In the January issue of Latitude 38 Ros de Vries checks out the Millimeter.
In the 170 years of America’s Cup racing, perhaps no other class of boat has stirred the sailing fanatic’s blood more than the 12 Meter. I loved watching the 1980s-era races — especially when the gigantic spinnakers were hoisted and doused with unimaginable athleticism by guys whose definition of technical wear was a pair of skimpy shorts. 12 Meters are big boats that demand big teams and big money to operate — but are still relatable enough in their operation that small-time sailors like myself can aspire to sail one — well, no. We can simply dream.
Now, imagine that 70 feet of grandeur scaled down to 12-ft 6 inches in length. Now it all sounds more manageable, doesn’t it?
The Millimeter is a one-design, one-person, single-hull racing yacht, related to the Mini-12 and the slightly longer International 2.4mR. She is a Bay Area legend, with an origin story circa 1982, when Sven Svendsen imported a 12-ft boat from Germany and put it on display at a boat show just south of San Francisco. Jim Taylor, who would become the originator and promoter of the class, recounted that he had never seen anything like it: an America’s Cup simulacrum in many aspects, albeit one that you steered with your feet. He and everybody with him were very excited, and all took turns sitting in this Mini-12 and sailing it on its stand. When Taylor declared, “Svendsen, we all want one of these; make us a deal on a bunch of them!” Sven let him know in plain terms they were $4,250 each, regardless of how many were imported. This got Taylor thinking about how he could build a better, cheaper, more fun mini. At the time, he lived with Bob Smith, a burgeoning naval architect. Bob and Jim spent the next few weeks talking about what was right and wrong with the German design: To start with, it was a bit small, the hardware was cheap, and the rudder seemed tiny. But overall, the boat was very cool.