Frans Maas passes in capsize accident

 

3 july 2017

   
  Skipper Frans Maas (79) and crewmember Freddy Franssens (70) died last Saturday when their yacht Capella capsized after the keel come off the hull near the Belgian coast. A third crewmember, Hannes Goegebeur (18) is still missing. Three crewmembers survived by clinging to the inverted hull for more than six hours. They were taken into hospital with symptoms of hypothermia but are in a much better condition now.

Frans Maas and Freddy Franssens are both well known in sailing circles in Holland and Belgium. Freddy is the master rigger at Hall Spars Breskens. He started his career as an apprentice in the boatyard of the Maas family and he learned all aspects of boatbuilding. In the eighties he worked for a sailmaker and after that for mastmaker Proctor, later Hall Spars. Hè became an all-round rigger. Hè worked for Paul Cayard in the Volvo Ocean Race and came to every stopover, nobody else was allowed in the mast and rigging. Freddy ws still working on a weekly basis until his unfortunate death and was still actively racing.

Frans Maas was a sailor, designer and boatbuilder. One of the best, according to Jacques Rogge, the former president of IOC. Frans and Jacques sailed together with Piet Vroon on his boats for many years. As a designer and builder hè was always on the forefront of new developments such as steel hulls when they were treated very favorable by the RORC Rule. Many topdesigners had their boats built by the Maas yard became of the fact that Dutch builders were very good with steel. Later he became a frontrunner in using sandwich with Airex core. Saga, the Brazilean winner of the 1973 Fastnet Race and still owned by Mr. Lorentzen, still comes every year to Breskens for regular maintainance. They built so many one-offs that the redundant plugs were stowed on the roofs of the buildings of the yard.

Frans' father, Jaap, started the business as a carpenter and quickly became a designer and boatbuilder. His first boat was a small dinghy. Frans' first boat was built by his father. It was a funny little boat of some planks put together and a very short mast. For a sail they made a rigid set of battens that could be shaped in different forms: a very early wing mast? In the sixties and seventies you could often find guys like Rod Stephens, Dick Carter and a young German Frers together at breakfast in Hotel Het Wapen van Breskens. Ted Hood was a very regular guest because he had a new boat built almost every year. They were all named Robin and Frans used them quiet often in local races. Dick Carter had his first boat, the 1965 Fastnet winner Rabbit, built by Frans who gave a lot of useful tips. In 1966 followed by Tina, winner of the second One Ton Cup in Copenhagen. Frans crewed for Ted Hood in a Robin and they were second. All these boats were built in Corten Steel, very strong and light. Frans himself designed several revolutionary boats, Tonnere de Breskens for Piet Vroon and a development called Zeezot van Veere both with very deep keels with trim tabs and spade rudders.

In 1971 a boat called Standfast was built in sandwich construction for Piet Vroon and Co-owner Charlie Gordon, a Scottish whiskey distiller. The name came from one of his products. Later all the series produced Yachts were called Standfast and eventually the yard was geven the same name.
The Standfast 43, the first boat with that name, was designed after model tank testing in the Delft University towing tank. That model became the mother hull for the famous Delft Series of systemathically varied series of models that formed the basis for the first IMS VPP, designed at MIT in the USA.

Frans was one of the first members of a working group of yacht designers and scientists from the faculty of shipbuilding in Delft University. Together with students he calculated why and how much weight in the middle of the hull produced more speed. "We threw out numbers and he calculated," said his partner in crime, Professor Jelle Gerritsma.

Frans sailed an enormous number of races with his lifelong friend, Piet Vroon, on many boats called Tonnere, Formidable or Standfast and very often he was the helmsman.

In the Book of Friends on the occasion of his 65th birthday Jacques Rogge wrote, He who sails in the most beautiful and expensive yachts, builds and designs them still finds pleasure Sailing in a small old boat because he loves the sea."

Jules Banffer
 

   
 

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