Saturday, June 30, 2012

6-Metre Yacht Racing, Norwegian American Style

King Olav V of Norway
The year was 1955. Norway's Crown Prince Olav commissioned a new 6-Metre racing yacht, designed by Bjarne Aas, and named her Hanko III. Olav raced her for a year, then made the boat available for another owner in a lottery.  Olav, an Olympic Gold Medalist in the 6-Metre class, would later become King Olav V of Norway.   Hanko III went on to have a successful racing career for a series of owners and eventually made her home port in Seattle.

Turn the pages of the calendar to 1958.  I was at my great-grandma's house in Ballard, a Scandinavian neighborhood in Seattle, and I was 5 years old.  Grandma Emma Jorgenson asked me if I knew how to fish, and I told her no, I had never fished.  She said "Himmel, you must know how to fish if you are going to grow up."  After all, she moved to Seattle from Norway, and Grandpa Ole sailed his 27-foot trawler to Alaska every year to fish for salmon.  Emma would sit in the upstairs bedroom which had a view of Shilshole Bay and Port Madison and watch for Ole to return home while she spun yarn on a spinning wheel. 

When Grandma Emma learned I could not fish, she took me in the backyard and we dug worms for bait, then she walked me down the hill a few blocks to Ray's Boathouse.  I put the worm on my hook and lowered my line and came up with a flounder.  Grandma Emma cleaned the flounder and cooked it for dinner.  It felt like a Norwegian rite of passage.

The Lipton Cup
Fast forward to 2012.  I sailed our cruising boat, Sublime, across Shilshole Bay to Port Madison Yacht Club, to race in the Lipton Cup aboard Hanko III, King Olav's former yacht, now owned by Norwegian American Ron Keys.  

The Lipton Cup is a perpetual trophy donated by Sir Thomas Lipton to the Seattle Yacht Club in 1913.  The Cup has been contested every year since then on the waters of Puget Sound.  For the first few years, the Cup was raced in R-class yachts, but when 6-Metres became more popular, they became the class to compete for the Lipton Cup.

Hanko III, powered up under spinnaker and digging a hole in the water     
Photo by Dana Olson - Copyright 2012
 There were nine 6-Metre Yachts competing for the 2012 Lipton Cup.  We raced four races on Saturday after waiting for the wind to build.  Boy, did it build.  A rainstorm moved in with gusts of more than 25 knots.  

Hanko making good speed through the water downwind      
Photo by Dana Olson - Copyright 2012
 The wind became so strong that one of the boats, Lulu, owned by Craig Downey, dismasted.  
Lulu ended her regatta early after dismasting in the storm      
Photo by Dana Olson - Copyright 2012
The sun broke through the clouds and after the races we sailed back to Port Madison Yacht Club. The six-metre crews then went on dinghy's to a party on the 101-foot  schooner Ragland, once owned by Neil Young.  Check out Ragland here.

The schooner Ragland, once owned by Neil Young, 
our post-race party venue     
 Photo by Dana Olson - Copyright 2012
Sunday brought moderate wind and blue sky with puffy white clouds.  We did two races and went back to the yacht club for the awards ceremony.  

Hanko III rounding the windward mark, ready to hoist her spinnaker   

Photo by Dana Olson - Copyright 2012

Current 6-Metre class world champion Eric Jesperson from Sidney, B.C., won first place in the Lipton Cup.  We felt pretty good about getting 3rd place in the Classic Division on Hanko III, with a bunch of old sails and a pick-up crew.

Current 6-Metre class world champion Eric Jesperson, 
on his way to a Lipton Cup victory aboard Goose     
Photo by Dana Olson - Copyright 2012

 After the awards ceremony, I sailed back to Shilshole Bay Marina on Sublime, towards Ray's Boathouse, and I could see my Grandma Emma's old house as I entered the breakwater. This had been a very special weekend for this Norwegian American.  Yah sure, you betcha.
Sailors have used the sign at Ray's Boathouse for years 
to find their way back to Shilshole Bay Marina

See more beautiful photos by Dana Olsen of 2012 Lipton Cup here

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