When race day dawned at Robbe & Berking’s Sterling Cup 2019, the small marina at Glücksberg on the Flensburg Fjord was bursting with 10 12-Meters, five 6-Meters, and more than a dozen nippy little 5.5-Meter boats. In baking sunshine and a shifty little breeze from the northeast, the racing got off to a good, clean start. In a reversal of her prewar fortunes, JENETTA beat her rival VIM to the mark on the first windward leg, then extended her lead to five boat lengths on the run, despite a slow spinnaker hoist. She stretched out her lead on the remaining legs to cross the line first, prompting a sigh of deep satisfaction from my host for the day, Oliver Berking. “It’s wonderful, isn’t it?” he said dreamily.
In the second race, JENETTA finished third, ahead of VIM, and in the last race of the day, with thunderheads promising gusty winds and heavy rain, VIM and JENETTA tussled all the way round, taking opposing sides of the course. They were neck-and-neck on the final downwind leg, but, just as she did in her disallowed Plymouth win of 1939, JENETTA drew fractionally ahead of VIM in the final 50 yards and took second place after Cup winner WINGS.
After all the speculation about VIM’s better windward performance back in 1939, it was very interesting to note just how fast the longer JENETTA performed close-hauled. In this, her first race since launching, she consistently overhauled the other boats. It adds weight to the comments of Heckstall-Smith in Yachting World of June 23 -1939 that the decisive difference between
VIM and the British 12-Meters was as much due to “the skill of her owner, Mr. Vanderbilt, at his wheel and the excellence of the VIM’s crew, the trimming of her sheets, the accuracy of her maneuver.”
In that regard, her crew in Glücksberg were also impressive, mastering the yacht with just a few days aboard between her launching on May 25 and the start of racing on June 13. As co-owner and helmsman Tommy Müller told me: “We started to sail four days ago, so we’ve only had six hours before we started racing.” All he will say about the experience of co-ownership in a syndicate is that “it is something you have to learn.”
They had intended to have the boat ready in time to ship her to Newport, Rhode Island, for the long-awaited World Championship last summer. But time was tight and, since VIM was staying in Europe, the syndicate decided to remain there on the classic scene.
Time will tell how well JENETTA performs. At the recent European Championship in Marstrand, Sweden, she missed three of the eleven races, knocking her back to fourth place in the eight-strong fleet. But she still finished third-place overall.
Perhaps none of that matters. Perhaps this story is simply the rebirth of a beautiful yacht. As Oliver Berking said, “Welcome back, JENETTA!”
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.