27 February 2013

Shockwave (Frers 43)

Shockwave on launching day 
Neville Crichton had enjoyed some great success with his first Shockwave, a Laurie Davidson 46 footer which finished second in the 1980 Clipper Cup series. In 1982 Crichton commissioned Argentinian designer German Frers to design his next yacht, an all-out IOR 43 foot racer with which to campaign for a place in the New Zealand team for the 1983 Admiral's Cup. The new Shockwave was constructed by Cookson Boats in a full exotic layup with an internal longitudinal girder for stiffness against rig loads. The yacht was of medium displacement and carried a triple spreader Zapspars masthead rig and flew the latest in Kevlar and Mylar sails from the New Zealand North and Sobstad lofts. Shockwave measured in at 34.1ft IOR, a reasonably high rating for a 43 footer but reflecting Frers' thinking at the time to not give up too much speed through excessive hull shape deviations in a quest for a lower rating.
Shockwave in early sailing trials on Auckland Harbour (photo Shane Kelly)
Despite an excellent showing by Ian Gibbs' Swuzzlebubble III in the 1981 series, it was felt that New Zealand had the potential to put in a stronger team effort. But economic circumstances intervened, and the New Zealand Yachting Federation decided against sending a team which would be comprised of Shockwave and two chartered boats, there being no other new boats launched.
Above and below - early trials on Auckland Harbour (photos Shane Kelly)
Undeterred, Crichton elected to take his yacht across the Tasman and aim for a place in the Australian team. He had previously considered going to the SORC and trying for a place in the American team for which he had the residential qualifications. To fully qualify the yacht for Australia, Crichton chartered her to Mike "Zapper" Bell, maker of some of the world's top ocean racing spars, including those of Shockwave, and Graeme Jones. In addition, four Australian crew members were invited so that Shockwave would conform to the regulations that would apply at Cowes. 

Shockwave competing in the Australian 1983 Admiral's Cup trials
The campaign started badly for Crichton with Australian measurers unable to reconcile freeboard and inclining figures figures from her New Zealand rating certificate. However, once these problems were rectified Shockwave showed her impressive pedigree, winning five of the first nine races of the trials and was generally considered as having booked her passage to Britain. But there was an undercurrent of antipathy among the Australian selectors and they took their chance of ignoring Shockwave when she suffered some slight damage - Crichton indicated that they would prefer not to sail the last race, a 300 miler, in order to properly effect repairs. At the time, she was sufficiently far ahead on the points table for even a DNS in the final race to fail to keep her out of the top three boats. The selectors had other ideas, however, and totally eliminated Shockwave from consideration for the Australian team.  
Shockwave is loaded on a ship back to New Zealand (photo Australian State Library of NSW)
After the Australian trials, Crichton went back to Auckland to re-open negotiations with fellow offshore sailors and the NZYF. It resulted in a revised decision to send a team to Cowes led by Shockwave and to charter two European yachts. Ian Gibbs chartered Wee Willie Winkie from her Irish owner, Seamus Gallagher. The boat, which had been in the previous Kiwi team, was similar to Swuzzlebubble III which Gibbs had sailed in 1981, and he re-named her Swuzzlebubble IV for the series. The third boat was to be a production version of a Shockwave derivative, the Beneteau 456 Lady Be. The boat had just missed selection for the French team and Peter Blake, who was to skipper her, felt that there was a lot of unrealised potential.
Shockwave powers off the start of the second race in the 1983 Admiral's Cup. Team-mate Lady Be can be seen up to windward (photo Jonathan Eastland)
In the end, however, the 1983 team were unsuccessful and finished in sixth place overall, dropping from their fifth place effort in 1981. A third place in the breezy second race and 2nd in the fourth races were the highlights for Shockwave in a regatta in which she was otherwise plagued by bad luck,including a penalty in the first race, losing out in a very light airs Channel Race that favoured the minimum raters, and poor tactics in the Fastnet Race. In the end Shockwave finished with results of  45,3,33,2,27 to finish in 27th place overall.

Shockwave was shipped back to New Zealand and competed in the trials for the 1983 Southern Cross Cup team. Although she started strongly, Shockwave couldn't hold out the new Farr 40's Exador, Pacific Sundance and Geronimo, and withdrew from the final race with structural damage to a couple of ring frames.
Shockwave nearing the end of the 1983 Fastnet Race
The record is a little unclear, but it is understood that Australian selectors changed their previous stance when the selection trials for the Australian's own Southern Cross Cup team came round. Under charter to Jones again, Shockwave won the trials and was selected to race for Australia. Strangely, too, this came after she had been eliminated from the New Zealand team. It is unknown how Shockwave performed in this regatta, but in any event all other boats and teams in the 1983 series were humbled by the dominance of New Zealand's team of Farr 40s.
Shockwave sails downwind under spinnaker and shooter in the 1984 Pan Am Clipper Cup
Shockwave had the chance to join two of the Farr 40s, Sundance and Exador in the New Zealand 'A' team for the 1984 Pan Am Clipper Cup in Hawaii. Overall victory in the series was lost when Exador's rig came tumbling down in the Round the State race, and the team finished second to the US 'White' team. Shockwave finished 12th yacht overall and second in class C.
Shockwave on a reaching leg during the 1984 Clipper Cup (photo NZ Yachting)
Shockwave was later based in Southern California and was very competitive against other yachts of the era, such as Juno and Victory, and went on to win its class in the San Francisco Big Boat Series in 1988 and 1989. 

Shockwave during the 1987 Big Boat Series (San Francisco), being chased by High Risk
Shockwave has been located in the Utah/Great Lakes area for the past ten years or so but has not been actively sailed.


  1. The three early trials photos of Shockwave taken on Auckland harbour were taken by me. It would be nice to have a credit as everyone else gets one. - Shane Kelly

  2. Hi Shane, apologies, credits now added.

  3. She was on the Great Salt Lake, of all places, for years. Can't find any current information.

  4. Does anyone know if there is any lines plan for this boat out there? I am trying to look in old yachting magazines but can't seem to fin anything on it, no even the actual specs, i.e. LOA, LWL, BOA, T, etc... Any info would help, thanks

  5. Hi Max,
    if you send me an email (address above) I can send you some information (no lines plan though).