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Columbia 5.5 Meter Comeback

Columbia 5.5 Meters racing on the Estuary, left to right: Wings, Sonic Death Monkey, Slooperman and Italia.

© Martha Blanchfield

One-design action is happening Wednesday nights on the Alameda Estuary. Hosted by Oakland Yacht Club, the Columbia 5.5 Meter fleet counts eight on the start line — plus two more classic vessels currently being restored by a local team.

Maverick, with the red and white spinnaker, chases down Slooperman, Sonic Death Monkey and Wings.

© Martha Blanchfield

Lithe and streamlined, the 5.5 Meter is enjoying a renaissance — partly for its beauty and partly for its classic lines and pedigree. Additionally, the boat offers an inexpensive way to step into a competitive gentlemen’s fleet racer. The owner of Maverick, Robert Nelson, reveals that a recent raid of Stockton Sailing Club yielded three acquisitions: Chaos, Coyote (renamed Slooperman) and Nefertiti. Ray McMurphy and Vaughn Fisher recently purchased hull #1, Javelin, for restoration; she had idled at Vallejo YC for numerous years. 

Chaos, looking not too chaotic on Wednesday evening, June 8.

© 2016 Martha Blanchfield

The Columbia 5.5 Meter was introduced in 1963 as a one-design class racing yacht built to the 5.5 Meter International Measurement Rule. Its design was taken from Carina, a 5.5-meter vessel designed and built by Sigurd Herburn of Oslo, Norway. After Carina won the 1958 Scandinavian Games Gold Cup, Columbia Yachts purchased her, then modified and refined her lines for production. During the span of 1963 to 1965 only 50 were built, in Southern California. The 5.5 Meter body was later modified by Columbia Yachts and received a new model designation: ‘Saber.’ A cruising version of the 5.5, the Sabre featured a raised deck, bunks for four, and other amenities. Roughly 400 Sabres were built from 1963 to 1969.

Lester Gee’s Paningale, post-set.

© Martha Blanchfield

The fleet has its own start at the Wednesday night OYC beer can series. With the first half now complete, sailmaker Dominic Marchal’s Sonic Death Monkey topped the division, followed by Mike Jackson’s Wings and Maverick.

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