The History of
Yacht Mir
Curtis A. "Bud" Thompson

 

Writing the History of MIR got its start when I made a chance call to friends Dick and Barbara Cleveland in Santa Barbara CA. Dick Cleveland was the photographer who caught the sequence of pictures of the MIR dismasting as she approached the finish line at Diamond Head in the 1969 TRANSPAC RACE.

They had been invited to view MIR again in early February 2011 while she was in drydock in the Ventura CA. Marina. It was forty two years since the dismasting and I thought there might be a story as this July, 2011, is the 46th TRANSPAC YACHT RACE.

I called the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club to talk with the Club Historian to see what info was available. Historian David Williams said he would be very interested in getting more info so now began the fun. NOW "MIRAMAR"

Please click on the "thumbnail" images in this article to see the photos full-size.

On February 3rd it all gets under way. In the picture L/R are Brian McDermott, a member of the Royal Vancouver YC who missed sailing in the race in 1969 because of a shoulder injury, Skipper of the MIR Lew Starkie, Dick and Barbara Cleveland and me. The picture held by Dick is the famous one from the 1969 dismasting.

Owner Paul Scripps was unable to join us but we were welcomed aboard by Skipper Lew Starkie who kindly went over the work being done to keep the vessel in top condition. I have never seen a vessel so well-built with double planking on steel frames. The planks being replaced were with clear edge-grain wood.

Getting Started With The History of " MIR"

Capt. Lew Starkie presented a complete Yacht Brokerage presentation of MIR!

Here are excerpts: Designer: Jarl Lindblom. Length 78.9, Beam 15.95', draft 9.5
Builder: ABO BARTFARV YARD in Abo (TURKU), Finland for Wilhelm Hedensjo in 1943.

Sometime between 1943 and 1949 she was taken out of the Abo harbor and sailed or motored across to the Plym yard in Stockholm and finally finished around 1950.

Here is the crew list aboard in 1969 from the TransPac History Book.
MIR. Sailing under Burgee Royal Vancouver YC, Owner-Skipper-George William Obrien, Navigator- Philip Stanbro, Cook- William Hoge
Crew: Gene Cunningham, Joe Collins, Mike Johnson, Irving Clark, Bob Sloan, Jerry Hanson, Kirk Elliot, Plazi Miller, Cecil Malley, Tom Hazlett, Tom Brennan

The Dismasting

What happened? Crewmen aboard for the race, Mike Johnson and Cecil Malley, both related the story that the steel after-guy covered by a sleeve that hid the rusting wire broke earlier in the race, and a 7/8 inch stretchy braid line was bent on causing an almost impossible control of the spinnaker after they rounded Koko Head.

This was exacerbated by the needed change of course to the finish line that put them more on a beam wind. Winds coming down through the island valleys are accelerated putting even more stress on the rig. One such gust coming off the island put MIR almost flat in the water! When she filled again the rig came down.

Press and photographers on a power boat had witnessed the MIR rounding up with the sails collapsing and filling again three times and were ready for what might happen. FotoBoat photographer Richard Cleveland took a sequence of color pictures when the mast failed as did Lois Kennedy of SEA Magazine in black and white.

The punch line of the action was when the plucky crew cleared the broken mast and rig from the boat and sailed her backwards across the finish line with a spinnaker flying from her mizzen mast!

It was like a shot heard 'round the world when the press articles and pictures hit the public. Cleveland's shots of the dismasting even after 42 years can be seen in many yacht clubs and homes.

Note by this writer: The picture here taken from Diamond Head appears to show the mast bending where the spinnaker pole fits to the track on the mast. It also shows the spinnaker pole sticks out past the head stay at the angle it was positioned. Without the steel guy and with the stretchy braid there would be extreme pressure exerted when the spinnaker filled again as the pole and stretchy sheet would have slammed across the head stay when she refilled.

Owner and skipper of MIR, George O'Brian, when he found there would be a long wait to get a new mast, simply stepped a telephone pole in the boat put extra fuel aboard and crewman Bob Sloan power sailed her back to California.

Ownership History

The genesis of MIR started with a design by Finish architect Jarl Lindblom. The order to build came from Wilhelm Hedensdjo to be done at the ABO Batfarb yard in Abo (Turku) Finland in 1943. There is a certain amount of conjecture about the incidents that brought MIR to the PLYM yard in Stockholm Sweden. One story is: That Hedensdjo became too close to the Russians who held reign in Finland during the war. When the Russians left after the war in the dead of night he powered her across to Stockholm where she was eventually finished. While there was a time span of ten years until the Mir was sold there is no evidence that Hedensdjo ever sailed her. It was only seven days after their the arrival in Stockholm of the Greb family and assistants that they moved aboard the vessel with only mention of a flurry of workers during that time in getting last minute things done. It would appear Mir was quite well finished and ready to go.

Harry Greb of Toronto Canada became the second owner of MIR officially on June 8, 1953 ten years after her keel was laid.

This all came about when he decided he wanted a larger and faster vessel. George Cuthbertson, age 22, had just graduated from the University of Toronto with a Mech. Eng. degree and a love of sailing. He had set himself up in business as an a naval architect and yacht broker. He was already known at the Royal CanadianYC for his work measuring the racing yachts. A client had sent him over to Sweden to find an eight meter, a world renowned design, along with the six meter, and America's Cup 12 meters, used for years, racing for the Americas Cup. While in Sweden looking for the eight meter and working with Danish designer Knud Reimers MIR was found. A set of pictures Cuthbertson brought to Greb made his decision to buy! Cuthbertson also ended up skippering the MIR to Canada. Through the years with his partner Cassian they became well known as C&C Yachts.

MIR was greatly enjoyed by the Greb family and friends, racing and cruising in the Great Lakes, until about 1963 when skin problems from the sun found Harry with a power boat and MIR was up for sale.

Marshall Peter Robinson is third owner. Robinson sailed off to take MIR to the west coast but after a time Mir was found in Puerto Rico abandoned and in poor condition.

Harry Greb brought her back to Toronto and put her back on the market.

George William O'Brian of Vancouver BC becomes fourth owner in 1966 and sailed her down through the Canal to Vancouver BC . After getting her back into yacht condition he sailed and cruised in many races in Northwest waters, to Mexico, and in the 1969 TransPac Race to Hawaii. With a very jovial personality and the love of a party he had lots of attention. He got interested in the upcoming Americas Cup race and bought DAME PATTY and put MIR up for sale.

John Scripps buys MIR in 1973! Mr. Scripps knew about MIR, not only because of the dismasting in 1969 but had sailed in races with her and admired her beautiful lines and sailing ability. For years he had sailed his yacht NOVIA DEL MAR in several TransPac and Tahiti races before losing her in a fire off the coast of Mexico. It wasn't long before he started looking for another boat and found MIR for sale.

Mir-9 Mir is still in the Scripps family and being kept in excellent condition and is sailed by son Paul Scripps and his family out of the San Diego yacht Club. It has been a wonderful, eventful life for this lady now enjoying the best of it all. This account is only a brief of the history of MIR, but one can only imagine how it all comes down. From the moment her plans were drafted and through the excellent building of her and her lasting resilience to all that's happened to her, and with people who cared, is quite a story.

A Thank You To All Who Helped

To Dick and Barbara Cleveland where it all started.

To Skipper of MIR Lew Starkie for providing info about MIR and a great "walk through" of the vessel to see how beautifully she was put together.

To David Williams RVYC Historian and Brian McDermott for their info and encouragement.

To Paul Scripps for a nice run-down on MIR since joining the Scripps family and for bringing in Barbara Greb.

To George Cuthbertson for his outline account on finding MIR and sailing her across the Atlantic to Canada.

Barbara Greb e-mailed 44 pages of her mother's log that tells a great story of the travel and preparation for the first part of the voyage to Stockholm and back to July 17th when MIR sailed for Canada. A sense of humor too.

She writes:"On board the vessel Suecia from Liverpool to Goteborg. 7PM. Delicious roast pheasant for dinner. Swedish boat very clean and yacht-like. All help female-very attractive stewardesses. Must remember to ask the purser to keep Harry with my other valuables overnight!

"Much of the needed items for the MIR amounting to 1,400 lbs of luggage were treated as baggage and it raised many questions as it was unloaded and reloaded for each leg of the trip from Liverpool to Stockholm.

"The train trip from Liverpool to London, and getting aboard the ship Suecia, for Goteborg was a bit hectic as all of London was getting ready for the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth."

Barbara Greb also sent a bio of her father done by her uncle that well indicates why he so ably managed the buying and owning of MIR. The attached picture of Barbara's mother rowing the MIR dingy shows the excellent workmanship that reflects in the building of MIR.

Thank you to Mike Johnson and Cecil Malle who both outlined the cause of the dismasting.

To Beverley Darville, Archivist at Royal Canadian YC for info on the evident shipping of Mir back to Canada.


The Naming Of Mir

All during the time I've spent getting info for this history I kept trying to find out why Hendensdjo named her MIR. He said it meant "The Highest Point Achieved By Man."

This would also fit with the space ship MIR circa 1986. Or climbing Mt Everest, the highest point in the world accomplished by Edmond Hillary on May 29, 1953!

The name "Peace" - This could fit well with the timing of the building of MIR that was finished after WWII.

The 3 masted Russian training ship shown here built in 1987 was named MIR to represent "The World of Peace "

There were lesser meanings from other countries such as, "A LITTLE VILLAGE" but without any relevance to naming a ship.

This has been a pleasure for me in the doing.

Curtis A. "Bud" Thompson
8628 B onyx DR SW
Lakewood WA. 98498
applebud@msn.com

MIR now "MIRAMAR" ready for Paul Scripps and family and
Friends sailing out of the San Diego Yacht Club. Enjoying the Sea