The most intriguing entry this year in the venerable Port Huron-to-Mackinac race, sailed annually over the 235 miles on Lake Huron that separate the port from the island, was a very unvenerable yacht named Dyna. Brand new and relatively untried in deep water racing, Dyna this past weekend proved worthy of all the interest centered on her by polishing off the largest fleet—74 boats—ever entered in the 50-year history of the race, winning class A and finishing first over all in the fleet.
In addition to gratifying her owner and skipper, 47-year-old Clayton Ewing of Green Bay, Wis., Dyna's fine showing proved the success of a complex experiment in materials and design that has been going on since her plans were first drawn. Although outwardly Dyna appears typical of the modern breed of ocean racers—beautiful, fast and extremely complicated—she is anything but typical. Built to a multitude of requirements that take into consideration her owner's comfort, the imperatives of seaworthiness and the involved mathematics of ocean racing handicap rules, Dyna represents a unique solution to problems posed in designing today's intricate sailing yacht.
When Ewing headed Dyna out on Lake Huron last weekend, he was sailing one of the few aluminum hulls ever designed for an ocean racer. Dyna has a minimum of the material traditional in yacht building aboard, most of it in her blond oak interior trim and her plywood decks. To be specific, Dyna's hull is mainly composed of 50-odd transverse ribs of quarter-inch bar aluminum over which are fitted 60 pieces of quarter-inch Alcoa 52 54 magnesium-aluminum plate. (For cutaway drawing of Dyna, turn page.)
The yachtsman's impulse to build in aluminum comes from two sources: first, to be rid forever of the problem of rot (a word that has about the nastiest sound a sailor knows) and, second, to exploit the advantages of lightness and strength inherent in the metal. In the case of Dyna (and one nonracing sister ship), the difference lies in the way in which her aluminum is held together. She is the first all-welded aluminum yacht. Her predecessors are riveted boats, with all the drawbacks of riveted construction, high cost (riveting is twice as expensive as welding), leakage from popped or strained rivets, and hull marred by rivet heads. When Ewing came from 38 miles away to watch workmen at the Burger Boat Co. in Manitowoc swing the plates into place on Dyna's hull and weld them fast, he did so in the full expectation that when she was launched she would cost him little more than a fine wood boat of the same size, would leak not a bead of water and would have a hull as smooth and glistening as the finest mahogany. In these expectations he has been fulfilled.
Ewing himself has been sailing seriously since he bought a 17-foot National One-Design in 1931 on Lake Winnebago. This led to bigger boats, like the 52-foot schooner Ben Bow in which Ewing sailed his first Chicago-Mackinac race in 1942. Ewing soon found the competitive urge that had made him a leading businessman in the pulp and paper field (he sold the Falls Paper and Power Co. in 1951 and has since gone into television) carried over into his sailing. He sold off Ben Bow for the 55-foot yawl Vixen, started to win a few races, took second with her in a Chicago-Mackinac race and took her south in 1953 to the Southern Circuit races in the Caribbean. At various times he had the chance to crew with some of the best skippers in the business—Carleton Mitchell and Woody Pirie among others—to sharpen his racing. In the meantime, he shopped around for a ship to match his increasing skill in the delicate and watchful art of coaxing speed from wind and canvas.
"I wanted a yawl," said Ewing. "If I were going to build a small boat the size of Finisterre [38 feet] I'd build a cutter, but I have to have a bigger boat than that for cruising." Ewing referred to the fact that he and Mrs. Ewing love to sail, as do their two children, Mark, 20, and Marcia, 22. Marcia is married to Howard Tuthill, a sailor out of Grand Rapids, Mich., so there is a crew of five (not including a brand-new grandchild) without half trying.
"From the standpoint of ease of handling, it's much easier to shorten sail on a larger boat with a divided rig, and it's much easier to sail than a single-sticker.
"I also wanted her to be a centerboarder," continued Ewing, "and I didn't want her to leak, because if you get much bilge water in a centerboarder it runs up and creates an unpleasant mess."
With Ewing's dicta in hand, New York's Sparkman and Stephens, the country's leading designers of center-board yawls, ran up a plan and sent it out to H. C. Burger, president of Burger Boat Co., which had done a number of S. and S. designs previously.
"Splendid," said Burger, who had been itching to try a new welding technique on a sailing yacht ever since the combination of Alcoa's alloy (which keeps its strength under intense heat) and the recently perfected Heliarc welding process that makes welded aluminum feasible had been used to build a successful Burger motor launch in 1955.