22 June 2013

45 South and the Farr 727 (Farr Quarter Tonner)

Farr 727 profile (Farr Yacht Design)
To mark my 100th post on this blog I decided to feature a very special yacht from the IOR days, the Farr 727, and the most famous from that class, 45 South, the winner of the 1975 Quarter Ton Cup - a significant win as the first in international competition by a New Zealand designer.

The 727 was a development of Bruce Farr's earlier Quarter Ton prototype, Fantzipantz (1972), which itself was a progression of Farr's Half Tonner Titus Canby. Fantzipantz had displayed such superiority in boat speed and comfort for a boat of 24ft that Alpha Marine was formed to build a production version that would be capable of winning the Quarter Ton Cup, and the result was the Farr 727. 

45 South 2402) in gybe mark action during the 1975 New Zealand Quarter Ton championship (photo Jenny Green/Sea Spray)
The boat had a more raked stem and transom profile for improved aesthetics, a well as improving her rated length measurement while also allowing for more width in her aft sections. The 727's longer length was offset by less sail area, supported on a dinghy-like fractional rig with fixed swept spreaders.
Bruce Farr sailing 727 to victory in the 1975 New Zealand Quarter Ton championships (photo Sea Spray)
The first boat to the design, Genie, was instantly successful, winning the 1974 Feltex regatta, and was soon joined by 727, the latter sailed by Farr himself and which won the 1975 New Zealand Quarter Ton championship against a fleet of 31 boats. The yacht was seen to have great potential and a decision was made by the Royal Akarana Yacht Club to challenge for the Quarter Ton Cup (to be held in Deauville, France), with 727 nominated as the challenging yacht.  A new crew had to be brought together as Farr was committed to the Gerontius campaign for the 1975 Admiral's Cup, with Roy Dickson and Graeme Woodroffe joining Rob Martin and the yacht's builder Murray Crockett. The owner of Genie decided that he too would join the challenge.
45 South and Genie in the marina at Deauville for the 1975 Quarter Ton Cup
45 South in France 1975 - note the bumpkin strut which was added after the boom was lengthened to add more sail
727 was renamed 45 South before she was shipped to France, and some rating optimisation was carried out in response to the expectation of light winds and choppy sea conditions at the Cup venue (well founded as it turned out), with increased bow down trim and more sail area. 45 South still had the smallest sail plan in Deauville, at just 246 square feet, the consequence of having the longest rated length 21.8ft, and almost the lightest rated displacement at 2,600lbs. By way of comparison, the pre-contest favourite, the Peterson design Hobnail, with a shorter measured length and 4,500lbs displacement, was able to carry some 347 square feet of sail.
45 South reaches through the fleet to win the first race of the 1975 Quarter Ton Cup (photo Farr Yacht Design)
The small size and basic fitout of 45 South was met with some mirth in France, but the boat soon showed her abilities on the race track, with 45 South winning the pre-contest event, the Coupe de France, with Genie finishing fourth. 

The first race of the Quarter Ton Cup was a nerve-wracking affair, with a dropping wind seeing the New Zealand yachts fall back through the fleet. But the arrival of the breeze for the final reach home saw them rocket around their competitors to take first and second. 45 South went on to post consistent places at the top of the fleet, apart from a 13th in the medium distance race, but she proved herself as a worthy champion when she won the final long distance race by 26 minutes, and with it the Cup. 
Quarter Ton racing in Cowes Week circa 1976, with what is thought to be Genie in the foreground
Interest was riveted on 45 South after her first two wins, and it had been sold to a French yachtsman before the final race. She is understood to still have a French owner and has competed in the re-established Quarter Ton Cup since 2005 (sailed under IRC). Genie was also sold in England where the boat went on to record 27 firsts from 37 starts in the English season, with series wins including the Solent points championship, the English level rating open national championship and Cowes Week. Further export opportunities were pursued - the style of the 727 was attractive from a production point of view, being about as simple in layout, rig and handling as anything one could devise. 

Hull profile and interior layout of the Farr 727 (Farr Yacht Design)
45 South in more recent times
In the end, more 727s were sold overseas than in New Zealand, with 60 sold in France, 40 in Canada, 15 in Japan, and six in Western Australia, with impressive results in the respective national Quarter Ton championships of various countries (including Why Why, winner of the North American Quarter Ton championship in 1976). Still, it should have been a bigger success from a production perspective, being fast, easy and exciting to sail and able to plane downwind in fresh breezes, and arguably a better boat than the hugely successful J24 class. But the J24 enjoyed better marketing and promotion and became 'the' international class in this size of boat.
Waikikamukau being prepared for transport to the 1975 Australian Quarter Ton championships (photo Chris Furey)
Another notable 727 yacht, the Australian Waikikamukau (her name a play on her New Zealand origins) was the Australian national champion Quarter Tonner after a runaway win in the 1975 series held on Port Phillip Bay (Melbourne). The boat was crewed by Hugh and Ian Trehane, Bill Lawler and Rob Mundle. Hugh Treharne made the sails and so fast was the boat that they often finished their races half way through the fleet of Half Tonners that had started ten minutes earlier. She was built at Performance Sailcraft Australia and finished with Laser beige gelcoat, and was towed to Melbourne from Sydney using the truck and trailer unit usually used to tow shipments of Lasers. Waikikamukau was also successful as a JOG racer but years after her Quarter Ton days and with a different crew) she met an untimely end in a gale of Sydney Heads when she went down with a tragic loss of life due to the crew being harnessed on with old fashioned harnesses that only had a release clip at the boat end of the tethers. 

Waikikamukau, an Australian Quarter Ton champion (photo Chris Furey)
45 South - Quarter Ton Cup 2005
Close quarter racing in Auckland (photo Sail-world)

A French 727 Farr Niente racing in European Quarter Ton events
Glass Slipper during the 1982 Feltex Regatta
The class is still active in New Zealand (see 727 website), although class national championship numbers have dwindled of late, and one or two yachts are now sporting some modifications such as spinnaker prods for mixed fleet sailing. Nevertheless, the yacht remains one of the fastest racer-cruisers on the water for its size, and a very capable cruiser. 
Overdraft during the 2011 SSANZ Two-handed series off Auckland (photo Scott Blakey)
Quarter Pint on a slog to Navy Buoy off Whangaparaoa during the 2012 SSANZ series (photo rbsailing)

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