fastnet race

Stormvogel it’s racing pedigree and the Rolex 2023 Fastnet Races…


Stormvogel is known as the ‘original’ Maxi, the first large, lightweight racing yacht of its type, cold molded wood construction and still racing competitively. She managed to come in 7th overall out of 181 competitors. She took line honors in the 1961 Fastnet.

The 1961 Fastnet Race, a famous offshore sailing race, featured the Dutch yacht “Stormvogel.” The race, officially known as the
Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) Fastnet Race, is a biennial event that takes sailors from Cowes on the Isle of Wight in England,
around the Fastnet Rock off the southwestern coast of Ireland, and back to Plymouth on the southern coast of England.

In the 1961 Fastnet Race, “Stormvogel” had a significant impact and became well-known for its performance.  skippered by Cornelius Bruynzeel. “Stormvogel” not only
won its class but also secured the overall victory, earning the Fastnet Challenge Cup, which is awarded to the yacht with the best
corrected time under the RORC rating system. This was a remarkable achievement for a Dutch yacht and made “Stormvogel” one
of the most famous yachts in the history of the Fastnet Race.

Last year’s Rolex Fastnet Race got off to a dramatic start, with over 30 knots of wind blasting through the fleet of 330 yachts lined up on the Solent. Not all the competitors were up to the rigors of such a full-on start, with 79 boats retiring in the first 24 hours. But one yacht truly in her element was the 74ft ketch Stormvogel. Despite being 60 years of age, the old warhorse not only took the near-gale conditions in her stride but finished a very respectable 6th in class and 7th in IRC overall.

It was an impressive performance by the yacht often described as ‘the first Maxi’, due to her radical lightweight construction, and marked a welcome return to northern Europe racing for the yacht after an absence of more than 30 years.

We had a good strong wind at the start, which suited Stormvogel,” said skipper Graeme Henry. “We were pushing 100% and didn’t take our foot off the pedal. It was a hard slog to start with, but she took the punishment and stood up to it. The fact she can finish up there with the modern boats shows what a remarkable boat she is.”

By the time he commissioned Stormvogel in 1959, Dutch wood merchant Cornelis ‘Kees’ Bruynzeel had already won the Fastnet Race: overall in 1937 on his traditionally-built Sparkman & Stephens yawl Zeearend and a class victory in 1952 on his plywood Van de Stadt sloop Zeervalk.

He had proven the suitability of plywood in building small and medium-sized sailboats but, ever-ambitious wanted to go a step further and build the biggest yacht allowed in ocean races: up to 70ft.

Stormvogel as a risky proposition


Stormvogel features
Kees decided to implement the project at all costs. Bruinzel turned to Olin Stevens. Alas, he did not want to risk his reputation in such an unusual project. Then the yachtsman turned to the designer, who was not afraid to take risks. They became Laurent Giles, who created the radical “Myth of Malham” for John Illingworth.
Giles readily took on the project. Somewhere in the end, Illingworth was persuaded to do the sketch too. But when Bruinzel showed the two designs to Erik van de Stadt (a Dutch yacht designer), he was unimpressed. Eric agreed to make preliminary sketches of his vision for the project.
Faced with three different approaches, Bruinzel made models of all three designs. Keys conducted their sea trials at the University of Southampton. Van de Stadt’s design proved to be the best and was selected.
However, the method of construction using sandwich plating on the bow and stern stringers was similar to that pioneered by Myth of Malham. Therefore, Laurent Giles was brought in to draw up plans for the building. To complement the illustrious crew, Illingworth agreed to design the yacht’s rigging. Construction will be carried out by Bruinsel’s own company Lamtico in Stellenbosch. The company has extensive experience in wood lamination.
The new structure was built from four layers of mahogany. The inner and outer layers went along the bow and stern. The two middle layers are on opposite diagonals. The boards were glued together with resorcinol. At the time, resorcinol was the standard wood laminating adhesive.
Full-length struts with lightweight frames and bulkheads completed the aircraft-like hull structure. The deck and coaming were made of plywood and foam. This was necessary to create a rigid, lightweight structure integral to the boat’s overall strength.
The Stormvogel was built in just 10 months, an outstanding achievement for such an impromptu design. She was launched in April 1961. After short sea trials, she went to England. Gordon Webb became the ship’s first skipper. He took the Stormvogel to the UK with a crew of 13 including Bruinzel. They traveled 7,660 miles through Saint Helena, Ascension, and the Azores in 51 days at an average speed of 7.6 knots.



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