Lucie US 55 Returns to Racing

Lucie US 55 returns to racing at the 2011 Six Metre World Cup in Helsinki
by Pam Rorke Levy

Lucie arrived in Helsinki just days before the start of the 2011 Six Metre World Cup, accompanied by a sole crew member, Johnny Walker. The rest of her Corinthian crew, including owner Matt Brooks, Helmsman Jamie Hilton, Robby Doyle and Judd Smith of Doyle Sails, and bowman Chris Greenman would not arrive until the first day of racing, scheduled for Monday, August x. When they assembled dockside that day, the crew had spent just 45 minutes aboard Lucie together, sailing her from the Hinckley Boatyard to her recommissioning party at the IRYS dock in Newport, Rhode Island

The first day of the World Cup would mark Lucie’s first competitive sail since the 1960s. Toby Rhodes found Lucie in 2004, and sold her to Gregory Carroll, who began a complete restoration in 2005. Over the next five years, boat builder Brian Rieff rebuilt Lucie in the exact manner of her original construction, including shellac between her double planked hull. That refit stalled before the mast, rigging and hardware were completed, but resumed in May of this year, when Knight Coolidge tipped off Matt Brooks and Jamie Hilton that the boat might be available for sale. Matt and Jamie had been searching for a classic six metre to race in Helsinki and considered other boats, either for charter or purchase, but concluded that Lucie’s pedigree was undeniably the most promising.

Lucie was the last six meter designed by Clinton Crane in 1930, and arguably his best. She was built in Nevin’s Yard on City Island in New York in 1931, for the noted sportsman Briggs Cunningham, and named after his first wife, Lucie Bedford Cunningham Warren. Lucie was named to three successive British-American Cup teams, her last in 1936. She is the only Crane design to stay in major competition after WWII. She often beat newer designs on the Great Lakes in the 50′s, such as US 81 Goose and US 87 MaybeVII, while named ‘Stork’.

Clinton Crane was a major force in the development of Corinthian yachting, a gentleman yacht designer, and an active 6 metre campaigner. Mr. Crane opened the door to Olin Stephens’ career as a yacht designer, literally stepping aside when he realized that he was potentially taking clients away from Olin, a young man at the time, and whose livelihood depended on design commissions. Mr. Crane also designed 12’s and 8’s, as well as other sailing and power craft, including dinghies, unlimited speedboats and high speed luxury commuters.

On May 19 of this year, Matt Brooks purchased Lucie and Jamie Hilton went to work putting the final stage of Lucie’s refit on a fast track bound for Helsinki. Boat builder Brian Rieff immediately went back to work at his yard in Brooklin, Maine, completing the restoration he had started years before, doing hull preparation, topsides and bottom, deck gear installation, and rig construction/assembly, with Marine architect Jacob Vargas in charge of optimizing the rig design for racing.

Less than weeks later, on June 7th, Lucie was trucked to Joe Loughborough’s yard in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, where she was measured on June 8th and 9th by Andrew Williams, at the same time her rigging was completed by Phip Hallowell and Brian Fisher of Rig Pro. Robby Doyle of Doyle Sails delivered a complete inventory of new sails and Matt Borgueta ran the yard crew at Hinckley. Her mast was stepped on June 10th, just in time for her recommissioning at the IRYS dock. She went on a trailer on June 20, and was transported to Newark, New Jersey. Hans Oen assisted with fasttracking logistics, getting Lucie on a ship out of New York bound for Europe on June 22, just four weeks after the final refit began. In that time, the team had built the rigging and mast, installed all of the boat’s hardware and painted her hull.

Lucie had always performed well in light air, and that made her a perfect candidate for this summer’s World Cup, as Helsinki is well known for light air and sunny skies in the summertime. But the forecast for the first day of sailing showed squalls and 17-25 knot winds.

As the crew made their way out of the harbor aboard Lucie that first day, they quickly realized how challenging the day would be, and just how tender Lucie was, with her new rigging and sails. After two hours of delays because of high winds, race officials finally announced the first start. Just as they were starting the race, bowman Chris Greenman heard a splintering sound and looked up to see the jib cascading down on top of him, nearly sweeping him overboard. The sheave box holding the jib halyard had been wrenched out of the mast completely, splintering the wood down the face of the mast. At first it seemed that the damage would be irreparable. And even if the mast and rigging could be fixed, Lucie had already scrubbed out of her first race.

Back at the dock, the crew swung into action, looking for solutions. Marine architect David Pedrick – who had worked on the refit of Lucie for Gregory Carroll — introduced the team to Allan Savolainen, an extraordinary local boatwright who was up the mast within minutes. By sheer coincidence, Jacob Vargish was also sailing that day on abother boat. Together, Jacob, Alan and the rest of the Lucie crew quickly came up with a plan to restore the damage and make Lucie sailable in the next day’s race. By the time Lucie was towed away from the dock en route to Alan’s yard on as island off the coast, many other boats had abandoned the race because of the heavy winds, and race officials called it off completely. Lucie had a fresh shot at winning in its class at the World Cup.

After working his crew all night, Allan had Lucie back at the dock in racing shape by the start of Tuesday’s race. The next three days of racing were characterized by unseasonably high winds and seas, but despite the conditions, Lucie quietly rose through the ranks. With each race, the boat and the crew performed better. Of the seven races scored, her last four finishes were 9th, 4th — and in the final day of racing — Lucie finished second in both races, against two different boats. According to helmsman Jamie Hilton, “we were just starting to hit our groove.”

In the final results, Lucie won her class, beating the next boat in the “Vintage” classification by 67 points, and winning both the KSSS (Kungliga Svenska Segelsällskapet) trophy and the Baum & Konig Trophy for boats with wooden masts and dacron sails. Even more astonishing, given how the week started, Lucie came in 6th out of a combined fleet of 45 classic and vintage six meters, beating many more modern boats.

Lucie is back in the US now for the winter, undergoing maintenance and repairs overseen by Jens Lange of Baltic Boat Works in Bristol, Rhode Island.

“There’s no question that Lucie is a fast boat,” says owner Matt Brooks, “and next year at the 2012 European Championship in Sweden, we’ll see how fast.”

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