11 July 2013

Eclipse (Peterson 39)

A recent post on this site featured the Australian yacht Police Car, an Ed Dubois 42 foot design which was something of a revelation in the 1979 Admiral's Cup, signalling the advent (in the Admiral's Cup scene anyway) of moderate displacement, wide flat stern sections and a tall fractional rig. While fast, she finished as the second yacht in the individual standings with 409 points, some 17 points behind the top boat Eclipse, a small and conservative looking minimum-rating 39 footer designed by Doug Peterson. 

Eclipse was owned and campaigned by Jeremy Rogers, who had enjoyed much success with his previous Peterson yacht Moonshine, and before that the 1974 One Ton Cup winner Gumboots. Rogers was responsible for the build of a number of British Cup hopefuls, and those commitments meant that his new Eclipse only hit the water a week before the first race in the British trials. Eclipse was built in exotics, a forerunner of a vacuum bag layup, and featured the lightest construction and displacement of any of the Admiral's Cuppers of 1979. She also displayed wider and more powerful stern sections than had been evident on earlier Peterson yachts, and this would seem to have been a useful trait when sailing downwind in the strong winds that would be experienced in the Admiral's Cup that year. Rogers also filled the boat with talent, with Phil Crebbin and Chris Law from Moonshine sharing helming duties. Bill Tripp from the Peterson office was also on board.
Eclipse during the 1979 Admiral's Cup during the lighter airs of the first race (photo Facebook)

Eclipse during the 1979 Admiral's Cup during the lighter airs of the first race (photo Sharon Green/Ultimate Sailing)
Rogers and his crew managed only an hour's tune up before Eclipse made her first start but they managed to win the de Guingand Bowl offshore race by ten minutes on corrected time. After qualifying for the British Admiral's Cup team, alongside Blizzard and Morning Cloud V, Eclipse went on to sail consistently well in what was a very windy series. In the four races prior to the Fastnet Race she recorded placings of 6/7/3/13. This was a notable achievement for such a small boat in fresh conditions, when normally it would be expected that the bigger yachts would be able to stretch away and dominate the standings. 

Eclipse heads downwind in fresh conditions with spinnaker and shooter set (photo Guy Gurney)
Aerial view of Eclipse during the 1979 Admiral's Cup (photo Seahorse)
To round off her impressive performances in the earlier races, Eclipse went on to finish as the first Admiral's Cup yacht on corrected time in the storm-affected Fastnet Race. Eclipse had sailed west of the rhumb line when the wind began to really howl, so Rogers' crew were high of the mark when they began to get headed. They were able to change down to just a storm jib and reach into Cape Clear before tacking and reaching out to the west, and to windward, of Fastnet Rock. Once around the Rock, Eclipse's crew surfed home at a 10-knot average, with just a scrap of sail set. Having the lightest, and probably the lightest-built, yacht in the fleet proved an advantage when running back down the huge seas that were causing havoc with the smaller boats that were still making their way to the Rock.
Eclipse sails downwind close behind Red Rock IV
Eclipse beat the second placed yacht in the Fastnet fleet (France's Jubile VI) by 35 minutes on corrected time and was the first British Admiral's Cup boat to win the Fastnet race since Clarion in 1963. Unfortunately the performances of her team-mates were well below the standard set by Eclipse, and the British team, as defenders of the trophy, finished in sixth place overall.
Eclipse in more recent times (date unkown), having been sold from Norway to Sweden in about 1988 (photo Facebook)

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