The Yrsa Story

Story and pictures by: Thomas Giebelhausen

Squaremeter yachts were very popular on Lake Starnberg/Bavaria in the 1920's and 1930's. Some of them survived until today. Since I was learning to sail as a boy at the age of 8 I admired the very elegant and fast squaremeters.

I owned and restored a number of wooden boats in the past 30 years (an Olympic-Skiff, two Starboats, a 15m² and a 20qm² "Jollenkreuzer", and -the last 10 years- a 30qm² "Vertenskreuzer" built 1934. But I always had that SK40 in my mind.

So I began searching: in the year 2000 there were four SK 40 on the german market. One of them sheated with fiberglass (and totally rotten underneath), one epoxied with 3 layers of 3mm mahagoni, one "modernized" with fin keel and free hanging rudder (and rotten again), and one with all these odd things together.

I started to get in contact with the swedish fleet. Via internet I met Magnus Beyer, the former owner of "Yrsa". He told me, that the boat had gone to Finland years ago and the owner possibly wants to sell. So I got in contact with Douglas Reincke. In April 2001 I saw "Yrsa" the first time near Helsinki. Someone had started to restore her, but work had stopped many years before. "Yrsa" hadn't been afloat for about 10 years at that time. I found out, that she had been a very fast boat at her younger days.

In June 2001 I decided to buy her and she took the ferry to Travemünde. When we uploaded her on a roadtrailer, the keel was dramatically bending aside, so we had to fix it very quickly with massive bolts and timber.

Yrsa when still in the water. Yrsa when still in the water.
At the trailer during the journey. At the trailer during the journey.

It took us two days on the road, via Munich and Vienna, were we got a police-car escorting us to our overnight stay at famous "Hotel Sacher" (they had never before seen a 15-meter long 40squaremeter yacht in the center of the city) to get "Yrsa" to Hungary. Bruckners Boatyard at Balatonfüred is' one of the oldskilled boatbuilders. Bruckner, his son and a handful of really excellent wood- and ironworkers had restored four other SK40 before - and I know all of them.

Bruckner's opinion when he had inspected "Yrsa" was very honest: "she's the prettiest boat I've seen since a long time, but she's in really bad condition", he said. "We will more have to rebuilt her, than restore her".

At that time our plan was to replace about 30% of the planks, new ribs and frames, new deck, etc.. But: "Yrsa" had been shortened in former times and unprofessionally relenghtened again later (for example with three planks joined in a row side by side…).

Bruckner started to build all new iron (niro) ribs and frames, in the original hull (an doing that slightly corrected the lines to the original, because some of the ribs -specially in the bow section- were not in the right lines any more).

At that time we found out, that all the old iron ribs and frames had caused dark stained areas and rot round the fastenings. Bruckner proposed to renew all the planks(!) and he made a very fair offer to do that. I wanted "Yrsa" to show her stunning mahagoni lines as she had done in former decades, so we decided to make her like new...

To strengthen the mast section, we installed a niro double mainframe construction for the chainplates and a square-diameter niro keelson, that goes along the keel from the maststep to the under deck forestay furler. This all took two years and found me travelling 12 times from Bavaria to Lake Balaton (about 750km one way).

Some new material above the old keel. Some new material above the old keel.
The new strengthen bow section. The new strengthen bow section.

Actually "Yrsa" has been completely rebuilt step by step in the original hull, leaving the original lead keel. Bruckner rebuilt all the wooden ribs in could-moulded oak, using a positive and negative mould for each of them(!). We used pre-heated oak strips, which contain less acid that could cause epoxy-problems in later times. The cabin, "Yrsa" had when I bought her wasn't original. As I could not manage to get her original lines (the plans got up in smoke in a fire at Holm's boatyard I heard) and I just had an old black-and-white picture, we had to redesign her coachroof keeping up with the squaremeter-rules, trying to fit to her tender lines and the original 4-windows-look (sorry: according to our more racing than cruising intentions, we reduced headroom a little).

The interior of Yrsa in its new style. The interior of Yrsa in its new style.

In summer 2003 "Yrsa" came to Lake Starnberg. Where she saw water and sun just for a few minutes: we put her into Simmerding's Boatyard (they are the best woodworkers at the lake), where the finishing work was going on: teak deck, mahagoni kingplank and coverings, the whole interior, teak cockpit, all deck hardware and the final coats of varnish. That again took 9 month… Meanwhile on the opposite side of the lake, Kohlschovsky's boatyard had built a complete new wooden rig (strictly according to the rules), they have a lot of experience with curved wooden masts for squaremeters.

The reborn Yrsa back in her right element again. The reborn Yrsa back in her right element again.
The bow of the boat has regained the original look. The bow of the boat has regained the original look.

Finally in April 2004 it' took me two holiday weeks to put all together with hundreds of meters of new ropes and lines, fittings, blocks and trimming - and meanwhile answering thousands of questions to the nice people standing around in the "Deutscher Touring Yachtclub Tutzing".

At May 2004 new sails arrived and "S1" started into her new life… with a very, very lucky owner at the helm.

The first race with the boat on lake Starnberg/Bavaria.

PS: I got a new roadtrailer for "Yrsa" and I hope, I will manage to bring her back to the "skärgards" sometime...