The gray-green water off Marblehead, although still retaining the stored cold of winter, sparkled in the spring sunshine. Wispy hooks and streamers of cloud patterned the sky. Floats of lobster pots drifted with the current. Ashore, above rocks worn smooth by countless past gales, a lighthouse stood on the point overlooking the harbor.
Against this background, as traditionally New England as a Winslow Homer watercolor, last week appeared a most unconventional 12-meter yacht out for a first exploratory sail. She was Ross Anderson's Nefertiti, the newest of four U.S. boats that will vie this summer for the honor of defending the America's Cup against the challenge from Australia. As she heeled slightly to a gentle southeasterly breeze, all of us aboard knew tension. She had started from scratch as a concept little more than eight months ago and had been only an incredible 96 days "from the woodpile to the water," in the words of one crew member.
Heard at first were only sounds of a boat and the sea: the click of winch pawls, the thrum of lines coming taut, the creak of blocks, the plash of the bow wave. Designer Ted Hood at the wheel and the crew amidships were like conductor and orchestra waiting for a cue. Then something in the hull—a hint of power, a way of moving—communicated itself to all hands. Taciturn Ted Hood permitted himself a smile. "Feels quite light," he said, relinquishing the wheel to Co-skipper John J. (Don) McNamara Jr., "she's really sensitive."
Within seconds the ebullient McNamara wore a grin the width of his face. "Stiff as a church!" he exalted. Everyone began to talk at once. Bubbles slid astern to form a remarkably flat and clean wake. From the foredeck Fred Lawton, who has spent over 20 years sailing 12 meters, reflected the grins aft. Builder E. Selman Graves squinted with obvious satisfaction at the passing water. Although all realized there could be no real measure of performance without competition, the conviction grew that here was a boat that would take some beating.
In Nefertiti Frederick E. (Ted) Hood has achieved a rare combination: beauty in an unorthodox—even radical—break with convention. For she is like no other 12-meter yacht afloat. Rival naval architects often have stated that the stringent provisions of the rule governing design in the class allow little latitude.
, the last cup defender, was only fractionally different from her 19-year-old sister, Vim, and the other defenders launched in 1958 adhered to the pattern, as did Britain's unsuccessful challenger, Sceptre. But without throwing the book away—in fact, by studying it with the most imaginative viewpoint in recent history—Hood has come up with a boat that breaks the mold of convention.
According to Ted's father, Stedman Hood, who has a remarkable grasp of the obscure mathematics of the rule, "The design began with Ted's idea of what the sail plan should be." Since Ted is a sailmaker turned naval architect without benefit of formal training, this was perhaps natural, but automatically required an entirely new approach. In effect, the hull was to be principally a platform for carrying sails. To achieve the desired stability and efficiency in sail trim, more beam was indicated.
Yet here the problem gets tricky. Beam adds weight and wetted surface, both detracting from performance in round-the-buoys competition in light winds and smooth water. Even additional horsepower from the sails within the possibilities of the rule could not counterbalance a lumber schooner's hull. In Ted Hood's mind the challenge was "to provide beam without getting too heavy and to minimize and overcome resistance from more wetted surface."
The rule provides a minimum beam of 11 feet 10� inches, but sets no upper limit.
Columbia, Weatherly and Easterner measure exactly the minimum. Hood began tank-model testing with 14 feet, pruning it finally to 13 feet 3 inches, partially because sail-plan calculations showed he needed no more to achieve the desired platform. This increased width also permits more efficient trimming of headsails. The broader beam extends to the stern, which has the added advantages of providing even more stability and a longer waterline when heeled. But as the 12-meter rule is still a matter of compromises, Nefertiti must pay for her girth by a slight reduction of overall length.
Again thinking of providing optimum drive from the sails, Ted Hood stepped Nefertiti's mast more than three feet farther aft than usual practice, while moving the headstay as far forward as possible. This will provide bigger head-sails than those carried by competitors. As an extra benefit the weight of the mast being more amidships should reduce any tendency to hobbyhorse or plunge in a steep head sea.
Bare as a bone