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Dead Calm

One of the most significative expressions of modern yachting. Here are Stormvogel’s secrets, the main protagonist of the famous movie starring Nicole Kidman. 

Still to this day , when I see it moored at the wharf, immobile, secured to the mooring ropes, I keep staring, scrutinizing the secrets,  parts and details that the Stormvogel, class of 1961 is made of. Non-conformist, anarchist, innovative, daring, elegant, aggressive. These are the first adjectives that came to mind the first time I laid eyes on it, and when I stepped foot onboard. The Stormvogel remains one of the most emblematic icons of modern yachting.

The stern cuts vertically down to the water, the bow tapered sharply, decisively, enormous winches in the mizzen cockpit. Its deck — which would, today, be called a flush deck — of a pastel blue, impertinently mocking fashion but clearly aimed at the substance of things. And so it is, becauseStormvogel is sincere, a boat without frills, born to sail and do so as fast as possible. It is a splendid 23-meter Bermudian ketch, created by someone who really sails the seas and designed by the most important, most innovative designers of the 1960s. The first owner, the one who commissioned the boat, was Cornelius Bruynzeel, inventor of marine-grade plywood. For his sixtieth birthday, he decided to give himself a yacht that truly looked outside the box, ideal for winning the most important offshore races in real time. His guidelines were simple and essential: it had to be fast, comfortable and innovative. He presented the idea to several designers, includingOlin Stephens who, it is said, refused because he was afraid of stumbling with a colossal flop. Instead,E.G. Van de Stadt and Laurent Giles took on the ambitious project and thus, after approximately two years of work, in 1961, the Stormvogel first touched the water in Cape Town, South Africa, at the point where two oceans meet, symbolic proof of the Stormvogel’s natural environment.

Not even two months had gone by and “Storm” was already in the starting line-up for the Fastnet: at the helm Sir Chichester, the crew made up of the owner and many others who had participated in the project, including Micheal Trimming, a great sailor who recently returned aboard for a few regattas in the Mediterranean.

It goes without say, it won the Line of Honours. And this was just the beginning. Stormvogel went the full mile, winning the Buenos Aires to Rio in 1962 (setting the record; a record which, today, has only be bettered by approximately 20 hours), winning the Middle Sea Race (’68 – ’69) setting one of the longest-lasting records ever, and winning many other regattas in which it played a starring role. Stormvogel is a boat that makes its weight felt immediately, from the images published in books, with all the sails aloft, unheeding of the waves and strong winds, it immediately gives you a sense of the thousands of miles sailed in its 40-odd year lifespan. After 20 years of non-stop racing, Stormvogel found its second youth with a new owner, one who kept it like a gem so that he could race throughout the world and cruise the loveliest seas. In the 1980s it was in the Pacific, reaching the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia in Sidney after having sailed from Whitsunday Islands to the Great Barrier Reef along the East Coast of Australia.


At that time Kennedy Miller was wandering among the wharfs in the Sidney harbor. He was a young producer and, together with his crew, was looking for a large, particular boat that was, as he defined it, very British. It was to be the star of a film. When he saw the Stormvogel, he knew at once: she would be the one to host a young Nicole Kidman for the filming of “Dead Calm”. Stormvogel was perfect, the organization of the internal spaces and the area on deck ideal for shooting. Of the original boat, only a part of the dinette was reconstructed in the studios.

In fact, to facilitate filming, the course plotting table was recreated, which is actually located near the cockpit, at the entrance, under the small deckhouse. As the current captain and person who has lived this boat to the fullest, Graeme Henryrecalls that Stormvogel has remained practically unchanged since the days of the film. Only the harpoon has been eliminated because it was not part of the original Van der Stadt project and the cabin bulkheads were restored to their natural wood colors. Today the Stormvogel is still in the hands of the same owner as when the film was made. With her he has sailed throughout the world, on all seas, particularly in Thailand where for many years he had his base both for cruising and for racing in the Indian Ocean. Recently it returned to Italy to participate in the Panerai Circuit regattas,but it is already itching to leave for long ocean sailing.


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  1. I sailed on Stormvogel in the70’s when my husband was asked to bring her to Europe at the behest of her Swiss & German owners. We found her up on the slip in Singpore looking not too spruce after a rough trip from Bali. The skipper was anxious to leave so the handover was brief but we inherited an excellent & longstanding crew member and some useful contacts. We set off for Antibes via various then untouched places such as the Nicobars, the Amarantes, Aldabra. the Maldives etc. If anyone reads this was with us on part of that adventure I would live to be in touch.