Excepts from art; WoodenBoat March/April 2020, by Sam Fortescue
Ingo Steinhusen is a wiry-looking man who led Robbe & Berking’s boatbuilding team in the reconstruction of JENETTA. The first job was to digitize the original lines drawn by Mylne. This yielded scantlings for the structural steel components, which were to be cut by water-jet and welded.
The new boat has stainless steel on every third frame, increasing to every other frame around the mast step.
The wooden frames are of laminated ash and the stringers and deck beams of Douglas-fir.
Although JENETTA is the third 12-Meter to emerge from Berking’s yard, she is the first to have been built upside down. The steel frames were erected on a platform about a foot off the ground, then the massive laminated sipo mahogany keel slotted into them. The keel was notched to receive the frame heels.
The 11 ⁄2″-thick planking is sipo below the waterline and lighter khaya above. The planking was edge-glued with epoxy. When fully planked, the entire hull was coated with epoxy.
One of JENETTA’s co-owners, Tommy Müller, explains the build philosophy: “Our desire was to have the boat as close to original as possible, but we are no longer sailing in oilskins…you are allowed modern ropes, and different types of sail.”
Two huge mobile cranes inverted the hull, and they were carefully rigged with extra-wide straps. Although the cradled hull was missing her lead keel and the substantial deadwood, the lean form of a 12-Meter, with its sharp stem and elegant counter stern, was clear. And in with the spirit of Burton’s original instructions regarding interior varnish, the inner surface of the planking was painted only where visible.
When the time came to attach the ballast keel, there was a hitch—a big one. The team discovered that the original keel had a kink in it. “We built the boat with her two sides exactly equal. When we tried to take up the lead keel, we saw that it bent 40mm from the ’midship line,” Steinhusen remembers with a grimace. That’s more than 11 ⁄2″ out of true—a significant error.
The original builders at Bute Slip Dock had faired the hull to the bent keel. The Robbe & Berking team corrected the lead with a hydraulic press. “It took 50 tons of pressure,” says Steinhusen.
They also had to add lead to the old keel to trim the boat correctly. “It was not the original weight of the keel,” says Ingo. “We don’t know who cut out the lead or why. But when we put her in the water, we knew she was 400kg (880 lbs) too light. It’s a question of the rule, not of performance.”
The deck construction is a mixture of old and new techniques. Sitka-spruce planking on the underside mimics a traditional laid deck. “It’s very light,” explains Steinhusen, “but very expensive to import from Canada.” There is then a layer of marine plywood topped with fiberglass and epoxy, followed by a glued-down layer of Burma teak.
The team took a few liberties with JENETTA’s deck gear, too. Almost nothing original had survived the decades of neglect and sinking in Pitt Lake, so the team at Robbe & Berking borrowed from JENETTA’s great contemporary rival—and the most successful classic Twelve ever—VIM.
The new boat has the same pioneering design of a two-speed coffee grinder that the Americans introduced in 1939 to drive two big sheet winches amidships. “Mylne was quite a fan of the American designers, and I felt he would have thoroughly approved of that,” says David Gray, a naval architect with Mylne.
Sam Fortescue is a Hamburg, Germany–based writer and editor specializing in marine and lifestyle topics. He was editor of the U.K.- based magazine Sailing Today for five years and is now a full-time freelance journalist.
What is a 12 Metre Class sailboat?
12 Metre Class sailboats are so called NOT because of their overall length, but because they must conform to a formula.
The formula takes into consideration various measurements of the boat and the result must not exceed 12 metres. In fact, a 12 Metre Class sailboat is approximately 70 feet long with masts 86 feet high and they weigh in at about thirty-five tons.