Story by Kim Weckström; Photos by Erik Lähteenmäki, sailpix.fi
After postponement for a year due to the global pandemic, the historic 12mR Class World Championship was sailed in extremely demanding conditions in Helsinki, Finland. Hosted by Nyländska Jaktklubben (NJK), the five days of racing commenced August 16 and the boats were immediately tested in both strong and shifting winds. The nine 12mR teams and boats all travelled on their own keels to the regatta from Denmark, Germany and Norway— a rare and impressive achievement for a fleet of vintage yachts that range in age from 82 to 103 years old.
The two Finnish teams, accustomed to the prevailing conditions on the race course outside of Helsinki, know that the westerly wind on the northern coastline in the Baltics, follows the sun and shifts in the afternoon. This local advice applied to those unfamiliar with these conditions: Stay on the righthand side of the course if you want to stay on the safe side!
All but two teams, Blue Marlin (FIN-1) and Flica II (K-14), heeded this advice. After the race Blue Marlin’s captain, Henrik Andersin, said, “I thought the clouds looked a bit weird. I anticipated that the wind would not behave as usual. After the first windward leg a wind shift occurred, but not the one most boats were expecting – the wind shifted to the east counterclockwise. This shift gave us a huge advantage and we were the first boat to cross the finish line. Flica II finished second.”
The results of that first race turned out to be crucial for the final results. The Danish boat Vim, with an 82-year history of winning most races, managed to outrank all competitors. Blue Marlin finished in a well-deserved second place, Flica II was third.
Drama followed by record spectator numbers
Strong August winds almost stopped the boats from competing. Crews were stranded during the second and third competition days. On the fourth day, despite a wind force approaching the official limit of 12 m/s, the boats finally headed out to the race course. Due to the strong winds and the choppy conditions, five boats were forced to abandon the race. It is remarkable that the oldest boats Thea (D-1), built in 1919, and Veta III (N-11) built in 1934, managed to cross the finish line unharmed. Vanity V, (built 1936), was one of the boats that finished all the races.
Broken spinnakers and mainsails, damages to the masts and fittings, were hastily repaired the same night. On the fifth and final day of racing, the sun made an appearance and the wind dropped a little. All boats were able to head out to the race area in a fresh breeze. The organisers were delighted to see an armada of spectator boats lined up to follow the beautiful old 12mR boats round the race course. In total, seven out of the ten planned starts were completed.
A dream from 1911 came true
Commodor Mats Welin was pleased to say that the 12mR Class World Championship was a dream come true. This dream was born when NJK celebrated its 50th Anniversary in 1911 with a regatta in which two 12mR boats participated. Today, 110 years later, there were nine. Prior to the championship Mats and his wife, Catarina, studied historical 12mR boats and set up a small exhibition in the clubhouse. The exhibition revealed that the Norwegian boat Vema was one of two 12mR boats that participated in the 1936 regatta, celebrating NJK’s 75th anniversary.
Henrik Andersin, chairman of NJK’s 12mR committee and skipper of Blue Marlin, praised NJK for the successful organisation of the races, which made it clear that they can compete with other well-known and influential yacht clubs around the world. Andersin was especially happy to see so many young volunteers, many of whom participated for the first time and did an incredible job.
Andersin himself played a big role in the preparations, assisting with organizing and financing, and on top of that he managed to win a silver medal with his team on Blue Marlin.
Andersin is of the opinion that both Germans, Danes and Norwegians have discovered that sailing to Helsinki via Salsjöbaden and Stockholm, through the Finnish archipelago, is a delightful experience. A 12mR boat is a perfect fit in the Baltic Sea. Wings sailed from Helsinki to Copenhagen, a distance of 600 nautical miles, in 75 hours!
All in all, the 12mR World Championship in Helsinki was a success both for the class and for NJK. The gold medalist, Vim skipper, Patrick Howaldt, who serves as Vice President of Northern Europe in the International Twelve Metre Association, was of course happy with the result. Howaldt also pointed out that sailing 600-700 nautical miles to Helsinki and back, was a memorable experience for hundreds of sailors. Furthermore, he said that the sailors were fortunate to participate in good racing, great hospitality and many fantastic social events. He concluded by saying that NJK’s beautiful clubhouse, in the centre of the capital, on the island of Blekholmen, is a unique venue for sailors.
Wings and Vim
A unique championship in many ways
It was the first time the 12mR Class World Championship took place in Finland, and consequently the first time NJK was the organiser. It was also the first time that five European 12mR boats, all designed between 1937-1939 —Wings (K-15), Jenetta (K-1), Vanity V (K-5), Blue Marlin and Flica II, met again on a race course and competed against the same American challenger Vim (US-15). Previously it happened during the legendary 12mR summer in Cowes, in 1939 just before the outbreak of World War II. At that time, the races were a forerunner to the America’s Cup.
In 1939 in Cowes, Vim, designed by Olin Stephens, managed to win against all the newly-built English 12mR yachts. History repeated itself, 83 years later, in Helsinki. However, the World Championship in Helsinki showed that the originally, Finish-Danish-German opponents, were more evenly matched today.
It is hard to imagine anything more spectacular than the 12mR Class World Championship to celebrate NJK’s 160th Anniversary: nine beautiful boats, 144 crew members, more than 50 spectator boats, 25 sponsors and a considerable media presence. NJK organised social events for the 300 guests, always keeping in mind the restrictions posed by the COVID pandemic.
Edward Krogius, responsible for the social events, together with Carolina Andersin-Vuorinen, were satisfied with the various functions and gatherings held during the championship. He says that NJK managed to combine Finnish culture with an international atmosphere and he hopes to see more international regattas at NJK in the future. He has noticed how expectations and demands from both sailors and class associations have increased. Today much more is required for an event to succeed than just big orange buoys. Registration fees do not cover all expenses, and more funding is needed in order to attract sailors to participate.
The main organiser Henrik Andersin expresses his own observations from both small and big 12MR regattas: “When you have a crew of 16 sailors, all age groups are represented – the youngest, about 20 years of age and the oldest closer to 70. What other sport can offer the same lifelong pleasure? Sailing is fantastic!”
2021 12 Metre Worlds Final Results
12mR – Vintage (9 Boats)
- Vim (US-15), Helmuth Henning, Patrick Howaldt & Ditley Wedell Wedellsborg, Copenhagen, DK: (3) – 1 -1 -1 -1 -2 -2 ; 8
- Blue Marlin (FIN-1), Henrik Andersin, Kotka, FI: 1 – 4 – 2 – 2 – (RET 10) – 4 -5; 18
- Flica II (K-14), Alexander Falk, Hamburg, DE: 2 – 5 – 5 – 3 – 2 -5 -(6); 22
- Jenetta (K-1), Thomas Müller, Flensburg, DE: 5 – 2 – 4 – RDG-3.7 – RDG-3.7 – 6 -(7); 24.4
- Nini Anker (N-15), Christoph Avenarius, Hamburg, DE: 4 – 6 – 3 – (RET 10)- DNS 10 – 1 – 3; 27
- Wings of Cowes (K-15), Philipp Skafte-Holm, Copenhagen, DK (with Finnish & Danish crew): 7 – 3 – (RET-10) – DNS 10 – DNS-10 – 3 – 1; 34
- Vanity V (K-5), Mikael Stelander, Helsinki, FI: 6 – 7 – 6 – (DSQ 10) – 4 – 7 – 4; 34
- Vema III (N-11), Johan Troye, Oslo, Norway, NOR: (9) – 9 – 7 – 4 – 3 – 8-DNF – 8 ; 40
- Thea (D-1), Jacob Holst, Copenhagen, DK: 8 – 8 – 8 – 5 (10-DNS) – 8-DNF – 8; 45
2021 Evli 12mR World Championship was sponsored by the following companies and partners:
Main sponsor: Evli
Day sponsors: Baltic Yachts, Keisari, Normet, Red Sky Yachts, Roschier, Scandic, Stanton Chase
Products and services: Brandscape, Delicatessen, Fazer, Fiskars Group, Helsingfors stad, Interbrands, Järvikylän, Jouko Lindgren, Kruunu Herkku, NOHO Nordic Hospitality Partners, North Sails, Sassan Ruokakassi, Suomen Jäätelö, Veikko Laine, Villi, Windlass Creative
Find out more about 2021 Evli 12mR World Championship and the participating boats by clicking here