18 August 2017

Half Ton Classics Cup 2017

Swuzzlebubble (GBR) - winner of the 2017 Half Ton Classics Cup (all photos by David Branigan)
With the overall regatta decided on the penultimate day, the Euro Car Parks Half Ton Classics Cup was presented to Phil Plumtree and the crew of Swuzzlebubble at Kinsale Yacht Club, Ireland on Friday night.

A single ‘round the cans’ final race earlier in the day also delivered a full eleven race programme despite losing a day to strong winds. Swuzzlebubble’s series ended on Thursday after ten races of mostly first and second places confirmed their pre-event favourite status and this year’s win is the third victory in the 40-year old boat’s modern record adding to previous wins with Peter Morton and Greg Peck. On the water, Swuzzlebubble’s impressive upwind performance is hard to miss, but with the highest IRC rating in the fleet (0.975). she typically needed to finish by more than a minute and a half over her nearest rival in the inshore races to win on handicap.

Plumtree’s ten race series saw him dominate the 21-strong fleet from the opening race on Monday in spite of an eighth place in race three. However, four races on Tuesday left little room for doubt with all first and second places for the day while the event discard took care of the high score from the opening day.
Checkmate XVIII (GBR) - second overall

Checkmate XV (IRL) - third overall
Another first and second place on Thursday saw Swuzzlebubble start the coastal course with a commanding nine-point advantage. However, the race around the scenic approaches to Kinsale and the finish off the historic Charles Fort carried a 1.5x multiplication factor and several wipe-outs in the heavy conditions at sea saw Plumtree's team place fifth.

Swuzzlebubble approaches a windward mark during the 2017 Half Ton Classics Cup
Their nearest challengers were second placed David Cullen on Checkmate XV and Nigel Biggs on Checkmate XVIII, but both had sixth and fifth places earlier in the day that effectively decided the regatta in Swuzzlebubble’s favour as the former Kiwi classic ended with a three point advantage. A worst race discard of second allowed Plumtree to sit out the final race due to an unexpected crew personal commitment.
The Big Picture (IRL) in trouble on one of the downwind legs of the 2017 Half Ton Classics Cup (she finished fourth overall)
The regatta turned to what had been suspected all week given Swuzzlebubble’s pre-event favourite status after two previous titles: that the series is a battle for second place. This battle went down to the wire and the outcome of the eleventh race which was won by Nigel Biggs on Checkmate XVIII and he succeeded in beating David Cullen on Checkmate XV by a half point margin to take the first runner-up place.
Swuzzlebubble shows her form and speed upwind
The Half Ton True Spirit trophy, the other major award for the week was presented to Paul Wayte and the crew of Headhunter in recognition of their camaraderie within the fleet both afloat and ashore but especially for their sportsmanship. Wayte loaned a spare mast to Superhero after their own rig was badly damaged en route to Ireland that enabled the Finnish entry to start the regatta last weekend.
King One (IRL), Paul Elvstrom's Half Ton Cup winner in 1981, finished 11th overall
Tributes were paid to Principal Race Officer Anthony O’Leary and Regatta Director John Stallard of Kinsale YC with their team of volunteers who delivered a memorable series.

Per Elisa (GBR) - the last Half Tonner ever built, finished 12th overall
Class President Philippe Pilate on General Tapioca was best of the continental entries in fifth overall in the 21-strong turnout. At the prize-giving ceremony, he confirmed that the 2018 championship will be held at the Royale Koninklijke Yacht Club (KYCN), Nieuwpoort in Belgium from the 20th to 24th August, where a team of volunteers are already planning a week of great racing and hospitality.

The 2017 event was sponsored by Euro Car Parks together with AGK Displays, MF Services, Windward Hotels, Provincial Floor Coverings, Martin Reilly Motors and Harken UK. 

Results here.

Videos here: Day 1 Day 2 Day 4

All photos by David Branigan/Oceansport / Halfton Class Europe FB page)

11 August 2017

30th Anniversary of New Zealand's Admiral's Cup Win

In the early hours of 12 August 1987 (UK time), and 30 years ago today, New Zealand's team of Propaganda, Goldcorp and Kiwi finished in fourth, 11th and 20th in the Fastnet Race to win the coveted Admiral's Cup for New Zealand for the first (and only) time. The New Zealand team had amassed 1,365 points to hold out the British team of Jamarella, Juno and Indulgence by some 84 points. They had gone into the Fastnet Race, the final race of the five-race series, with a lead of 109 points, and just needed to stay close to their British rivals to secure their win. They did this to near perfection, with Propaganda just one place behind Jamarella, and Kiwi pushing Indulgence into 25th. Juno had an impressive 2nd place, but this was not enough to overcome the overall Kiwi dominance.

From the RORC History page:

1987 was the year when the New Zealanders achieved what they had long threatened since their first challenge in 1971; the double - the Cup and the top-boat slot with Propaganda (below) sailed by 'Billy' Butterworth and his boys.'
Their effort was uncommonly like the German bids of 1983 and 1985 - a home grown-effort based around a small group who had all the right skills. New Zealand yachting was, and remains, an illusion. Although in the 1980s the Kiwis won virtually everything worth winning, this giant in sailing is actually a country of only three million people. And while the Kiwis are boat-crazy, having one of the highest per capita ownership rates in the world, there is scarcely any grand-prix IOR sailing at home to speak of.
Goldcorp (finished sixth yacht overall)
On a roller-coaster of success, the Kiwis had won the World Youth Championships, five medals at the Los Angeles Olympics, had made the Whitbread Round the World Race their own, won the Kenwood Cup and made an indecently impressive debut at the America's Cup. In 1987 at Cowes, they beat the Germans and twelve other nations at their own game. They came with the best-prepared team; their boats had excellent speed and the sailors were good enough to sail a textbook series which minimised risk and maximised points. Only Propaganda seemed to have an extra cutting edge with her phenomenal upwind form. Don Booke, the team manager from the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, was not exaggerating when he said: 'We believe we won the cup twenty-four months ago. We sat down and got contributions from everyone who had been involved in the Champagne Mumm Admiral's Cup and had monthly meetings at the Squadron. Our big job was to change the triallists from enemies into friends.'
Kiwi, the "big boat" of the New Zealand team, finished seventh overall
So the Kiwis put in a full twenty days practice in Auckland's Waitemata Harbour before coming to the UK, and then had another twelve days sailing in British waters, with video analysis to bring crew technique and sail shapes to race-readiness. They even sailed a practice overnight race in the Channel, something few teams had contemplated before. The squad were coached by Californian Rod Davis, who by then had put his roots down in New Zealand through marrying the sister of ace sail designer Tom Schnackenberg. He prepared their programme, advised on sails, suggested new gear and moved crew around. John Clinton, the sail designer for the KZ-7 12-metre, came over to England to re-cut the sails, though Rick Dodson thought the Kiwis had anticipated British conditions pretty well. Dodson, who had been Swuzzlebubble III's mainsheet trimmer when she'd been top Admiral's Cup boat in 1981, was now skippering Mal Canning's Laurie Davidson-designed One Tonner Goldcorp (ex Mad Max).
Propaganda - the fastest One Tonner at the 1987 Admiral's Cup, and the top individual yacht overall

No mean sailor himself, with five America's Cups and an Olympic gold and silver medal to his name, Davis was worth listening to. 'I am the catalyst to help them figure out how to do things. You win the Admiral's Cup by putting three boats in the top ten or twelve places in every race. You do that by not breaking anything, by not doing anything stupid and by staying outside the protest room - no bogies, no double bogies, no sand traps!' Admittedly, Davis had good ingredients with which to work. Goldcorp had been re-vamped stripped out by Dodson and Davidson, to be turned into the winner of the New Zealand trials.

The video of the 1987 series can be seen here, and more photos from the series can be seen here.

28 July 2017

One Ton Cup 1986

The 1986 One Ton Cup was staged in Palma, Mallorca, and attracted a total of 33 yachts from 14 countries.  The host country, Spain, fielded a full contingent of six yachts, as did Britain. Unfortunately, wind conditions were less than reliable during the inshore races, and the regatta did become something of a lottery at times rather than a test of sailing skill. During the Olympic inshore races, windshifts could be anything between 20-60 degrees, and on the second Olympic course the wind actually went around the clock, turning two legs into one. More wind was enjoyed for the duration of the offshore races, although the second race, over a 272-mile offshore course, was the most painful for those who had fought their way to the front of the fleet. On the third morning of the race, while the leaders lay becalmed not far from the finish, the tail-enders sailed around them with spinnakers set.

However, it was generally felt that the best sailors emerged as the winners, and the event proved that Denmark was the current top nation in One Ton racing. After dominating the 3/4 Ton scene for a number of years, they had turned their attention to One Ton size and grabbed first (Andelstanken - above, leading Rubin VIII) and fourth (Aways) in their first attempt at the Cup.
Andelstanken approaches a windward mark during the 1986 One Ton Cup
X-1 Ton profile
The pre-regatta measurement and checking process yielded some discrepancies in freeboard measurements, often due to the manner of storage of gear within the boats, and sometimes through the blatant use of raking rigs forward during measurement.  With an aft rake of around 1.3m on the most extreme yachts, the effect of rake on the trim of the yacht could be considerable, and difficult to compare with actual sailing trim. Heavy aluminium spinnaker poles were used for measurement, and later swapped for carbon-fibre ones. This lead to half the owners delivering a letter to the jury pointing out some of these practices.  Spot checks during the regatta and after the finish of the short offshore race by the inspection and measurement team caught the Spanish yacht Ameldos with rafts and other heavy equipment in an aft windward bunk (the last leg of that race had been a long close reach of 50 miles, with crews on the weather rail the entire way).  The shifting of ballast in this manner was clearly against the rules, but attracted a somewhat paltry 20% penalty for the race (equivalent to seven places).   
Andelstanken - winner of the 1986 One Ton Cup (photo Per Heegaard/Dimension Sailcloth)
The winning yacht, Andelstanken, with places of 5/1/8/4/4/1 (including a win in the long offshore beset with calms at the finish), was one of five standard or slightly modified X-Yachts One Tonners, designed by Neils Jeppesen. The hull shape was based on the design of Euro, the third top performer in the 1985 Admiral's Cup, but with a harder bumping of the mid-depth measurement point, a slightly cleaner run on the buttock lines and a heavily cut-away forefoot. The result was a big, powerful and heavy displacement hull that was good to windward, but a bit sticky when sheets were eased. The X-Yachts were clearly the longer and heavier in the fleet, with the lowest displacement/length factor ratio (1.004).  A 1985 series date avoided being affected by new Crew Stability Factor (CSF) penalties.
Spain's Sirius IV (above and below) - second in the 1986 One Ton Cup
The second yacht was the Farr design Sirius IV, a further development of Farr's One Ton design that began with #136 in 1983, and which finished with placings of 2/16/3/6/1/2. Sirius IV, and her sistership Ameldos, were less full aft than their predecessors, but otherwise retained the Farr signatures of heavily distorted maximum beam and mid-depth stations. Sirius IV was clearly oriented towards light weather conditions with less displacement (5,390kg compared with 6,150kg compared with Andelstankenand more sail area, while Ameldos had a 1986 hull date and therefore carried a CSF of 0.6%. Despite her light air orientation, Sirius IV excelled in all weather conditions, and was thought by many to be the fastest yacht at the Cup, but her disastrous 16th in the second race effectively ended her chances at overall victory.

The third boat was Port Barcelona (4/12/6/5/16/3), the ex-Phoenix which finished as top individual yacht in the 1985 Admiral's Cup and slightly modified for the expected conditions at Palma.  
Port Barcelona - the ex-Phoenix, finished third (photo Histoiredeshalfs.com)
Rubin VIII was a new Judel/Vrolijk design, which had a poor start to the series but went faster and faster as it went on, finishing seventh with placings of 23/13/5/7/3/6. She could not beat her earlier namesake, renamed Mean Machine, which finished sixth.  The new Rubin VIII was slightly longer and narrower, with notably less beam aft to avoid any CSF-related penalties, and sported a semi-elliptical keel which was very fat at the bottom but maintained a low wetted surface.  
Rubin VIII displays her elliptical keel during onshore preparations for the 1986 One Ton Cup (photo Seahorse)
Another interesting boat was Regardless, from the USA and the Nelson/Marek design team. Following European trends, she had relatively clean and undistorted lines other than the normal crease at the aft girth station. She had a lot of volume in the afterbody, and without a lot of bumping she carried some additional displacement that she was not credited for, thus being a bit heavier than her actual rated displacement figure (5,796kg) would suggest. Her series was marred by a poor result in the long offshore where she was badly caught by calms within sight of the finish line, but she proved to be a good all-rounder and was particularly impressive upwind. She finished ninth overall, with placings of 8/23/11/3/7/9. Designer and skipper Bruce Nelson was happy enough afterwards, feeling that the results of such a weird series were not too important, but encouraged by the way Regardless competed with the highly-touted European boats.
A video of the series (of average film quality unfortunately) can be seen here:

30 June 2017

Eight Bells - Doug Peterson

The sailing world lost one of its great talents, US yacht designer Doug Peterson, this week, on the day that one of his former America's Cup teams, Emirates Team New Zealand, won the Cup. Peterson was a major force in leading edge IOR design in the 1970s and 80s, starting off with his breakthrough One Tonner Ganbare.  
The 1973 One Tonner Ganbare, seen here in a 2016 regatta in the Mediterranean (photo Histoiredeshalfs)
Tribute articles can be found on Scuttlebutt here and here, and his contribution to New Zealand's winning effort in the America's Cup in 1995, is here. Some of his famous boats from the IOR era are presented in the gallery below.
The centreboard One Tonner B-195 sailing in the 1977 One Ton Cup (photo Jenny Green)

Eclipse - top individual yacht in the 1979 Admiral's Cup
Acadia (to windward of another Peterson design Forte) on her way to Class C and overall honours in the 1980 SORC
Louisiana Crude - the top performer in the 1981 SORC, but later sold and her place in the US Admiral's Cup team was taken up by 4th placed Intuition (below)

 Container 79 and Almagores thunder downwind during the 1983 Admiral's Cup

Scarlett O'Hara - top individual yacht in the 1983 SORC, and top inshore yacht in that year's Admiral's Cup

The maxi yacht Midnight Sun performed strongly in the 1983 SORC

Secret Love, a Peterson 45 during the 1984 SORC - winner of Class C (photo Larry Moran)
Legende - One Ton design, competing in the 1985 SORC

25 May 2017

Lobo and Sidewinder (Reichel/Pugh 43)

Sidewinder was the debut boat for the new design duo of Jim Pugh and John Reichel - they had left Doug Peterson's office to branch out on their own, and Sidewinder was owner Randy Short's first boat of any sort after he had sold his supermarket business in Australia to Safeway. Sidewinder, a 43-footer, shared some characteristics of the Peterson-designed Serendipity 43, of which Scarlett O'Hara was one of the most notable - she was the winner of the 1983 SORC, and top inshore boat of that year's Admiral's Cup

Reichel/Pugh adopted some of the Serendipity 43 parameters for their new design but gave Sidewinder slightly more sail area, as well as a considerably greater righting moment (RM), by 11%. The increase in RM was due to a number of factors - she initially had 800lbs less internal ballast than Scarlett O'Hara, much of which was in her keel instead; her up-to-date hull and deck construction, including two full-length longitudinals, which saved weight up high; and had 3.5 inches less freeboard than Scarlett, which lowered the weight of the deck and hardware. Sidewinder initially rated 33.6ft, slightly more than Scarlett's 33.2ft, but this was brought down for the 1985 US Admiral's Cup trials to 33.0ft.
Sidewinder rounds a top mark ahead of High Roler during the 1985 US Admiral's Cup trials (photo Sail magazine)
Sidewinder was the stiffest boat of the 1985 SORC group of Class D 43 footers, with a low tenderness ratio of 96, and her race results in her first season in 1984 bore this out. She won her class in that year's Clipper Cup in Hawaii (8th overall), edging out New Zealand's Shockwave, and was third in class (even as the smallest boat) in the breezy 1984 Big Boat Series in San Francisco (again, just ahead of Shockwave). From her deck plan, Sidewinder was almost the most evenly balanced between boat and stern, with narrower aft sections than was becoming typical at the time, with an effort to provide a more easily driven hull form in confused seas.  
Lobo powers upwind during the 1985 SORC
A second boat to the Reichel-Pugh design was launched for owner Roger Livingston, being the silver hulled Lobo. This later boat is thought to have been constructed in a more advanced layup, and carried a slightly lower rating than Sidewinder, at 32.8ft. Livingston attracted a star line up for his boat, with Dennis Connor on the helm and Tom Whidden as tactician. 
Sidewinder (left) leads Lobo (centre) and Mokuahi and Mandrake (right) during a light air race in the 1985 SORC (photo Paul Mello)
Both boats competed in the 1985 SORC, in a year where unusual weather conditions caused some upsets in the overall results. The SORC was more of a build-up event for Admiral's Cup hopefuls that year, with the team to be decided later in May in a trials series held in Newport, Rhode Island. After the fourth race, Connor reported that they "were hanging on by their fingernails", noting that Lobo is a "good windward-running boat not best suited to these reaching conditions". He proved this point by subsequently finishing top boat in class in the final 23-mile upwind/downwind Nassau Cup Race, to finish third yacht in Class D, and tenth yacht overall. Sidewinder was less impressive, finishing 11th in Class D, and 25th overall.
Lobo running downwind during the 1985 SORC
The message that small boats were required for the Admiral's Cup was well understood by 1985, and the US selectors had imposed a 33.7ft rating ceiling for their trial series. The rating ceiling meant that one of the stars of the 1985 SORC, the Farr 43 Snake Oil (34.1ft) could not compete in the trials. Still, the US trials attracted no less than 39 boats, including a big number of One Tonners. Held in May, it held some tests for the crews due to temperatures so cold that crews could see their breath - perhaps a good test for British weather. "Here I was", said one later, "out there in the middle of the night in the pouring rain trying to qualify for something worse".
The comparative deck layouts of the US Admiral's Cup team yachts - note the narrow stern sections of Sidewinder
The Nelson/Marek 43 High Roler was the best performer, posting a consistent set of results with a third, two seconds and a sixth. Sidewinder bounced back from a disappointing SORC effort to be back on the pace in Newport with Paul Cayard as the new helmsman. Steve Taft and Skip Allan, with a successful Imp campaign behind them, also joined the boat. After the SORC, 640lbs of lead was removed from her keel and 140lbs put back as internal ballast. Her keel was reshaped slightly and made thinner (the photo to the right is from the Admiral's Cup in Cowes, showing that the keel was of a fairly aggressive elliptical shape, as had become fashionable at the time).
High Roler and Lowell North's Nelson/Marek 42 Sleeper established themselves as front runners for the US team places, Sidewinder and Lobo were left to fight it out for the third spot. Lobo had performed erratically - while she was the only yacht to win two races, she also posted a 27th in the first windward-leeward. But she effectively eliminated herself in the second distance race with a 22nd. Connor had wanted to the dodge the tide soon after the start and headed between rocks known as the Dumplings, through a gap which looked close on any chart. In Tim Jefferey's account in the official history of the Admiral's Cup, tactician Whidden was reported to have muttered "This is one of the stupidest things I've ever been involved in", moments before impact at a full six knots. Livingston also called it a "dumb stunt" - Lobo finished fourth overall and lost her place to Sidewinder.

Denmark, France, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea joined the British in selecting an all One Tonner line-up for the 1985 Admiral's Cup. Indeed, 34 of the 57 boats in the fleet were rated at or near the 30.0ft minimum. Against that trend, the US team was comprised of three boats rating near the maximum limit set by the selectors. It did not prove to be a winning combination.
Sidewinder during the Admirals Cup (photo Seahorse)
Sidewinder had a dismal start in the first race in the first race of the Admiral's Cup, after she hit Canada's Amazing Grace when the tiller came apart in the skippers hands as he tried to duck her stern, and had to take a 50% penalty, as did Sleeper when she clipped the stern of a One Tonner.
The Sidewinder crew line the rail during the 1987 Admiral's Cup - complete with pink wet weather gear to match the yacht's spinnaker (photo Seahorse)

Sidewinder at the start of the Channel Race in the 1985 Channel Race (photo courtesy Jonathan Eastland/Ajax)
While High Roler had a fantastic second race, winning by two minutes on corrected time, Sleeper and Sidewinder came unstuck after leading early on the Island shore when the breeze faded as they tried to come back to the mainland. The Channel Race was a small boat benefit with plenty of fresh air reaching. On the leg to France, Sidewinder watched a One Tonner hitch a lift on her quarter wave for a free tow, but then break off to sail on her own - faster. Sidewinder, rating a full 2.5ft higher, promptly latched onto the quarter wave of the smaller, faster boat.
High Roler
The fourth race, in Christchurch Bay and away from the variable breezes and capricious tides of the Solent, was more to the US team's liking, and they finished as top team of the day, by a full 50 points over Germany. High Roler was third, Sleeper fourth and Sidewinder sixth. The team's efforts were, however, further undermined by a poor showing in the Fastnet, another windy affair. Before striking out across the Irish Sea, the Sidewinder team decided that enough was enough - with no chance of winning they retired to Plymouth. Sleeper boxed on and was performing well, in second place, when her mast broke after a shroud jumped out of the spreader tip. Only High Roler went on to finish, but that effort could only salvage a lowly ninth place for the US.
Lowell North's Nelson/Marek 42 footer Sleeper
High Roler and Sidewinder were both rushed back to the US for the 1985 Big Boat Series, where they joined Lobo for this prestigious, and typically windy, event. High Roler won her division, racing for the Atlantic Perpetual trophy, ahead of Shockwave and Sidewinder. Lobo sailed in a different division, and she sailed with her second keel and, with Tom Whidden on the helm, demonstrated such upwind speed that she handily won three races and took the Keefe-Kilborn Perpetual trophy. 
Lobo - this photo is possibly from the 1985 Big Boat Series
Owner Livingston was encouraged to take a spot n the US Southern Cross Cup team, but he had his eye on the 1986 SORC. With Connor on the helm again, and a lower rating (32.5ft) Lobo finished third in Class D (and 10th overall) - beaten by a new Irwin 42 Slick and Sleeper. Lobo's series included such highs and lows as a loss by just one second to Sleeper on corrected time in the Nassau Cup race, and an eighth and 15th in class in the St Petersburg to Ft Lauderdale and Miami to Nassau races, yet posting a class win and two seconds in other races.  She had the better of High Roler and Sidewinder however, who finished sixth and 11th in the same class.
Lobo (left) during the 1985 Big Boat Series
Sidewinder formed part of the US team for the 1987 Southern Cross Cup, alongside Jubilation (Frers 60) and chartered Australian yacht Drakes Prayer. The US team had a dramatic and inauspicious return to the series. Drakes Prayer was T-boned by Australia's Venture One in the first race, and the team was the centre of controversy after officials boarded yachts after the second race and cited the Hong Kong yacht Switchblade and Sidewinder for incorrect measurement figures. Switchblade accepted a 10 percent-of-placings penalty, but the US team, incensed by the citing that related Sidewinder's measurement discrepancies (what skipper John Bertrand called "nitpicking") to the blatant cheating that had been exposed in the I-Punkt scandal several months prior, threatened to withdraw from the series. Fortunately, after a flurry of talks, postponements, press conferences, and a public apology from the host Cruising Club of Australia, the matter was dropped and the US team returned to the racing. However, Sidewinder was later dismasted during the Sydney-Hobart race finale while leading the 150-boat fleet, and the team slumped from third place to finish fifth in the team standings.

The current whereabouts of Lobo is not clear, but it is understood that she went on to race on the Great Lakes during the late 1980s and through the 1990s, and is possibly now located in Switzerland. Sidewinder was relocated to Mexico in the late 1980s, and competed in the Mexorc regatta in 2016 (photo below).