13 July 2013

Export Lion (Farr One Tonner)

The 1978 One Ton Cup was held in Flensburg, Germany. Stu Brentnall and his crew had won the 1977 series in Auckland aboard their Farr centreboarder The Red Lion, but after the Cup Brentnall sold the champion yacht to an Italian yachtsman.  With the sale of other top local One Tonners to overseas owners, including Jenny H, Mr Jumpa and Smir-noff-Agen, it was apparent that New Zealand would struggle to mount a defence of trophy.  

Brentnall approached the RNZYS with a proposal to build a new boat for the 1978 series, based largely on the design that was so successful in 1977 but optimised to meet the changes to the IOR. This included several hull and rig alterations aimed to improve performance in the light to moderate conditions expected in the Baltic, being slightly shorter, beamier and lighter and with a bigger rig.  A centreboard configuration was opted for rather than a fixed keel, because at the time the design was drawn this still appeared to be a viable proposition.
Final preparations for the launching of Export Lion, June 1978 (photo Jenny Green/Sea Spray)
Export Lion was built in double quick time by Alexander Boats, who had also built The Red Lion, and Brentnall's earlier One Tonner, Jiminy Cricket
Export Lion on launching day at Westhaven, Auckland (photo courtesy of Lion Archives)
Export Lion on launching day (photograph by Jenny Green/Sea Spray)
Export Lion sails downwind along the central Auckland waterfront (photo courtesy Lion Nathan)

Export Lion during sailing trials on the Waitemata Harbour
With the return of the One Ton Cup to Europe, there was a boost in fleet numbers, with 36 yachts representing 13 countries. The Red Lion and Jenny H (renamed Scalawag) remained competitive, despite the changes needed to their centreboards under new IOR regulations. But a series threat also emerged in the shape of two Ron Holland designed yachts, Tilsalg and Bremen, who had engaged in extensive two boat tuning before the series. 
Germany's Tilsalg sails upwind during the 1978 One Ton Cup (photo Peter Montgomery/Sea Spray)
Germany's Bremen sails downwind alongside Britain's Solent Saracen, another Farr design, in the 1978 One Ton Cup (photo Peter Montgomery/Sea Spray)
However, it was Export Lion that held a slender lead after three races of just 0.625 points over Bremen, with Tilsalg a further 2.25 points behind. Scalawag was not far off the pace, and any of these four boats could have gone on to take the series. Export Lion had proved to be more tender than her predecessor, but proved fast in all conditions and points of sailing, and performed best when the breeze was above 5 to 8 knots. She was equipped very lightly, but had minimal problems with gear breakages.
Export Lion in fresh upwind conditions in Flensburg
Export Lion alongside a German competitor in light airs and amongst an enthusiastic spectator fleet (photo Peter Montgomery)
With such a narrow lead, Export Lion took a cautious approach to the start of the last race, the long offshore. But despite hanging back from a biased start line on starboard tack, with sheets eased and waiting for the line to clear, the also-ran Cascabel collided with Export Lion with such force that Export Lion was spun around and was pointing backwards when the gun went. It took some time for the two yachts to disengage, and both were at the back of the fleet at the first mark. Although in a 300 mile race this would not have seemed insurmountable, the mark had heralded the start of the 150 miles of fast downwind sailing, and gave the front runners, sailing at 9 knots, a big advantage over those still trying to get to the first mark at 6 knots.

Export Lion powers along upwind in the 1978 One Ton Cup (photo Peter Montgomery)

Tilsalg prepares for a spinnaker set during the 1978 One Ton Cup
 Tilsalg also had some ground to make up as she was in the middle of the fleet at the top mark, but she was able to summon some good downwind speed to work her way up to tenth at the next turning mark. Both Tilsalg and Bremen were able to secure more than a sufficient margin over Export Lion to take the first two places overall. Both were beneficiaries of Export Lion's misfortune - but Export Lion had been sailed as well as any in the series. Even though Farr had - unnecessarily as it turned out - remodeled his 1977 design in anticipation of lighter airs in Germany, Export Lion was still considered the fastest boat there. But in the end Scalawag finished as the best placed Farr boat in third place, while Export Lion finished fifth.
 Tilsalg - winner of the 1978 One Ton Cup (photo Peter Montgomery/Sea Spray)
Export Lion trails Heatwave at the gybe mark during one of the inshore Olympic courses

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