October 4, 2012-Stormvogel
Sitting in the Barracuda Bar, looking over the rim of my rum glass, I read the name on the transom of a large yacht across the way: Stormvogel.
Can it be THE Stormvogel, the famous 74’ ketch from the 60’s, now turned up here in Trinidad?
It was and it is.
I rowed over and admired the classic 74ft racer. Its sweeping lines and shining varnish were as gorgeous now as they must have been when it was built in South Africa over 50 years ago.
Ian Hulleman, the Kiwi boat builder who captains Stormvogel and supervises maintenance and rebuilding of the yacht, invited me aboard and we sat on deck and talked about the vessel and its history.
A collaboration by Cornelius Bruynzeel of Bruynzeel Plywood, E. G. Van de Stadt, Laurent Giles and John Illingworth, Stormvogel was built of plywood in Brunzeel’s factory in Stellenbosh, outside of Cape Town in 1961. It was an experimental, ultra-light (for its time), design with fin keel, spade rudder, and a tall (the tallest at the time) aluminum mast, built for speed and ultimate ocean racing. Stormvogel’s first passage was a fast 7500 mile delivery to England to sail in the 1961 Fastnet Race in which it took line honors. That started a life of ocean racing and record breaking for the yacht. Brunzeel and his crew then began sailing the world looking for challenges. They won Buenos Aires-Rio (1962), Sydney-Hobart (1965), China Sea (1966), Transpac (1967) and Middle Sea (1968 & 69). The boat has continued to be successful under various owners over the years. Now owned by John Cummings, the boat was owned and raced by Italian Ermanno Traverso for 25 years. It was in Phuket for eight years, and crossed paths with Wings there.
While crew Ben (another New Zealander) sanded teak, Ian and a friend removed the huge mainsail in preparation to a haulout, “the first in four years,” he said, “But the boat is now in its best condition for many years, it is still sound and still fast.”
“We can push this boat without problem and it can beat the new yachts.”
“Forty years after its first Middle Sea Race we returned there in 2008 and finished second. The wind blew in the mid-thirties and we beat the TP52’s.”
“Coming across the Atlantic this year we sailed over 270 miles a day for three days; the boat is fast.”
“In 2012 we won the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta.”, he said.
Clearly Ian Hulleman is proud of this vessel, and as I admire it sitting serenely at the dock in Trinidad, I can see why he does.
I ran my hand along Stromvogel’s varnished cap rail and I daydreamed about what it must have been like to charge home first on this boat back in the 60’s. For years this boat was dominant. I think about these past glories and I know that, for this powerful racer, there are more to come. And I love it when these classics show up somewhere unexpected, still impressive and beautiful, in some corner of the world where we happen to be.
Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Trinidad
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