International One-Designs were conceived out of love

Published on August 10th, 2015

It was a classic case of coup de foudre, as the French call it: love at first sight.

The year was 1936, and the Larchmont (NY) Yacht Club’s famed racing skipper, the late Cornelius “Corny” Shields — dubbed “the gray fox of Long Island Sound” for his competitive spirit and wily knowledge of the Sound’s tricky tides and weather — was racing in Bermuda when he caught sight of a brand new, 6-meter yacht, “Saga,” built by Norwegian boat designer Bjarne Aas.

“The minute I saw Saga, I fell in love with her,” Shields later wrote. “I thought she was the most beautiful boat I had ever seen. I loved her shape, her sheer, her dainty transom, and her long, straight counter. It was terrible. All I could think about on the way back to the States were the lines of that darned boat. She literally haunted me.”

With an eye toward replacing his aging home fleet of Sound Interclubs with more modern vessels, Shields contacted Aas and asked him if he might consider creating a new class of One-Design boats along the same lines as Saga, though somewhat shorter than her 37 feet. (Confusingly, the term “6-meter” does not refer to the boat’s length, but its designation under the “International Rule,” a complex, yacht-racing formula involving waterline length, hull configurations, sail area, and other factors.)

The result of this fateful alchemic collaboration was the 33-foot International One-Design (IOD) racing sloop, a boat with “lines as clean as a smelt’s and each and every line perfect for its purpose,” as the late English boat-builder Uffa Fox described Aas’s creation. The boat’s full-length, edge-glued planking of Oregon pine (later, African mahogany) was so elegantly and seamlessly crafted, her hull looked “like the side of a porcelain bathtub,” as Shields recalled.

Of the nearly 300 original wooden One-Designs built by Aas between 1936 and 1970, together with later fiberglass models made in Maine and Bermuda after Aas’s death in 1983, around 150 still race in a total of a dozen yacht clubs around the world from Bermuda to Norway, Sweden to the British Isles, in Nantucket, Marblehead, Northeast Harbor, and Long Island Sound. Recognized as among the best IOD sailors the world over are theowners of the Fishers Island Yacht Club’s fleet of 11 One-Designs, which sail out of West Harbor. – The Westerly Sun, read on

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