#12oftheWeek: Onawa (US-6)

Earl McMillen’s smiling face graced Onawa (US-6’s) spinnaker while sailing at the America’s Cup Jubilee, Cowes England, 2001; Earl himself stands below on the foredeck.

Earl McMillen’s smiling face graced Onawa (US-6’s) spinnaker while sailing at the America’s Cup Jubilee, Cowes England, 2001; Earl stands below on the foredeck.

ONAWA (US-6) was one of six nearly identical 12mRs designed by W. Starling Burgess and built in 1928 at the Abeking & Rasmussen yard in Lemwerder, Germany. Each was commissioned by a prominent member of the New York Yacht Club. Her original owner was W. Cameron Forbes of Boston who sailed her from a homeport at his family-owned Elizabeth Islands. In 1934, she was purchased by Horace F. Smith of Philadelphia who raced her under the Conanicut Yacht Club burgee. During WWII her keel was claimed by the war effort and repurposed as submarine ballast. Onawa’s fourth owner, Frederic Requardt, Jr. had a new, somewhat primitive keel fitted at the Williams & Manchester Boatyard in Newport, RI. He sailed her for one season in New England before establishing her homeport in Annapolis, MD. In 1953, Ward Bright purchased US-6, changed her name to Horizon, installed an engine and sailed her to St. Croix. Her history through the intervening period is somewhat vague– from 1976-?, while owned by Al Urbelis of New Jersey she was named Lituanica.

Earl McMillen (left) reviews Onawa’s (US-6) restoration plans with legendary yacht designer Olin Stephens.

Earl McMillen reviews Onawa’s restoration plans with legendary yacht designer Olin Stephens.

In 1989, Onawa was virtually abandoned and derelict when Earl McMillen first saw her in a City Island (Bronx, NY) shipyard. In 1991, she was purchased by Robert H. Tiedemann, Daniel Prentiss and Alfred B. Van Liew II, who returned the boat to Newport and restored its name to Onawa. Unfortunately, that was where the restoration stopped until 1999, when in anticipation of the America’s Cup Jubilee at Cowes, England, McMillen along with partners Elizabeth Meyer, Teddy Turner and Peter DeSavary with the assistance of Michael McCaffrey and Dyer Jones, undertook a full restoration.Onawa was re-launched on June 9, 2001, just in time to be loaded onto the Dockwise ship that transported dozens of U.S. yachts across the Atlantic to the Isle of Wight. While at the Jubilee, US-6 competed among 34 12mRs, at the spectacular, historic event. Thereafter, she returned to sail and race at Newport through 2014, when she was donated to a Block Island charity. In 2018, McMillen Yachts reacquired Onawa with a new syndicate of partners including Chris Culver, Mark Watson and Stephen Gewirz who provided another thorough restoration to with an eye to the 2019 12mR World Championship, where she placed 2nd in her division as well as taking second place at the New York Yacht Club’s 175th Anniversary Regatta.

Onawa  (US-6) @ International Twelve Metre Association database

Onawa (US-6) @ 12 Metre Yacht Club Registry page