In today's hurried world, 'if it's broken, replace it' has become all too common a mantra. It seems we are obsessed with newer, bigger, faster. But perhaps we shouldn't be too quick to dismiss their rivals. After all, it's the older, slower, elegant ladies of the past that helped shape yachting's future.
'In the last 15 years, there's been so much attention directed towards scale the newest, biggest megayacht,' says Marty Sutter, owner of the 1973 33m Burger Chanticleer and the 1930 33m Ted Geary-designed Canim.
'We will never be the biggest yacht in the harbour, we certainly will not be the most expensive, but virtually everywhere we go, we're the prettiest gal on the dance floor.
'We do it because we like these boats, but owners might take note that a better way to distinguish yourself isn't always bigger but more unique, more distinctive and certainly classic. And I think the owners of the classic boats who do maintain them well totally get that.'
While aesthetics and romanticism might be a common thread, yacht owners' motivations for undertaking a significant classic restoration project are surprisingly varied
Passionate owners like Sutter have answered a classic calling, choosing to dedicate considerable time, money and effort towards restoring the magnificent craft of yesteryear. To them, the joy of restoring, maintaining and cruising these timeless beauties is worth more than the convenience of a new amenity-packed superyacht.
If anyone understands these owners, it would be Jim Moores, founder of restoration and refit specialist yards Moores Marine, Inc. and owner of the 1947 18.5m Trumpy Aurora II. Moores has completed more than 100 classic refits.
'The main reason is dreams people dream of a quieter, less complicated time,' says Moores, 'And it's the beauty of these boatsI own a Trumpy, and it's like a work of art. Many who designed these pre-war vessels were artists first and boatbuilders second.'
While aesthetics and romanticism might be a common thread, yacht owners' motivations for undertaking a significant classic restoration project are surprisingly varied, as you will see in the following pages.
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For some owners, history is paramount. 'There's classic and then there's historic, and the history is what catches our fancy,' says Marty Sutter, whose 33m Burger Chanticleer _was built for Ogden Phipps, the man who famously lost _Secretariat in a coin toss. Phipps renamed Secretariat Buckpasser, after one of his most famous horses. 'The irony is that in 1973 when this boat was launched, Secretariat [the horse] won the Triple Crown,' Sutter says.
But the real historic value for Sutter and wife Lisa is a more recent owner, American songstress and avid yachtswoman Frances Langford Evinrude, known for the song I'm in the Mood for Love.
'When [Frances] owned the boat, she was in her eighties, and when an eighty year-old woman buys a boat herself, she can do whatever she wants to it and the boat was very pink!' Sutter says.
The Sutters weren't strangers to interior overhauls; they refitted the 1930 Canim without any interior photos, modelling her after other yachts from the era, most notably Delphine. They continued this classic look on Chanticleer, updating it with 1970s style and distinctive rosewood soles.
'We want to maintain these boats as if they were maintained by their original owners in the spirit and the vision they had,' says Sutter, who is humbled by the idea of being a 'steward of history,' a caretaker of historical yachts for future generations.
'The reason people own classic yachts it's passion, first of all, and you have to have a willingness and commitment level to be a proper custodian.'
If anyone proves classic yachts are not intended merely to be admired, it's Matt Brooks, the new owner of the 1929 sailing yacht Dorade. This winsome 16m yawl has a famous pedigree, known as the boat that launched designer Olin Stephens' career and for having won the Transatlantic, Fastnet and Bermuda races.
'_Dorade_ was designed to sail fast across the ocean,' says Brooks. 'In the last five decades, the only racing she's done has been in buoy races that don't really play to her strengths. We wanted to bring her back to a point where she can do what she does best.
'Unlike a fine piece of antique furniture, classic wooden boats were designed to swim in the ocean, and frankly, I don't think you can fully appreciate their beauty without seeing and experiencing them in that context.'
Dorade has kept up an active racing schedule since her 2011 refit. She took first place in her class at Les Voiles de Saint Barth, St. Maarten Heineken Regatta and the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta during the 2012 Caribbean racing season.
Her refit included a new mast, winches, hatches, engine, rudder and sails and new joinery below. Brooks has owned modern yachts, but he always dreamed of having a classic.
'They are boats you can fall in love with. They are elegant, their lines are beautiful, they are the stuff of dreams. Once you own a classic and you want to sail it, you're in the business of refitting,' Brooks says. 'We understand that we are really just caretakers and custodians of an extraordinary piece of sailing history, and we take that very seriously.'
Marty Sutter notes the challenge of finding like-minded owners who share this passion. 'Our fear is losing part of American history by not having enough people or institutions willing to preserve these boats,' he says. 'Can you imagine if in 100 years from now there wasn't a Pacemaker, a Huckins, a Rybovich sportfish or a Trumpy in existence?'
Yet the recent commissioning of modern vintage yachts, such as the Burger Sycara IV and Johnny Depp's Vajoliroja, is encouraging for Sutter.
'It's magnificent,' he says. 'They aren't classic, historic boats, but it will inspire people.'
Huckins Yacht owner Cindy Purcell (granddaughter of Frank Huckins) believes now is the time for classic yachts: 'Years ago, a style would fade out, another would come in, but now you can get sleek, modern, fast, classic it's all accepted.'
In the end, those who are drawn to a classic refit agree it's a singular experience. 'There's an accomplishment to it,' Moores says. 'Someone who enjoys bringing something back, making it work and enjoys it for what it truly is will take pleasure in restoring classic boats
Having a project is what attracted do-it-yourselfer Bob Meierhoff to take on the refit of the 1958 23m Burger Diane.
'I like finding used, old stuff and fixing it up,' he says. 'In my business, I go to auctions and find old equipment, and my employees shudder every time.'
When Meierhoff purchased the Jack Hargrave-designed Diane in 1992, she wasn't in great shape. An initial haul-out and pressure wash revealed significant rust damage. 'You could see right through the hull; the only thing that had been keeping her afloat was the paint!' he says.
Diane had a third of her hull replaced, but kept her original engines.
Jackson Marine Center in Fort Lauderdale completed the extensive refit work including the cabinetry and painting but Meierhoff takes every chance he can to tinker with Diane.
'I work on the wiring and the engine, and I come down for every hurricane,' he says. 'I'm not too much into the [steward of history] thing I just like to build stuff.'
This modest owner later found he had a connection with Diane's creators. When the boat was built, Meierhoff's classmate was Skip Gunnell, son of Marjorie Burger Gunnell and Elias Gunnell of the Burger Boat Company.
Skip didn't get to see Diane's transformation before he passed away. But at 91 years old, Marjorie visited, which Meierhoff says has been one of his most enjoyable experiences in completing the refit.
As the hull was in good shape, Lynch and his wife, Linda, concentrated their efforts on the dated interior. They also spent close to a million dollars updating electrical and mechanical systems. Lynch combined modern technology with erstwhile style, such as hiding high-definition TVs behind 1920s paintings. All of the furnishings except one piece, Lynch laments are authentic 1920s and '30s.
They also rebuilt the wheelhouse and brought back the original name_ Innisfail_ (pronounced 'fall'), an ancient name for Ireland.
In _Innisfail's _70-year journey from private yacht to WWII anti-submarine boat to government vessel to charter yacht, she has welcomed US presidents including Kennedy, Nixon and Clinton, celebrities such as Jackie Gleason and Sammy Davis Jr and has graced the silver screen many times over.
Tom Gerrard's desire for far-flung cruising inspired him to refit his classic Burger, the 1980 21m Taittinger.
'I never got into the fibreglass thing,' Gerrard says. 'I wanted something reliable, something I could travel great distances on. As I continued on the boat, I warmed to the old classic style.'
Taittinger has proven her sea kindliness, cruising down to South America and up to Newfoundland. Many updates were made specifically to make long-haul cruising more comfortable.
'We put in a stabilization system, retrofitted for this boat, which made a big difference,' Gerrard says. 'We also put an Atlas Marine Systems shore power converter; you never know what voltage you're going to get when you get to the dock.'
The interior refit changed out the shag carpeting, added wood panelling in the salon and converted back a stateroom that the previous owners had made into a walk-in closet.
But Taittinger still has its original refrigerator simply because they couldn't get it out without moving walls.
'We've bought all the parts we can find for it!' Gerrard ensures.
Originally published: July 2012
Photos by Neil Rabinowitz and Christophe Jouany