Twelves are Alive and Well

Twelves are Alive and Well

Interest in the America’s Cup is sustained by its history, and there is no better story-teller than the boats that once competed on its race course. Here’s an update from Jim Gretzky.


With the addition of three boats to the active ranks this season and a fourth recently changing hands and scheduled for a debut in the 2018 Season, the Twelve Metre Modern Fleet is growing quickly in Newport, RI.

The excitement is growing with a World Championship coming to Newport as part of the NYYC 175th Anniversary Regatta in 2019. Interest in the Class is high and with committed owners stepping up to bring the boats back into competition ready shape, the future is looking brighter.

First in the water was Freedom, US30, the 1980 Winner of the America’s Cup under new owner Charlie Robertson. She received new paint and a general overhaul at the Pilots Point Yard. Freshly outfitted with new sails and a new crew, she made her debut at the NYYC Annual Regatta.

Next up was DEFENDER, US33, a boat that had not sailed since 1994! She spent many years on the hard in Florida and then had a refit there in the late 2000’s. After launching, the effort stalled and she sat on a mooring having never raised sails. The owner passed away and the Victory Program picked up the boat, more to make sure she didn’t sink or get scrapped. As a side project to our twelve metre program, her refit has taken longer than we would have liked but she is now back in the water.

Sailed by the Victory Team, her debut was the NYYC Around the Island Race where she won the Modern Division – not bad for her first race in 23 years! She had a strong second in the Annual Regatta, a blown main putting paid to any chances of winning the weekend. Next up was the just completed Queen’s Cup, an IRC event where she finished first against a strong fleet.

Making her debut in the Queen’s Cup was Challenge Twelve, the Lexcen designed contender from 1983. She had been extensively modernized by a French program in the mid 2000’s and then came over for the 2009 Newport Worlds.

In the spring of 2017, under new owner Jack LaForte, she received a refit and new livery along with a new inventory. DEFENDER and Challenge Twelve enjoyed perfect conditions and with numerous lead changes, had a good day of racing with DEFENDER prevailing by a scant 21 seconds after 16.7 miles of racing. The prospects for some exciting competition in the coming years is very promising.

Next up for the Twelves is the Newport Trophy this coming weekend. The fleet will number ten with the two closely matched Gran Prixs KZ 3 and KZ 5 being joined by five moderns: Intrepid, Courageous, Defender, Freedom and Challenge Twelve and 3 Traditionals: Weatherly, American Eagle and Columbia. Nefertiti will be in Bristol at the Herreshoff Museum’s Designer Series honoring Ted Hood, her designer.

Newport Harbor is alive with Twelves!