Spirit Yachts Flight of Ufford
WoodenBoat Magazine Issue 284

January / February 2022

Editor's Page

Durability and Transformation

The boat under construction on the cover of this issue is the 100' GAIA, from the U.K.–based company Spirit Yachts. Spirit launched its first yacht 27 years ago, and since then has built 73 more ranging in length from 33' to 111'. In the process, the company has become one of the most successful wooden boat building companies in the U.K—and beyond.

Spirit Yachts has its roots in an earlier company, McMillan Yachts, which, as Nic Compton notes in his article about Spirit (page 66), went “spectacularly bankrupt during the 1990s financial crash.” When the company re-emerged as Spirit Yachts, its focus was to be on wood-epoxy sailboats rooted in the aesthetics of the racing classes of the 1920s and ’30s. These boats would have separate rudders and modern appendages and rigs. Lacking standing headroom, the early iterations would favor performance over comfort. One of Spirit’s most recent boats, IO (see page 72), a 50' racer-cruiser, signals a new direction for the company, with yachts featuring comfortable standing-headroom cruising interiors. This idea of taking a classic concept and keeping it relevant for modern use runs through several articles in this issue.

Consider the peapod. As Ben Fuller describes beginning on page 22, this distinctive double-ender was developed for the Maine lobster industry, and it diversified into a sort of waterborne pickup truck ideal for everything from fishing to lighthouse-keeping. It is Maine’s iconic saltwater rowboat, and it survives today as a popular tender and recreational boat because of its enduringly relevant hull form and size. One of the most popular recreational peapods in recent years is the glued-lapstrake-plywood Beach Pea (see photo, page 32) designed by Doug Hylan. It marries the utility of the classic peapod’s shape and size with the functionality of glued plywood construction—which yields a light boat that’s able to live for long stretches out of the water without drying out.

And then there are the Sonder boats. From 1906 to 1913, this German racing class competed in regattas in the United States and Europe. These races were meant to foster international friendship—and to advance Kaiser Wilhelm II’s naval ambitions. Author Stan Grayson, in his article beginning on page 50, writes that “Ultimately, the German–American races fell victim to the political failures that resulted in the Great War, but for those involved, the contests represented an experience they remembered all their lives.” Many of the early Sonder boats are still sailing. As Stan notes in a sidebar, “The Sonder Sails On” (page 58), “150 Sonders were built in Germany between 1899 and 1921. Thirty boats are known to exist today.” Among these are two recently built ones. The spectacular BIBELOT II, originally designed by N.G. Herreshoff, was re-engineered by Steve Barnes for a new boat launched in 1993. That build inspired an even “more radically modernized Sonder, FIMA,” writes Stan, which was launched a year later and famously clocked 18.6 knots. That modernization allowed this astounding feat in a boat whose concept is more than a century old.

And so it is, too, with Spirit’s yachts: they look like they’re a century old but, says company founder Sean McMillan in Nic’s article, sail “rings around everyone.”

Matt Murphy

Editor of WoodenBoat Magazine

Maine Peapods
Page 22

The Maine Peapods

by Ben Fuller

Peapods are Maine’s signature small boats, double-enders ranging from 12' to 16' long and especially common in Penobscot Bay.

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International One Meters
Page 34

Small Boats, Big Fun

by Hilary Thomson • Photographs by Amy Melious

The waves washed over AERO’s decks with white-capped ferocity, tugging at her hull with all the force of a winter storm.

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We Believe
Page 42

We Believe

by Jan Hein

Platte Canyon High School, enrollment 258, was an unlikely place to teach boatbuilding. Located 8,000' above sea level in the Rocky Mountain town of Bailey, Colorado, it had no tools, the workshop was closed, and Platte River was the only nearby navigable water.

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The Sonder Class
Page 50

The Sonder Class

by Stan Grayson

This is a story that began well over a century ago and has yet to end. It’s a tale that involves a forward-thinking yachtsman from Massachusetts, European royalty, three American presidents, the top names in early 20th-century yacht design, and amateur sailors whose accomplishments are remembered still in the clubs they once represented.

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Limfjorden Rundt
Page 60

The Limfjorden Rundt

by Text and photographs by Detlef Jens

Toward the end of summer in 2021, a dense forest of wooden spars stood tall and proud in the sleepy village of Løgstør, Denmark.

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Spirit Yachts
Page 66

Free Spirits

by Nic Compton

There’s no doubt that Spirit Yachts has come a long way since it launched its first boat, building a total of 74 yachts from 33' to 111' long and, in the process, becoming one of the most successful boatbuilding companies in the U.K. Yet it all started as a bit of fun.

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Page 72


by Text and photographs by Nic Compton

As soon as I saw the yacht at the Southampton Boat Show in September 2019, I wanted to sail on her, but before that could happen, the pandemic struck and wiped out a year of sailing. So, when an opportunity came for me to sail with her at British Classic Week in July 2021, I jumped at it.

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From the Community



14' Wooden Day Sailer

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