With long overhangs, graceful sheer, deep, narrow hull, and lofty rig – the International One Design might be the prettiest one-design racer ever created.

The International One Design class sloop was created by the legendary American yachtsman, Cornelius Shields as he sought to create a new one design yacht for team races between Bermuda and Long Island Sound.
Inspired by the beauty of the 6 Meter yacht, Saga, and her unparalleled performance, Shields envisioned using her as the basis of a new strict one design racing class, which he christened the International Class—after the International Rule, which governed Saga’s dimensions. Shields hoped that the new class would have the advantages of both limiting the upwardly-spiraling costs of yacht racing, and putting competing crews on an equal footing as far as equipment was concerned.
Shields commissioned Saga’s designer-builder, Bjarne Aas of Norway, to develop the plans and supervise the construction of the boats. Aas produced a sleek, strong 33’ racer measuring 21’ -5“ at the waterline, a draft of 5’-4”, beam of 6’-9”and a displacement of 7,120 lbs. The mast was 45’ and carried 426 sq. ft. of sail. With the backing of the enthusiastic Shields, the boat was quickly adopted by the top racers on Long Island Sound. Delivery of the first twenty-five boats took place in late December 1936, and deliveries of additional boats to Bermuda, Norway, Northeast Harbor Marblehead, and San Francisco began in 1937. Originally built of wood, the class introduced fiberglass Internationals in the 1970s, taking great care to ensure that fiberglass and wooden boats performed equally. Today all fleets include both wooden and fiberglass boats, with neither wood nor glass boats able to claim a distinct advantage.

Further contributing to the equality of the boats (and the low cost of ownership) is a unique sail-purchase plan, which is managed within each local fleet. When IODs line up alongside each other on the starting line no one can claim a performance advantage because they have newer of differently designed sales.

 IODs are currently sailed in Norway, Sweden, the UK, Canada, Bermuda, and in US fleets based in Northeast Harbor, Nantucket, Larchmont, Fishers Island, Manhattan, San Francisco, and Marblehead. There are approximately 160 active racing boats, and 20-25 boats being refit or rebuilt. New fiberglass boats are being built every year in Sweden and Canada. Within Marblehead and around the world, the future of the International seems secure.

IODs were introduced to Marblehead in 1938, when six boats appeared on the starting line. One of those original boats was the still-active #45 Pompano, a stunning dark green beauty that has been sailing, racing, and winning here for over eighty years.

The following season, there were nine boats in the fleet. By the 1960s and 1970s the Marblehead Fleet had grown to twenty-six boats, skippered by the leading names in Marblehead Sailing. Because of the fleet’s long tenure and unflagging popularity in Marblehead, it is sometimes said that every sailor in town can claim some connection to the IOD Fleet.

Marblehead teams have etched their names on the IOD World Champion’s Aas Trophy twenty times, by far the largest number of IOD championships claimed by any fleet. And Marblehead’s Bill Widnall can claim to be the winningest skipper, taking the championship prize ten times in his storied career, hist first in 1968, his most recent in 2013.

Today, Marblehead is home to fifteen Internationals, which, with crews of 4-5 each, compete in almost 40 races from May through September. The competition is tight, and the fleet places a high value on social connection and sportsmanship. The Marblehead Fleet consists of Citius, Desperado, Elektra, Gypsy, Kungsornen, Javelin, Pompano, Princess, Relapse, Saga, Small Hotel, Spirit, Tango, Vagabond, and Viking.

Tell us what you think of these meter-boat inspired one-design racers.  To see a fine example of an IOD, check out Viking (built in 1966) here.  To see all IODs, simply type in IOD in the Harbor Directory search bar.