Real Deal

A blessed spot of light Friday relief from the America’s Cup for those readers thoroughly disinterested in self-interest and pining to see relatable boats but of a grand prix variety is provided courtesy of the 5.5 Metre class who are down in Lake Garda – where else – for their much postponed Alpen Cup.

These boats are not only elegant and graceful but white-hot weaponry with an arms race that puts the Cup posers to shame. It’s beauty and grunt in equal measure as those of us that have had the pleasure of sailing in Metre classes know only too well. But it’s stunning to see.

©Robert Deaves

Look at the racing. Look at the spectacle. Look at 5.5’s in big breezes. What a fabulous class. The video is below for your enjoyment. And it’s a class in the ascendancy. Mateusz Kusnierewicz, the Finn Gold medallist from 1996 was recently spotted at the front of the fleet down at the Regates Royale in Cannes and you’ll find AC sailors, Admiral’s Cup winners and Olympians aplenty in Torbole this week. It’s where the good ones go.

From Cowes, we have a dog in the fight (in more ways than one) in the 5.5’s with a major effort being implied by Peter Morton in a quest to scoop the World Championship crown later in the year. As one of the UK’s greatest sailing campaigners, Morty’s built two boats to evaluate and they are the closest thing I’ve seen to Concours d’Elegance in yachting.

©Robert Deaves

Built by the best keelboat builder in the world today right here in Cowes, David Heritage, and overseen by former AC coach and trainer to the stars of tomorrow Andrew ‘Dog’ Palfrey, what’s been produced is off-the-scale stunning.

Peer into the cockpit, as I did last week, and it’s like every dream you ever had has just come true – carbon fibre detailing, systems that are smoother than silk and no stone left unturned anywhere. It’s how you wish you could do it. Downstairs, the obligatory winged-keel brings back memories of the endless debates from 1983-1987 that we all had and seeing the Metre shape on a trailer in the yard sends goose-bumps down the back.

©Robert Deaves

If you’re under 40 reading this, you probably won’t understand. The 5.5 Metre is a thing of such stunning beauty that it rivals a restored Ferrari 250 GTO or a piece of bespoke Linley furniture and still very much has a place in the modern world.

The message boards and missives from club hierarchy are filled with a desire for our pinnacle event, the America’s Cup, to return to vessels that are relatable to participants of our sport – you know the ones where effort is recognised as sails are wound up the mast or genoas are ground in to trim.

I hear them and I thoroughly appreciate them but with respect I disagree. The pinnacle is served magnificently by the AC75’s and the F50’s in SailGP. They are monumental spectacles, highly photogenic that befit the top end of the sport and the way the world is going – outrageous and challenging with speeds that are quite simply unbelievable. They should be there. But there absolutely is a place for boats like the Metre classes and keelboats like the Star and I can’t help but be enthused when I see them. I’m sure you are too.

©Robert Deaves

Sailing is a broad inter-disciplinary church and whilst the flying machines at the apex provide drama and breathtaking, high octane sport, in the keelboats it’s the likes of the 5.5 Metre or the Star that turn my head.

I’m still yet to sail a Star – it’s a lifetime’s ambition to own one – but a ride on the 5.5 is a possibility. Having owned for a number of years an agricultural derivation of the 5.5 in the form of a Daring – a local Cowes boat adapted by Uffa Fox and others from the day when the 5.5 was an Olympic class – that has probably the best racing on the South Coast, the lure of Metre racing is like a moth to a flame.

Furthermore, in Cowes every year we see the stunningly beautiful 6 Metres that are lovingly restored and pimped and they are pure, unadulterated class by any measure. These are boats that fuel the soul, stretch your arms and provide the closest racing on the planet – I can see why many wish a return to boats of this ilk in the Cup but it isn’t going to happen in our lifetimes.

©Bacardi Cup

And upon reading the excellent Sailing Scuttlebutt (US version) that pops into my inbox on a daily basis, I clicked through to see a campaign to get Stars ‘n’ Stripes ’87 – the Dennis Conner steed of Perth fame – back into working order after being scuttled by Hurricane Irma.

She’s in a bad way. The poor old donkey has been thrashed on the charter circuit in the Caribbean for a number of years but the hurricane was the fatal blow and she’s now in desperate need of salvation.

That boat was everything back in the day to me and was much more than a throw-away ride for Conner’s Cup-winning glory and comeback. The riblets, the keel, the heavy-weather prowess, the banana bow – if you get what I’m saying, you know exactly where I’m coming from.

Surely there’s a misty-eyed American billionaire out there who will do to ‘Stripes what was done to Victory ’83 – have a look at the Victory ’83 website to get a flavour of the art of the possible – what a fabulous story it would be to see her fully restored, perhaps with DC on the helm at a Newport regatta and the old gang from those days back together again.

To see her back to her former glory would be quite simply incredible – have a look at the website and I challenge you not to get excited…the videos with the still peerless Gary Jobson commentating are worth twenty minutes of anyone’s time today.

I’ll be keeping all eyes on the 5.5’s this weekend – racing concludes on Saturday and it’s as tight as a mackerel’s backside between the top three as they dust off their Covid-induced racing rust and enjoy a thoroughly entertaining few days of racing for the Alpen Cup. What a class, what sailing, what sailors…

The 5.5’s are the real deal.

8 thoughts on “Real Deal

  1. In the summer of 2019, while in Hilton Head, South Carolina for my brother’s wedding, I saw one of the prototype/test Stars & Stripes 12-Metres docked in Harbour Town. (The charter operators say it’s the winning one, but I knew it wasn’t.) She was beautiful to see up-close, especially after a 5-mile bike ride on a hot and humid day.

    I never knew the “real” one was in such disrepair at the very same time! Definitely going to pitch in a bit after I square away my rent for this month.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. At almost 70, I am unable to sail in any capacity other than passenger, however in my youth, a 5.5 would have been a real treat. I miss the Wednesday night, Sunday mornings at the yacht club. The competition was lively and the social friendships were a joy. Lake sailing is a bit different but every bit as much fun. I grew up on Lake Erie and perfected my early racing skills on the lakes up in Maine. I still enjoy the regattas and I love seeing the colorful kites. But the Americas Cup races have always been my true favorites. Going to Newport and to San Diego was a thrill for me. COVID broke my heart because I was planning my buckelist trip to Auckland for the regatta this year. I I am hoping to go to the next Americas cup regatta, wherever it is. I wish like a lot of others that it could be in Auckland. But I know that wherever it is, I will be there.I will not go to the Middle East. I don’t think that it will be there anyway. Wherever it is, at least to the fates and I trust Grant Dalton and the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron to make a logical decision. I only wish that everybody else which shows some patience And quit speculating about where the regatta will end up. I am so tired of all the criticism that is being hurled at Grant Dalton. I am not a kiwi and I’ve never been to New Zealand, but I can’t understand the people of New Zealand who constantly criticize the one man who has done everything in his power to make sure that the cup would reside in the trophy case at the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron. Tom Ehman, among others, have been Insisting that Grant Dalton is primarily interested in having the regatta anywhere but Auckland, because he wants to pad his pockets. I find this attitude and comment very insulting. Grant Dalton has never been anything but a true New Zealand patriot. He has had only one agenda since she took over in 2003. All of his energies has gone to raising money for and putting together a team to bring the Cup back to New Zealand and to defend it at home. His agenda has not changed.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes agree. I am a fan of Grant Dalton. Any team would want someone with that much determination, passion and winning mentality. I’m with you Julie that he is in it to win it and there’s no private agenda. He’s honest and true to that.


  3. Darings best racing on the South Coast? Sorry Magnus you’ve got that one wrong, the answer is of course X boat. Much slower, older, cheaper than many boats but week by week season by season from Itchenor, Hamble, Cowes,Yarmouth, Lymingyon and Poole this is the boat to try and win in on the South Coast of Blighty,. For an example take our 2and 1/4 hour race at Lymington yesterday which had 1st and 2nd separated by 6 seconds, 3rd and 4th by 1 second, great fun, hard, technical racing.


      1. Haha! To misquote the Jardines twins who have only just retired from X boating at 88 years young, if the competition is in orange crate, race orange crates if it’s in coffins, race coffins….

        Liked by 1 person

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: