28 June 2013

Police Car (Dubois 42)

Admiral's Cup 1979
Police Car was a 42 footer, designed by Ed Dubois for Western Australian yachtsman Peter Cantwell who wanted a downwind flyer to the Two Ton class limit of 32ft IOR, and to campaign for the 1979 Admiral's Cup. Police Car was built in aluminium with medium displacement and sported a lofty fractional rig which was unusual for a yacht of this size at this time. She also sported one of the earliest examples of the 'Double German' mainsheet system.

Police Car proved to be everything Cantwell could have wanted - the wind in Melbourne for the Australian Admiral's Cup trials gave the yacht the opportunity to extend herself, particularly in anything over 20 knots downwind. She won the trials and qualified for the Australian team, alongside Gerald Lambert's Impetuous and Syd Fischer's Ragamuffin. Police Car then went to Poole for the 1979 Two Ton Cup, held a month before the Admiral's Cup in Cowes, where she found the conditions there an anathema - the light and shifting winds for that regatta were far from her forte. As with many of the other Two Tonners in Poole, Police Car had optimised her rating for the Admiral's Cup and so gave away about half a foot of rating in the series.
Police Car in close company with Vanguard (to weather), Morning Cloud (to leeward) and Rrose Selavay (bottom)
What Police Car needed, and what she got at the Admiral's Cup that year, were the strongest ever winds for that event. Police Car loved the Solent races with the reaches and runs against strong spring tides multiplying her advantage. 
Police Car sails downwind in fresh conditions during the 1979 Admiral's Cup, above and below (photo Jonathan Eastland photo archives)
Police Car to leeward of Argentinian yacht Red Rock IV
Police Car scored a fifth and a third in the first two inshore races, and an eighth in the Channel Race.  Meanwhile, ashore, the crew got endless mirth out of the yacht's name, wearing fake police uniforms when the occasion permitted and the crew bus was a black London cab with a blue light on the roof. 
Shipping water over the bow in fresh conditions during the 1979 Admiral's Cup

In the third inshore race it should have been Police Car's day to show off her much-vaunted downwind speed - the wind was blowing a full gale and the tides were running fast in the opposite direction.  The crew were pumping the spinnaker sheet and guy like crazy as the blue boat hurtled down the Solent in a flurry of spray. However, Police Car had been involved in a startline collision with Brazil's Indigo, and later faced two protests, one of which she acknowledged and took a 20 percent penalty to drop from fifth to 17th. She survived the second protest. 

Police Car surges downwind with spinnaker and blooper set during the 1979 Admiral's Cup
Police Car thunders down the Solent, chasing Italian yacht Vanina who appears to have lost control of their blooper sail (photo Beken)
In the infamous gale-tossed Fastnet Race Police Car had a wild and wet ride under boomed out staysail, reefed main and storm jib for a while, then piled on the canvas as the wind lightened to finish in fourth place. The Australian boats all finished the race strongly and unscathed, with Impetuous third and Ragamuffin 13th being enough to win the Admiral's Cup for the first time since 1967.
Police Car arriving in Plymouth after the finish of the 1979 Fastnet race (photo Jonathan Eastland photo archives)
Police Car finished as second yacht in the individual standings (409 points), some 17 points adrift of Jeremy Rogers' Eclipse, which had sailed consistently well to finish as the top yacht of the series following her win in the Fastnet race. 
Police Car competing in the Clipper Cup, possibly during the 1980 series
Jim Hardy, who was aboard Impetuous for the series, was much impressed by Police Car and bought her to race mainly in Australian waters. Twice, in 1980 and 1982, he skippered her to wins in Division B in the Sydney Hobart race.  Police Car was also chartered by Mike 'Zappa' Bell for the 1981 Australian Admiral's Cup trials, but she missed selection. 

Police Car during the 1981 Australian Admiral's Cup trials (photo Chris Furey)
He also took Police Car to the 1982 Clipper Cup in Hawaii where the boat lost her mast when it folded at the gooseneck. There was a spare bottom secton and, after it was clear that the boat would be back in the water for the next race, the newly knighted Sir James remarked that the new bottom piece would have to be painted. "What colour?" came the question. "Oh, pink'll do" was the reply, and so it remained at least until the following year, as seen in the photo below.
Police Car seen here in Mooloolaba in 1983, still sporting her 'pink section' mast repair (photo Chris Furey)

Showing her longevity in the Australian IOR scene, Police Car also sailed in the 1985 Australian Admiral's Cup trials, seen here to windward of the Dubois One Tonner Black Magic (photo Chris Furey)
Police Car during the 1984 Sydney-Hobart race, and still sporting the pink mast (photo Police Car Facebook page)
Police Car was subsequently owned by Michael Purtell of Tasmania who sailed the yacht in two Sydney-Hobart's. She raced as part of the eighth-placed Tasmanian team in the 1985 Southern Cross Cup, finishing 30th yacht overall following placings of RET/32/33/24/23. Her next owner, Mike Prendergast, sailed her in the 50th edition of the Sydney-Hobart in 1994, placing seventh in Division E. 
Police Car after the Sydney Hobart race in 1994, with a different livery (from the Police Car Facebook page)
Police Car at the CYCA marina before the 2002 Sydney-Hobart race, and after her refit by Alan Duffy and return to her original paint scheme
She was then sold to Alan Duffy in or about 1996 who raced her in short offshore races out of Broken Bay. He carried out a restoration before the 408 mile Gosford to Lord Howe race, as a shakedown for the 2002 Sydney-Hobart race. The restoration involved extensive fairing of the alloy hull and repainting the boat in her original colours, after which she looked better than new (see above). 

Police Car is currently understood to be located in Port Macquarie, New South Wales, and as of the start of 2016 was undergoing another extensive restoration (see the Facebook page here).


  1. I met Zac, the current owner of Police Car, and his crew Bosun in Murwillumbah on their way back to Port Macquarie, and would like to contact him but can't find his website policecar yacht. 'would appreciate any help in locating it. Thanks.

    1. Hey Tony, good to meet you on the trip down the coast. The site isn't complete just yet. If you don't use facebook there are some photos (though mostly from here and the net) https://plus.google.com/photos/112643010997769436066/albums/5704723475813302241

      You can contact me using isaac.perkins.1 at gmail dot com

  2. Police car now has a facebook page. She is of course an interesting talking point...would be great to hear your story about the boat. .facebook.com/policecaryacht

  3. I sailed on Police Car on a delivery back from Hobart with Chris Packer and John Blackman - two people I believe should be at the heart of this article. It was, as an understatement, quite an amazing ride with 5 of us on board and a full mainsail in a following gale force wind. We met Jim in Wineglass Bay before we left.
    Chris suffered a stroke on a golf course after that shit fight in Indonesia and John was swept overboard in the great southern ocean Two of the only truly fearless sailors I have ever met and very well suited to the boat. It was a one off in every sense of the word. Made only for the ultimate in sailing - heavy weather and fun.

  4. Michael Purtell bought the yacht from Ediss Boyes of Hobart. I can't remember if Ediss bought the yacht from Sir Jim Hardy or if there was another owner after Sir Jim. Ediss sailed the yacht extensively in local harbour and distance races but never sailed extensively off-shore.

  5. My name is Michael Purtell I bought Police Car from Sir James Hardy in about 1983 I owned it for about 4 years and sold it to Edis Boyes in 1987

  6. We sailed from Wineglass Bay to Eden in 18 hours on that delivery from Hobart. That is around 320 miles. I will leave it to you to do the average speed. The boat was almost constantly planing. The log was on a dial that stopped at 26 knots but, with Chris at the helm, it occasionally wound past the end of the dial.