Tom Lihan sorts out Totem's forestay. He's 6'4" 225lbs, fits fine!

It has been a natural fit for me to cover classic yacht racing and restoration. Our first boat was Totem, a 1930 6 Metre designed and built by AE “Bill” Luders in Stamford, CT. With a new owner, Jesse Smith, I raced with her in the 2009 World Cup in Newport. Now, I am helping the team prepare for the 2011 World Cup this August in Helsinki.

I have written about the evolution of tuning up vintage sailboats and motorboats for The New York Times, Sailing World, Classic Boat, Newport Life and Wooden Boat to name just a few. I have lectured on the topic and I am just starting to see why art and antique car collectors have lifelong addictions. Old boats, paintings, cars are all tangible connections to the past. They are tactile and visceral. Everyone gets it when they touch one of these objects.

For this World Cup, I will once again be writing about the event. This time, it will be even more special. Finland is the home of the world’s larges six metre fleet. There are predicted to be nearly 50 classic sixes competing for the Djinn Trophy. Imagine 50 boats designed and built between 1920 and 1952, each a one-of-a-kind speed needle in wood, lining up on a staring line and racing as hard as at an Olympics. What a sight it will be, especially considering that five of the medalists from the 1952 Olympics, held in Helsinki and the last time six metres were used in the Games, will be there, including all three medalists.

Elizabth X, left, and Totem tuning May 26, Narragansett Bay

For Totem, we have been learning from the last World Cup and completed a tuning session for boatspeed and new  sails last week. Totem is a rare six in that most top boats now use aluminum rigs and laminate/spectra sails. Totem endeavors to beat those boats with a wooden mast and traditional white sails, bronze and wood hardware but with modern lines (all in white) and under-deck ball bearing blocks. Our team is Jesse Smith, Tim Fallon (two-time team race world champion) on mainsheet, Dave Moffet (J/24 world champion) trimming jib and spinnaker, Tom Lihan (Multi-naitonal and international champion in Etchells, Finns and superyachts) and me, the bow guy.

Lihan (white hat) and Fallon (blue hat) sort out Etchells cross-training

Our work last week was an extension of our spring cross training in Etchells 22s in Annapolis where we worked on crew work, boathandling and teambuilding. Gary Jobson, yachting luminary and president of US Sailing, was even there to spar with us. Last week we refined our below-deck systems, documented the fast settings for the mast and refined our ideas on new sails with legendary sailor Mike Toppa from North Sails Florida.

I will keep you appraised of how it goes. No matter what, it is shaping up to be the most spectacular sailing event I can imagine. What other race is this deep in history and talent?

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