Rebirth of a Classic
The 22-Square Meter Yachts
at Chicago’s Belmont Harbor
By Kathy Doore
In every sense of the word, the “22-Square-Meter” is a yacht. Her elegant lines, long, and sleek with nostalgia, carry within her bones the vibrant spirit of a bygone era. The “22s” were christened in the years prior to World War II, during an age of great experimentation in yacht design. From this period were born some of the finest wooden vessels known to this century.
Specifically built as day-racers for the purpose of competition racing, the 22s plied the waters of Sweden’s Skerry Islands before coming to the Americas. They were not thought of as particularly beautiful in their day due to the radical tall rig, and open design. The rule allowed for a wide variety of sizes and shapes. Considered a very wet boat, the common elements were low topsides and long overhangs, with an overall appearance of a stick-thin pencil. Notwithstanding, the 22s continually proved themselves to be a superior racing craft, and it didn’t take long before they had won over a nation, and eventually the world.
During the 1940’s Chicago yachtsmen were inspired by this hot newcomer from Sweden, and new yachts were delivered by freighter to the Great Lakes. With each arrival the new owner was hopeful to have obtained the fastest vessel. From this competitive fervor grew an exciting camaraderie among the racing sailors of the Chicago Yacht Club, where the fleet would eventually make its home at Belmont Harbor.
These highly-responsive beauties demanded a certain dedication and zeal from their owners. As the 22s reliability became established a “new kid on the block” the Udell 22 came into being. Specifically designed and built to be sailed by the Club and created by Knud Reimers in 1954, the Udell 22s were named for a favorite Chicago yachtsman, Clare Udell. Racing alongside the older, open 22s, many Udell’s took home the trophies.
In 1968, the first fiberglass mold came off the line matching the same specifications and weight as the wooden prototype. As the years continued, the fleet often exchanged hands and as the 22s became outdated with many in disrepair, her buyers displayed more interest in the newer more “efficient” designs, flooding the market.
“I start from the premise that no object created by man is as satisfying to his body and soul
as a proper sailing yacht.” Arthur Beiser
As the years progressed, the old 22s began to fall away, to rot in allys, or to be spirited away to parts unknown. A few caring stalwarts whisked their vessels off to boatyards around Chicago and further north to Wisconsin, where they were rebuilt. The owners having the pleasure of their yachts’ company in an old warehouse, instead of the waters they were meant to ply. Then, at some point, the old vessel emerged again, whole, reborn! Unilimited enthusiasm, coupled with sweat equity, provided a passion very much lived. The oldest, and last active fleet in Chicago, retired in the 1990’s with only two remaining vessels.
Nowadays, the 22s are enjoying a renaissance; Yachtsmen began purchasing the old boats, and many were shipped back to Sweden where they have been lovingly restored, once again enjoying competition racing and cruising in the Skerry Islands. In 2008, the 22-Square-Meter Class was celebrated at the “100th Anniversary of the Skerry Cruisers” in Sweden. At this event many of the old 22s, now fully restored, made their debut.
Gorgeous and timeless as ever, the “22 Square Meter” yacht bestows her magic, reminds sailors why they put to sea.
22 Square Meter 1970s Belmont Harbor
Mark Twain once said, “years from now you will be more disppointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails.
Explore. Dream. Discover!”
The Square Metre Rule 1908 – 2008
100 Year Jubilee Sweden
The Square Metre Rule Jubilee took place in Saltsjöbaden, Sweden, in early August 2008. One hundred yachts from ten countries participated in the 100-Year Anniversary arranged by the Swedish Maritime Museum, and the Swedish Sailing Federation. The Swedish Square Metre Association has published a Jubilee book in English, “The World of Square Metres” by Lars Nordlund. It is a collection of texts and pictures from Square Metre enthusiasts in Sweden, Finland, Germany, The Netherlands, Hungary, Britain, Australia, South Africa and the United States. This 320 page “ultimate book of the Square Meters of the world” cost approx. €60 plus postage and can be ordered through SSF, or at bookfinder.com.
“The goal is not to sail the boat, but rather to help the boat sail herself.” – John Rousmaniere
A Mysterious Fog in Lake Michigan