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


  1. I met a "Regardless" at the One Ton Cup 1984, at La trinité sur Mer. he looked little a sister to Swuzzle.... Quite sure she was a Ron Holland too.

  2. Here is info about Swuzzlebubble 3 today...


  3. Hi Richard, I tried to contact the seller but they never got back to me... not that I will buy but it is always fun to look. //Lars