Part 9 of a bit of history
Our century of International 8-Metres journey is far from complete without avisit to the true backbone of our class; the classic fleet. Generally, we refer to classic 8-Metres if they have been designed and built prior to the year of the Iroquois, 1967. These are the boats that wrote history, often with famous owners, kings and queens, industrialists, bankers, architects, merchants, entrepreneurs. However different their background often was, they shared the same passion and love we have for our boats today. Regardless if their status was gained by birth or entrepreneurship they all shared the same competitive spirit and eagerly commissioned 8-Metres, sometimes just to win that one race in conditions which they expected the new design to perform better than their current.
Sometimes the gods smiled on them and delivered that wind they hoped for, sometimes the bet on the gods moods didn’t pay and they had better taken the old boat. The beauty of our rule is that the window through which the design needs to fit allows optimisation for certain wind and wave conditions but that the trade-off was a lesser performance for the balance or remaining conditions giving other boats the chance to beat them to the finish. The best example of a superb light air 8-Metre is the Knud Reimers designed Glana. Short waterline and almost 85m2 of rated sail area made her unbeatable on Lake Geneva. She won the coveted Boll d’Or eight times, a record that still stands today. On the other end of the spectrum, you will find the boats built for the 1928 Olympics such as Aile VI, Hollandia and Tamara VIII (ex Noreg). They would have around 71m2 rated sailarea and a long sailing length which perfectly suited the windy conditions of the Zuiderzee near Amsterdam. The life span of the specialised designs was limited and some owners like Virgine Heriot, Marcus Wallenberg jr, August Tobias, King Alfonso and Baron Krupp would commission a new 8-Metre every other year. Today most of these boats still sail and compete in our annual events, thanks to caring owners and crews who kept them going even when heavy wooden boats were far from fashionable. Through their effort the old boats, and with it our class, survived the test of time. The sleek lines and powerful rig would make sailors’ hearts beat faster, and just like today make them take the long way home to see her at the dock and show an interest through a simple stop and stare or a question to what she may be. Through the stories told, the myth carried on and kept our boats on the shortlist of most admired pieces of functional art in the past century. The owner’s love for their Eight would drive them to lay up boats when business was down while refusing to let go as they knew they would not be able to buy her back for a decade or so. As in the sixties right up until the mid-eighties classic boats would be broken up one after the other. Somehow the Eights managed to remain their magic and despite their often-deplorable condition they would remain a centre piece in the rotting row until mister right would come along. Well before classic boats became a thing of fashion you would see men and women hanging upside down in the bilge fixing the floors and frames, hoping to give their pride and joy a new lease on life. Sometimes the once thoroughbred racer would be converted to cruising, sometime the stern was chopped and the rig shortened to make her rate favourably under RORC, however wrong that may seem now, those decisions were made then and seemed right at the time and most of all, they kept the boats going.
Over the past 15 years classic boats gained status and with that movement the old Eights became some of the most sought-after boats. A staggering number of classic 8-Metres has been restored to a standard unmatched in the past. Including major overhauls at boat yards, the number of full restoration projects is likely to be close to 100 worldwide. A steady number of around 20 boats are under restoration and it is safe to say that our fleet is in better condition then ever before. The classic 8-Metres are the backbone of our class. They provide spectacle of unmatched beauty, these are the boats that are kept in families for generations and these are the boats that come to mind first when people think about our class.
The tribute for the survival of the class therefore goes to our predecessors who kept the Eights going and made them survive another year. The tribute goes to men like Eugene van Voorhis and Joni Hertell, the founders and long-time officers of our association who had the vision to donate trophies worth racing for. They organised the class and staged events around the world.
The tribute goes to Gaston Schmalz and Per Wermelin for building numerous new boats, shipping and competing them around the world and showing the world that the Eights were a class of boats worth fighting for. The tribute goes to all owners around the world for their dedication and care for the old boats, for their seemingly endless enthusiasm and good spirit that make our annual 8-Metre World Cup continue to be the event of the year and last but not least the tribute goes to Johan Anker, William Fife, Charles Nicholson, Beltrami, Alfred Mylne, Olin Stephens, Costaguta, Starling Burgess, Clinton Crane, Francois Camatte, Baglietto, Bjarne Aas, Frank Paine, Tore Holm, Gustav Estlander, Max Oertz, Henry Rasmussen, Jacques Fauroux, Ed Dubois, Pelle Peterson, Ian Howlett, Doug Peterson, Juliane Hempel, Peter Norlin and many more of the World’s most esteemed naval architects who have designed amazingly beautiful, fast and versatile 8-Metres that would stand the test of time.