Pictured above is the 30-meter (98-foot) HISPANIA, which was built for the King of Spain, HM King Alfonso XIII, in 1909. She has recently finished an extensive rebuild, is getting ready to race again with UK Sailmakers Spain’s Andy Longarela as the skipper.
HISPANIA is a 15 Meter International Class gaff-rigged sloop designed by William Fife that is 69 feet long on her deck. Her crew of 20 works hard since there are no winches – truly old-school.
Andy Longarela says, “To sail on this kind of boat is a magic experience. When you approach the boat you are overwhelmed by its elegance; the whole boat seems to be suspended over the water. Being only 50 feet on the waterline and nearly 100-feet long, there is a lot of boat that is over hangs the water. Her boom of solid wood that weights 1.2 tons protrudes past the stern three meters and her 6-meter bowsprit floats over the water in front of the boat. Her deck seems endless – everything including the wooden blocks is varnished to perfection. And then there is the endless web of rigging, all rope that is all the same color.
On the water it takes 10-12 people to raise the mainsail, about half an hour to get all the sails up. The boat sails as elegantly as she looks; she quickly reaches nine knots. Being heavy, the waves seem to move around the boat instead of the boat going up and down. Yet, she still is very sensitive to sail trim and crew positioning. With no winches, every sail control is by hand; needless to say, every tack and maneuver involves a lot of manpower.
With a resurgence of interest in vintage boats, there will be three other 15-Meters sailing again: TUIGA, THE LADY ANNE, and MARISKA. All four will be racing next September at Monaco Classic Week. This will be the first time in over 100 years that 15-Meter yachts will be racing each other.