What do you get when you add the length to two times the girth difference minus the freeboard plus the square root of the sail area divided by 2.37? You get a 12-metre racing yacht that is about 62-72 feet on deck. How many have you seen in Newport, RI?
Since 1906, this rule has been producing yachts Internationally that can race equally with each other and need no time allowance to determine a winner. Countries that have built yachts to the 12-metre rule are great Britain, Norway, Germany, Denmark, Russia, Sweden, Italy, France, Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and the United States. The Americans built their first six in 1928.
In the years before WWII, there was tremendous interest that the Americans should bring their 12-metres to England to meet the existing British fleet. This was after all an International racing class! In 1939 the plan began to materialize with the arrangement to send "Gleam", "Northern Light", "Vim" and "Nyala". With war looming on the horizon, only Harold Vanderbilt's "Vim" was sent. The English had already built four brand new twelves by four different designers in anticipation of the Americans' arrival. What a shock it must have been when the sole American yacht, "Vim" won nearly every race that season against the entire British fleet including the four brand new English boats! It's no wonder that the Americans were more than happy to accept the use of the 12-metre class in the America's Cup when racing resumed in 1958. The twelve metre class remained active in the Cup until 1987.
Newport has the distinct honor of being the home to fifteen of these graceful racing sloops. Many have become part of Newport's charter industry, generating millions of dollars to the tourism business. In 1976, the first 12-metre to start chartering was "Gleam" built in 1937. Bob Tiedemann, who's passion was to rescue and restore antique yachts, had the idea that if he chartered these boats, it would be a means to keep them alive. This "raison d'etre" was responsible for saving Bob's second 12-metre, "Northern Light" built in 1938 found sunk in the Great Lakes in the mid-eighties.
This summer, the dream first conceived in the 1930's finally comes to fruition. Sixty years later, the British have once again invited the American 12-metres along with all other countries to come race in their waters. The regatta will be held at Cowes, the Isle of Wight to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the America's Cup. The schooner yacht, America won the first race in 1851, then called the 10 Guineas Cup. The jubilee will take place August 18-25 in the same waters as the all important first race. On August 1st the Newport 12-metres will board the submersible Dockwise Yacht Transport ship fully rigged for the trip across the Atlantic.
After the America's Cup Jubilee, the yachts will continue n their Grand Tour. They will again be shipped to Porto Cervo, Sardinia to join the circuit in the Mediterranean where the largest fleet of 12-metres in the world currently reside.
Never before in the 95 year history of the 12-metre class will so many of these yachts come together from the far corners of the globe to celebrate and race as they were intended on an International scale. This is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity for these grand racing yachts and their owners.
After the Mediterranean tour, the 12-metres will be shipped to Florida
for the winter and will once again grace Newport Harbor in the Spring
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