SVEA Project Part III

By Gene Novak

This is the final installment on the Svea Project as seven hulls have been produced and at least five are sailing as you read this article.  It has been a great project made possible with the assistance of so many individuals and it has generated a great following amongst hobbyists around the world, so thanks to all of you involved.  Part two ended with me figuring out the ballast for Svea and pouring the ballast that fit just right.  The second hull out of the mold went to Bob Eger, who finished the boat with the assistance of John Hanks, secretary of the AMYA J Class.  Everything looked great, until……

After finishing the detailed planking on the deck of Svea hull #2 and getting the boat out of the shop and into the water, it was discovered that the ballast needed some adjustment.  After some consulting and adjusting, a new lead ballast piece was added to the forward portion of the keel ballast and the aft piece was lightened, by 7 LBS.!  This got the bow of the boat out of the sky and sailing on her lines.  Modifications were made to all other sets of ballast and we were able to get Svea out on the water to compare her to our 1/16 scale Ranger.  Photos of Bob’s build and videos of preliminary shake down sails can be seen on the AMYA J Class website.  

It is interesting to note that on the shake down sail of Svea vs. Ranger, Bob Eger was filming the boats while passers by were allowed to sail Svea and she held her own very well against Ranger even with novice sailors at the controls.  Everything looked good and we felt we had a very competitive boat so we made the commitment of finish 3 hulls and transport them to Mystic Seaport, Connecticut to compete in the 2019 J Class National Championship Regatta.  I had decided early on that the sail plan would be the same as I was using on Ranger since the design was fairly close and the sail area was near the upper limits allowed on both designs.  We were within 80 square inches of the maximum 4245 square inches for Ranger and 4262 for Svea and I felt that was plenty of sail for our light air conditions here in California.

While getting three hulls together for the trip to Mystic, I received another order for two hulls to go to North Carolina.  Since we were making the trip to Mystic as were the new buyers, delivery terms were arranged.  That put a time crunch on finishing three boats and getting two new hulls, ballast and rudder complete in time to make the trip.  I also had to put together 3 new sets of sails and all of the hardware and accessories as you guys know, there are always delays and setbacks.  In the meantime, we had two hulls done for test sailing in one of our club J Class events and Svea proved to be very fast, taking first for the day with eight 1st place finishes in ten races.

We made the necessary arrangements for the road trip to Mystic and with preparations complete, Dan Robinson and I set off with four complete J boats and rigs, three additional Svea hulls and eleven 10’ masts for our trip across country.  We departed Sacramento, CA on Monday, August 5th and arrived in Mystic, Connecticut on Thursday, August 8th.  Friday we were able to meet the rest of the competitors and move the trailers onto the Mystic Seaport grounds for the weekend.  Dan was also able to sail his new Svea, for the first time!  Again, pictures of the trip and NCR are available on the AMYA J Class website.  The website tracked our progress across country and Dan and I had fun keeping the J Class up to date on our travels.


National Championship Regatta

The National Championship Regatta took place August 10th and 11th in the Mystic River fronting the Mystic Seaport Museum.  Organization of the event was great and racing was competitive for 18 J class skippers.  The AMYA quarterly will have a full article on the event so I won’t rain on their parade except to say that the winds were stronger than anticipated and coming from an unusual direction, which caused the race committee to set up a course which took the boats offshore about 100 yards.  This made depth perception extremely valuable to actually make it around the weather mark and avoid other boats.  The weekend proved to be exciting as 18 boats started and only 7 were sailing at the end.  Svea proved to have great speed under a reefed main and won several heats over the two days finishing 5th overall.  I pulled out with three races to go due to the carnage on the race course, I wanted to take a boat home, but I felt this was a pretty good showing for a new boat and design.

We were plagued with leeward helm when the wind was high and steerage was an issue on the new design.  Even with a larger rudder, I wasn’t happy with the control so a new larger rudder has been designed and incorporated into the kit.  Leeward helm was an issue so the mast was moved aft by one inch to neutralize the helm.  The full size Svea suffered from lee helm and was returned to the yards for modifications.  Comments from interested parties placed the blame on incorrect location of the mast by the manufacturer, but I think we have confirmed that the design may have been off a little in 1937.


1940 Americas Cup

It was always our intent to establish what would have been the faster boat had WWII not gotten in the way of yachting after the 1937 win by Ranger.  When Gustav Plym went back to Sweden and teamed with Tore Holm to design this J boat, I’m sure they did it with the intention of challenging for the Americas Cup in 1940.  We thought that it would be fun to stage the 1940’s cup at our sailing venue in West Sacramento, California.  We were looking for definitive proof as to which design would be faster and on Saturday, October 5, 2019, seventy-nine years later, we would strive to answer that question.  Winds were light at 5 mph and gusts to 10 mph.  We set up two courses, just as was typical in the 1930’s.  We had a windward – leeward course and would run two laps per race and we used an offset mark to test the reaching abilities of the boats and would run two laps per race with the offset mark.

We had an official starter and planned to race 20 races, switching skippers every 5 races to establish which design had an advantage.  We had high hopes that this would equalize the competition and establish once and for all, which design had the advantage.  Results: Svea won 9 races and Ranger won 11, so the results are cut and dry right?  Not so fast.  Skipper A won 17 races and Skipper B won 3 races, two of which were with Ranger!  No definitive proof of either design because in the two races skipper B won with Ranger, Svea sailed into a hole as Ranger continued on in good wind.  What can we take away about the Svea design?


Consensus by the Race director and contestants was that Svea accelerated faster, was stiffer in the wind due to her wider keel and had an advantage on top end speed that was marginal but faster.  As shown by the results, the skipper makes a big difference and don’t sail into a hole!  The participants are all in agreement and will stay with their Svea design for competition and two have already sold their Ranger boats.  With two boats being developed on the East Coast and one in the Midwest I am sure we will see Svea in the winner’s circle at many events in the future.

Thanks again to all who helped bring this project together: from John Lammerts van Bueren, who discovered the plans in Sweden in 1999; to Elizabeth Myer and TJ Perrotti who approved of and supplied the drawings necessary to produce this 1/16 scale model, and my fellow modelers here in the Sacramento area who assisted in all areas of construction; it could not have been done without your assistance.  I look forward to fine tuning this design and competing against the best AMYA sailors in the future