June 29th

Schooner Nina to windward

Thanks to a heads-up from WaveTrain rider Gareth Hughes I’ve been following this story over the past several days on the Cruisers Forum. I didn’t write anything, however, as I thought the missing boat would soon show up. Now that seems increasingly unlikely, and it would appear that the fabled 59-foot schooner Nina, winner of the 1928 Transatlantic Race to Spain, the 1928 Fastnet Race, and the 1962 Newport-Bermuda Race, among others, has gone down with all hands somewhere between New Zealand and Australia.

Nina left Opua in the Bay of Islands bound for Newcastle, Australia, on May 29 on what was expected to be a 10- to 12-day passage. The last voice contact was on June 3, when meteorologist Bob McDavitt gave her crew weather-routing advice via sat phone. Their position at the time was about 370 miles west of New Zealand. The following day McDavitt received a text message asking for an update, and nothing has been heard since. Following three days of unsuccessful aerial searches over this past week, Kiwi SAR authorities have reportedly stated it is “logical to assume” the schooner sank. The crew of seven included the owner, David Dyche, 58, his wife Rosemary, 60, their son David, 17, a family friend, Evi Nemeth, 73, and three others, two men and one woman, who have not been identified. When last heard from, Nina and her crew were caught in a gale with winds blowing from 43 to 60 knots.

David Dyche on Nina

Owner David Dyche at the wheel of Nina

I’ve been struck by the mainstream media’s great interest in this story and can only assume it is because of Nina‘s age and pedigree, as all accounts seem to refer to her as a “classic” and/or “historic” vessel. She is all that and more, and as sailors we should remember her (if it comes to that) more explicitly.

These days we all cite Olin Stephens‘ famous yawl Dorade as the boat that transformed ocean racing and modern yacht design in the early 20th century, but really that was a process that started with Nina. Prior to Nina, ocean racing was dominated by much more conservative gaff-rigged “fisherman” schooners, many of them designed by John Alden. Nina, designed by W. Starling Burgess for Paul Hammond, retained a schooner rig, but flew a huge Marconi main with staysails forward, and her hull was narrower and deeper with a more swept-back keel than Alden’s more traditional hulls. Also, her construction was light for the time, and her masts were hollow. Most particularly, she was much more closewinded than traditional schooners, which is how she won the race to Spain.

Linton Rigg, sailing master on second-place Pinta, a gaff-rigged Alden schooner, described the finish as follows:

When we finally made landfall on Spain, Nina was way down on the horizon behind us. Then the wind died and came out dead ahead. The best an Alden schooner, gaff rigged, could make on the wind in that light going was six points, while Nina was doing four and a half. It almost broke our hearts to see Nina go by us to windward almost within sight of the finish.

Schooner Nina closehauled

Nina, seen here flying her original rig, was described by some as a “two-masted cutter.” Her mainmast is nearly amidships and her formast is so short her triatic stay is in a straight line with her forestay

Schooner Nina with taller foremast

Later in her career Nina was given a taller foremast, seen here

In the end Nina beat Pinta by 29 hours. Later that summer, when she lined up for the Fastnet Race at Cowes in England, she was considered so radical there was serious discussion of banning her from the fleet. Conditions favored her–light headwinds–and she won that race, too, by a margin of over nine hours.

Models of Nina and Jolie Brise

A model of Nina side by side with a model of the cutter Jolie Brise, which corrected out to second place in the ’28 Fastnet Race. The blatant differences between these craft should give some idea of why the Brits thought it unfair for Nina to race

For much of her career Nina belonged to DeCoursey Fales, a commodore of the New York Yacht Club, and served for a time as the club’s flagship. Fales was her owner when she won the 1962 Bermuda Race at age 34, thanks to two massive gollywobblers she carried in her sail inventory, which were known respectively as “the Monster” and “the Grand Monster.” Fales at the time was himself age 74, and there was much ado in Hamilton, as you might imagine, over the fact that the race had been won by the oldest boat and skipper in the fleet.

Nina lines drawing

Lines drawing of Nina

Nina profile and accommodations

Profile and accommodation plan

For the past couple of decades Nina has belonged to the Dyche family, who, by all accounts, have maintained her carefully and have sailed her well on a long series of bluewater cruises. Here you can see her in action in a video made by one starstruck crew member during a passage to the Azores in 1992:


There is still some hope she and her crew will reappear soon–we can only pray this will be the case.

UPDATE (July 4): One story I’m seeing early this a.m. claims another text message, delivery of which was delayed, was received after Nina survived the gale of June 4. This message allegedly said the schooner’s sails were damaged, but that she was still making progress. Kiwi SAR authorities are searching a new area today. The formerly unidentified crew are Danielle Wright (18), Kyle Jackson (27), and Mathew Wootton (35). All onboard but Woottoon, a Brit, are U.S. citizens.

UPDATE (July 11): Pls. note I’ve changed one photo here, the third one, pursuant to a comment below. Still no word or sign of Nina and the search for her has been suspended. The situation seems quite bleak, I’m afraid.

This article was syndicated from Blogs For RSS

20 Responses to “SCHOONER NINA: Missing and Presumed Sunk”

  1. Anthony Smith says:

    God bless the Captain and crew. RIP. 59 foot vessel is large enough to carry 7 in comfort. Must have encountered sudden bad weather. If anyone is selling a vessel or would like to share a vessel, I am on Facebook. Look me up or you can send a note to: 1022 Hermosa Avenue, Pomona, CA 91767.

  2. Bert Woodruff says:

    For Bill Moran: your comment really caught me. Bob Emigh was one of my childhood friends in Pasadena before he moved down to Newport. His disappearance with his family in 1968 was a huge shock. I’d appreciate your contacting me if you’d like to share stories about Bob. I really never knew him as an adult.

  3. Francois Moulton says:

    You would think that a wealthy sailor (Larry Ellison ) would fund an extensive search to rescue the Nina crew. I believe they could be out there waiting. Please try

  4. Kris Stewart says:

    August 23, 2013
    There is a renewed search when working through satellite images on Tomnod search for the Nina what looks like a life raft has been tagged by several people.
    The family and friends of the missing people on the Nina are working with Texas EquuSearch to raise money to fund more flights. Go to ‘Holding hope for the Nina’ on fb also yesterday there was a press conference and will be a silent auction. You can help search at Tomnod.

  5. Charles Doane, we have not given up on the crew of the Nina. Many people are scouring satellite images everyday for anything that might assist the private funded search for the seven lost souls of the Nina. Last Saturday an image was spotted that most of us believe was the life raft of the Nina. The government of New Zealand is refusing at this time to assist any further in the search and there is a move to “motivate” the US government to participate in this privately funded search. Six of those lost souls are Americans. We will not give up hope until the Nina or debris from the Nina washes up on shore or we find a deflated life raft. There are numerous stories of people who have survived for up to 120 days adrift at sea but time is of the essence. If you could update your story it might draw some attention to our cause. We need media coverage to spotlight fund raising and hopefully get the attention of someone who will have mercy on our need. Praying God’s blessings on the survivors of the Nina, do not lose hope, we are coming, it may seem like an eternity, but we will find you if you are out there! God bless you Charles for your consideration in updating and/or following this developing story. H. Marty Schelper

  6. WILL CONNO says:


  7. [...] It now appears certain that our friend Evi has been lost at sea. She was helping sail the American schooner, Nina, across the Tasman Sea from New Zealand to Australia when the sailboat apparently went down with all hands. [...]

  8. Carol T. says:

    What a tragic story. I happened upon it researching yachts my father (who’s in his 80s now) helped build or rebuild during his many years at Nevins and Minneford on City Island, NY. This was one of them. All of the work he did was for Mr. Fales in the 1950s. He’s extremely saddened by this news. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of those lost at sea.

  9. marty searight says:

    JB Thank you for yur comforting words, my cousin Evi Pratt Nemeth is an exceptional person. All her cousins in PA, VT and CA are hoping and praying your words come true….
    Marty in VT

  10. [...] Re: 6 Americans, 1 Brit vanish at sea A nice write-up on the lost Nina: SCHOONER NINA: Missing and Presumed Sunk | Sailfeed [...]

  11. [...] feel helpless and would be ever so grateful if positive voices could come together in hope – here’s the latest update I know of .  A favor, if any of you in the South Pacific hear news, please email me through my contact [...]

  12. [...] This article has more information about the Nina. [...]

  13. [...] Also, additional information about the ship and crew here. Another article here with a photo of Evi Nemeth. One more article with some more details about her life and another photo. [...]

  14. [...] here and here (with an interesting video in the [...]

  15. Daniel P. Hanover says:

    They didn’t have multiple EPIRB’s ???

  16. Don Bradley says:

    Ricky Wright of Lafayette, Louisiana and father to Deckhand Danielle Wrigt reports that there was a June 4th TEXT to the WX briefer mentioning sail damage and making 4 knots headway.
    This post storm travel changes search areas markedly.
    TEXT was sent but not delivered.
    Believe Louisiana is UTC minus 5 and NZ is UTC plus 12, so I don’t know if “date” of call is local date or billing date or what.
    No shakedown cruise on engine installation but Dyche is retired marine contractor.

  17. Bill Moran says:

    We do not yet know how the future of the Nina will play out, however my heart goes out to the families of the crew…I feel your hurt as I lost my best friend Bob Emigh and his family, wife and three children off Cedros island Mexico…aboard the Bermuda ketch Tiare.

    Also I have a feeling of family with the Schooner Nina, having steered the schooner Queen Mab in the 1966 LA Mazatlan race and again in the LA Honolulu trans Pac 1967…as I understand it, she has been lost. My prayers for all…

  18. JB says:

    Let’s all hope (and pray, if that’s your way) that these fine folks are found sooner rather than later; that they are found with electrical problems or in a life raft, so long as they are found alive by the Brotherhood of the Sea.

    s/v Sine Metu

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