Six Meter History Launches New Chapter on San Francisco Bay

Published on October 9th, 2015

by Meredith Laitos
San Francisco, CA (October 9, 2015) – The first time 6 Meters appeared on San Francisco Bay, Woodrow Wilson was president of the United States. The Panama Canal had just opened and Babe Ruth had just hit his first career home run. And now, one century later, the history of the class launched a new chapter.

Eight 6 Meters met at the St. Francis Yacht Club on San Francisco Bay to compete in the International 6 Meter Invitational on October 6-. The fleet was comprised of boats representing three class rules, hailing from San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle and Vancouver. Over eight races in 15-20 knots of breeze, the Invitational showcased eye-catching sailboat racing and close competition, especially in Rule 2.

“Sprig and Lucie are as close to twins as you can get in boats,” explained Lucie’s skipper, Matt Brooks (StFYC). “They were built by the same designer one year apart, yet have never raced against each other.” In Rule 2, Lucie and Sprig went race for race, swapping bullets nearly every other race to finish with a score of 12 to 12; Sprig won by placing first in the final race. Sprig’s skipper, Greg Stewart (SDYC), and Brooks race together on the class yacht Dorade. “We know each other very well, but that doesn’t mean he gave me any breaks,” said Brooks.

In Rule 3, Goose beat Saskia II nine points to 14 and in the Modern or “Open” rule, Russ Silvestri (StFYC) skippered Arunga to a strong first place finish, with 11 points and six out of eight bullets.

The Origins
The 6 Meter class has a rich history in San Francisco Bay. A year ago, RC Keefe, senior Staff Commodore of the St. Francis Yacht Club, started discussing bringing 6 Meters back to the area to stimulate interest for the 2017 World Championship in Vancouver. The plan was to host a match race between Sprig and Lucie right around Rolex Big Boat Series.

Brooks, who is also the President of the International 6 Meter Association, said, “We sent out the Notice of Race and were pleasantly surprised to discover that the interest was much more than we had expected. We wound up with eight boats, which is a very good start.”

Many well-known local sailors who have competed in these boats over the decades were back, and there was some new blood too. In addition to Sprig (SDYC) and Lucie (StFYC), Robert Cadranell (StFYC) entered Arunga which was skippered by Russ Silvestri (StFYC). Rainer Muller (Royal Vancouver YC) entered Saskia II and St. Francis IX (chartered and skippered by StFYC Commodore Sean Svendsen). Peter Hoffman (PMYC) entered Goose (skippered by Eric Jespersen); Rodger Phillips (Seattle YC) entered Frenzy; Steve Kinsey (RVYC) entered Blade.

As Keefe stated, “Getting eight 6 Meters together anywhere in the world today is an achievement.”

For StFYC Executive Race Committee Vice Chair and regatta Principal Race Officer, David Wiard, the 6 Meters fit within the Bay landscape. “Our members actively race Knarrs, Folkboats and IODs throughout the year. We also host the Jessica Cup for classic yachts. The 6 Meter program has roots in the club that goes back to our founding. All of those things amalgamated into a collective interest to bring these boats together.”

The Boat
Keefe has written more about the 6 Meter class than perhaps anyone. He explains, “Every 6 Meter was individually designed and built, which gave naval architects endless opportunities to learn and improve. Each boat was open to interpretation. Each was a little different. Over the years, various Rules developed to reflect the advances in boat design. Some ideas worked. Some didn’t. And there was value in that, too. The history of yacht design was in a lot of ways illustrated by the history of 6 Meter design.”

Brooks expands: “The 6 Meter was an Olympic boat, so it attracted a lot of top sailors. It was also a test bed for 12 Meters. The architects would try new designs on the 6 Meters and, if it worked, matriculate that technology up to the 12 Meters.”

Following racing on Thursday night, all eight skippers tucked their gorgeous yachts back onto the docks and gathered for a final skippers’ briefing. “The thing I love most about this class are the people,” said Brooks. “We compete fiercely, but everyone is helpful and truly enjoys the sailing.”

According to Commodore Keefe, a group of 6 Meter sailors in San Francisco are looking to syndicate another 6 Meter and restore it bow to stern. “We see this regatta as another chapter in the history of these fine boats, and we look forward to seeing more 6 Meter racing on the West Coast.”

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