Welcome to the Class of the Classes
Published on October 6th, 2015
Throughout the summer of 2015, St. Francis Yacht Club has hosted some phenomenal racing on San Francisco Bay. From kites to windsurfers to dinghies to big boats, StFYC has hosted a bevy of events that continue to up the level of competition along City Front.
This week, the club returns to its roots and hosts the International 6 Meter Invitational.
On October 6-9, a fleet of eight 6 Meters will race in San Francisco Bay, just as they did a century ago. With entries from Seattle, Vancouver, San Diego and France, this international fleet will be as competitive as it is majestic.
Here’s an historical perspective of the 6 Meter Class by Event Chairman, Staff Commodore R.C. Keefe…
It has been a while since we had the pleasure of the hosting the “Class of the Classes”, and I hope this will be the start of another chapter in the history of the St. Francis Yacht Club and the 6 Meter Class. After all, the “6 Pounders” have been part of the club since its founding in 1926.
The first International 6 Meter to appear on the North American continent did so at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition regatta on San Francisco Bay in 1915. Christened as Lady Betty, she was to race for a trophy given by President Woodrow Wilson. Because World War I was raging in Europe, only one challenger entered: Nurdug IV from King Christian X of Denmark.
It was an uneven match. Nurdug IV, the then-European champion, was Marconi-rigged and handily defeated the small, gaff-rigged Lady Betty two races to one, with the only loss due to equipment failure in the stiff breezes. The winners took home the President Woodrow Wilson trophy, a large silver cup mounted on a California redwood burl. The trophy resided in the Royal Danish Yacht Club until 2002 when it was re-deeded to the Classics winner of the 6mR European Championship.
Competition in California picked up in the late 20s and lasted through the 30s, with intense rivalry between the Northern and Southern California fleets. The most famous 6 Meter in the world was at St. Francis Yacht Club: Maybe II. In 1929/30, it went on with Ay Ay Ay and Synnove, then with Naiad for the 1932 Olympic trials. The economic depression was hard on the class, but the club was back again in 1938 with Fun, Strider, Lucy, St. Francis II and Saga.
World War II brought a temporary halt to the club’s 6 Meter participation until 1968 when they acquired St. Francis IV. Next to be built was St. Francis V in 1973, St. Francis VI in 1976 and St. Francis VII in 1979 through 1981 along with Ranger and Ah Si Si. In 1983/4, the club chartered Arunga, and for two years she became St. Francis VIII. St. Francis IX took the club to Switzerland, France and Sweden.
Through it all, St. Francis Yacht Club sailors were in the vanguard of the 6 Meter Class, winning the ISMA Worlds twice. The first win came in 1973 in Seattle aboard USA 100 St. Francis V with Tom Blackaller at the helm; the second in 1989 in Marstrand, Sweden aboard St. Francis IX with John Kostecki at the helm. St Francis Yacht Club boats also placed second twice—1979 with St. Francis VII and 1985 with St. Francis IX—and won the European Championships in 1990.
These years of 6 Meter building and racing laid the foundation for the participation of St. Francis Yacht Club in the America’s Cup and 12 Meter arena. Now, we are seeing renewed interest in the Meter Classes, including the naming of the International 8 Meter as the class of record for the Canada’s Cup.
This just may be the beginning of a great new tradition as it marks the return of the class to San Francisco Bay, and the hopeful return of the club in the class. There will be a St. Francis X, and the era of Blackaller, Bertrand, Cayard and Kostecki will have a new name added to the circle of St. Francis Yacht Club 6 meter skipper/ winners.