Underway on Commencement Bay.
Click image to enlarge.
Photo by Josef Scaylea
from the archives of the
Saltwater People Historical Society©
Steve Scalzo, Alan Buchan, and Lynn Sommers, are three guys who should know the 12-meter sailboat Weatherly is in a class by herself. The 1962 America's Cup winner over Australia's Gretel was berthed at the Tacoma Yacht Club and owned by Buchan and Sommers, both Tacomans.
Scalzo, a former midshipman at the United States Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, N.Y., and then assistant to the vice president of operations of the Foss Launch & Tug Co., spent four years aboard the Weatherly at the academy.
"The Weatherly is the prettiest and most durable 12-meter ever built. She's also the fastest 12-meter ever raced in light air. I saw several others during my four years at the academy and none compares with
Scalzo was also involved in two winters (1968-1969) of experimental stress and durability testing on the boat by the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers.
"It's the only time a sailboat has been put to such a stern test. Most of the runs were made on Long Island Sound and designed to determine
the stress and strain on all the primary hull and rigging locations.
The society had many elaborate computers and pieces of electrical equipment in key areas. In one, a tugboat ran across the projected path of the Weatherly to create heavy water conditions."
Buchan and Sommers use the converted 67-footer as a family boat and for weekend races in the Pacific Northwest.
"Although we've had the Weatherly less than a year, we've found her to be durable, fast, and maneuverable," Buchan said.
Sailing a 12-meter is quite an experience. In fact, it's virtually impossible to compare with any other smaller racing lass."
"There's no question the Weatherly has a sound design and strength. Even with our novice crew, largely family members, she responds favorably."
Built in 1958 by the Luders Marine Construction Co of Stamford, Conn., for the Henry D. Mercer Syndicate, the Weatherly campaigned that
year in America's Cup trials.
Skippered by Arthur Knapp Jr., she won a match race with the Easterner, lost to the Vim, finished last in a three-boat race, and broke down before the start of another. The Columbia went on to defend America's Cup for the United States.
The Weatherly performed well off the wind and in light going during the trials but proved tender in moderate breezes.
The Weatherly of 1962 was a different boat, however. A defective keel casting in 1953 resulted in her having less ballast down low than intended. Also, 4,000 pounds of lead were stowed in her bilges. In 1962 she ran a two-ton-heavier keel casting, developed through the cooperation of Phil Rhodes, a boat designer, and Luders, following tests in a model tank. Also, almost two feet were lopped off her stern.
The result was that instead of lying down and wallowing when the breeze increased to 12 knots, Weatherly stood up and raced windward with the best of her foes in winds up to 18-20 knots.
Between 1958 and '61, Knapp, one of the country's top skippers, sailed the Weatherly but gradually lost confidence in her as an America's Cup candidate. So the Mercer Syndicate signed Bus Mosbacher, a master helmsman.
In the 1962 American's Cup nine-race trials, the Weatherly and the Columbia each started with two wins––one each over the other two contenders, the Nefertiti and the Easterner. But eventually, it was narrowed to the Weatherly and the Nefertiti, with the former taking four of five
Following the Weatherly's selection as the Cup defender, Mercer, the owner, said:
"I guess this proves it takes four years to get a 12-meter tuned up."
The cup duel between the Weatherly and the Gretel ranks as one of the premier contests in the 125-year history of the sailing classic.
In many quarters, the Gretel was favored––marking the first time in decades a foreigner was picked to capture the cup that has remained in this country since 1851.
But the Weatherly won, 4-1, in the best-of-seven event.
Mercer decided to forego the 1964 America's Cup and in 1965
donated the Weatherly to the academy.
During the summer months, the Weatherly was used for sail training by the midshipmen," Scalzo said. "In 1967 she was pulled out as a sparring partner for the Columbia in the Cup trials. She was sailed by a combination crew of midshipmen and a spare skipper from the Columbia.
"She performed well in light air but tended to 'hobby-horse' in the chop.
"From 1967 to '71, the academy utilized her for training, in addition to the winter experimental stress tests. Again, in 1970, she became an American's Cup trials sparring mate, this time for the Valiant of the Bob McCullough Syndicate. The crew was composed of half midshipmen, and half syndicate members."
In 1971, the Weatherly was purchased by Douglas Jones of Menominee, Mich., who converted her for offshore racing. He continued to use the boat until his death in the summer of 1974. Thereafter, she was stored in Sturgeon Bay, Wis., until Buchan and Sommers successfully bid for her.
The Weatherly became the talk of Puget Sound. She dwarfed all other sailboats around her. It's not simply her size that wowed fellow mariners, it's her rich history, too.
Words by Ranny Green for The Seattle Times, 7 March 1976.