aboard Courageous, has an America’s Cup and Olympic pedigree almost too extensive to list. Most notably for the 12s, Jobson has been integral in keeping the class and regattas alive, and applied particular effort in bringing the 12s to Newport along with Peter Gerard, the vice president of the American fleet, and other primary organizers.

    Jobson’s resume includes three appearances in the America’s Cup, but he is also known worldwide for his commentary on ESPN and other networks for subsequent America’s Cup races, as well as the Olympics. Jobson is one of the most iconic voices in sailing, both on and off the water, and his role as tactician on Courageous will have him guiding a 12 Metre crew once more.




    “The intellectual challenge of being out there is amazing,” Jobson explains. “You have large, heavy boats and they’re very tactical — they take a ton of planning and thinking on the race course. You have to work hard to outwit your competition. Sometimes it’s random — you can never really know what the wind is going to do, but you do the best you can.

    “I’m looking forward to being a part of the spectacle —seeing them come off the start line, all in a line going downwind, very close in speed,” Jobson continues. “It’s cool to see all sorts of boats racing — even the J-22s that race on weeknights in the harbor — but to get so many boats in a 65–70-foot range racing together is simply spectacular.”

    The 12 Metre class participates in a number of “waypoint” events in Newport during the summer, although the Worlds will be the largest gathering by far. The New York Yacht Club’s Annual Regatta in mid-June, the Ida Lewis Yacht Club 12 Metre Trophy Regatta at the end of June, and the Newport Regatta the first week of July all offer an excellent opportunity for Jobson, Curtin and the rest of the fleet’s sailors to get up to speed, strategize amongst the competition, and practice their maneuvers in hopes of taking home the top prize at the World Championship in mid-July.

    “In addition to being as beautiful and significant as ever, the fleet is the fastest it has ever been,” says Curtin. “Every boat that’s racing is in better shape than when it first sailed decades ago.

    “These boats really have stood the test of time,” he adds. “There’s no such thing as a bad-looking 12 Metre ... and they’re a heck of a lot of fun to sail.
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Newport Getting Lousy With 12 Meters started by Photoboy View original post