Featured in Windcheck Magazine: Preserving the Twelves The 12m Yacht Development Foundation

Chris Szepessy

The 12m Yacht Development Foundation (12mYDF) has embarked upon their most ambitious season to date, with a match and fleet racing series, sail camps and clinics for junior sailors on Long Island Sound, participation in classic yacht events from New York City to Nantucket, and spring and fall regattas in their homeport of Greenwich, CT.

“The Foundation was established in 2006, and our mission is to acquire, restore and preserve historic America’s Cup 12 Metre boats and their racing heritage,” said 12mYDF Executive Director Patrick Sikorski. “We’re a member of the International Twelve Metre Association, a syndicate of 12 Metre owners all over the world. That’s good for finding spare parts, and it provides camaraderie to organize events in North America, the Med, the Baltic and the Caribbean to race these old boats and exchange information.”

The first boat acquired by the Foundation was America II (US 42). Designed by 12mYDF Sailing Advisory Committee member Bill Langan at Sparkman & Stephens in New York, NY and built by Williams & Manchester Shipyard in Newport, RI for the 1987 America’s Cup, the boat portrayed Geronimo in the 1992 film Wind. Their latest acquisition is Lionheart (K 18), a British boat built in 1980. After years of neglect, Lionheart needed extensive restoration work. “We hauled her down to Derecktor Shipyard in Mamaroneck, NY and they more or less rebuilt her,” Sikorski explained. “By mid-season last year, she was match racing with US 42.”

“The economy is crushing many of us, and a lot of 12 Metre owners have found the boats extremely expensive to maintain,” said Sikorski. “We’re a 501c3 tax exempt charitable trust and can offer a tax write-off. We’ve received offers of donations of some of the more famous boats. The owners will become members of the Foundation and they’ll have the benefit of being able to sail the boats from time to time.”

In their day, 12 Metres represented the pinnacle of racing yacht design, and keeping them sailing today is both daunting and expensive. If a winch breaks, for example, or a hydraulic system leaks or a mast car jams, temporary repairs must be made on the water and replacement parts often need to be fabricated from scratch. “That’s the nature of racing boats that were built as warships,” Sikorski explained, noting that the Foundation’s collective knowledge of 12 Metres is without equal. “We’re kind of a ‘Who’s who’ of the sailing industry. Just about everyone who’s been associated with the America’s Cup since 1958 – people who designed, built, helmed or crewed on these boats – is a member of the Foundation.”