It’s been six years since the famous 12 metre America’s Cup boat Gretel was brought to a boatyard in northern Germany, where there were high hopes she would be returned to her former glory.
The yacht that inspired a generation of Australian sailors is now at Robbe and Berking Classics boatyard, requiring a passionate owner to save her from complete ruin.
“Gretel has been dry stored in our shed for a couple of years, but we are still hopeful that her second life will start from here on,” Jakob Franze, Master Boatbuilder at Robbe and Berking Classics boatyard, said.
“We found Gretel in Italy and she isn’t in a good state.
“Nevertheless we would love to do the refit of Gretel, but would sell the boat as she is right now as well.”
Gretel is an intrinsic part of our yachting history.
The first 12-metre racing yacht designed and built in Australia, and our first challenger for the America's Cup.
The Gretel Campaign was bankrolled by an ambitious Sir Frank Packer, after an Australian challenge become possible when New York Yacht Club changed its rules to allow an entry from an international 12-metre yacht that could be shipped, rather than sailed or built locally.
Steered by Alexander “Jock” Sturrock, Gretel became the first yacht since the 1930s to beat the Americans in a race.
The five-race series was a thriller, with Gretel sensationally winning the second race on September 18 and missing out on the fourth by 26 seconds.
In the end the Americans successfully defended the Cup due to the superior performance of Weatherly’s crew and skipper Emil “Bus” Mosbacher, regarded as one of the best helmsmen of his time.
Although they lost the series 4-1, Gretel inspired yachtsmen all across Australia to undertake subsequent challenges, eventually wresting the America’s Cup from the haughty New York Yacht Club in 1983.
After the America’s Cup regatta of 1962, Gretel served as a trial horse for several of Australia’s following Cup challenges, including the Dame Pattie Syndicate in 1976 and the Southern Cross Syndicate in 1974.
Alan Bond then sold Gretel to developer Bernard Lewis in Sydney.
Lewis converted Gretel to an ocean racer. It turned out to be an inspired decision.
With an age allowance, her best moment was a close second on handicap in the 1980 Sydney to Hobart Race.
Lewis sold Gretel shortly after and the yacht became a charter boat, operating largely in the Whitsunday Islands.
In 2002 she was sold out of Australia to a syndicate that included the well known American yacht designer Doug Peterson.
The yacht was shipped to Italy, rigged and sailed a few times before being left for a rebuild.
It never happened.
It was here that she was found by Oliver Berking and transported to Flensburg in Germany, in the hope that she could undergo a complete restoration.
Most of the original shape of the hull, stern and rudder have been modified during the years, and will take extensive restoration work to return her to glory.
To date the shipyard’s quest to find Gretel a new owner who can breathe life back into the former champion has been unsuccessful.
We aim to bring this historic yacht back to the original condition of 1962”, Berking said.
“This is a unique piece of yachting history that must be kept alive!”
It’s not out of the realm of possibility, with Robbe and Berking Classics currently restoring the 12-metre yacht Jenetta.
The 12-metre fleet is experiencing a renaissance worldwide, and there is huge interest in the post-war America’s Cup boats, especially in Newport, Rhode Island, where there is a very active fleet.
Could Gretel be the next yacht to be resurrected? It may take an Australian buyer to bring her home.
Jack O’Rourke is a contributor to Ocean Media
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