Baruna is a 1938 S&S yawl that was relaunched this summer by owner Tara Getty after a seven-and-a-half-year restoration to return her to as close to original as possible.
Designed by Olin Stephens in 1938, at 72ft LOA Baruna was at the top of the size limit permitted by the Cruising Club of America (CCA) to race offshore. The year of its launch, Baruna took part in and won the biennial 635-mile Newport Bermuda offshore race, creating a storm of publicity on both sides of the Atlantic. Olin was the navigator, and Baruna got in eight hours ahead of the next boat.
Seven years previously Olin and his brother, Rod, with their crew had won the 1931 Transatlantic Race, as well as that year’s Fastnet Race in their revolutionary new 52ft (15.8m) yawl Dorade. Olin was then just 23, and America was so pleased with him, his crew and his design that they got a ticker tape parade in New York on their return.
Sparkman & Stephens, Olin and his brother’s company, went on to dominate yachting, from the early Corinthian days of the 1930s to designing six out of the seven successful 12-Metre America’s Cup defenders between 1958 and 1980. Dorade was followed by a series of highly successful yawls, including the famous Stormy Weather (1934). Olin was a rules-beating designer over a wide range of developing hull shapes, but when I interviewed him at the age of 80 in 1998 he maintained that Dorade and her type of hull and rig were still the best mix of speed and seaworthiness for sailing and racing offshore.
While these yawls are all slightly different and vary in size they can nevertheless be considered as a kind of special class boat. Being superbly comfortable and stable at sea they remain very popular with yachtsmen who want a great seaboat. This year at Les Voiles de Saint Tropez the Rolex Trophy was awarded for the yawls – 12 raced, of which seven were S&S designs, including Baruna.
Tech test bed
Baruna was built at Quincy Adams yard in Massachusetts for the New York textile agent Henry C Taylor, with a twin skin of mahogany over cedar planks on oak frames. Taylor, an ex-wartime naval officer who served his country in both World War I and World War II, wanted a large yacht within the CCA rules to race offshore. But he also wanted a comfy cruising boat for his family. He’d gone to S&S and ordered her after spending a bumpy family night aboard his yacht in Massachusetts Bay; Taylor told Olin it was a matter of either giving up cruising altogether or getting a better boat.
The boat went on to win the Newport-Bermuda race again in 1948 – booming along at nine knots with Henry’s oldest son, Stillman, in command. Taylor owned Baruna, notching up a distinguished racing record, until 1953 when he was nearly 60. The yacht then went to California.
Baruna’s long-term owner on the west coast was Jim Michael who, in partnership with Tim Moseley, formed the Barient winch company. Moseley was a fellow S&S fan, owning the 1938 cutter Orient, and the company was named after compounding the names of their yachts. Both boats were used for the development of deck hardware, especially winches and pedestal grinders, or innovative running backstay drums.
Pieces of wood
Tara Getty had wanted to buy Baruna since 2009. “We were looking for a suitable yacht to restore. But back then Baruna’s owner wanted something like $2m in gold bars delivered to a place in Mexico and we were never going to do anything like that. We ended up buying Skylark at the end of 2010. And she has been a great boat.” Skylark is also an S&S yawl, a 53ft (16.3m) LOA 1937 design, which Getty also restored.
“But then in 2015 Baruna was for sale at a much better price,” he recalls. “I think it was $200,000 which is about the right price to pay for a few pieces of wood.”
At the time Baruna was languishing at Marina del Rey in Los Angeles, California, and when Getty’s long term Australian captain and shipwright, Tony Morse, went to pay for her he found she was dilapidated. “Lifting up the floorboards you could see the water coming in. And the pumps were running continually to keep up with it,” he says. “There were no headsails and it looked like the mast was going to go through the bottom of the boat – especially if you put any pressure on it. We could motor her but not sail her.”
Baruna was moved by ship, first to Fort Lauderdale and then to the Robbe & Berking yard in Flensburg, Germany, which has a very high reputation for restoring wooden yachts. Robbe & Berking did the hull, and at first it was thought the team could preserve some of the timber, but Morse, who was project lead under Tara Getty, found that every frame, apart from some in the forepeak, was cracked under the bilge stringer.
“We had thought we could keep some of the original material, but as we started, we realised that almost everything would have to be changed out,” Morse says. “Plus there’s the problem that if it isn’t in good enough condition now then you’ll end up redoing it anyway in three years’ time.”
Work began with replacing the frames, laminating in new ones in white oak (as Baruna had originally) before the work of replacing her planking could begin. The double skin hull was replaced with mahogany planks outside a skin of yellow cedar. The cedar, all from one tree, saves weight but is only used from the sixth strake up to the strake below the sheer. The planks were fitted over the oak frames, in a style of a careful restoration. The sheer clamp, beam shelf and bilge stringer, all structurally vital, are made of Douglas fir from Oregon. In many places aboard, the hull structure is fully visible.
Morse was able to source an original builder’s plan which he used – and needed – to recreate the detail of the 1938 boat, especially where some material or joinery had gone missing over the years. To hear him and Getty talking about the work it sounds more like they were restoring the Mona Lisa. Asked how much it might have cost Getty says “It’s too much to mention,” before adding: “Let’s just say she is by far the most expensive 72ft boat ever built, modern or old.”
On the move
When the hull was finished Baruna was trucked to VMG Yachtbuilders at Enkhuizen in the Netherlands for her interior to be fitted. Even though VMG made a full-size model of much of the boat to see how all the installations could fit into it, craftsmen were challenged by the nature of a 1938 hull which had been restored with the original imperfections of the Quincy Adams yard replicated, with brand new materials.
The modern way of working is to design using CAD drawings and then make things in a workshop before bringing them on site to fit. But Baruna is not completely symmetrical and so making something like a water tank for one side of the boat and then fabricating its mirror image for the other side created several headaches for specialists unfamiliar with traditional methods, such as making spiling patterns.
Some 18 people were employed on the project with some craftsmen coming from Southampton Yacht Services in Hampshire, and naval architect Andre Hoek also consulted on the restoration.
Baruna’s deck is swept teak with her teak deckhouses varnished in one-pack Epifanes, while the two-pack system is used for all the mahogany and joinery below. Her hollow main-mast was designed by Jim Gretzky, of Sail Spars Design in Connecticut, and then built of spruce by Ventis at Enkhuizen.
Morse says the 150hp engine, generator and watermaker are all as low as possible. The 950lt of fuel are carried in two main tanks plus a day tank. Water capacity is 540lt, with the watermaker able to produce 150lt an hour.
With Getty’s in-depth restoration knowledge of his motor vessels Talitha (1930) and Bluebird (1938), and the S&S yawl Skylark (1937), together with Morse’s undoubted appetite for detail, the project became highly specialised with every single piece of equipment or fitting being of bespoke design and make. Thus even the below-decks nickel-plated door handles and striker plates for the doors’ latch bolts are unique (nickel is the typical material for metal fittings on mahogany in traditional yachts).
Baruna has a suit of 3Di North Sails for IRC racing as well as Dacron for classic CIM racing. Since her relaunch in late 2023 she has been put through her paces racing in classic fleets at Antibes, Argentario and Les Voiles de St Tropez, where she scored two podium places. The 1938 design also took on the moderns at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup 2023 in Porto Cervo, where Baruna averaged 9.6 knots over a 38-mile course in 9-ish knots of breeze.
Getty reports that he has got the boat he wanted, since the project began all those years ago, though notes that it is still early days to be getting the best from her. However, he maintains that tacking is a joy, she never gets stuck in stays and the sense of balance on the helm when trimmed is superb and much better than Skylark.
Baruna sails with up to 20 crew on deck, four of them professional, and Getty and Savage, his tactician, have noticed that the yacht is not losing VMG while tacking.
“We have cameras on the mast and deck and we are running Expedition software during races,” Savage explains. “And interestingly the boat speed drops down and picks up again but the VMG line stays flat.”
Effectively the boat is being carried to windward by her weight in these conditions. “So that changes the strategy hugely,” Savage continues, “it means you can pop a tack in without worrying about it. In fact, provided you are up to speed, it can benefit you to tack.”
Baruna’s hull and deck gear have been designed to take the full loads of her powerful rig as she was restored to be capable of racing or cruising offshore. The team has been able to push the yacht hard early on, sailing upwind with a full flattened main in 29 knots true wind.
“She’s a rocket ship. Beautifully balanced with mizzen lowered, the board [centreboard, original] deployed giving zero degrees of weatherhelm, pointing high, slippery as hell,” comments Savage on sailing her fully pressed.
Getty envisages cruising her in the south of France before perhaps taking her to the Caribbean. “Then of course,” he says, “the Newport Bermuda Race is calling…”
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