18 October 2014

Sovereign (Pedrick Maxi)

Sovereign was a maxi class yacht designed by David Pedrick, which was built and launched in Sydney in 1986. She was commissioned and owned by Bernard Lewis, who had formerly campaigned the 12-metre Gretel and the smaller maxi Vengeance (ex-Siska). Lewis wanted a yacht that could take the line and handicap double in the Sydney-Hobart race and be competitive in the maxi world circuit.

Pedrick's design, at 83ft, was then the largest maxi in the world. Pedrick had earlier designed Nirvana, generally considered a beautiful yacht that was reasonably competitive while also having a comfortable fit-out below (and can be seen in this video of the 1983 SORC). This met part of Lewis' criteria for a yacht that could be raced successfully while also suitable for entertaining guests aboard.

A building team was assembled around aluminium boat builder Paul Kelly and Sovereign was launched in late November 1986. She went on to win everything she competed in, except for the Sydney-Hobart of that year when she was forced to retire due to the failure of a bolt in the spreader root connection to the mast.

Sovereign hauled out in Sydney, May 1988 (photo Bob Chapman)
Once this problem was fixed Sovereign bounced back to take line honours in each of the 30 races she contested, winning over half on corrected time. In the 1987 Sydney-Mooloolaba race she finished first, some 80 miles ahead of the next maxi, and went on to be selected for the New South Wales team for the Southern Cross Cup. She secured a rare line and handicap honours double in the 1987 Sydney-Hobart that formed the finale of the Southern Cross Cup, fulfilling Lewis' dream and helping the NSW team to win the Cup.
Sovereign in a tight tussle with Il Moro di Venezia during the 1988 Kenwood Cup
Sovereign was later chosen to represent Australia at the 1988 Kenwood Cup in Hawaii, where she met with modest success against the first of the new breed of carbon fibre maxis such as Raul Gardini's Il Moro di Venezia (photo above, and below seen leading Ondine, Congere and Emeraude). Modifications were planned for within the six weeks available between the end of the Kenwood Cup and the San Francisco Big Boat Series.

The 1988 Big Boat Series was the last to feature a big Maxi fleet, following a good turnout at the Kenwood Cup, and was a last hurrah for IOR on the West Coast, with a big fleet bolstered by the One Ton Cup that had been held just prior. Sovereign was skippered by Peter Gilmour for the series. Some improvements were achieved, but while lying second overall, a running backstay foul resulted in a breakage to the Sovereign's mast, above the top spreader. A team was assembled within the crew to get the boat racing again within 36 hours, and after an all-night effort the mast was repaired and re-stepped in time for the next race, due to a convenient lay day.

Following the improvements achieved in San Francisco, Lewis ordered a new keel, mast and sails to ensure Sovereign was at her best for the 1989 World Maxi Championships to be held over three regattas at the US Virgin Islands, Newport (Rhode Island) and Palma, Majorca. After winning in both the Virgin Islands and Newport regattas, an offer was made to Lewis for the boat before she was to be shipped to Europe. It is understood that she was renamed Lady Godiva II, before she was again sold and converted to a cruiser for the Caribbean. and in more recent times was converted to a cruiser in Italy.

17 October 2014

Laser Masters World Championships 2014

I recently competed in the 2014 Laser Masters World Championships, held in Hyeres on the south coast of France, and part of a 13 strong contingent from New Zealand making up part of a total of 500 sailors from 37 countries. We had great conditions, with moderate seabreeze conditions on most days, and was everything the brochure promised, including steep and large waves that made the downwind legs particularly fun. I finished fourth in the 73 boat Radial/Masters fleet, my brother Matt Blakey was third in the Standard/Apprentice division, and my dad Bob was second in the Standard/Great Grand Master division, a good result for Team Blakey! Fellow Kiwi Mike Keeton won the Radial/Grand Master title, while Scott Leith finished second in the Radial/Apprentice Master fleet, with Edmund Tam fourth (full results here).

28 August 2014

One Ton Cup 1988

The 1988 One Ton Cup was hosted by the St Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco during 3-15 September. The One Ton fleet (30.5ft IOR) had over the preceding years been the most competitive and best supported class in ocean racing, and the Cup was attracting the most sophisticated boats and best crews around. 

The fleet in San Francisco numbered 25, with the Farr office responsible for the design of ten of the boats. The defending champion, the Crown Prince Harold of Norway, arrived in San Francisco early with his yacht Fram X which had won the 1987 even held in Kiel, Germany, and remained a serious contender a year later. Other top boats included Bravura, a new 1988 Farr design under the direction of Geoff Stagg and a Farr works team. Bravura had taken top honours at the Kenwood Cup in Hawaii a month earlier. Another entrant that arrived from Hawaii was Australian Gary Appleby's Sagacious V, a veteran of the 1986 Southern Cross Cup and 1987 Admiral's Cup.

Propaganda - 1988 One Ton Cup winner
The New Zealand challenge was spearheaded by Propaganda, the top scoring boat in the 1987 Admiral's Cup which was by this time owned by a syndicate of Tim Bailey, Michael Fay and David Richwhite. Propaganda had not raced since the Admiral's Cup and instead had been tuned in Auckland with sistership Fair Share, and had been given a new keel and rudder prior to the series to try to improve downwind performance. Propaganda was skippered by Rick Dodson, and included US sailor John Bertrand who provided excellent local knowledge.

Startline action during the 1988 One Ton Cup
Other notable entries included the 1983-era Pacific Sundance, skippered by Chris Dickson, and local entry Pendragon, a Davidson design skippered by Kimo Worthington.

Part of the 1988 One Ton Cup fleet - Propaganda just to the left of KA-Sm-6 has an average start but will soon be up with the leading bunch.
The first inshore race was held inside San Francisco Bay in typically perfect conditions for which the Bay is known, but working the shore of Angel Island in the adverse tide on the upwind legs was critical. By the second to last beat Pendragon and Propaganda were leading and engaging in a close duel barely feet apart and taking each other into the middle of the course and into the current. Pacific Sundance was able to take advantage and lead around the penultimate weather mark, and it wasn't until the final beat was able to move into the lead, winning by 20 seconds, with Pacific Sundance second and Pendragon third.

The second race, the long offshore, took the fleet under the Golden Gate Bridge and out into light and shifty coastal waters, and on a large ocean triangle course of around 150 miles (with the Farollan islands acting as a wing mark), followed by a smaller triangle of 75 miles and then back into the Bay to finish off the Yacht Club. This proved to be more a test of nerves and frustration than sailing skill. Sagacious V lead the fleet after 50 miles, from Rush (ex-Jamarella) but with Fram X and Propaganda close behind. But during the night Propaganda had played the shifts to perfection and moved up to second, and managed to round the Farollan Islands without coming to a standstill and put a large gap between Sagacious and the rest of the fleet. For the rest of the race Propaganda was on her own, managing to keep moving in the very light air and finishing just before the ebb tide became too strong - Sagacious was shut out and Propaganda finished the race 8 hours ahead. Fram X came in third, followed by Pendragon.

Propaganda heads upwind and avoids a competitor's errant spinnaker
Conditions could not have been more different for the third race, the second inshore, with 25-30 knots blowing against the tide and forming short sharp seas. Pendragon was an early casualty, breaking her boom after throwing a covering tack over Propaganda. The fleet was closely bunched at the weather mark and while Sagacious was in the leading bunch her mast failed soon afterwards. Both Bravura and Fair Share managed to blow out spinnakers on the downwind legs, while top marks for presentation went to British entry Juno for showing her entire keel during a wipe-out at the gybe mark. 

As in the first race, the Angel Island shore was again paying in the strong tidal conditions, forcing a line of port tackers up the first half of the weather legs.  Propaganda had an immense tussle with the Takai design Victoria, just taking the lead after the final bottom mark and stretching away to win by a minute after Victoria broke her boom. Skedaddle, a Reichel-Pugh design, came in second, followed by Bravura and Fair Share.

After three races Propaganda was the clear leader going into the fourth race, the 150 mile short offshore. Given the light conditions for the long offshore, the race committee elected to reduced the length of the race to 139 miles, but with just 70 miles outside the Bay, and the remainder within the Bay, taking the competitors right up into the container areas and the eastern end of the Harbour, where there were still light and shifty breezes, and periods of total calm. In fickle conditions Fram X and Propaganda finished 11 and 12th respectively, although Propaganda had been lying in 15th for a time.

Sagacious loses her mast in the third race
Despite the trials of the offshore races, most competitors were happy to this point with the organisation of the regatta. The checking of yachts was conducted on a random basis both before and after races, and involving checks of sails, freeboards and the internal positioning of gear by very thorough measurers - the race committee working hard to prevent a repeat of issues in Kiel the year before. However, most thought this thoroughness went too far when both Sagacious and Black Jack were precluded from installing their spare rigs following their breakages, and forcing the crews to repair the broken ones. Pendragon was unable to fix their boom in time for the short offshore and so had to miss the race.

The final race was again held in 18-20 knots, and saw Fair Share jump out to an early lead. Skippered by Russell Coutts, Fair Share was improving throughout the series and was clearly on form by the closing stages. She ended up covering Bravura and Pacific Sundance which let Propaganda sail her own race and go on to win by over a minute. With a 1/1/1/12/1 record, Propaganda won the series by a comfortable margin on 142.25 points, with Bravura second on 121.5, Fram X third (118.5), followed by Team Cirkeline, Sagacious and Fair Share. The first non-Farr boat was Challenge 88 in seventh place, a Bruce Nelson design.
Fair Share sails past Alcatraz
Propaganda's dominance was due to a number of factors. Much care was taken to develop her keel and rudder shapes to provide better all round performance to balance out the blistering upwind speed that she had at the Admiral's Cup. The boat and crew arrived early in San Francisco and spent a full ten days fine tuning the mast and rigging for the conditions and sail testing against Fair Share. Significantly, the crew found that their Sparcraft mast was flexing too much in San Francisco's 25 knot winds, and so extended the jumper struts and replaced the rigging with cobalt rod to limit stretch - the resulting more powerful and stiffer rig showed its worth from the first race onwards. 

Missing the Kenwood Cup series allowed the Propaganda crew to focus on the One Ton Cup, and avoided issues such as those that beset Juno which suffered a collision at the earlier regatta, and winners of the regatta Bravura were perhaps left with a false sense of security. Challenge 88 had had to scramble to make it to San Francisco after winning their victory at the Canada's Cup. 

Sagacious (left) follows Victoria into a gybe mark
The crew work was excellent and all of them had raced with skipper Rick Dodson which allowed fine tuning of the yacht to take precedence over crew work. The combination of John Bertrand as tactician and John Newton as navigator was also a great asset, with the boat sailed on a consistent and percentage basis, with no protests and no close incidents which allowed the crew to keep sailing the boat at its fastest. 
Bodacious (Australian Farr 40)
It was, overall, a remarkable performance, equaling the four-win record set by Chris Bouzaid in another famous New Zealand yacht, Rainbow II, which won the Cup in 1969. Afterwards, Propaganda co-owners Fay and Richwhite announced their intention to build a second, larger Farr design to campaign alongside Propaganda in the New Zealand team for the defence of the Admiral's Cup in 1989 - that boat would be known as Librah. Propaganda and Fair Share stayed in San Francisco for the 1988 Big Boat Series, where the ever improving Fair Share turned the tables on the One Ton Cup winner to take second place behind Pendragon, with Propaganda third.

The One Ton Cup

Results (top 10)

1. Propaganda (NZL) - Farr - 142.25pts
2. Bravura (USA) - Farr - 121.50
3. Fram X (NOR) - Farr - 118.50
4. Team Cirkeline - Farr - 114.50
5. Sagacious (AUS) - Farr - 112
6. Fair Share (NZL) - Farr - 106
7. Challenge 88 (USA) - Nelson - 103
8. Pacific Sundance (NZL) - Farr - 98
9. The Esanda Way - Davidson - 90
10. Skedaddle - Reichel-Pugh - 84

23 August 2014

One Ton Revisited - Press Release 23 August 2014

Two of the “royals” of New Zealand offshore racing – John and Kevin Lidgard – have joined the line-up for the One Ton Revisited regatta in February/March 2015. Successive generations of the Lidgard yachting dynasty, father and son John and Kevin are to crew for Bevan Hill on the John Lidgard-designed and built Result. The 36ft 2in (11.02m) Result was constructed, of kauri/kahikatea (glassed), for the 1977 One Ton Cup in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf.

The John Lidgard designed Result during the 1977 One Ton Cup
One of John Lidgard’s many great moments in a highly-distinguished offshore racing career was in 1971 when he skippered New Zealand’s Southern Cross Cup team that comprised Pathfinder (Brin Wilson), Runaway (John Lidgard) and Wai-Aniwa (Chris Bouzaid). That trio notched up an unprecedented (and, one suspects, never-to-be-repeated) 1, 2 and 3 in the Sydney-Hobart classic to also clinch New Zealand’s first win in the Southern Cross Cup teams’ series. That would have been particularly satisfying for John Lidgard – designer, builder and skipper of Runaway and captain of the team - quite a “fourfecta”!!! 

Pathfinder racing in Auckland in 1971 (Pathfinder is now based in Seattle)
Another newcomer to the fleet is the S&S design Young Nick, which was also built for the 1971 One Ton Cup defence in the Hauraki Gulf. She was commissioned by industrialist, the late Lou Fisher, and skippered by former Rainbow II tactician (now yacht designer) Alan Warwick. Young Nick is in top condition with owner/skipper Craig Hopkins seeking training partners to work up with him before the event (anyone interested, Craig’s email address is craig@edesiamarket.co.nz).

Young Nick during the 1971 One Ton Cup trials
With the entry deadline looming, organisers know of a number of would-be entries that are working their way to putting their hats in the ring. So, to be as inclusive as possible, the RNZYS has agreed to accept late entries, right up to the eve of the series, at the Squadron’s absolute discretion and with a 10% loading on the regular entry fee. To facilitate this, an official amendment to the Notice of Race will be issued in the next few days (view the Squadron's One Ton Revisited page here). 

The Farr 1104 Revolution
In the interim, we will be meeting next week with the Volvo Ocean Race stopover organisers to discuss how we can play our part in what will be a Festival of Sail while the round-the-world racers are in town and, particularly, how the One Ton Revisited yachts can that be best-accommodated in the build-up races to the Volvo restart on 15 March, 2015.

Meanwhile, the One Ton Revisited entries to date are Pacific Sundance (NZL 5281), Rainbow II (C96), Result (2998), Revolution (NZL 4697), Sextett (GER 1785), Wai Aniwa (1280) and Young Nick (1185).

17 August 2014

A Lighter Ton - now an e-book

My book 'A Lighter Ton: The Champion New Zealand Yachts of the 1970s', first published in March 2012, is now available on the Amazon Kindle store as an e-book (here).

The book tells the story of how New Zealand designers, Bruce Farr, Laurie Davidson and Paul Whiting, changed the face of international racing yachts during the 1970s in the level rating offshore classes – the ‘Ton’ boats. It features 76 photographs and 15 drawings, including lines plans.

The book traces the origins of the International Offshore Rule (the IOR), how it worked and its development in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It then examines the emergence of a new and light displacement approach to the Rule, one that allowed for greater speed for less cost, leading to boats that were more exhilarating to sail and would point the way to a more exciting future in yacht design.

Reaction to this new breed was not universally positive, however, and this book follows the changes to the Rule that were designed to safeguard a peculiar status quo, boats that were typically wider, heavier and slower for their size. The issues raised by the new boats came to a head for the 1977 One Ton Cup series held in Auckland, and the Australian Southern Cross Cup series of the same year, and lead to rule changes that would affect the face of offshore yacht design for over a decade. This book is a celebration of the yachts that, although practically ruled out of the sport, showed the potential and promise of a lighter Ton…

See the reviews here.

One of the yachts featured in 'A Lighter Ton' - The Red Lion seen here during the 1977 One Ton Cup

10 August 2014

Red Rock IV (Frers 43)

Red Rock IV (photo Beken - sample sheet)
Red Rock IV is a 43 footer (rating 34.4ft IOR), designed by German Frers and built by Marland Marine for owner E Mandelbaum to form part of the Argentinian team to compete in the 1979 Admirals Cup. She sailed in the series alongside team-mates Acadia and Sur II - Acadia having missed a place in the US team. 

The 1979 series was windy throughout, and after placings of 31/25/38/17 in the inshore and Channel races, Red Rock IV went on to finish 6th in the storm lashed Fastnet Race of that year (to finish 15th yacht overall, and top yacht in the fifth placed Argentinian team).

Red Rock IV featured on the cover of Argentinian yachting magazine 'Gente'
Red Rock IV is now owned by English yachtsman Rob Newman in her new home port of Portishead, Bristol Channel. Newman has extensively modified this big heavy yacht for single handed sailing, and has recently competed in the 2014 Celtic Challenge, the Solo Offshore Racing Club's signature event for the season which started on 22 July in Falmouth, and finished in Plymouth in early August. The Celtic Challenge comprises five races up to 310 miles long, taking in the Southern Irish ports of Kinsale, Sherkin Island, Bear Island and Dingle, and included a rounding of one of the most well known of offshore racing turning marks, Fastnet Rock.

Red Rock IV sailing in the Celtic Challenge 2014

The Celtic Challenge also formed a qualifying event for the even bigger challenge of the 2015 AZAB (Azores and back) race, which Newman has also entered. He reports that Red Rock IV performed fantastically well in South Irish sea, and his video footage shows that he is able to sail this big boat downwind with apparent ease (and time to film!), even though she was originally designed to be handled with a full crew and still retains some of those IOR rolling tendencies. 

Red Rock IV sailing downwind in the South Irish sea (photo Rob Newman)

12 July 2014

SORC 1983

Here is the video documentary of the 1983 Southern Ocean Racing Conference (SORC). It features some great sailing footage of the maxis like Kialoa IV, Condor, Nirvana and Midnight Sun, and the keen battle between the top Class C yachts Locura and Scarlett O'Hara. Also featured are Class B winner Carat and the first of Farr's return to IOR design in this period, Class E winner Migizi.