17 November 2012

Blackfun (Davidson Quarter Tonner)

Blackfun was a Laurie Davidson Quarter Ton design, a development of his earlier centreboarder Fun that had impressed so much in Corpus Christi in 1976. The hull was the first of a production line version (in fibreglass) of Fun, but her lines had been modified to address changes to the IOR in 1976 (IOR Mk IIIA), which included a more pronounced step in the bustle, and slightly less sail area than Fun. She also sported a larger centreboard, which seemed to further improve her windward performance.

Blackfun was launched just in time for the 1977 Quarter Ton national championships, leaving little time before the regatta for tuning. In fact, 20 minutes before the start of the first race the crew (lead by Roy Dickson and including Barry Thom, Herb Tremaine, the yacht's builder, and Peter Jordan) were still screwing down fittings, and the boat featured a white 'primer only' paintjob. Nevertheless, the boat finished that race with a third place, and then went on to win the remaining four races to take the New Zealand title in emphatic fashion. Although she displayed better boat speed than her competitors, it was only on the final race that the crew felt that the boat was finally ready to race.

Blackfun competing in the 1977 New Zealand Quarter Ton series (DB Yachting Annual 1977)
 While the result was a triumph for the Blackfun crew and her designer, this was tempered by the fact that the necessary funds couldn't be raised to send Blackfun to the Quarter Ton Cup in Finland to defend the title for New Zealand, following the win by Magic Bus in 1976, and  by 45 South in 1975.

Sailing downwind in the 1980 Quarter Ton Cup (Sea Spray)
Blackfun did, however, go on compete in a Quarter Ton Cup, when it was hosted by the Panmure Yacht and Boating Club in 1980. By this stage she had in turn been outclassed by the newer yachts that were designed for this series, including Davidson's new design Hellaby and Farr's Anchor Challenge and Hot Number. However, all the local yachts were eclipsed by the French flyer, the Faroux design Bullit, and Blackfun finished ninth overall.
In PHRF mode
She went on to sail in local races, and was given some modifications by Peter Loughlin to increase her overall speed, once IOR considerations were no longer relevant, including a masthead spinnaker and bulb keel.

Blackfun was eventually bought by a Wellington group, headed by Brett Linton and Jamie McDowell, who were keen to have a crack at the Quarter Ton Cup that had seen something of a revival in Europe. Davidson guided the new modifications, with the stern sections faired out, a new rig with non-overlapping headsail, and a bulb keel. The yacht was optimised to sail at the maximum IRC rating under which the regatta is now sailed (TCF of 0.920). So the yacht finally made her European debut 34 years on for the 2011 Quarter Ton Cup where she finished in tenth place against a fleet of highly competitive Quarter Tonners.

Blackfun in her new IRC configuration before being shipped to England for the 2011 Quarter Ton Cup
After the 2011 series she was sold to an English yachtsman Rob Gray, who carried out some further modifications that made Blackfun a bit faster relative to her rating, including a new keel, movement of the rudder aft and some rig changes, and which also slightly reduced her rating to 0.912. She demonstrated some improved performance in the 2012 Quarter Ton Cup, winning the third race, but being ruled over the line in the last race scuttled any chance of a high placing, finishing the series in fifth place overall (with Bullit reprising her 1980 victory to take the Cup). 
Blackfun rounding a weather mark during the 2011 Quarter Ton Cup
Changes in 2012 included a new keel and a rudder placed well aft (photo Fiona Brown)
Blackfun recently competed in the 2013 Quarter Ton Cup but while showing flashes of brilliance, startline infringements and a top mark collision saw her finish in ninth place overall.

Blackfun on her way to second place in the last race of the 2013 Quarter Ton Cup (photo Jonathan Hoare)

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