International One-Designs, after 75 years of sailing history, occasionally force us to reconsider fundamental definitions. Contemplate the Chester, Nova Scotia, fleet, for instance; here is a case where the term “new” requires some adjustment. The Chester IOD fleet is currently the newest gathering of the classic Bjarne Aas sloops. Its roster includes four vintage 1937 pine planked boats as well as another four mahogany boats from the late 50’s and early 60’s, all from the yard in Fredrikstad, imported from various fleets.
Also sailing at Chester are the last two wooden IODs ever built, although neither comes from the now defunct Aas yard. Ibis was built at York, Maine, by Paul Rollins in 1992. Although initially somewhat of an anomaly – she is cedar planked and has teak decks, and was built as a day sailer with no intent to join a racing fleet – Ibis has been brought into conformance with class specifications insofar as possible and is happily sailing with her sisters. Chester furthermore prides itself in having the newest IOD built – in wood! – to date: Enigma, launched at Tern Boatworks in 2010, faithfully following Aas’ materials specifications and scantlings. There has been considerable interest in this project, not only within the Chester fleet but throughout the IOD class. “The building of Enigma has pushed our fleet to another level of quality and sheer beauty and is the new standard of excellence,” says current Class Captain Rick Thompson of the project, “Hopefully more will be built now that Bruce [Thompson, director of Tern Boatworks] has done such a wonderful job.” Ten woodies in all, spanning 73 years, and not a glass boat to be seen.
One instinctively compares this with the next to newest fleet, at Nantucket, consisting of 15 identical fiberglass boats (another case of redefining, in this case the concept of one-design in the IODs!) As we said, it’s a matter of rethinking the terminology.
It all started when Bermudian sailor Rick Thompson bought a summer house in Chester in 2000 and started looking around for a boat to sail. Chester is home to such classic designs as the Bluenose class, and the majestic Chester C Class sloops; when Thompson saw an advertisement for Mighty Mo, an IOD he had sailed in Scotland several years previously, he realized that she would be a perfect fit for sailing and racing in Mahone Bay. He bought her in 2005, and had her refurbished by Bill Lutwick, who later also restored Ghost, a Long Island Sound boat which had been partially wrecked in a storm.
Mighty Mo at first sailed in handicap races at the Chester yacht Club. But IODs flourish in like company, and are by far at their best when fleet racing as one-designs. Thompson, who had been racing them in Bermuda, understood this and decided that he had found the perfect venue for a new fleet. Chester and Mahone Bay are sheltered waters which enjoy mild summer weather, an enthusiastic sailing community, and a racing program capably run by the Chester Yacht Club. Furthermore, the area offers a wealth of skilled shipwrights who have preserved the traditions of wooden shipbuilding. To help realize his dream, Thompson bought a second boat, La Diva, sold her to a fellow local sailor, then imported a Bermuda boat, Zephyr, also to sell locally. That kind of enthusiasm and willingness to, metaphorically speaking, roll up one’s sleeves and get the job done was infectious, and from these modest beginnings the Chester fleet has sustained a continued growth.
Jay Nadelson, an American sailor who vacations in Chester, heard of an IOD located in nearby Halifax, and bought her, thus adding yet another boat to the local fleet. Elida, Nadelson’s boat, has a fascinating history: she was located in Bergen, Norway, when that country was occupied by the Germans in 1940. Two young sailors decided to attempt an escape to Scotland on her, and set sail on a foggy night. They were caught by a German patrol boat however, which proceeded to machine gun her midships, where they presumed the sailors to be, then lost interest and moved on. The two Norwegians, however, saved themselves by crawling into the ends of the boat, under the stern deck and forward of the mast, and so were able to patch her up and sail on to safety. Elida eventually found her way to Bermuda, where the celebrated Bert Darrell, who had been in the process of replacing a cracked rib, found a bullet. Apparently he drilled a hole in the mast step and placed the bullet there as a memento, although Nadelson states that he has never found it!
One of the recent additions to the fleet is surely a sentimental favorite: the old Aileen, Corny Shields’ original IOD, the first ever to float in United States waters back in 1937. It is illustrative of the Chester fleet that its roster should span practically the entire history of the International One-Design class on American shores, and perhaps on a global – if that is not too presumptuous a word to use – basis: from the first IOD ever to kiss the water in 1937 to the newest launch, appropriately enough also a wooden boat. Furthermore, the Chester fleet has added a sixth country, Canada, to the other five that host IOD fleets.
Rick Thompson and his fellow sailors soon began to participate in competition outside their waters. They sailed in the 2009 Worlds Championships, held in Sweden. They finished in seventh place, which, says Thompson “wasn’t bad. And then we raced in the 2010 North American Invitationals in Northeast Harbor, Maine. A friend of mine, John Pulvermann, was helming, and we won. It put Chester in the map.”
As it has developed, the Chester fleet has successfully dealt with the various issues that would be expected when boats are imported from different venues. They soon adopted the so-called Long Island 7/8 rig – aluminum spars, with single-spreader masts – reasoning that most of the boats they were likely to import would be so rigged. Instituting a sail purchase rotation plan followed, and the fleet now follows well-established IOD practice. World Class Association recognition as an official fleet was granted in 2009, and by 2011 there were ten boats sailing in the latest International One-Design fleet.
(Background material for this section was kindly supplied by Rick Thompson and Craig Milner, Ed.)