Millimeter History

Long ago about the winter of 1982, when things were wet, cool and mostly breezeless in the Bay Area, I went to the boat show at the Cow Palace with some buds.  The indoor boat shows always proved a great way to sip a few beers and catch up with friends I had known in the industry.  As with most boat shows, little was new and mostly a rehash of the same gear and boats we had all known for some time.  The big talk was about the Aussies who had some kind of “cheater boat” and the NYYC was desperate to find out what it was and how to stop it if indeed it was fast.

One little goodie really stood out however.  At Svendsens’s booth there was a 12 foot boat that they were importing from Germany.  They called it the Mini 12, and it was the first I had seen of the genre of boat in which you sat and steered with your feet.  I, and everybody I was with, were very excited and all took turns sitting in it and sailing it on its stand.  “Svendsen, we all want one of these, make us a deal on a bunch of them!”  “Ah,Taylah, they are $4,250 each,  whether you buy one or ten.”  

That was a bit steep for me and the rest of my broke friends.  I went home thinking of it for the next several days.  At that time I lived with Bob Smith, who was a burgeoning naval architect.  Bob and I spend the next few weeks talking about what was right and wrong with the German design.  It was a bit small, the hardware was cheap and the rudder seemed tiny.  But the rig was very cool and the way the segmented ballast fit in the keel sump was very neat.  Bob set about making some preliminary drawings for a design incorporating these changes and keepers.  I went back to the dudes who had shown interest and told them that Bob had designed a better mini, and I thought we could build ten for a fraction of the cost of the German boat.

We took the design to Bill Kreysler in San Rafael.  He had just taken over the shop space from Performance Sailcraft, who had been producing the Laser and J/24.  Bill suggested we build the plug and a set of molds, and we could build as many as we like.  Great idea!!  While the plug was being built, I set about seeing how much interest there was in our little jewel.  I put a ¼ page ad in One Design Sailing magazine, the precursor to Sailing World.  The next month the ad ran, and in less than a weeks time, I had over 100 calls from around the country wanting information on our conceptual MilliMeter.  Little did they know we hadn’t as much as built the molds.  But with that kind of interest it didn’t take too long to complete the first mold and hull.  

At that time there was lots to do to get a boat actually sailing.  We had to design the inner hull to insure the flotation, design the deck layout, design and build the iron molds for the lead keel sections and the biggest battle was designing the first rig.  We had really liked the beam concept of the German boat but wanted a rig that would actually bend and perform as it should in scale.  After many, many tries and dozens of spent tubes of various manufacture, we came up with the spar that is on the boat today.  It was a Windsurfer aluminum spar.  They were plentiful and relatively inexpensive.  We were having difficulties in attaching the sail however.  The windsurfers slipped their sails on Laser style, and obviously we couldn’t do that with the rigging and spreaders we wanted.  The external track pop riveted on created a lot of distortion and a very stiff mast.  We tried cutting a slot in the mast and the tube would simply open up like a clam under steam…no good.  It was Kreysler who said all we need was some sort of glue to hold the wall section hold together.  We set up a 2 part foam system, filling the tubes vertically from the loft, and before you know it we had the system pretty much worked out.  We made a jig for cutting the slot, the spreaders and the crane, swedge machine for the terminals and cut and fabricated and anodized all the other aluminum parts.

Looking back on it, it was pretty incredible we ever built one, much less over 300.  We took over the shop next to Kreysler to complete the rigging and deck work.  We were buying lead wherever we could.  Many “employees” came for hours at a time to help.  Scott Easom was our first mast rigger.  Highschooler John Kostecki was our master deck rigger.  Mark Heer was the master of nothing, but always a hoot to have around.  At any given time we’d have as many as a dozen boats in various stages of completion.  The trailer was rigged to carry up to 16 boats at a time, and we’d set off on delivery and sales calls.  Every trip would be an adventure in selling more Milli’s to different venues.  We even sold 6 to a new housing development in Desert Springs built around a lake, which was really a hole in the desert with a plastic bag holding the water in.  

Then it was full circle.  The boats shows.  Now the Millimeter was the star.

Taylor made Jay Baldwin the designated builder in Stamford Connecticut and he was equipped with a set of molds. Jay promoted the Millie at the Stamford YC. As Taylor was promoting class in the SF bay area He was able to sell Millies to Bruce Munro, Pax Davis and two boats to Dave Huggins. This was the nucleus for Millie activity for years to come.

The first National Championship was held as a three day ten race regatta, in August, 1985 in Richardson’s Bay off Sausalito, CA. Baldwin attended that regatta and suggested the 1986 regatta be held in Stamford at the Stamford YC. Meanwhile Munro won the first Nationals with Davis second. This would be the order of finish for many years to come.

The second nationals at Stamford YC set the tone for the class as travelers. Dennis Marion owned a winery in Los Gatos, CA and was shipping wine to the North-east coast. Six Millies were loaded in crates and dropped shipped by the wine trucks at SYC. After the regatta the were picked up and delivered home. Munro won the regatta followed by Davis. The racing format was changed to ten races with two throw outs and to be held on two days.

The class built a trailer that would hold six Millies, stands and parts. This trailer was used to carry our Millies to Marblehead after our srcond trip to Stamford, where we chartered boats. Taylor had a diesel pickup and one of  our guys drove it across country. We made another trip to Stamford in 1991. Richard Hubbert  towed the trailer and on the way he picked up a Millie in Illinois that he had purchased. We made another trip to Stamford in 1994. Joe Price, who lived in Florida, purchased the Baldwin molds with the idea of building Millies. Only one boat was built. We trailed our Millies to Key Largo to race our Nationals. We had eight Millies racing.

The class last trip was made to Victoria and the Royal Victoria YC in 1996. The class rented a covered truck and eight Millies went North on their own trailers in the truck. There were three classes, Illusions, Defenders and Millies. Twenty-eight boats on the starting line. Munro, Davis and Huggins finished in that order. We had one race in their boats and the order of finish was the same. We got some ideas from this trip. The one we incorporated was the type of hoists they used.

We found that the estuary in front of the Encinal YC was the best place to sail these boats and the EYC became our headquarters. The club allowed us to store one Millie free as a demo. The Millie was donated by Jim Taylor. EYC has allowed the class to set up the hoists that we purchased. As 2015 starts our fleet is growing.

Learn More

The link below will take you to a History of the America's Cup