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VIM - Design no. 279

1939 - 1951: Harold S. Vanderbilt - name: VIM - home port: Newport,


Vim's lead keel was laid on January 20th,1939 and she was launched at Henry B. Nevins boatyard in New York on April 29th. Specially ordered by Harold Vanderbilt to enter the famous 12 Metre races organized in British waters, Vim was Olin Stephens design no. 279, and very advanced for the period, based on the results of extensive tank tests and inspired by the previous design of the 6-metre Goose. Olin Stephens said "She was a real refinement on what I had done before." She is an 'outsize' Twelve as the later British ones (Trivia, Evaine and the 1939 built Tomahawk, Flica II, Ornsay and Jenetta) but with a more aggressive keel and fuller shape in the bow.

 Although she respected the minimum weight allowed by the class Rule, her mast was of duralumin in order to be stronger and stiffer than a mast of similar weight in other materials. She had the first two speeds coffee grinders to be mounted on a Twelve; the cockpit was smaller than usual and watertight. She had also one of the first or the first trim tab described as "a special device on her rudder - a special adaptation from aeroplane practice - by means of which the after edge of the rudder can be controlled from the cockpit independently of the rudder itself" This device was controlled by a hand wheel and internal worm gear which was located at the rudder head. This gear rotated a shaft inside the hollow rudder stock which in turn moved a small tiller arm and ultimately the tab itself. Travel was fourteen degrees to port and the same to starboard. Below deck, she was very simple with one small cabin with two full berths and two berths running part under the quarters. Forward of that a large space was arranged for sail stowage and handling; this kept weight amidships and did not interfere with the galley and fo'c'sle right forward.


There was a warm welcome and great attention paid to Mr. Vanderbilt and Vim arrival in UK just after her launch in New York. Success came immediately: " In the first two races, to put matters quite bluntly, Vim has practically left her rivals standing" and again (Heckstall-Smith in Yachting World June 23rd, 1939) "each perhaps in a small degree, the advantages of improved design through the tank tests, of improved rig through her metal mast and lesser windage of gear aloft, of greater power in her deck winches, of superior cut of canvas, particularly her jib and spinnaker - all these details tell in Vim's favour. But added to these factors tending towards her success for which her designer, Olin Stephens, deserves the credit. I, myself have seen and admired the skill of her owner, Mr. Vanderlbilt, at his wheel and the excellence of the Vim's crew, the trimming of her sheets, the accuracy of her manoeuvre, together with steering the courses and coping with strong tides without the help of any local pilot. The combination of all these details has contributed towards the victories of the Vim, although possibly in any single one of them the superiority may amount to nothing of very marked importance." At the end of the season Vim won 19 races out of 28. She sailed seven races in the shallow East Coast tidal waters and won five; she then proceeded to the deep waters "down west,? where she again sailed seven races and won six; then she came to the tidal waters of the Solent, where she sailed fourteen races and one eight... her success was phenomenal, and the popularity of her owner and his crew added to the enjoyment of the seasonat all ports." In 1940 and 1949 she won the King's Cup (NYCC) and in 1940 the Astor Cup and Larchmont Race Week


1951 - 1964: John N. Matthews - home port: Oyster Bay (N.Y.) - altered in auxiliary yacht The owner entered the selection races for the 1958 America's Cup and in 1957 Olin Stephens was required to return Vim to the original version. The engine was removed together with some other heavy fittings; the hull was re-planked; new sails in dacron and a new rig was tuned up. Vim's photo was on the cover of the August 4, 1958 Life Magazine which was devoted to the America's Cup. Her design is also used as the basis for the new S&S Twelve, Columbia. She had a great crew, headed by Bus Mosbacher and Dick Matthews (son of the owner) as co-helmsman, the other son Donald, Brad Noyes, Dick Bertram and Ted Hood, who was in charge of experimenting new sail fabrics, were crew members. Vim was very successful and, at the end of the trial races, she was the best of all the other contenders apart from Columbia who was slightly faster to windward in fresh winds. The final series was yacht racing at its closest with Vim probably better sailed; Columbia won the fifth race by twelve seconds and was chosen as the defender of the 1958 Cup. In 1952 she won the Astor Cup (NYYC) and in 1955 the Queen's Cup (1955). In 1959  she was given to a Roman Catholic charity and chartered for four years by Sir Frank Packer's Australian syndicate. Gretel, the 1962 America's Cup Australian challenger, was inspired to Alan Payne by Vim's design and performances and Vim was used as trial-horse for the tuning up of Gretel


1965 - 1972: Sir Frank Packer - home port: Sidney (Australia) Vim was trial horse for Dame Pattie in 1967 and for Gretel II in 1970

1973: Yenchap Estates Pty Ltd.

1973 - 1976: Dr. Tony Fisher - home port: Tarent Point (NSW, Australia)

1977: disappeared off Lloyd's Register - Vim remained in Australia 

1980-1985: Leo Berliner - the transom is removed

1985 - 1990: Paul and Yvonne Maule - Vim was rebuilt at Ken Beashel Boat Yard and the original stem was found and replaced as were several other parts of the original fittings as the coffee grinders. The original rigging was also reinstated with running backstays. After two years of work, Vim was relaunched and used for charter.

1990 - 2014: Alberto Rusconi - home port: La Spezia and Genova Vim underwent to a first partial refit. She entered in the class races in the Mediterranean but, mainly due to not having a valid crew, she did not achieve good results. She competed again against Tomahawk, owned by Mr. Rusconi. In 1999 an important refit was carried on with a new deck, partial re-planking and a new engine.


Olin J Stephens

Type of Boat

12 mR (12)  Third Int. Rule


Bermuda rig / aluminium

Year Built


Built By

Henry B Nevins Yard - City Island, NY

LOA m / ft

21.18m / 69' 7"

LOD m / ft

21.18m / 69' 7"

LWL m / ft

13.71m / 44'9"

Beam m / ft

3.66m / 12'

Draft m / ft

2.67m / 8'7"

Yard No.


Sail Stats

Sail area: 179sq.m. Sail No. US15


Wood, double planking


28.44 tons

      Link to "News flash from 1939" 

Link to Youtube clip from 2015