The Future of History
By Staff Commodore Kimball Livingston
No racing class has a richer history than the Six Metre. And the St. Francis Yacht Club has Six Metre history reaching back to the 1920s. And—
We’re back, and we couldn’t be missed at the World Cup in October. Names you know gathered at the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club to sail for the title in these cranky, grand old boats that, foot for foot and pound for pound, are the hardest boats to sail (well) ever conjured in the name of naval architecture. Our performance freak Rear Commodore, Paul Heineken, is dead right that “Six Metres are not the future.” But classics racing is very, very now. This is the future of history. Three of five Club-flagged entries represented the St. Francis Syndicate, and the St. Francis name popped up elsewhere in the fleet, too. If you owned a Six (St. Francis V) that won the World Cup in 1973, you wouldn’t change the name. If you owned a Six (St. Francis IX) that won the World Cup in 1989, you wouldn’t change that name either.
Our Scallywag, 1978, won the Nelson Trophy (for unaltered boats 1966-79) with Craig Healy skippering. Healy’s fellow Olympian, Russ Silvestri, skippered Sting, 1989, to fifth in the Open class. The Classics (pre-1965) were won by HRH Juan Carlos of Spain with hometown hero Ross MacDonald whispering in his ear aboard Bribón Gallant. It was that kind of scene.
Tufts University sailor Sammy Shea, a product of junior sailing at StFYC and SFYC, ran the bow on Sting, absorbing the vast reserves of experience in Silvestri’s crew. It struck Sammy that, “You walk down the dock, and each boat has its quirks and secrets. It’s very different from my one-design world. I grew up sailing relatively simple boats, and Sixes opened my eyes to all sorts of tuning and sail shape options I hadn’t paid enough attention to before. Sixes reward straight-line speed and tactics that minimize maneuvers. And, honestly, the number of Olympians and world champions in the fleet was astounding.”
Think 11 countries; 47 boats. Eliza (“I’m in love with the boat”) Richartz and her all-female crew completed the St. Francis Syndicate threesome in a regatta that was frankly challenging. As Healy put it, “When the wind in Vancouver comes from the east, it’s erratic and chancy, and it came from the east for most of the regatta. Since Scallywag doesn’t have the winged keels the newer boats have, you might think she would like the light stuff, but it turns out the wing-keeled boats have less wetted surface. Our goal was to win our category and, with that, the Nelson Trophy. We did it, and we were boxing above our weight to come in seventh overall.”
StFYC member Matt Brooks, at the annual meeting of the class, handed off his title as president of the International Six Metre Association. His personally-entered 1931 Clinton Crane design, Lucie, nicely exemplifies the history that keeps people coming back to Sixes. Lucie won the big ones under her first owner, Briggs Cunningham, who also crewed Dorade across the Atlantic in 1931, raced cars a little bit, defended the America’s Cup in 1958 and left his name on the luff downhaul of your mainsail. In 2017, at age 84, Lucie won the KSSS Trophy as the highest-place, original-configuration boat built prior to 1933. Nice varnish on the spars, btw.