Mountaintop Thoroughbred

posted on Feb 01

In a distant corner of North America, in Kootenai County, Idaho, is a clear glacial lake, wedged between mountain ranges of ponderosa time and the western sky and home to one of the most sophisticated performance daysailers ever built. Just launched, the Tony Castro-designed Sizzler is a 60-foot, flush-deck speedster, a blend of cold-molded carbon fiber construction, with the finest hardware, rig, sails and engineering.

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At 2,300 feet above sea level, Lake Coeur d’Alene is nearly 200 feet deep, and it is just 30 miles long and 3 miles wide. It’s rimmed with massive trees and rock and is hundreds of miles from the Pacific. Caged in this small arena, Sizzler tacks restlessly from shore to shore like a corralled thoroughbred, tail up, nostrils flaring, prancing rail to rail, anxious to leap to freedom. But this is where she was built and it is where she will stay, hidden from the world.

It is here on this remote waterway that owner Duane Hagadone wanted his newest boat built. At 76, Hagadone is tall, lean and leathery. He has called this place home since birth, and went on to develop a massive publishing empire and real estate wealth.

“All four of my grandparents grew up on this lake,” Hagadone said, “We had no money and lived in a log cabin on the western shore, but we boated all the time, spending every minute of every summer on the water. And after years of sailing small boats on the lake I always had a dream to build a boat like Sizzler.”

Hagadone has palatial homes around the world, but he loves boats, and has an armada that includes a high-performance powerboat that he keeps on Lake Coeur d’Alene and a 205-foot megayacht, Lady Lola, with a helicopter on the stern and a fleet of shadow boats. But after a decade of ocean travels, Hagadone was ready to get back to his sailing roots.

“I love sailing, but I do not like all the time required to get the boat ready,” he said. “So I had been thinking of a design I could sail quietly on the lake by myself, completely automatic, but something stylish with a lot of sizzle.”

The owner of Oceanco, Lady Lola’s builder, Richard Hein, put Hagadone in touch with designed Tony Castro. They discussed a stable, simple lake boat, but a boat with the sporty flush-deck, Wally-like profile and high-tech features that would take this daysailer over the top.

In true pioneering style, Hagadone decided that this sophisticated design would be built along Lake Coeur d’Alene in a shop he had put together to work on his fleet of custom wood launches. There was also a long local boatbuilding history of finely crafted motorboats from Stancraft and other small builders, so it was easy for Hagadone to pull together a team to start work on the design.

“To make it easier, we chose the material his own people had experience with and that was wood,” Castro said

The builders cold-molded the inside layer using western red cedar with three cross layers of mahogany. With epoxy and carbon fiber reinforcements throughout the boat, they were able to keep the structure light at 42,000 pounds while retaining traditional elements of a warm teak deck and cockpit. They brought in specialists from the New Zealand-based High Modulus to specify a complex laminate schedule, and Giorgio Cecchinato, who has specialized in building America’s Cup’s boats, arrived from Italy to assist the boatyard with carbon fiber technology.

The plumb-bowed Sizzler was designed with a lifting keel with a huge bulb. The boat is also a web of complex hydraulics, which were installed by a team for the Italian-based Cariboni company. The hydraulics operate the lifting keel and the 90-foot Southern Spars rig that has a wishbone-shaped integral vang, adding to the futuristic profile of the boat. The boat, which took 30,000 man hours and more than 13 months to create, is unusual because her sophisticated presence resembles a product from the space program on the quaint western lake.

Sizzler was designed to make the most of the light inland lake winds, and she was built for singlehanded push-button operation and entertaining. But that entertaining only takes place in her long cockpit, because with 5-feet, 9-inch headroom belowdecks, there is not a single berth. The 25-foot-long cockpit is fitted with an integral sound system and port and starboard custom seats that resemble sofas that would be at home in an elegant living room. Twin centerline tables lift hydraulically out of the deck, and just forward of the tables is a complete carbon fiber bar with icebox and drawers that hold the crystal glasses and decanters.

The sleek deck layout has no lifelines or hardware to interrupt the sheer. Recessed cleats with retractable mooring lines, a stern passarelle and hydraulic fittings are all made effortless thanks to the complex hydraulics hidden belowdecks. Joystick-operated bow and stern thrusters allow lateral docking and defensive maneuvers among speedboats and the omnipresent teenage wakeboard drivers.

Sizzler’s cold-molded hull is a work of art. The surface preparation began with the final mahogany layer covered by 16 coats of clear epoxy, followed by four layers of blue-tinted Alex Seal clear coat and then three more layers of clear buffed Alex Seal and a final waxing. The result is the mahogany grain shows through with a subtle blue mirrored effect when viewed from certain directions. The iridescent hull shifts from a midnight blue to a translucent light cobalt patterned with the wood grain.

Belowdecks the varnish and clear-coating epoxy reveals the honey-toned laminations of cedar and mahogany and the custom metalwork that holds Sizzler together. The teak flooring has a classic teak-and-holly inlay appearance that on closer inspection reveals it is actually inlaid with brushed steel. Except for the carbon fiber head and sink, a minimalist galley and one L-shaped settee, Sizzler’s interior is purely function, but it is done with surprising style. Detailing was the mantra as even the bilge-mounted stainless tanks are polished.

Powered by a Volvo Penta auxiliary, the hydraulics are the true heart of this thoroughbred, and even they are polished, pedestal-mounted and put on display. Forward, where sail storage and cabins would normally be placed, there is a showcase of hydraulic rams, batteries and pumps, the gleaming workhorse for the space-age daysailer. A large, round, flush-mounted skylight circles the mast base on deck and features a carbon fiber cross beam, allowing abundant daylight below. It’s here in the event of a sudden squall, that is if the guests decline the use of the Sizzler-emblazoned foul weather gear from the well-stocked hanging locker.

“That Hagadone had the faith in us to build Sizzler right here on the lake with local talent, motivated our crew to devote ourselves to doing our absolute best work from start to finish,” said Craig Brosenne, the project manager. “We had the craftsman, and were guided by an international team of specialists who came and helped at different stages. Hagadone enjoyed the process and takes great pride that his own regional crew built it to the standards of the finest European builds.”

Hagadone’s vision for his stylish daysailer had been fueled by the flush-decked speedsters he had seen while cruising in Europe. When Hein and Castro first visited Hagadone to begin planning the concept of a singlehander for the lake’s sheltered waters, they realized the boat would have to be a vehicle for exhilaration, because the confinement of the lake meant sport and entertainment was its only purpose, as there is no place for travel and destination cruising.

To some it is a shame that Sizzler, a purebred speedster and meticulously created yacht, does not have a bigger stage. Like a colt, full of piss and vinegar, it dashed from fence to fence, a prisoner in its tiny pasture. Perhaps it would shine in the freedom of a long tack to the horizon, hundreds of miles offshore. But, for Hagadone, the quiet, solitary sails are Sizzler’s reward.

In this world framed by mountain and desert, the land cools in the evening and the warm lake waters pulled in the breeze reliably from the east each sunset, a wind known as the Wolf Lodge Express.

“My family had an Ericson 36 on the lake,” Hagadone said. “I remember catching the sunset breeze each night and sailing home by moonlight, only the sound of the wind and the reflection on the water.”