Movies to Tide You Over a Dry Spell: a Selection of Films from Tom Nitsch

There are times of the year when – be it due to the inclemency of the winter, or pressures of family or work commitments – it just seems impossible to get out sailing aboard your own, or any other, beloved craft. The pile of books to be read has dropped slightly but you still haven’t opened some of the choices (and maybe you never will). Owning a yacht has never seemed more attractive, or perhaps, more burdensome. The good resolutions to bring your lovely clinker dinghy home for some repairs and a cosmetic make-over; strip, sand and give your lovely old wooden blocks eight coats of varnish; dig the perished rubber strips out of the bronze port holes and replace with new gasket (cleaning up all the drips of paint or varnish while you are at it); read up on places to sail next year and acquire the appropriate navigational charts; replace the main halyard and renew the retainer clips on the ends of your spreaders, and the like, have all been stalled or postponed as you catch and recover from the flu, find that your 12-year-old – in fact all your kids – need nightly assistance with homework, or that your spouse’s to-do list includes many tasks.

Owners with larger yachts will be slaving away in the city while their yacht sails in the Caribbean – doing charters to help earn her keep, or just giving the crew a chance to catch up on maintenance. They will be belly-aching about the owner while the owner is stuck at home juggling home and office, commitments and budgets, family and yard bills.

One possible option for diversion was The Boat Show in London, but this year’s weather forecast of snow in England presumably impacted that. In New England, on our side of the great waters, we are promised rain and more rain with freezing at night (this is being written in January 2013). Meanwhile, some very unseasonable weather in many parts of the world will keep owners from unbuttoning the winter covers.

What to do? What will lift you from the slough of despond and provide a spark of inspiration? What is better than slogging along in the commuter lane, or shoveling your side walk? What will provide a kick-start to get you moving and dreaming about boats again? Movies are one answer, and while you might wish to indulge in some levity such as one of the Alec Guinness classics or The Gods Must be Crazy or go for Lincoln or James Bond, I strongly urge you to consider one of Tom Nitsch’s award winning yachting movies instead. They will restore your faith in the ability of sailing to improve your life and lighten your mood, while exposing you to some incredible yachts and yachting stories.

First, a bit of information: Tom Nitsch is a German award-winning yachting photo-journalist who makes fabulous films about (mostly) classic sailing vessels. Since 1982 Tom and his family have owned A–R, a 63ft Abeking and Rasmussen yawl, a Seefahrtkreuzer, built in 1936 for Henry Rasmussen. She is a boat that has been kept very simple – and very elegant – and, in many ways, she stands for the type of sailing projects that Tom undertakes.

His films, while very elegant and very sophisticated on one level, are also simple and (dare I say it?) spiritual on other levels. Further, for every film or photo-shoot that he and his associates undertake, many hours and weeks of deep research are devoted to the project. Even his films of very large and very modern boats (and yes, he has made films of boats that are way beyond the scope, or hope, and wallet of virtually every reader of this piece) entails untold hours of research, travel, hours in shipyards and on board, hours with clients and owners. And then there are the endless hours of editing and adding the finishing touches, such as narratives and voice-overs, many of which are provided by stalwart classic yachting broadcaster, Tom Cunliffe. This is a felicitous and synergistic partnering and Tom C’s thoughtful narratives provide a final, authoritative component to the films. In fact, all the elements are meticulously achieved, and when you see a Tom Nitsch film you know that what you are seeing is accurate and the best of its type.

Before listing and describing some of the Nitsch films, I should note that Tom N and his associates also design and create websites, advertisements, brochures, logos, presentation books, and other graphics. His very detailed and comprehensive website: provides information about all his projects, as well as a way to buy his films. If you are British, you can also order his films through Either way, films are available in both PAL and NTSC formats. For folks in the United States the situation is a bit more complicated but you can order from either Tom and specify format. The films will be sent from Tom N in Germany.

In no particular order, here are some films to inspire (click on each highlighted link to connect to the movie page).

La Nioulargue.

Somewhat after the rebirth of interest in the classics in America, Europe caught the craze for classic sailboats, a movement which resulted in various classic regattas and events all over Europe and the British Isles. This movie includes scenes from the regatta and you’ll see many head-turningly beautiful boats.



Enchanted by the Dragon: Fifes at Fairlie Restorations.

While at Fairlies, Tom watched The Lady Anne, an almost 100-year-old Fife 15-Metre, being rebuilt and he made a separate movie of that process, titled The Return of The Lady Anne, which includes footage of her racing against her old rival Tuiga.




The International Rule.

The International Rule came into being in 1906 and created Metre classes. There is footage of Mariquita – the last 19-Metre still in existence – in this film as well as other classics.





The Rise of the Classic Yacht, A Historic View.

An interview with the noted yachting historian David Ryder-Turner conducted shortly before his untimely demise.

Atlantic Challenge. Shot on board the large wooden Max Oertz schooner Aello Beta and other of the challengers, during the 1997 Trans-Atlantic Race. This race became one of the first big events signaling the renewed interest in the golden history of yachting.

During the shooting of this film Tom N came to Martha’s Vineyard where the boatyard that I work in was working on Aello. During his stay he took some footage, which was eventually incorporated into…

Tracks of Borkumriff IV. This begins with the design and construction of a classically-styled schooner at the Royal Huisman yard in Holland for Baron Von Finck. The movie follows her construction and launching. There is an absolutely magical segment showing the schooner being moved on a barge across Holland. After rigging and commissioning, she sails across the Atlantic and north to the Vineyard, then on to Gloucester and Maine. There are a lot of schooners in this movie!

Styles and Trials. Various yachting projects from 2001 to 2003, all carefully tracked on film by Tom N with full narrative details from Tom C.

Athena: The Rebirth of Grandeur. About the design and build of a very special, albeit modern, classic.

There are other movies too, but the one that has really caught my eye (and which I haven’t yet seen) is about the great Herreshoff racing schooner Westward, launched in 1920 to design No.692 by the Nathaniel G Herreshoff yard in Bristol, RI. Part 1 is of her racing career under Captain Charlie Barr, and moves forth to the launching of her replica/sister Eleonora at the Van Der Graaf yard in Holland in 2002. Part 2 is in progress and presumably this will be about Eleonora’s subsequent life. There will be a lot of details and pictures of the Big Class under sail, which has to be mesmeric.

So, there are plenty of movies here that present an antidote to the winter blues. For those of us who don’t ski, don’t have the wherewithal (or the vacation time) to fly to the South Pacific for sunshine, or who just long to see some beautiful boats, this could help jump-start us back to sailing life. And all from the comfort of your own couch!

Sandeman Yacht Company

Brokerage of Classic & Vintage Yachts