Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Archipelago Rally Uncovers another Gem: The International 12

Last year's Archipelago Rally uncovered a historical gem with the entry of Yarrow Thorne's Crosby Skimmer Moth. This year, another historical rarity made an appearance at the Archipelago Rally; Woody Underwood's International 12. (this is the American International 12, not to be confused with the lapstrake, George Cockshott 12' Dinghy, which is also sometime referred to as the International 12 and popular in Europe.) The International 12 was the first sailing dinghy to be built using hot molded veneers held under pressure in an autoclave, a building method that allowed mass production of a very strong, lightweight monocoque wood hull. It was a very revolutionary technology but also a temporary technology as fiberglass construction of boats came to the fore in the late 1950's, early 1960's. Thousands of wood boats were built post WWII using hot molded, autoclave construction. Most were small outboard runabouts but some are the familiar sailboats of today including the Fairey Marine and USOD International 14's, Thistles, Luder 16's, Fireflys, Jet 14's, and Jollyboat.

Woody Underwood's International 12 appears to be one of the first in the production run. Woody comments:
"My father bought this boat (# 31) in 1940, and it could be the first boat I ever sailed in. He was away in the service after that, and the boat was washed off its float in Padanaram in Hurricane Carol, ending up in the bushes 2 miles away. About 1960, we put in an Interclub mast, and I have sailed the boat on and off since then. Condition is good, albeit dried out.

Woody and Josie Whoolam sailing in the 2015 Archipelago Rally. Woody has retained the natural mahogany veneer look on the outside of the hull.

Photo from Rufus Van Gruisen

The International 12 was designed by International 14 designer, Harry Hall, who lived in New Rochelle, New York.

Photo from Woody Underwood

The first hot molded boats had very little internal structure - a feature designed to show off the strength of the new construction. The lack of ribs and stringers was a source of amazement to most.

Photo from Woody Underwood
The wood International 12 was also used by the U.S. Coast Guard Academy for their sail training and dinghy racing program.

Photo from Woody Underwood

Ernest Ratsey sailing the International 12 prototype in the summer of 1940.

The Rudder, October 1940

On a slightly different topic but still about the 2015 Archipelago Rally:

One cannot wrap up the 2015 Archipelago Rally without featuring the latest video report from the Tuthill Sisters. Last year, in the 2014 Rally, the younger sister had to become a human sidestay when the mast on their dinghy started falling over. This year the duo rolled out a Sailfish for the race, a choice that looked like a safe bet compared to their previous rickety dinghy and the slow - slow Snark, but the Sailfish has no cockpit and, sometime during the race the older sister ended up in the drink (she kept filming though).


Tillerman said...

Brilliant! Did you spot the cameo appearance by Headless Tillerwoman?

Tweezerman said...

There is the lady in the red baseball cap? Not headless though.

Tillerman said...

No. Not the lady in the cap. The headless lady.

You and George need to come up to RI and do this next year!

Tillerman said...

Tillerwoman is headless lady in black jacket talking to headless Josie Whoolam around 3:16 in the video.

Baydog said...

Somewhat off-topic...Thinking of the International 14, I ran into Stuart Walker in Chestertown at downrigging. It's like he didn't remember meeting me twice before!!!! He's still ticking!

Tillerman said...

That's good to know. I don't think he's written any new books for a few years, has he?

Is he still doing any sailing? I looked it up - he's 92!

I have never met him but I did see him at SSA in Annapolis when I was sailing a regatta there a few years ago.

Tweezerman said...

I'm pretty sure Stuart Walker published a book on the Dynamics of Fleet Competition. He gave a talk on it two years ago. He is still competing in the Soling, a class at SSA which only really races frostbite - so the season's racing should be getting in gear as we speak.

Alden Smith said...

This is an interesting looking dinghy. I don't think I have ever seen jumper struts on the mast of a small dinghy before, presumably the mast needs them.

Tillerman said...

I see he did publish a book called The Code of Competition in 2010.

Tweezerman said...


The thinking before WWII was to put lots of support on dinghy masts. Uffa had developed a triple diamond mast for his International 14's (which our larger Thistle dinghy keeps to this very day). Most sailors would consider it overkill for today's rigs.