Brazilian Dingue class ZOO III racing under the Sugar Loaf.
I always loved sailboats. As a child I built sailboats from corks with
a match as mast, a razor blade as centerboard and a paper sail and made them sail in the seven seas formed
after rainfalls on the square adjacent to our house. With the time the boat
shapes and the sails became rather sophisticated with jibs, genoas and various
forms of main sails.
The real sailing started with a hired Lightning on the
Zurique lake many years later. Who knows the Zurique lake, knows that it is a
quite difficult place for sailing with many calms and sudden storms falling down
from the high mountains which surround the lake. I took my lessons and bought
later on a catamaran, which was the absolutely wrong boat for the lake, except
for storms where it raced over the rough water at 15 or more knots. Generally
the sea police called me back, because they did not trust much in my ability as
a storm sailer or in the safety of a catamaran. Anyway it was great fun and
"Adrenaline" like the young people of today say.
Catamaran "Ipanema I" on the Zurich lake
Parallel to the
catamaran I bought a little british dinghy of the "Enterprise" class,
made of ply sheets and just with a jib and a mainsail. (For Frenchmen: this boat
is comparable to the "Vaurien"). I filled this little boat with my
whole family which were at the time my wife and my 4 year old son and
experienced wonderful cruises and excursions with interruptions at the
pittoresk lake restaurants.
In Brazil my first boat was a wooden
"Carioca", a brazilian adaptation of the 22 ft. german 15 m2 Jollenkreuzer, a very fast center boarder with fully battened mainsail, a
groove-led jib in the wooden forestay and a nice spinnaker. The name was "CIRRUS"
and the race number K-I-26. The crew were three and practically each
weekend were races, so many, that after half a year of patience my wife
asked for a divorce and succeeded in a reduction of my race fanatism.
The most famous cup race was the "Taša Jornal do Brasil", it was a
honour and a must to participate in this race.
My crew was composed of "Mingau" (=porridge) and "Soneca" (=sleepy)
and in spite of these nicknames we placed very well in the races.
Taša Jornal do Brasil,
K-1-26 "Cirrus" preparing to hoist the spinnaker
Another famous race, which is held till these days, was the "Regata Escola
Naval" organized by the Navy, open to all classes from the smallest Dinghy
up to the biggest ocean racer. You can imagine the confusion on the starting
line, when a certain class is called and all the others are still around and so
it happened: Mingau, Soneca and I were just going for the starting line when a
little Snipe came at full speed from our port side. I lent down trying to grab
its forestay in an insane trial, slipped on the cockpit boards and fell down
with my arm stretched down outbord and the hand just on the planks where the
Snipe hit our boat. The Snipe's bow literally crossed my hand tearing muscles
away and breaking my 4th and 5th metacarpiano. (These details I knew
later in the hospital by my surgeon). The physician did a top job in
reconstructing my hand, today one can see nothing but some small scars. Poor
Mingau and Soneca had to sail the boat alone (they never had done that) till the
Rio de Janeiro Yacht Club, because I was rescued from the very scene by a
My beloved Tennis playing was over, I quit it for a life time. Anyhow, later I
had a motorcycle accident, which broke my right leg into pieces, leaving me for
two years on crutches. But this did not stop sailing, as you will see later on.
From the Carioca class I switched over to ocean racing. I bought a little 22 ft
racer in Holland. The prototype had been national champion in class RORC IV. I
called it CIRRUS after the brave Carioca. It was fire engine red and one of
the first boats built in fiber glass in our club, so it caused a tremendous
discussion. "Yachts have to be white, marine blue or black, red is a
scandaI I heared from quite a lot of collegues.
The boat was a success in races. In light winds, force 1-2 it was unbeatable and
won the most famous 50 footers of the time. This of course caused anger and soon
longer ocean races were forbidden for yachts under 30 feet.
My next boat was a "Quarter Tonner" named "Sea Wolf" from
the same boat yard in Holland (Victoire), again in a scandal colour, this time
orange. It was not as fast as the CIRRUS, because the mast was too short,
designed for dutch winds and not for our rather calm waters.
Anyway it was the smallest boat with its 25 ft which ever participated in our
famous 300 sm Santos - Rio race. Of course we came in last and won a lantern
instead of a silver pot.
After the Sea Wolf importation of yachts became difficult in Brazil and
consequently a national boat industry arouse. The boats were rather primitive in
the beginning and my next boat, the 27 ft "Seehund" was used only for
cruising. Even in cruising I had some surprises. The boom came loose in a strong
wind because some rivets broke and the rudder disappeared on the mooring for
lack of a counter-pin.
So I bought later a 32 footer of the already sucessful national Brasilia class,
where I could participate in longer sea races and also level racing within the
proper class. The boat was measured within the IOR class V formula and
participated in many races. In one of the last races, a Santos-Rio, on a very
rough upwind course ("be careful, the mast will come down", answer:
"how nice, then we can experience something new") the whole crew
became sick with the exception of the navigator and me and we had to give up the
race. We were in the second position as we heared later.
ZOO and speed boat DUA in Angra dos Reis
This was practically
the end of my ocean racing carreer, I became tired of scraping barnacles off the
bottom and the keel, bottom paintings which lasted merely three months and lazy
sailors, breaking the boat instead of keeping it always shipshape. One benefit
stayed for a lifetime from the barnacle diving, a wonderful lung capacity, which
I use now in master swimming.
As I told before, I broke my right leg in a
motorcycle accident just in a time when the second 500sm Salvador-Rio race would
take place and a friend of mine needed a helmsman for his 43 ft Swan called
"Xamego". I had no doubt, I really walked on crutches, but one year
had already passed from the accident and so, crazy as I was, I decided to
participate and it became one of the most exiting races of my life.
after the start and of course, at night in a sudden storm, we run over our own
spinnaker and the boat heeled badly over, water coming down the gangway. I was
sleeping when all this confusion broke loose.
The water was over the floor panels and while one part of the crew tryed to cut
the spinnaker loose from the keel, diving with a safety rope in the turbulent
waters, my quarter mate and co-helmsman of dutch origin and myself tryed to find
out why the boat was sinking. The owner did not know where the bottom valves
were and we had to search and find out by ourselves. In the end we found it, the
WC valve was open, reason why the bilge pumps could not win the battle.
later on we heared that one of our direct competitors broke its boom in the same
To make it short: When the whole fleet cruised down to Rio far off the coast,
the Dutchman and I passed during the night (!!!) the channel within the Abrolhos
coral reefs, desobeying strict orders of the tacticion who was sleeping. When we
passed by the Abrolhos light house we woke him and the captain up to show the fait
accomplis. We were not executed because we were winning the race. Already
near Rio, some miles from the finishing line we heared the announcement of the
first boat cruising the line. They had kept radio silence whereas we had given
always our position. The deception was great, but we won still the general
second and first in class.
Some years ago I gave up offshore racing, too many
barnacles, too much bottom scraping and too much maintenance (including the crew).
Today I am a dinghi sailor and I think I have even more fun than in the old days.
It started out with a Sunfish, then came a Day sailer and at the moment I am
firmly married with the Brazilian Dingue class. It is said that there exist more
than 3500 Dingues in Brazil, since last week 10 in Portugal and one in Germany
on the lake of Konstanz. Quite impressive numbers. The top foto shows my first
Dingue and now I own the second, yellow coloured, named ZOO IV, racing number RJ
4430. Below you can see it, me and my granddaughter Natalia after the 2005 "Fathers
and Sons" race.
ZOO IV, Kurt + Natalia
2008: I could not stay away for long from offshore racing, but
did not want to repeat some inconvenients of the past. So the new boat should be
kept ashore on a trailer and consequently have a retractable keel.
My choice fell on an already well established class in Brazil, the Skipper 21,
known as a successful race boat under the ORC Club rule.
Below you can see the brand new ZOO V before its departure from the club for the
2008: ZOO V at the Rio Circuit, Rei Olav race, in
front of a lot of big boats.
2009: Dingue ZOO IV in front of Copacabana with the Corcovado mountain and
the Christ statue in the background. Race "Kurt Jurgen", where I am