16 January 2013

Waverider (Davidson Half Tonner)

Waverider is perhaps New Zealand's most famous IOR yacht, and one of the most successful level rating yachts of the IOR era. Waverider was designed by Laurie Davidson in 1976 for Tony Bouzaid, and accomplished dinghy sailor at the time (brother of Chris Bouzaid of Rainbow II fame) who had also enjoyed success locally in an earlier Davidson design Half Tonner Blitzkreig.  

The design for Waverider followed the theme established in Davidson's earlier Quarter Tonner Fun (see earlier post, October 2012), with light displacement of just 5,200lb and utilising a centreboard (of 250lb, with a draft of 6ft) and a hefty amount of internal ballast (2,600lb), an approach that had proved successful both by Fun and, on a heavy displacement platform, by the Britton Chance One Tonner Resolute Salmon. The major difference to Fun was in the hull design, which was narrower (10ft 1in) with less depth forward than the Bruce Farr and Paul Whiting boats of the era. By having less beam Davidson believed the yacht would have less inclination to get out of balance in fresh conditions and would not lift its stern or bury its bow when overpowered. She also featured flared topsides to provide greater righting moment from the crew.

Waverider under construction at John Rea's yard
 The stern shape was similar to Fun, being wide and low, with a long sloping transom which met the long flat stern buttock lines which extended beyond the trademark crease at the after girth station measurement point. Where other designs utilised a double curve in the run aft around the after girth and after inner girth stations, Davidson's approach was to round the run up quite suddenly, leading it straight up to the flat of the counter. This overhang, which stretched the yacht out to 31ft 6in length overall, provided power and sailing length upwind, and encouraged early surfing downwind. Waverider looked small due to her distinctively low freeboard. This characteristic made the cabin appear more prominent. Waverider was expertly built by John Rea in light timber, with two veneers of just 9mm over many stringers and frames.
Waverider on a tight spinnaker reach during the 1977 New Zealand Half Ton Cup trials (photo Jenny Green)
Waverider joined the Farr designed centreboarders Gunboat Rangiriri and Swuzzlebubble as the stand-out performers in the 1977 New Zealand Half Ton trials, and these three fought out an incredibly close series (see earlier Gunboat Rangiriri post). In the middle distance ocean race, the three yachts finished within three boat lengths of each other. Waverider won the fourth race by just 11 seconds, but her chance to win the series came adrift when she had to retire from the long ocean race finale with a broken rudder.
Waverider leads Gunboat Rangiriri during the New Zealand Half Ton trials (photo John Malitte)
Waverider being loaded aboard a ship for Sydney (photo John Malitte)
All three yachts were shipped to Sydney for the 1977 Half Ton Cup, where they were joined  by other top centreboarders, including the Australian Farr design 2269 and the Ron Holland design Silver Shamrock III. Waverider was re-masted before the series as the original rig had proved to be too heavy and soft. The new spar was unsleeved, while the 'P' dimension was increased and the boom raised to give more bending moment at the top of the mast. 

Waverider scored consistent places throughout the series of 2/3/1/3, giving her a chance to win the Cup in the 250 mile ocean race finale. Although Silver Shamrock III won, Gunboat Rangiriri finished in second, which was enough to win the Half Ton title, by just one point.  Although Waverider was in contention they missed a crucial windshift on the second night and crossed the line in a lowly ninth place, to finish fourth overall for the series.
Sailing downwind to victory in the 1978 Half Ton Cup, Poole (photo Seahorse)
Photo courtesy Jonathan Eastland
After the introduction of new requirements for centreboarders meant that some alterations were required to Waverider to keep her in class for the 1978 Half Ton Cup to be sailed in Poole, England. This involved shortening the centreboard, and further reducing its weight. Other changes were made to her rig. With its return to Europe, the 1978 series was something of a high-water mark in IOR level rating events, with a fleet of no less than 50 yachts, a significant contrast to both the previous editions of the championship. 

The regatta finally bought success to Bouzaid's Half Ton campaign. Waverider stamped her mark on the fleet in the first race, the only one to feature any breeze, but she didn't have it all her own way in the subsequent races, entering the final ocean race with only the narrowest of leads over Phil Crebbin's Indulgence, after placings of 1/8/3/2. The final race was sailed in the lightest of winds, back and forth across the English Channel, and Bouzaid and his crew of Helmer Pedersen, John Sumitch, John White and Tony Basadone sailed brilliantly to win the race convincingly, and defend the Cup for New Zealand.
Sailing upwind during the 1978 Half Ton Cup
Bouzaid was determined to defend his title, and kept Waverider in Europe before transporting her to Scheveningen, Holland, for the 1979 series. By then further changes to the IOR, bought on as a reaction to the light displacement revolution spearheaded by Farr, Davidson and Paul Whiting, had taken effect, and like Waverider required extensive surgery to bring her into class for the series. This involved much padding and filling out of the hull and more ballast to increase her displacement, and the placement of weight for'ard, while the centreboard had to be pinned in place.  The advantage for the lightweights had been removed, but they were still some of the quickest yachts that year. Waverider started and finished the series strongly, but her series was marred by a disastrous 21st in the short offshore race. The crew bounced back to win the fourth race, and then the final offshore race to win the Half Ton Cup for the second time.
Waverider during the 1979 One Ton Cup (photo courtesy of Jonathan Eastland archives)
Waverider never made it back to New Zealand and was sold in Europe, and still campaigns successfully today under Belgian ownership and races in the reinstated Half Ton Cup (sailed in various European venues) which is now raced under the IRC rule.
Waverider competing in the 2009 Half Ton Cup


Fairing work on  the underside of Waverider's long counter (photo Halfton Class Europe)
Waverider, May 2012

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