SOUTHWEST HARBOR — The Great Harbor of Mount Desert Island and Western Way between the Manset shore and Great Cranberry Island are renowned among sailors for their beauty, so they provide an appropriate venue for Luders 16 sloops to race on.
Last Friday, 11 of the elegant, needle slim 26-footers came to the starting line for a pair of races organized by the Southwest Harbor Fleet. It was the smallest group to start during this summer’s L16 racing series. According to race committee chairman Steve Homer, earlier in the summer as many as 20 boats raced.
The L16 has a long history on MDI, although not quite as long as that of the larger International One-Designs. The first IODs came to the Northeast Harbor Fleet from their Norwegian builder in 1938. The L16, designed by A.E. Luders — the L in L16 — around 1934 for the Fishers Island (N.Y.) Yacht Club, first made its appearance on MDI after World War II.
According to Sturgis Haskins, of Sorrento, the fleet’s informal historian, by 1946 Northeast was home to a fleet of at least 28 L16s. Bar Harbor was home to another four or five of the boats.
“They raced into the ’50s when they were replaced by other classes, none of which,” Haskins said, “lasted long.”
Although the L16 disappeared from MDI’s racing circuit, the boats themselves didn’t disappear. Owned by Fords and Rockefellers, among others, “most of the old boats were around, beautifully maintained by professionals,” Haskins said.
The L16 is 26 feet 4 inches long, with a waterline length of 16 feet 4 inches, a beam of 5 feet 9 inches and a draft of 4 feet. With a 1,600-pound keel, the skinny boats displace 3,200 pounds.