ISSUE NO. 266
January / February 2019
The Survival of the Lucky
The 67' yawl CHUBASCO, which appears on the cover of this issue, is a legend in California yachting. She was designed by Sparkman & Stephens and launched by Wilmington Boat Works in 1939. That same year she placed second in her division in the Transpac Race. A remarkable racing career ensued, including class victories in the Transpac and another second-place class finish 31 years after her launching. She raced seriously into the 1970s and has continued in commission since then.
Sparkman & Stephens designed CHUBASCO during a crazy-fertile era for the company—and for yachting. Many of the classic yachts sailing today came from S&S during the 1930s. They include BARUNA, which was recently restored by Robbe & Berking in Flensburg, Germany (see
WB No. 258); the impeccably maintained 12-Meter class sloop VIM; Mystic Seaport’s flagship schooner BRILLIANT; the yawl STORMY WEATHER, which was an evolution of Olin Stephens’s breakthrough yawl, DORADE; the 12-Meters NORTHERN LIGHT and NYALA; the sloop BLITZEN (an East Coast yacht launched in 1938 that sailed against CHUBASCO in her inaugural Transpac); and the schooner-turned-yawl SANTANA, which was also built by Wilmington Boat Works and was recently restored by East Passage Boatwrights in Rhode Island.
During all of this, S&S also turned out the fleet of 45' LOA New York 32 sloops—20 boats built by Nevins over a single winter—as well as the magnificent J-Boat RANGER, which was a collaboration between Olin Stephens and Starling Burgess. Incredibly, all of these yachts—save for RANGER and several New York 32s—are still sailing today. But even RANGER has been replicated, and several of the “32s”—thanks largely to the enthusiasm and skill of the crew at Buzzards Bay Yacht Services in Mattapoisett, Massachusetts—have been brought back from the brink of oblivion to excellent condition.
Indeed, the skilled guidance of sophisticated shipwrights has been vital to the continuing survival of the yachts listed above. Wayne Ettel has been involved in CHUBASCO’s care for more than 35 years. In his article beginning on page 22, Randall Peffer describes how a young Ettel, wearing a Hawaiian shirt, was conferring with none other than Olin Stephens, by speaker phone, from “the posh inner sanctum of the prestigious Ardell Yacht & Shipbrokers in Newport Beach, California, where men in blazers and ties make million-dollar deals on trophy boats.” Ettell, writes Peffer, said he had determined, unequivocally, how to cure CHUBASCO’s persistent leaking, and the fix involved a tweak to the original S&S construction specifications. A fragile ego might have crumbled at this, but Stephens gave Ettel the nod, and that moment, over the course of more than three decades, gave rise to the image on the cover of this magazine; Ettel would be subsequently involved in several major jobs on CHUBASCO, including the recent rebuilding of her bottom.
While good design and construction certainly give a leg-up in a yacht’s longevity, they do not guarantee it. The fact that CHUBASCO has survived and thrived to this day is due to a confluence of factors. She does, indeed, have an exceptional pedigree of designer and builder. She has had committed owners. She has had the benefit of the skilled guidance of a sophisticated shipwright. And she has also had a little luck in the mystical fate that brought these three things together.
Editor of WoodenBoat Magazine