2013-04-25 / News

Heroina victorious at St. Barths

74-foot sailboat was built for cruising, but has been successful on race course
By Ken Shane

Islander Tim Rutler celebrates with his crew aboard Heroina after winning its class at the Les Voiles de St. Barth on April 13. 
Les Voiles de St. Barth/Christophe Jouany Islander Tim Rutler celebrates with his crew aboard Heroina after winning its class at the Les Voiles de St. Barth on April 13. Les Voiles de St. Barth/Christophe Jouany In 1993, legendary yacht designer German Frers decided to build himself a yacht.

The 74-footer was built on the River Plate in Argentina, which meant a shallow draft keel was required. The winged keel that was gifted to Frers came from Stars & Stripes, an America’s Cup-winning boat he had designed. The mast, which determined the boat’s overall length, came from Il Moro de Venezia, another Frers-designed boat that competed for the America’s Cup.

Frers christened his boat Heroina and from there the legend grew. He dedicated an entire chapter of his book, “By Design,” to Heroina. The boat was also featured in Classic Boat magazine in 2009.

Despite the racing appendages, Frers never intended Heroina to be anything but a cruiser. He sailed aboard the vessel for 15 years before selling it in 2008. In 2010, the boat was scheduled to be shipped to the Mediterranean, but that trip was canceled at the last minute. Heroina was put up for sale at the annual Newport Boat Show.

That’s where it came to the attention of Tim Rutler.

“I saw it there. We’d been looking for quite awhile,” he said. “We wanted something classic and something in a mid-70 foot length. We saw her and within less than 24 hours we had made an offer on her. Less than 14 days later she was ours.”

Rutler, who rents a summerhouse in the Dumplings area with his wife, decided to keep Heroina at Conanicut Marine last summer. The boat will return to Jamestown from its winter home in the Caribbean in mid-May.

“We’ve been up and down the East Coast,” said Rutler. “From Annapolis to Nantucket to Martha’s Vineyard and Sag Harbor. We really enjoy Jamestown. Our intention is to spend a great deal of time there over the next several years.”

Cold-molded is a term used to describe Heroina’s construction. It indicates the boat has a wooden hull that has been wrapped with epoxy and fiberglass, followed by additional layers of those three elements, with fiberglass on the outside of the hull.

The boat is not a classic yacht in the traditional sense of the word, meaning that its hull is not all wood. However, the hull is 80 percent wood, and the epoxy and fiberglass allow for a more rigid form.

“She’s really not made to race,” Rutler said. “She’s made to pleasure cruise. She weighs 88,000 pounds. She’s a very heavy boat and a very comfortable boat. That’s exactly the way Frers built her.”

By all accounts, Heroina is not a racing sailboat, and yet there it was in the fourth annual Les Voiles de St. Barth regatta that took place in the Caribbean earlier this month. Not only was it there, but Heroina won the classic division handily, carrying a crew of 10 plus a captain and first mate. Competing with three other classic yachts, Heroina took four firsts in four days of racing.

“We were very fortunate to do what we did and not suffer any major boat damage,” said Rutler. “We didn’t suffer any crew maladies, and at the same time we won every race in our class.”

After Rutler purchased Heroina, the boat spent 26 months being refitted. It only competed in one other race prior to the St. Barth’s regatta, and that was last year’s Nantucket Opera House Cup. Higher wind speeds favor heavier boats, and Heroina took advantage of strong winds, much as it did in St. Barths. The boat took line honors in Nantucket, too.

“It was at that race that we saw some potential in her,” Rutler said. “We figured she did well, and since she was going to be in St. Barths for the winter anyway, we’d see how she did. It’s a phenomenal regatta, and obviously she did pretty well.”

Rutler said that Heroina is a unique classic boat. He hasn’t done anything other than protect the way Frers built it in 1993. According to Rutler, he’s not trying to reduce weight on the boat or add carbon elements to it. His aim is to sail a safe, fun and well puttogether boat that respects the classic tradition in terms of aesthetics and style.

Despite Heroina’s racing success, Rutler has no plans to mount a major racing campaign. He said Heroina will not return to St. Barths to defend its title.

But there will still be races. Rutler said Heroina has already been invited to participate in regattas. This summer it will take part in the Panerai Classic Yacht Challenge – the event includes the Marblehead, Opera House and Newport Corinthian regattas. Next spring it is entered in the Antigua Classic Yacht Week.

“Several people considering her provenance have asked us to compete in their regattas,” said Rutler. “We’ll do that once and then check those races off. We won’t do them again because the goal is to protect and preserve the boat.”

In the true tradition of classic yacht owners, Rutler insisted the focus should be on the boat and not the owners. He said that owners are only stewards who hold onto a boat for a period of time, keep it in good condition, and pass it on to future generations so that they can enjoy it.

While Rutler appreciates the glory of owning the winner of prestigious regattas, his primary focus in entering races is to raise awareness for lupus, a disease that his wife suffers from. In addition to personal donations, contributions are made for each race that Heroina wins. The boat’s spinnaker logo incorporates the purple bow that is the symbol for lupus. The bow is on each crew jersey.

“Since nine out of 10 people who suffer from lupus are women, we thought that there is no boat better to bring attention to it than one called Heroina,” he said.

Heroina is Spanish for a female hero.

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