Nirvana: Fastest, prettiest in the world

Published on September 28th, 2022

They were the mighty slayers of the maxi era, lining up often during the 1980s at points around the globe. Teams onboard Boomerang, Condor, Kialoa, Matador, Ondine, and Windward Passage were revered, muscling these brutes during the heyday of the maxi boat circuit

Also in that field was Nirvana owned by Marvin Green, a world-class yachtsman who had been Commodore of the Stamford Yacht Club and an active member of the New York Yacht Club and the Royal Yacht Squadron. Michael Keyworth tells the story of Nirvana:

My wife Nancy and I sailed professionally for ten years, before settling down to raise a family. During our sailing period we were solicited to crew for Marvin Green as Captain and Cook. We came aboard Marvin’s Swan 65 Nirvana in 1978 and sailed with Marvin until 1985. Those were the best of times!

We raced in the Bermuda race in 1978 and 80 with mediocre results. Marvin and I had talked about the logistics of building and competing in the Maxi Circuit, and we met with designer David Pedrick several times about the possibilities. We all agreed that modifying an existing Maxi would not result in positive outcomes.

I was off to the Mediterranean in 1980 to do a racing series in Palma, the Swan Worlds in Sardinia, and the Middle Sea Race out of Malta, and as we finished the Middle Sea Race, Marvin asked to have a word with me.

Marvin said that he wanted for me to go back to the states, meet with Pedrick and design/build the “fastest, prettiest boat in the world.” I asked what budgetary figure I should use, and in his inimitable way, he repeated how I was to build the fastest, prettiest boat in the world!

The rush was on! Our first scheduled ocean race was the 1982 Bermuda Race…. Pedrick designed an 81-footer that met Marvin’s expectations but had not been tested on the ocean race course. I contracted with Palmer Johnson in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin to do the build as I was confident we would get what we wanted having overseen the build of a 76-foot Alden in 1977.

Palmer Johnson did a great job and launched two weeks early, but the trouble with launching in late April was fighting ice and closed waterways, as well as depth in the Erie Barge Canal, our draft was 12.5’. Without going into the gruesome details, we overcame the ice and depth problems and arrived at Pilots Point Marina in Westbrook, CT in mid-May to meet the new 4-spreader rig and to do the final commissioning and sail testing.

Nirvana arrived in Newport, RI in time to do much needed crew practice and safety training for the 26 crew. The weather delay gave all of us a bit of time to go over the boat in detail and get in a game of cricket with the crew of Condor.

The race down to Bermuda was fast and uneventful. We reached the whole way, changing from the #1 jib top to reaching spinnaker many times…one of the easiest ocean races I have ever done.

The eventful moment was when going to check the galley, where I found my wife in her Line7 foul weather gear cooking for the 26 crew. She was in her foulies because the dorade/vent had an engineering problem.

While Nirvana did not win any of the handicap awards, she set a new elapsed time record that lasted for 14 years. Nirvana went on to do ocean races all over the world and in 1995 she bettered the Fastnet Race Record by more than 12 ½ hours. She held that record for 14 years too.

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