Saturday, January 8, 2011


Savannah - Keith Gemmell's Miura, snapped during a H.B.Y.C. Club Race

Early Nebe Advert for the Miura

I think I can say the Miura remains one of South Africa’s favourite yachts, and one of the most successful designs to come out of this country. . . At just over 30' long, it is an incredible allrounder, for it seaworthiness, seakindliness, general performance and cruising abilities.

I have only heard praise for the Miura, from all the right people. I once heard the Miura being described as the VW Beetle of the oceans – it is solid, goes anywhere, inexpensive, and quite round! It is however relatively more sophisticated than a Beetle I have to say. The name Miura derives from the Spanish word for “fighting bull” as I understand – Berckemeyer named several boats with Spanish names originally.

The Miuras were designed by Oswald Berkemeyer, his second boat after the Flamenca 25, (with which it shares some DNA), in the late 70s. I am not sure what the design objective was exactly – but it yielded a beautiful small yacht, inexpensive and simple, capable of sailing anywhere, and rugged as they come. They were designed for GRP production, and more that 250 were built, the majority right here in Hout Bay by Nebe. There are three Miuras in the Hout Bay Marina – Tenacity (2 x circumnavigations), Wings (1 circumnavigation), and Savannah (unknown). The Miura is a strong contender for the argument of which class of yacht has the most circumnavigations . . .

Overall a Miura is 30.5’. Displacement around 4700 kgs gives it a moderate displacement by modern standards. Underbody shows a swept fin keel, and a skeg-hung rudder with tiller steering. The single-spreader mast is relatively low, and the Miura carries most of its power in a large genoa, with smallish mainsail. They perform amazingly well upwind and in fresh to strong winds, a bit sluggish in light airs though. The most distinguishing feature of the Miura is the pronounced tumblehome evident at the beam. This gives it loads of strength, a good IoR rating apparently, and loads of cabin room. The swept up canoe stern makes it completely unable to plane, and therefore not great downwind speed, but a very good sea boat nevertheless. The late great Bertie Reed campaigned several Miuras in local offshore races with some suprising results. Reed held the overall record record from Cape Town to St Helena and back for many years in a Miura.

Berckemeyer lived in Cape Town in the 70s – at a time when racing classes were dominated by van de Stadt designs – viz. The RCOD and the Buccaneer for example, and many others. At that time, van de Stadt was already a legend in yacht design circles – sometimes known as the “S&S of Europe”! – and his modern design concepts of fin keels and spade rudders were still quite leading edge. GRP was also a brand new idea - so when Berckemeyer decided to design something new to compete with the Stadt boats, well he must have been pretty confident. At the time, the Miura was a radical looking boat – the roundness of it, the full beams with pronounced tumblehome, the swept fin keel, large Genoa were all quite novel then. How such a round boat would compete with the likes of an RCOD with similar waterline remained to be seen. In fact it outperforms the RCOD by a small margin – while carrying twice the weight , and with far more room. According to the RCYC database of club ratings, Miuras sail off a club handicap of 0.935, while RCODs sail of a club handicap of 0.91, for example.

In the Hout Bay Yacht Club, the Miura “Savannah” is actively raced by skipper Keith Gemell, often short or single-handed, in any conditions.

The Miura went on to become the most popular keel boat in South Africa for many years – I guess there are still more Miuras in South Africa than any other class of keelboats? Miuras became the keelboat of choice for Sailing Schools, first time keelboat owners, and people wanting to do the Cape to Rio on a budget. Not to mention those who wanted to circumnavigate, or even round the Horn. The Miura class remains quite active, and still often races as a class. Long live the Miura!

Vital Statistics LOA 31' LWL 28' * Beam 10' Draft (Laden 6') * Displacement 10700 lbs * Capsize screening formula 1.8 (good) * Sail Area / Displacement 14.8 (a bit under canvassed) * Displacement / Length 218 (moderate) * Max Hull Speed 7.1 kts