By Paul Howard
People keep coming up to Stranger II to ask about the boat,” said Nick de Munnik. “She’s the most beautiful boat in any anchorage,’ a real classic.” There are many elements that make a classic, including: designer, builder, owner and maintenance.
George Cuthbertson, one half of the founding pair of the design house Cuthbertson & Cassian Ltd. (later C&C Yachts), began his sailing career at Toronto’s Royal Canadian Yacht Club as a junior member ($50 for a summer of sailing). During his late teens and university years (Cuthbertson holds a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Toronto), he was an official RORC race rule measurer for the RCYC, earning $25 per boat as a summer job.It was then he began drawing boat modifications at the request of club members. As a 22-year who didn’t think he could earn a living designing boats, he was sought out by Norman Walsh who decided to win the Canada’s Cup back from the Rochester Yacht Club. Through Cuthbertson’s redesign of an existing boat, the Cup returned to the RCYC in 1954. Walsh then wanted a new ocean-racing boat of 50-55 feet overall.
“I had yet to design anything larger than a dinghy when I took the commission,” said Cuthbertson. The result was legendary Innisfree, a boat that completed at the top level of offshore and Great Lakes racing for many years. Cuthbertson’s first-to-be-launched large boat was Elsie D, the RCYC race committee boat, launched the 1958, shortly before Innisfree.
George Cuthbertson became an elected academician in the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in 1974 for his contribution to industrial design-or in his words, drawing boats. Indeed, in an organization primarily for members of the fine arts, film and architectural communities, he remains the only person in this category.
The Whitby 45 was drawn in 1967 for Kurt Hansen of Whitby Boat Works during a transitional era in racing sailboat design. The shift was away from Cruising Club of America racing rule (fully outfitted, heavy displacement cruising boats that were supposed to perform on the course) and the IOR (purpose-built, lighter-displacement racing machines with little regard for interior amenities) rule.
Cuthbertson says the 45 is most similar to the earlier Redline 41, with long overhangs and prominent sheer, and the characteristic Cuthbertson swept-back rudder and fin keel.
Kurt Hansen, was known for manufacturing the Continental Folkboat, Alberg 30 and 37s, but was also an avid racer. Hansen had won trophies in the Southern Ocean Racing Conference with both the 30 and 37, but wanted more.
The moulds were built in 1968 and 16 of these state-of-the-art racers were produced in quick succession, including Hansen’s own, Dushka, with most of the production run going to the east coast of the U.S.
The 1972 SORC had the best ever results for C&C designs: overall winner and winner of Class C (Redline 42); Bonaventure, a C&C custom 53, won class A; Class C was won by a Whitby 45, with Hansen’s own ranked seventh in that class. Of the top ten boats in four classes, in a fleet of 120 boats, 14 C&C designs were listed. Kurt and Doris Hansen started their boatbuilding company in 1958, building Albacore, International 14 and other dinghies.
In 1960, they became the Whitby Boat Works. The original Whitby factory burned down in 1964, and moved temporarily (it would be years before they rebuilt and returned to the original site) to Ajax, with the ensuing confusion of the Whitby Boat Works located in the neighbouring town. More than 600 Alberg 30s, about 250 Alberg 37s, nearly the same number of Whitby 42s, 19 Whitby 45s and a few 55s rolled out of the doors before the operation closed down in June 1988.
Nick de Munnik, past commodore of the National Yacht Club in Toronto, was born in the city to a sailing family (“I’ve sailed to the Thousand Islands (at the mouth of the St. Lawrence) every summer for the past 51 years,” said de Munnik. “I know every rock and tree.” De Munnik has owned three boats built by Whitby Boat Works. In the ’60s, he sailed a 25-ft Continental Folkboat. In 1970 he bought and Alberg 37 which he sailed offshore to the Caribbean. “I liked the Alberg 37,” said de Munnik, “but wished she was bigger. I began looking for a larger Alberg 37.” An opportunity arrived one day when Hansen’s Whitby 45 had fallen on its side in the yard and was badly damaged. He liked the boat, but didn’t want to repair it. He and de Munnik brought out a more cruising version of the Whitby 45. Draught was reduced by 10 inches, with the cast lead keel made longer and thicker. The swept-back rudder was redesigned to be more vertical. The deck was raised two inches to increase headroom, the former low coachroof was extended for and aft, and the cockpit divider was eliminated. The sail plan remained the same, but the interior was completely redesigned.
Alex Magnone was a cabinet-maker in Calabria, Italy, before emigrating to Canada in 1968 at the age of 26. On arrival in Canada he was hired by Whitby Boat Works to do boat interior installations. In 1973 he became foreman of the assembly line. “I know every boat that went out the doors,” says Magnone. “Each one has its own character and was fitted out slightly different for each owner. My wife says I know those boats better than I know my own house.” After the hull and deck of the 17th Whitby 45 were pulled from the moulds in 1981 for de Munnik, Magnone mocked up a complete interior in chipboard. The deck was fitted to the hull, and de Munnik and Magnone went through the boat making extensive notes. The deck was then removed, and the interior built-in. Another buyer took No. 18 and Hansen built the finest of the Whitby 45s, No. 19, for himself. De Munnik took delivery of Stranger II in June, 1982, and sailed her to Annapolis where she appeared in that fall’s boat show. She continued south for a Caribbean cruise, returning to Toronto in 1984. Nick and Lynne de Munnik are planning another cruise and decided Stranger II needed a refit after about 25,000 miles sailed.
Whitby Boat Works sold the land and buildings to the municipality of Whitby when it closed. Alex Magnone rented part of the building back from the city and set up Whitby Boat & Specialty Wood Work Ltd. for repair work and refits, mostly on boats he had previously outfitted and commissioned. “Alex knew my boat better than anyone else’s,” said De Munnik, “I wouldn’t take her anywhere else.” The hull, decks and mast have been recoated, the steering rebuilt with new quadrant, cables and steering gear, a folding three-bladed prop was added, all the wood was refinished, and a new deck was system, windlass, radar and navigation instructions installed.
I went sailing with Nick on a fine summer afternoon with a 10- to 12-knot wind. We made sail and with me at the helm, close reached with the knotmeter hitting 7.9 knots. “Like most owners I like to think the instruments under-read,” he said. “Though slower close-hauled than more modern, lighter displacement boats, he admitted, “she really booms along on a reach.” Stranger II had a light and responsive helm and sporty performance one would expect from a thoroughbred. She had that long, sleek greyhound-of-the-seas feel. Not surprisingly, her sailing characteristics reminded me of the C&C 35 MkII which came from the same designer’s desk. They both had a comfortable, gliding, swooping motion as they parted the waters they raced. “We’ve found her to be comfortable at sea and in port,” said de Munnik. ‘We live aboard her every weekend. And,” continued the proud owner of this sparkling classic, “there isn’t a prettier boat.”
Originally published in Canadian Yachting’s October 1993 issue.
LOA 45 ft.
LWL 33 ft.
Beam 12 ft.
Draft 6 ft. 10 in.
Displacement 23,800 lbs.