Typically 12mR class boats range from 65 to 75 feet (about 20 to 23 m) in length overall; they are most often sloop-rigged, with masts roughly 85 feet (26 m) tall.
The first 12mRs were built in 1907. The 12 Metre Class was used in the Olympic Games of 1908, 1912 and 1920 but few boats participated in these events. The 12 Metre boats were the designated class for the America’s Cup from 1958 to 1987 and thus has become the best known metre class.
12 Metre yachts were used for the last time in America's Cup competition at the 1987 event held in Fremantle, Australia. 12 Metres continued to race together on a local basis but due to the high cost and without the impetus and prestige surrounding competition in the America’s Cup, no new boats have been built since 1987.
The latter part of the 20th century saw a big revival in interest in classic yachts including 12 Metre yachts and particularly those of wooden construction. There were an increasing number of prestigious regattas in attractive locations such as the Mediterranean and the Caribbean. Also, a more prosperous global economy prevailed and the result was an increasing number of restorations and racing of older 'classic' 12 Metres.
Crusader & Italia
Regular competitors at Cowes Classics Week are Crusader (White Crusader One) and Italia (Italia I) built to challenge for the 1987 America’s Cup in Fremantle Australia for Britain and Italy respectively. The yachts are well matched and they provide a breathtaking view on the water when they race side by side.
The 1987 America’s Cup:
The Royal Thames Yacht Club challenger, White Crusader was designed by Ian Howlett and was a traditional 12 metre design evolved from the DeSavery Lionhart 1983 boat of the previous Americas Cup event. However, White Crusader II was a radical design and designed by David Hollam. This second boat was used as a trial horse against White Crusader, but the team eventually decided to use the more conventional designed boat. Harold Cudmore acted as skipper-tactician and starting helmsman who then handed over the helm to Chris Law for the remainder of each races. Both boats were originally named simply Crusader One and Two but the "White" part of their names were added when millionaire Graham Walker (Of White Horse whiskey fame) gave heavy sponsorship to the British challengers at the last minute before the event started so the "White" was added to their names.
From Yacht Club Italiano, the Consorzio Italia syndicate was backed by Gucci. The syndicate was inspired by the success of Azzurra in 1983 and began by purchasing Victory '83 to give them a bench mark. The boats were skippered by Flavio Scala and Aldo Migliaccio, with Italophile Rod Davis in the afterguard.
Both White Crusader I and Italia I were eliminated in the Round Robin series of the Louis Vuitton Cup.
The 12mRs race at Cowes Classics Week for the Bartlett International Challenge Cup donated to the Royal London Yacht Club by Sir Herbert H. Bartlett (Commodore 1903 - 1921) in 1908. The Bartlett International Challenge Cup was to be awarded to the 15mR yacht, steered by an amateur, who triumphed in two out of three contests. Racing was well supported and hugely prestigious, right up until the war years. Unfortunately for the Club, the final pre-war event in 1913 was won by the Germans and the trophy was taken to Germany to be held in trust by the Nordeutscher Yacht Club.
Following the war, the trustees of enemy property in Berlin instructed the Nordeutscher YC to return the trophy to the RLYC, and the Bartlett International Challenge Cup was thereafter sailed for by the 12 metres and Dragons. In recent years the Bartlett International Challenge Cup has been raced for by the 6mRs, 8mRs and 12mRs in Cowes Classics Week.