The 12 Metre Class is a gorgeous showpiece on the regatta courses, both an ultimate cruising machine and an inshore prestige sled. Like capricious horses, the “12 Metres” have concise, beautifully short names. They are called “Anita”, “Anitra”, “Cintra“, “Evaine”, “Flica”, “Heti”, “Sphinx”, “Thea”, “Trivia“, “Vanity” or “Vim”. They are elegant, slender, and about 20 meters long. With their 30 tons of combat weight, they are true regatta warhorses. One should have sailing skills in order to compete with these bolides in fresh winds on the regatta course.
Today, as the progressive sailing scene takes to the skies, kiting, surfing, and low-drag hydrofoiling across the water with ultra-light, high-tech bullets, the lead-heavy long keels seem more old-fashioned than ever. About a hundred of the 170 built still exist, see a list here. The most beautiful 12 Metres, the scene agrees, are the classic long-keeled ships of the thirties. But there are also lovers of modern designs, who is enthusiastic about Philippe Briand’s 1985 design “French Kiss” and sail it in the Mediterranean.
❐ “12 Metre” in action
There is even a shipyard specializing in 12 Metres classes. At Robbe & Berking Classics, a completely new 12-Metre will soon be completed according to plans by Johan Anker from 1939, known as No. 434. The Flensburg shipyard also has the Australian “Gretel” from 1962 and the recently restored English “Jenetta” from 1939.
❐ This is how “Janetta” was found
There are three reasons for the fascination for a „12 Metre” or “12mR”: a historical one, an aesthetic one and, most importantly, the sailing one. The nimbus derives from its function as a former America’s Cup class. Sailing history was written with the „12 metre” from 1958 off Newport to 1987 off Fremantle, Australia. The best yacht designers, boat and mast builders, hardware manufacturers, sailmakers, savvy sailors and shrewd tacticians competed in the class back then.
❐ “Janetta” goes back into her element after restoration
The boats, especially the long-keeled examples of the thirties are elegant. You can look at them for a long time, from the massive stem to the stern that is lifted apart from the water.
And they are true thoroughbreds. It is an addictive pleasure to sail them. There is no other type of boat that takes to the wind with comparable frenzy and is similarly unyielding through the water. With nearly 30 tons and about 15 tons of lead under the bottom cheeks, the twelve-footer has a lot of power. Hardly any other class is built closer to the water and offers
❐ “Vanity V” from 1936
But let’s tell the story from the beginning
America’s Cup contenders between 1958 and 1987 – the 12 Metre Class
Following a twenty-one-year hiatus, the America’s Cup resumed in 1958 with a new class of boats, the 12-Metre Class.
Smaller in size, easier to crew, and more manageable on a race course, these 60 to 70-foot sloops were an improvement over the previous 135-foot America’s Cup racing class, the “J” boats. Like the “J” boats, the “12 Metre” class was designed according to a formula. In other words, “12 Metre” Class yachts can have a wide range of sail area, length, and speed production aspects. All “12 Metre” yachts are measured using the following mathematical formula:
This formula inputs the speed-producing factors: (length (L), sail area (Sa), freeboard (F), and girth measurement (2D). Yachts that meet this formula must not exceed 12 metres in length. Other restrictions on the design measurements of “12-Metre” racing yachts are in place to prevent one design from being vastly superior to another and to ensure a fair and competitive racing environment. In order to ensure that “12 metre” racing yachts do not differ too much, maximum and minimum mast heights, drafts, beams, and headsails are used.
❐ “Thea (D-1)” and “Wing (k-15)” racing each other
“12 Metre” yachts are probably the most fascinating racing yachts ever built. With their beauty and size, along with their America’s Cup history, they have attracted and intrigued yachtsmen since they were first launched. Powered by their massive sail areas, these 30 tons racing beauties reach speeds as high as twelve knots. They have main sails that are approximately 1200 square feet in size and jibs that range from 500 square feet to over 1200 square feet in size, with a height that cannot exceed 75 percent of the mast. Until 1958, “12 Metre” yachts were not raced in the America’s Cup.
Nevertheless, the six, eight, and twelve metre rules date back over five decades. The International Rules for metre class boats were developed in 1906 by William Froude and the Royal Yachting Association in England. The “12 Metre” boats had significant racing success prior to their America’s Cup debut and were used in the 1908, 1912, and 1920 Olympic games.
❐ Scotish Sir Thomas Lipton, a legendary America’s Cup racer
The America’s Cup, the oldest Trophy
American yachtsmen first took up the 12 Metre Class in 1928 when they ordered six nearly identical boats from Starling Burgess, the renowned boat designer. It was in 1939 that American 12 Metre racing was elevated to a new level when Harold Vanderbilt, an accomplished America’s Cup sailor, “J” boat skipper, and the winner of the 1930, 1934, and 1937 America’s Cup, brought his new 12 Metre, the “Vim” (12 Metre US-15), to England for a race against the Royal Yacht Squadron. The Royal Yacht Squadron was in awe of “Vim” after she won 21 of 27 races against British 12 Metres while in England. From 1958 until 1958, “Vim” remained the standard by which all other 12 Metre yachts were measured until “Columbia” (12 Metre US-16) defeated her in the tie-breaking race of the America’s Cup defense trials by only 12 seconds. It would be the design standard for America’s Cup racing yachts until 1987, when it was retired.
❐ 1939 “Vim”, still a hard to beat 12 Metre
The Auld Mug
“12 metres” were designed with one thing in mind – to win America’s Cup races. The design of their products reflects this in every aspect. America’s Cup twelves didn’t have room for an engine, anything below decks, or even a toilet when they were campaigning. The deck layouts of America’s Cup twelves are set up for optimal sail performance as well as for speed. When racing, the sails are the engine of the boat, so trimming them correctly and quickly was crucial to winning. America’s Cup “12 Metre” crews were also trained for efficiency. When it was their turn to compete in the famous America’s Cup, they had intensive training and practice to be flawless at sail handling and the best yacht racers in the world.
Despite their demise, America’s Cup “12 Metre” boats remain one of the most prestigious racing classes in the America’s Cup history. Many twelves have gone on to have successful ocean racing careers after their America’s Cup adventures. The largest fleet of “12 metre” boats in the world resides in Newport, Rhode Island, where over 50 years of America’s Cup racing have taken place.
❐ 12 mR “Onawa” (US-6)
During the summer months of August and October, many of these classic racers attend numerous sailing events on the French Riviera. Noblesse Yachts is the only company that offers sailing opportunities as well as yacht charters.
Come sail with us on a piece of America’s Cup racing history on these sleek racing beauties!
Available Dates are:
07.09. – 10.09.23: Vele d’Epoca di Imperia (See Video here)
13.09. – 16.09.23: Monaco Classic Week (See Video here)
19.09. – 25.09.23: Les Regates Royales de Cannes (See Video here)
24.09. – 08.10.23: Les Voiles de Saint Tropez (See Video here)
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