Saturday, March 5, 2011

Design 1054 - Finisterre

Here is the somewhat unlikely legend, Finisterre. Responding to the C.C.A. (Cruising Club of America) Rule at the time of her design, which favored short waterlines, extreme beam and light ballast she was designed not as an all out racing yacht but as a reasonably comfortable, shallow draft cruising yacht for two persons. It was the talent of her owner, Carleton Mitchell and his crew that drove her to become a legendary ocean racer. Three Bermuda Race wins in a row convinced the non-believers and soon every major designer in the world was pushing out boats of similar type. The popularity of the type continued until the death of the C.C.A Rule and the introduction of the I.O.R rule which favored a completely different class of boats.

She was built by Seth Peterson of Old Saybrook, Connecticut and launched in 1954. Mitchell chose Sparkman & Stephens in great part due to his relationship with Rod Stephens with whom he had sailed with quite a bit on Rod's NY32, Mustang. As Mitchell himself said "Although it was my privilege to sail with many of the top sailors of the era, I don't think anyone else combined knowledge of deck layout, rigging and sails. Add Olin Stephens' innovative design genius, as exemplified by such diverse vessels as Dorade, which revolutionized ocean racing, and the super-J, Ranger, and it was easy to see why S&S was the go-to team."

And the plans. They are beautifully drawn. Please double click to zoom in.

After the tragic Fastnet Race of 1979, Olin often lamented the type until late into his life and preferred deep draft keel boats with superior stability over the beamy centerboarders.

Principal Dimensions
LOA 38'-6"
LWL 27'-6"
Beam 11'-3"
Draft 3'-11" (board up) 7'-4" (board down)
Displacement 18,640 lbs
Ballast 5,860 lbs (outside) 300 lbs (inside)
Sail Area 713 sq ft


  1. But didn't Slocum famously write that Spray's shoal draft had saved his bacon as he rounded the Horn and was hit by a rogue wave. The age-old debate continues...

  2. The qween of ocean racing and the end of an era, one utterly and completely different from today. Boats were simple, seaworthy, and, for the most part, beautiful. Men and their families raced and cruised the same boat, often for years, sometimes for many years. Many things in llife are better today than then. Sadly, the sport of sailing is not one of them.

    (I believe the builder's name was actually Seth Persson.)

    Paul J. Nolan

    1. You are correct,Paul. The builer was Seth Persson, in essentially a one-man custom shop [with helpers]. The construction started in 1954. Launched in 1956. She's now in Italy, still cruising.

  3. Hello There,
    It took on finally arranged the real hull,to run plating double quantity in mahogany and cedar,bottom strengthened with putrelle in bronze,to the intend to make conceivable the most rigid structure, and lussuosi inward arrangements, and along these lines heavy,that they embodied the first cooler very electrical worker mounted on a boat from diporto."Dollar for foot",as they want to say the Americans,Finisterre was a boat that came to cost to Mitchell the double quantity precisely of what it was paid to the age for a sailing boat.Thank you.

    -Lisa Anderson.

  4. I encourage you to visit the Arcona web site, which is where I found the information on this boat: website

  5. Hello:
    A library patron, and the son of the builder, just noticed you misspelled the builder's name.

    According to his obituary, it should be Seth Persson.

    Thank you,
    Matt Cadorette
    Otis Library
    Norwich, CT

    1. I am trying to locate Finisterre as she was owned by my father and we restored her and raced and cruised on her in the late 1970's. Then while she was in Tortola my father had to leave her on dry dock due to a medical emergency and she was badly damaged by a hurricane. This was in the 1990's. My name is Lauren Smith Copus and my father is W. Victor Smith. My email is I would greatly appreciate a reply. I am in Ventura, California

  6. I am extremely interested in Finisterre... Here is why:
    There is an important part of her story that seems to have gone untold- My family previously purchased her from a boys school and lovingly restored her as a family in Annapolis Maryland back in 1969. We raced and cruised on her as a family every weekend of my childhood out of back Creek Marina in Annapolis.When I was 14, we then sailed her to Miami Florida in 1972 and she became my home with my parents, W. Victor Smith and Phoebe Smith and my brother Greg Smith, for the next 5 years. On December 9, 1974, we set off on the night of my 16th birthday to sail her to Nassau,Bahamas and then continued cruising and racing her throughout the Caribbean, following the same trip that Carlton Mitchell took and recorded for National Geographic (which is how my father originally knew of Finisterre) We cruised and then settled in Roadtown, Tortola where we offered day charters on her as a family business. Then in 1976 my mother, brother and I returned to Miami and my father remained in Tortola and continued to own Finisterre for another 15 years. In 1991 my father suffered a spinal injury and was flown to a hospital in Miami Florida. Sadly, he was never able to return to Tortola and lost all his possessions including Finisterre. She was hauled out at the time and a subsequent hurricane badly sandpapered her exterior. My father ended up coming to San Diego, CA where my brother and I were living and my brother went to Tortola to check on Finisterre, but did not have the means to repair her so she was sold. I don't know the details of that, but I know that is how she ended up with her new owner and being restored by S&S in Italy.
    My family members are all still active sailors and Finisterre was and is a very special part of our lives and in our hearts. My mother and I now reside in Ventura, California and it would be a dream come true to find a way to own Finisterre and bring her here to Ventura. PLEASE contact me and help me make my dream come true.
    Lauren Copus

  7. Lauren, in 2002 she was sailed in the Adriatic Sea near Trieste. Her number is VE4528D

  8. Finisterre was built by Seth Persson, of Old Saybrook, (under the Baldwin Bridge). Not Peterson.
    He was one of the most talented woodworkers I've met with an extraordinary knowledge of sailboat construction.

  9. The boat design is superb! Do you have detailed blueprint of Catamaran design?