EXTRAORDINARY BOATS
Yachting World|April 2022
HELEN FRETTER ON RECLUTA
HELEN FRETTER

Recluta is a 69ft ketch built for renowned designer Germán Frers to lines drawn by his father some 80 years previously

The Frers dynasty is responsible for more than 1,300 yacht designs. Germán Frers, having last year celebrated his 80th birthday, remains one of the most prolific and sought after designers in the world. Yet when it came to building a ‘new’ yacht for himself, he turned to plans his father had drawn in 1942.

The decision to build was made almost on a whim. Germán was talking with old colleagues and friends, including Tito Szyka, a master boatbuilder – also now in his eighties – who has worked on Frers’ previous classic yacht restorations, as well as Heroina, a 75ft wooden sloop built in the 1990s to a Frers design.

“Actually the whole thing started with a political discussion,” Frers recalls. “We were talking about the elections in 2015. They were very concerned about the situation, and the lack of work. Out of the blue I said, well, if such and such wins the election, there is a window of hope for Argentina, then I would do a project.”He admits, “I didn’t think too much about it.”

However, the decision to build his new yacht developed into something larger than he could have anticipated. His daughter Zelmira, an architect and photographer, began documenting the build process through a series of photographs, which have in turn been published in a spectacular book, The Story Behind Recluta. The build, and the decision to capture it for posterity, prompted a delve into the family’s family history – Zelmira discovering the story of her grandfather, as well as the remarkable story of Recluta, the yacht that nearly never was.

Recluta was originally a Camper & Nicholson-built gaff ketch, launched from Gosport in 1901. In 1940 she sailed to Argentina for new owner Charlie Badaracco. Germán Frers’s father – Germán Frers Snr, and the first generation of Frers designers – designed a new Bermudan rig for the yacht. Badaracco entered Recluta in an offshore race from Buenos Aires to Mar del Plata, but they ran aground during heavy weather in shallow waters off Cabo San Antonio.

The crew was initially able to sail Recluta off, but while doing so a crewmember fell overboard. Tacking back to recover him, Recluta ran hard aground again, and this time could not be refloated. The ketch was driven up the beach in the waves. Once it was evident she could not be recovered, the crew camped on the sands, stripping the newly re-rigged yacht of many of its valuable components over the following days.

Full of enthusiasm to build a new Recluta, Badaracco commissioned Frers to design a replacement in 1943, using the salvaged fittings from the shipwrecked ketch. But a shortage of materials during World War II hampered the build.

“During the war in Europe, there was a lack of lead, and of copper,” explains Frers. “The boat was supposed to be riveted in copper, and it was an impossibility to get the materials. So I guess the owner got frustrated and decided not to continue.”

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