Built by Henry B. Nevins of City Island, New York Blitzen took to her element in 1938. She was designed for R. J. Reynolds, the son of the founder of the R. J. Reynold Tobacco Company and completed as a genuine ocean racing yacht with minimal interior.
As a racing machine she was hugely successful, winning her division in the Bermuda Race on her first outing. During the 1960s and under new owners she eventually entered the charter yacht sector and suffered a series of unsympathetic alterations for her new function. This included a series of bulkheads and other additions over the years, as well as a general decline suffered after eight years on the hard.
Today, having been lovingly restored, Blitzen is faster than she has ever been.
With a tall sloop rig, powered by a large coffee grinder to the stern, she is built for speed and was crewed for the BlueBird Cup by a strong team of top sailors which included rockstar Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran.
We received Blitzen in a very sorry state and once the full structural survey had been completed it confirmed our thoughts. That after seven years languishing ashore this was a vessel that required a complete rebuild.
Straight away we set to work planning a sympathetic restoration of the yacht, being mindful of her original design and history. To secure the hull for structural work we braced Blitzen to the concrete workshop floor thereby ensuring we had a robust frame for dismantling the hull sheer down to keel. Nearly 80 percent of her frames were broken and so our first task once the keel was removed was to start replacing these with new laminated oak frames and floors.
Next the fore and aft stems were replaced with new laminated iroko sections which served to provide greater structural integrity than the vessel had previously. Simultaneously we removed the deck and set to work on replacing deck beams and new mast partners. With the skeleton of the hull complete we added a stiffer 1/2″ marine grade plywood subdeck with traditionally scarphed joints. We then removed the old double skinned planking and replaced with like-for-like timbers; Alaskan yellow cedar inside and mahogany outside.
Once the planking was complete we faired in the hull and applied first protection coats of paint followed by the top coats of high gloss paint.
By now Blitzen was looking like an ocean racer again and the team was energised by their hard work to this point.
She looked fantastic.
With the hull complete our attention turned to the interior. This was completely rebuilt to the original layout from the drawings which we had purchased from the loft of the original designed, S&S. Meanwhile, work had been lovingly underway recreating the yacht’s deck brightwork including installation of the original restored after deck coffee grinder alongside contemporary yet sympathetic deck gear.
Launch day arrived and as she took to her natural element the restoration team could see for the first time to scale of their achievement in restoring this ocean racer of a bygone age to her former glory. Sea trials confirmed all that we expected; Blitzen was indeed Olin Stephens finest design and all eagerly awaited the results of her first competitive racing event, the Regates Royales in Cannes. Little did we know then that Blitzen would take second place from a fleet of over 25 seasoned racing boats. Not bad for her first sail after restoration!
In all, restoration from start to finish took 15 months, achieving the finish date agreed with the client at time of contract.
Paul Spooner Design acted as naval architects and designers for the restoration project and she was relaunched in Spring 2016, heading straight to the Med for the classic regattas. A fast, purposeful racing machine that was ahead of her time in the 1930s she proved to be very fast in her first season of Med racing.
|Designer:||Sparkman & Stephens|
|Sail Area:||126 sq m|
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