Tuesday, 11 July 2017

12M sailboats "Valiant" and "True North I"

With participating yachts now arriving after finishing the Marblehead to Halifax ocean race, the Halifax waterfront has taken some of the overflow. The race attracts all kinds of boats of all different sizes, and groups them into various different classes based on their size and speed.

While walking home this evening, my eyes fell on the two racing boats that appeared since this morning, and in particular the distinctive bow of a 12 Metre class yacht - in this case, that of Valiant (US 24). One doesn't see many 12 Metre yachts in Halifax, so Valiant stands out.

While boats belonging to the 12 Metre class have all been designed to the same formula, the class is not homogeneous and each one is different. Although dating as far back as 1907, the class is probably best known for its involvement in America's Cup racing between 1958 and 1987. 

Valiant herself was built in 1970 of triple-planked mahagony over laminated oak frames, and is apparently the heaviest ever built. Perhaps unsurprisingly, she was eliminated from the 1970 America's Cup Defender Trials.


That distinctive 12M bow.

12M boats weren't really designed with multi-day overnight ocean racing in mind, so I'm not sure I would want to be one of Valiant's crew in such a race. Compare the IRC-2 division Valiant to a more modern ocean racing yacht like the ORR-1 division Siren below.

Nova Scotia isn't a complete stranger to 12M yachts, mind you, with True North 1 having been built just outside Bridgewater in the early 1980s by Crockett-McConnell Inc., with the intention of participating in the 1987 America's Cup. As a boy, I remember attending the launch at the Government Wharf in Bridgewater, and somehow I managed to find the photos in time for this post.

True North I arriving at the Government Wharf on a trailer, and being lifted by a crane into the waters of the LaHave River. The tarpaulin is covering the keel - after Australia II's winged keel helped her win in 1983, the keels were a closely guarded secret.

True North I being lowered into the water. The while aluminum speedboat in several photos was also built by Crockett and McConnell Inc.
True North I alongside with the tarpaulin removed. 
Unlike Valiant, True North I and contemporary 12M yachts were built of aluminum.

Alas, True North I never had the chance to participate in the America's Cup. Both the True North and Canada II camps ran into financial troubles, and merged. As I recall, True North I and Canada II raced against each other off California to determine which was the fastest - as True North 1 was optimized for the heavy winds of Fremantle, she lost out to the light-wind optimized Canada II. Canada II subsequently lost out in Fremantle for the America's Cup, in conditions that might have favoured True North I. We'll never know now.

As with Valiant, True North I and Canada II are still sailing - the latter two are even available for charter.

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