SVEA Project

The Svea Project By Gene Novak

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While perusing the J Class Association website (jclassyachts.com) one day last July, I read a race report about the Superyacht Cup Palma with results of racing between Velsheda and Svea. It appeared to me that Svea was a fast boat but her corrected handicap time was a problem. This interested me because I compete in the AMYA J Class with a scale model of Ranger, 101” long and 97 lbs. The thought was to investigate the possibility of a Svea project to compete with Ranger. Since we don’t have handicap considerations and race boat to boat, the possibility of a speed advantage was attractive.

Ranger was of course designed by Sparkman & Stephens/Starling Burgess for the 1937 Americas Cup and went on to win decisively over Endeavor II in the last of the J Class races for the Cup. When I produced a hull and mold using plans from Sparkman & Stephens, the boat proved to be fast. Fast enough to win the 2017 J Class National Championship against models of Shamrock V, Endeavor, Endeavor II and a couple other Ranger hulls. Svea was designed by Tore Holm of Sweden after the America’s Cup of 1937 had been held. In doing some research on Svea I found an article in classicboat.co.uk showing that the plans had not been discovered until John Lammerts van Bueren, owner of an 8 Meter yacht designed by Tore Holm, found the plans among other designs in the basement of Holm’s daughter’s house. I was intrigued. Attempts were made to contact several sources to obtain copies of the plans with no success until I emailed John. Wow, what a fantastic source of information on classic boats! 

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When I mentioned to Mr. van Bueren that I was thinking of the 1/16 scale radio-controlled version of Svea, he jumped at the chance to offer information and assistance. He was kind enough in his response to copy two key people: Elizabeth Meyer, who restored the J boat Endeavor, co-founder of the J Class Owners Association, and owner of J Class Management, who had contracted to have the original drawings of Tore Holm digitized. Elizabeth was so taken with the design drawings that she named the boat Svea (feminine Swede). And T. J. Perrotti of Perrotti Performance Designs who digitized the original drawings and with the approval of Elizabeth, made them available to me in a CAD program. Without the help from these three fine people, this project would not have been possible. Fortunately, my son is an architect with access to CAD programing and he was able to convert the files into 1/16 scale drawings of incredible accuracy. Because physics don’t scale down, the AMYA J Class rules allow for the keel to be extended by 2 inches which was done and approved by the class secretary John Hanks. This proved difficult to extend without disturbing the attractive lines of Svea and took considerable thought to look just right. Now that the hull is planked, the extra thought was well worth it.

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During the process of deciding whether or not to go forward with this project (building the boat, creating a mold and then producing accurate hulls) I continued correspondence with John Lammerts van Bueren. He is an incredible resource and informed me of a little-known detail. When Harold Vanderbilt committed to building the defender for the 1937 Americas Cup, he contracted with Sparkman & Stephens/Starling Burgess, to create 4 designs which were then tank tested at the Stephens Institute to ascertain which design was superior. They tested all of the designs in 1/24 scale with various angles of heel and different angles of leeway to see which design was best. During that tank testing they employed an apprentice by the name of Gustav Plym, who was observing the tests. When Gustav finished his apprenticeship with Sparkman & Stephens, he returned to Sweden and partnered with Tore Holm to design a J boat that remained secret until late in the 20th Century. His knowledge from the tank testing of Ranger was surely used in the design of Svea.

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Once the decision was made to go forward with the project, plans were produced according to T. J.’s CAD program and thanks to the detail of the drawings, frames were produced to very close tolerances and put together on a building board. Plank and frame construction have produced a unique boat which compares very favorably with the 1/16 model of Ranger produced from Sparkman & Stephens plans that I made two years ago. The differences between the designs make it hard to believe that they are both J Class yachts. Svea will be 1-1/2 inches longer than Ranger at this scale which is 102-1/2 inches long, yes that’s 8’ 6-1/2”. Svea has finer ends, more beam and a wider keel. It will be very interesting when I put both boats together on the course and have a 1940 America’s Cup here in Northern California.

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So here we are, six weeks after I read the article on the J Class Association website and the plank and frame construction for the hull is nearly done. This will serve as the plug to create the mold for fiberglass hulls. There is lots of work to do yet, more fairing, fiber glassing the hull, creating the mold and assembling the final boat for sea trials against Ranger. I have to thank all who have assisted with this project: John Lammerts van Bueren, Elizabeth Meyer, T. J. Perrotti, and my local source here in Sacramento, Gordon Nash, who just happened to have a supply of 50 year old Sitka Spruce that he donated to the project.  With the help of Bill Robinson and his wood shop, this aged wood was turned into 5/32” X 3/8” S4S planking. As the process continues, follow up articles are promised.  I hope the finished product meets all of their expectations.