23 December 2012

Swuzzlebubble III (Holland 40)

Swuzzlebubble III was a 40ft 6" Ron Holland design (a development of Holland's earlier Regardless hull), the second of Ian Gibbs' yachts to this name (Swuzzlebubble became Swuzzlebubble II after her extensive modifications for the 1979 Half Ton Cup). Swuzzlebubble III was a very professional campaign, and the one that gave Gibbs his greatest success in international offshore racing. The yacht was rated at 30.1ft IOR for the 1981 NZ Admirals Cup trials series, close to the minimum allowed for the Admirals Cup itself (which was raced at the time in three boat teams between 30.0 and 40.0ft IOR).
Swuzzlebubble III on launching day at Westhaven, Auckland, December 1980 (Gibbs Family Collection)
Interior photo of galley area (Gibbs Family Collection)
The yacht was built by Cooksons, making use of a form of construction that Holland had pioneered with his Two Tonner Imp, with a light composite hull and a stainless steel and aluminium space frame that was engineered to take keel and rig loads. This was combined a sparse but ergonomically efficient interior  designed by Brett de Thier for a very high tech appearance for the time. Her displacement of 13,500lbs incorporated 3,800lbs in the keel, and 3,000lbs in the hull floor.

The Swuzzlebubble III campaign got off to a shaky start, however, when her Stearn (US) mast was delayed by a week and failed to arrive in time for launching day, and it later broke during windy conditions off Channel Island during the preliminary observation trials. A new section had to be flown in from the US which was sleeved locally. The mast was a bendy fractional set up, with triple in-line spreaders and sailed with a North wardrobe, including the new-style vertical cut headsails developed by Tom Schnackenburg.

Downwind during the 1981 NZ trials
The racing in the trials series was very close, with three instances of dead heats on corrected times and a margin of only two seconds between first and second on corrected time after the 40-hour 300 mile final race. Gibbs was involved in a plane crash the day before the trials proper, and this may have influenced the yachts' fourth placing in the first race. However, Gibbs was well supported by a top crew that included Andy Ball and Rick Dodson, and they went on to win the second race, and placed third in the third race. From there on, the regatta was all Swuzzlebubble III, winning the final three races to easily qualify in the New Zealand team, alongside Epiglass New Zealand (a Holland 40 sistership, renamed as Wee Willie Winkie for the Admirals Cup to avoid Rule 26 sponsorship issues) and Marac, an S&S 46 (re-named Inca for the same reason). 
 NZ Admirals Cup trials 1981 - Swuzzlebubble III, Spritzer and Feltex Roperunner (Gibbs Family Collection)

Swuzzlebubble III went on to have an excellent series in the 1981 Admirals Cup, finishing with a flourish in the Fastnet Race finale to leap from seventh place to first overall on 315 points, just one point ahead of the English yacht, Peter de Savary's Victory of Burnham. This was, however, the only bright spot of an otherwise disappointing New Zealand team performance, with Wee Willie Winkie finishing in 25th place, and Inca even further back in 42nd.

Swuzzlebubble III was sold overseas and is presently for sale in Italy (refer photos below). She still looks to be in very good condition, and includes a more cruising-oriented interior. 

Swuzzlebubble III slides downwind during one of the offshore races in the 1981 New Zealand Admiral's Cup trials (photo P Montgomery/Sail-world)
Swuzzlebubble III leads Monique (middle) and Epiglass NZ (left) in fresh downwind conditions during the New Zealand Admiral's Cup trials (photo NZ Yachting/Sail-world)
Swuzzlebubble III in a strong position ahead of a pack of bigger boats during the 1981 Admiral's Cup

Swuzzlebubble III as seen recently for sale

20 December 2012

Figaro Wipeout

I had to post this video, quite an amazing wipeout on this two-handed Figaro Beneteau - they go for what looks like their smallest kite, but things go downhill, literally, from about 0:30. I understand from the translation by others that the nosedive was exacerbated by the fact that the ballast tanks were not empty. The water in the tanks moved forward when the boat nosedived, helping the movement of the boat down and forward when the water came to a halt.

And if you enjoyed this video, have a look at this single-handed Figaro....

18 December 2012

Gunboat Rangiriri (Farr Half Tonner)

Gunboat Rangiriri was the second of Farr's centreboard Half Ton design (Design 65) for the Half Ton Cup held in Sydney in December 1977. The yacht, commissioned by Dr Peter Willcox, was launched on 24 August 1977 following a rush build of just 90 days, and was joined by Ian Gibbs' sistership Swuzzlebubble in the strong NZ Half Ton fleet.

Design 65 was a big Half Tonner, with 380mm more length, 200mm more beam and a rig nearly a metre taller than Farr's previous Half Ton design, the Farr 920. This design was 110kg heavier, but benefitted from cleaner hull lines in the stern area, and these yachts still look fast even today. Although it was often beneficial to place the engine for'ard of the mast on light displacement yachts of this size for rating purposes, Farr opted to place the engine in the centre of the boat in order to optimise the design for better performance in the big waves expected in Sydney. 

Engine placement and driveshaft (Peter Morton photo)
Gunboat Rangiriri and Swuzzlebubble were stand-out performers in the Half Ton trials, but fought out an incredibly close series with the Laurie Davidson centreboard design Waverider. Gunboat Rangiriri, helmed by Peter Walker, finished the first race in third, but bounced back to win the second race. The third middle distance ocean race was a cliffhanger, the three yachts at the head of the fleet descended on the finish line at Orakei Wharf in a bunch, with Gunboat Rangiriri taking the gun two boat lengths ahead of Swuzzlebubble, with Waverider third, just two seconds adrift. 

Above and below - 1977 Half Ton Cup trials (J Malitte)

The finish of the fourth race was even closer, with Waverider winning by only 11 seconds from Gunboat Rangiriri and Swuzzlebubble, who dead-heated for second.  In the 260 mile final ocean race, Gunboat Rangiriri and Swuzzlebubble tussled between themselves for the lead after Waverider retired with a broken rudder. It was a long race, but incredibly Swuzzlebubble led Gunboat Rangiriri home by just 32 seconds, which gave her the overall series win. 

Gunboat Rangiriri being loaded aboard a ship to Sydney (J Malitte)
Gunboat Rangiriri went on to win the Australian trials series which was the ideal build up for the Half Ton Cup itself. For the Cup Gunboat Rangiriri and Swuzzlebubble were joined by their Australian sistership 2269, and this boat, along with Waverider and the Holland design Silver Shamrock III, were the ones to watch. Gunboat Rangiriri scored places of 5/1/2/2, demonstrating excellent consistency, and then it all came down to the 250 mile ocean race finale, with all five top yachts in with a chance. Although Silver Shamrock III won, Gunboat Rangiriri finished in second, which was enough to win the Half Ton title, by just one point.

Gunboat Rangiriri slides downwind in the 1977 Half Ton Cup

Interior photo, centrecase still evident (Peter Morton)
The yacht was sold to Swiss yachtsman Dr Peter Knoblock the following year and competed in the 1978 Half Ton Cup held in Poole, England. Without her original crew she was a shadow of her former self, finishing a lowly 17th overall. Although she demonstrated her potential on occasions, especially in the final ocean race, her crew were new to the boat and unused to the techniques involved in handling a light displacement centreboard yacht, and were unable to do her justice. Further changes to the IOR in 1979 led to a 4.7% increase in her rating, but additional displacement and a new keel meant that she was still able to compete in the class, although her 1980 measurement certificate shows that she carried a Displacement-Length Factor penalty of 1.0239.

The yacht is now located in Italy and is maintained in near original condition by her current owner Claudio Massucci. She races in the Italian Half Ton Cup series held each June, and has a recent IRC rating of 0.945. 

Gunboat Rangiriri - still sporting her original livery, seen here in Italy (Peter Morton photo)

 Competing in the Italian Half Ton series (courtesy Claudio Massucci)

14 December 2012

Featured Photos - 1984 SORC

These photographs feature some US and European yachts competing in the St Petersburg to Ft Lauderdale race during the Southern Ocean Racing Conference (SORC) in 1984. At this time most of the yachts had been developed to the limits of the IOR rule with increased displacement and relatively fine ends. Because masthead rigs were still popular they often used shooters (or bloopers in US parlance)  to provide stability when running dead downwind, especially in a breeze as during this race.

The photos have featured in a number of threads by Larry Moran (Chicago) on the Sailing Anarchy forums. Larry was an active semi-professional yachting photographer at the time, and has kindly granted permission to post some of my favourite images from his collection.

Bravura - Frers 46 (Irving Loube), 35.4ft IOR, 8th in Class C, 34th overall (photo Larry Moran, Chicago)
Morningstar, Frers 50 (John Ambrose Jr), 40.0ft IOR, 1st Class B, 4th overall (photo Larry Moran, Chicago)
Dawn Patrol, Soverel 43 (George de Guardiola), 33.7ft IOR, 6th Class C, 33rd overall (photo Larry Moran, Chicago)
Lady Be, Frers 46 (F Chalain), 35.3ft IOR, 3rd Class C, 14th overall (photo Larry Moran, Chicago)
Intuition, Peterson 42 (Patrick Malloy), 32.7ft IOR, 13th in Class D, 68th overall (photo Larry Moran, Chicago)
Pinta, Judel/Vrolijk 42 (W Illbruck), 32.6ft IOR, 8th in Class D, 24th overall (photo Larry Moran, Chicago)
Gauntlet, Kaufman 45 (G Freidrichs), 34.3ft IOR, 9th in Class C, 31st overall (photo Larry Moran, Chicago)
Quest, Rodgers 43 (R Lynds), 31.9ft IOR, 3rd in Class D, 9th overall (photo Larry Moran, Chicago)
Thunderbolt, Nelson-Marek 41 (Rodney Wallace), 32.1ft IOR, 5th in Class D, 22nd overall (photo Larry Moran, Chicago)

11 December 2012

Smackwater Jack (Whiting One Tonner)

Smackwater Jack was another joint Paul Whiting and Murray Ross effort, following the Quarter Tonner Magic Bus and Half Tonner Newspaper Taxi. While Newspaper Taxi had been designed with the 1977 Half Ton Cup in mind, Whiting and Ross elected to enter the larger higher profile One Ton class with a new boat. 

As a development of the Newspaper Taxi concept, Smackwater Jack featured a broad stern with a long sloping transom and pronounced beam amidships. As with Whiting's earlier designs, volume forward that was lost through an aggressively concave waterline was replaced through a deeper forefoot, with a steep profile abaft the bow knuckle. A further topside concavity occurred near the transom in order to reduce volume and thereby minimise the after girth penalty. She had a longer rated length than her Farr-designed competitors (9.95m), and this was offset by a higher measured displacement (4,519kg), but also allowed more sail area, set on a relatively simple but bendy single-spreader rig.
Smackwater Jack on launching day - Okahu Bay, Auckland (above and below)

Smackwater Jack during the One Ton Cup trials (photo Jenny Green/Sea Spray)
Smackwater Jack sailing upwind
Smackwater Jack cockpit detail
Whereas the Farr boats carried ballast within their centreboard fin, the centreboard on Smackwater Jack was only weighted sufficiently to ensure that it would sink (90kg), and the yacht thereby relied entirely on internal ballast to achieve the required minimum level of stability. The yacht was found to have insufficient headroom, and a new boxy cabin top was hastily constructed to meet regulations. The cockpit lockers shown in the above photograph were also deemed to be non-compliant and had to be filled in just before the One Ton Cup series.
Sailing to windward in the Hauraki Gulf, the new boxy cabin evident
One Ton Cup trials, 1977
Smackwater Jack started her racing career with wins in local coastal races, then went on to win the New Zealand One Ton Cup trials, held in September 1977. This did not look likely after the first race, when the yacht was forced to retire after breaking her forestay. This was followed by an indifferent fifth in the second race, but she went on to win the intermediate offshore race after holding out Jenny H. A third in the fourth race was followed by another win in the final offshore, for a clear win overall.
Smackwater Jack was the feature yacht on the cover of the 1977 One Ton Cup programme
However, alterations to the yacht before the Cup series proper seemed to have a detrimental effect on her performance, and a lack of on the water preparation seemed to affect her reliability. Some of her competitors sailed in the Southern Cross Cup trials which allowed them to develop their charges and overtake the Whiting design. The Cup regatta started disastrously for the crew, with the yacht again having to retire from the opening race, this time with a propeller that refused to close. She also had to retire from the gale-afflicted long ocean race finale, suffering from a host of gear damage after the second leg bash to windward where she began taking on large amounts of water. In the three races that she finished, Smackwater Jack failed to fire, scoring places of 6/4/6.
Smackwater Jack sails upwind with The Red Lion in close company to weather during the 1977 One Ton Cup
Smackwater Jack was later modified with a new rig, cabin and conventional companionway, and slightly more subdued gunmetal grey colour scheme, and joined Anticipation and the Farr 1104 Chick Chack in the New Zealand 'North' team for the 1979 Southern Cross Cup series. The team finished a disappointing fifth overall, but Smackwater Jack finished in second place in a light-air Sydney to Hobart race to finish as fourth yacht overall.
Above and below - Smackwater Jack during the 1979 Southern Cross Cup series

A satellite photo of Cyclone Paul - 9 January 1980
Whiting and his crew then started in the 1980 Hobart to Auckland race, getting underway in calm conditions on 4 January. However, a storm developed in the Gulf of Carpentaria which crossed the north Australian mainland and entered the Tasman Sea as a full-blown cyclone, and tracked directly into the path of the Hobart-Auckland fleet. The Smackwater Jack crew managed to complete their scheduled radio call on 9 January, reporting that they were in difficult and heavy seas approximately 580 miles from Cape Reinga. That was, however, the last word ever heard from the boat, and a full scale search and rescue operation failed to find any trace of the yacht or crew. The NZ Herald reported in January 2008 that wreckage of part of the cockpit had been found on Ripiro Beach, on the west coast of the North Island, but this has not been subsequently verified.

8 December 2012

Titus Canby (Farr Half Tonner)

Back to the boat that signalled the start of a new era - Bruce Farr's first keelboat, the Half Ton design Titus Canby. This yacht was designed for Auckland sailor Rob Blackburn - he required a yacht around 8m that would have a low building cost. The basic design concept heralded something quite new - light displacement married to broad aft sections, and fine for'ard sections for cutting through the Hauraki Gulf chop. A modest length of 8.1m allowed a fair and easily driven hull that would not require a large sail plan. The idea was to achieve a boat that would have enough weight for stability but still be light enough to plane and surf downwind.Titus Canby looked very different to the types of boat popular at the time, and was relatively high wooded and blocky looking, with a long cabin almost equal in height to the yacht's freeboard.

Farr designed a fractional 7/8th rig for Titus Canby with a small headsail and, for the times, a relatively large main. At the time that the design was being conceived the RORC rule was being phased out in deference to the new IOR. Small adjustments were made to the design of the yacht so that it could be made into a Half Tonner. This led to a little more beam amidships and more depth in the midship area. A careful arrangement of the for'ard girth stations around the stem knuckle allowed the FIGS measurement point to be pushed slightly aft relative to FGS which helped the Forward Overhang Correction measurement. 
Titus Canby sails to weather on the Hauraki Gulf

The stern of Titus Canby was cut off almost vertically to achieve a lower rated length. But to achieve a Half Ton rating Blackburn had to cut some lead out of the trailing area of the keel and replace the missing area with wood, and place 8kg of lead under the foredeck.

Tohe Candu circa 1976 (1977 DB Yachting Annual)
The formula worked and the performance of Titus Canby in the 1972 South Pacific Half Ton Championship exceeded all expectations, and a five minute win in the opening 40 miler was a stunning first effort by a crew that were still learning her idiosyncracies. A 14 minute win in the 180 mile ocean race cemented an overall victory. She was later bought by Ian Gibbs, who renamed the yacht Tohe Candu, and had her shipped to Europe for the 1974 Half Ton Cup in La Rochelle. Although she was dominant in a warm up series in Cowes against 40 English Half Tonners, she finished eighth overall in the Cup itself which was held in generally light conditions. However, the campaign was significant in that it represented the first New Zealand design to compete in international competition. 

Tohe Candu returned to New Zealand and survived several rule changes to remain extremely competitive in local racing even five years after the lines were first put to paper. This was helped by a new taller 3/4 rig for the 1976 Half Ton Championship, which extracted a little more potential from the boat. Tohe Candu almost won the series, initially finishing just over one point ahead of Peter Spencer's S&S design Cotton Blossom, but was relegated to runner up after a controversial points award by the race committee that went in favour of Cotton Blossom.

The yacht has reverted to her original name and races out of the Royal Port Nicholson Yacht Club in Wellington, with a PHRF of 0.685.
Titus Canby as she is today (Farr Yacht Design)
Titus Canby during the March 2017 Port Nicholson Line 7 Regatta (photo Chris Coad/SailWorld)