Project Amazon

Project Amazon2017-01-02T12:38:36+00:00

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LOA 18.28 M, LWL 18.153 M, B 5.728 M, D 4.50 M, DISPL 14,915 MT, SA 138.048 M2.

This is probably the one boat design for which I am best known. Unfortunately, she no longer exists. Back in 1992, I sent out a press release about a new genre of boat designs that I called The Globetrotters that got turned into a 4-page article in the German boating magazine Yacht. See The Globetrotters page on this website for more information. Sebastian Reidl, originally from Hungary but mining for gold in Quito, Ecuador, saw the article, and we started a correspondence that lead to me doing a proposal for a 60’ Vendee Globe challenger for him in aluminum. Sebastian was a machinist by trade and had built aluminum boats before. Delays of one sort or another prevented that design from continuing, but eventually, this project evolved into Project Amazon, an Open 60 Class vessel that Sebastian would race in the 1998 Around Alone Race.

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The salient features of the design included a chined hullform that was very easy to build, a swinging keel with full-length trim tab, lifting rudders, an air lubrication system for the hull, and a carbon fiber free-standing wingmasted cat ketch rig. There was a lot of innovation on Project Amazon, not necessarily new ideas in any one area—all the features had been tried before—but it was unique in that so many innovations appeared all in one yacht. Eventually, I wrote some articles about Project Amazon and received a fair bit of publicity. Rather that repeat everything about the design here, you can download the two most important articles here:

Project Amazon: An Open Class 60 Sailboat for Single-handed Round-the-World Racing. Presented before the New England Section of the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers, New London, CT, 20 May 1999. Also published in MARINE TECHNOLOGY, Vol. 37, No. 2, Spring 2000, lead paper.

Project Amazon and the Unstayed Rig, PROFESSIONAL BOATBUILDER, October/November 1998, Issue No. 55.

The name Project Amazon came from Sebastian, who worked with the people in Ecuador to promote their arts and crafts. Also, being a gold prospector, he was aware of the fragility of the Amazon rainforest and the health of the Amazon River Basin on the eastern side of the Andes Mountains. More importantly, he was concerned about the health of the cloud forest on the western slopes of the Andes that helped to create the clouds and rain for the Amazon River Basin on the other side of the mountains. To preserve the Amazon and its people, one had to preserve the Amazon cloud forest in Ecuador. Sebastian’s mining efforts strove to disturb the forest as little as possible, making as small a footprint as possible, and to restore the forest to its original condition once the gold was extracted. Since Sebastian had so many initiatives involved in the Amazon at that time, the boat’s name, for lack of anything more original, became Project Amazon to promote world-wide awareness about the Amazon.

The funniest story about Project Amazon began during its design. Sebastian and I hired the late Lars Bergstrom of B&R Mast & Rigging to develop the air lubrication system in the bottom of Project Amazon’s hull which would draw air under the hull to reduce drag and increase speed. Lars had designed a similar system for Hunter’s Child, the open class 60 built and sailed by Warren Luhrs for his record-setting voyage from New York around Cape Horn to San Francisco. Steve Pettengill later sailed Hunter’s Child, with the air lubrication system installed, to a second-place finish in the 1994 Around Alone Race. Lars called me on the phone after he’d spec’d the lubrication system to tell me that he thought there was a problem with the boat. In his sing-song Swedish accent, he said, “Eric, I think Project Amazon is going to be too fast!” I said, “Lars, if being too fast is a problem, it is a pretty nice problem to have. That is what we are trying to accomplish.”

So in January, 1998 when Sebastian was finishing his 10,000+ miles qualifying and delivery voyage from Cape Town, South Africa where Project Amazon was built, to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, as he approached the American coast a powerful, 60+ mph wind blew off the coast and across the Gulf Stream. Sebastian and Project Amazon got pounded for a few days, and then he opted to head to Puerto Rico for refuge.  As soon as he got in, he called me on the phone, and I swear, the very first words out of his mouth were, in his heavy Hungarian accent:  “Ed-ic, ve have a problem vit dis boat.” I said, “Sebastian, what kind of problem?” He said, “It’s too fast!” He said, “She always goes 25 knots. Sometimes you don’t vant to go 25 knots, you only vant to go 12 knots. But she just up and goes anyvay!”

Mission accomplished! He just had to learn how to tame her.

Unfortunately, the year before the start of the 1998 Around Alone race that October, the gold scandal in Borneo had broken wide open in which a mining company was selling shares that were not backed up by any gold. There wasn’t any gold—all gold ore samples had been faked. A similar mining scandal occurred in Canada, and soon the whole gold business suddenly plummeted all around the world. Sebastian’s personal wealth took a precipitous drop, and he could not afford to finish the race. He retired during the first leg.

Project Amazon was eventually sold to another competitor in that race (who also did not finish) who tried to get it ready for the 2002 edition of the Around Alone Race. But that person was also strapped for cash and he never made it to the starting line. Eventually, Project Amazon, now called Tin Can (gag!) was relegated to a boatyard near Baltimore, MD. Over the next 10 years, various people were interested in buying it, mostly for cruising or charter purposes which would have required extensive modifications to the boat. No deal was ever struck, so the owner eventually scrapped the boat in 2011 for the metal and equipment on board.

I have always contended that Project Amazon’s design could be improved upon as a lighter composite yacht with a less tall cat ketch rig. I also believe that, particularly for downwind races like the Vendée Globe, a boat like Project Amazon could beat the pants off any similarly sized competitor. Unfortunately, I never found the client or the opportunity to bring such a dream to fruition, and I’ll have to leave it to others to try.

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