A Silver Lining

Part 8 of a bit of history

Back to part 7

For some time a dark cloud had been hanging over the class as the modern Aluminium boats had not fulfilled the requirements by Lloyd’s. The dispute came to a dramatic climax when in 1994 Jacques Mazet won the World Cup in Cannes with his Lafayette and Sigge Svenson filing a successful technical protest on grounds of non-compliance to Lloyd’s. Lafayette had sailed an excellent series beating Gefion on the water but the outcome of the protest and the later appeal with the IYRU meant that Jacques Mazet could not take the Cup home. The result was that the Class not only lost Lafayette but indeed all aluminium boats, if the matter would not be resolved. Supported by TC Chairman Ralph Reimann and class measurer Guy-Roland Perrin, this was my first major challenge as an IEMA secretary and it would take until 1998 to have all boats, including other apparent doubtful cases back in the class.

The nineteenth edition of the 8-Metre World Cup in 1998 at the Société Nautique de Genève, was a turning point in the class. All aluminium Eights participated again. With an amazing drive and energy, Fred Meyer headed the organizing committee and was able to attract 28 boats to the waters of Lake Geneva including the brand new modern 8-Metre Spazzo, designed by the young German naval architect Juliane Hempel. Her Spazzo was built by Josef Martin on the shores of Lake Constance. He used the finest cold moulded mahogany and the best available materials in the true tradition of first-class German yacht building.  When building a new Metre yacht, one seldom knows if a step forward has been made, only after her first series the potential of the new yacht will be clear. Spazzo held a promise but due to lack of preparation she was defeated by some of the older moderns. One thing Josef Martin surely and most importantly did was inspire the class. Rather than talk he did what many thought was no longer done, he initiated the next generation of modern Eights.

It was again Gaston Schmalz who took up the challenge and commissioned his close friend Jacques Fauroux to design Fleur de Lys. The result was a departure from the typical U-sections, Fleur had a mild V-shaped section forward and a beautiful clean exit, no bustle, no creases, she was the slickest modern boat I had ever seen. And Fleur was fast, dominantly fast, trashing the 38 strong fleet in Helsinki in every race and every day. Fleur de Lys repeated her performance at the World Cup in La Trinite sur Mer but by then she started to get competition again. Yquem owned by Jean Fabre was completely rebuilt with a new keel designed by Van Oosanen in Holland and Lafayette owned by Jos Fruytier as well as Aluette, owned by Peter Groh had fitted a new Ian Howlett designed wing keel under the boats which proved to be very fast. Neither had the sail area of Fleur but in Geneva Lafayette was able to win the World Cup, win without winning a single race but with a very consistent result. Next, Jos Fruytier was joined by Ruud van Hilst and together they commissioned Doug Peterson & Ian Howlett to design their new boat to defend the World Cup. This was Hollandia and she was the first boat that would prove equally fast to Fleur de Lys. In her first season she won the European Championships in Flensburg as well as the World Cup in Toronto. In Toronto the regatta was dominated by Fleur and Hollandia and it ended in a tie on the water with a protest in the final race deciding the championships in favour of Hollandia. The 2005 European Championships also introduced Aun to the class. She is a brand new classic 8-Metre, built to the original 1940 design by Johan Anker. Yutaka Kobayashi from Japan was faced by the clear shortage of good classic 8-Metres available on the market and decided his best option to join the class was to build from scratch. Absolut Restorations in Portugal built his Aun in classic mahogany on steam bent oak frames. In order to avoid controversy, the use of epoxy was banned from the project and the 1924-1949 Lloyd’s scantling Rules were observed in every respect. Even when the specified copper rivets proved impossible to find the yard refused to resort to stainless steel. They opted to make their own copper rivets and so they did. With Tokiko Kobayashi at the tiller the reward for this amazing project was victory in Flensburg as they won the Neptune Trophy, awarded to the vintage 8-Metres. The 2005 World Championship in Toronto would also see Pleione, a brand-new type of Eight on the water. In Europe we call this a Spirit of Tradition. Bruce and Leanne Dyson had the vision and courage to build this new modern classic. Above the waterline she is the prettiest classic that money can buy, under water she is modern in every respect, hung keel, spade rudder, trim tab and wings. Pleione was designed by Jim Taylor and has been greatly admired for her performance and beauty. Within our trophies she is rated with the modern boats but as two more of these Spirit of Tradition boats have been built in Australia, the time may well soon come that a new trophy is needed to acknowledge and secure the place these yachts have within our class and events.

Read the ninth part of this story here