14 August 2013

Black Sheep (Lidgard 50)

Black Sheep was a 50 footer designed by Kevin Lidgard for owner Alistair Shanks. She started life as a long lean racing yacht but somewhere along the way she became an IOR design, smaller on the waterline and with fewer cruising pretentions. Shanks' commission had a view towards the 1984 Clipper Cup, and with her raking transom, flush deck and masthead rig she appeared to take some design cues from the classic Peterson and Frers yachts that had been successful in the 1982 Cup, such as Bullfrog and Margaret Rintoul III.

Black Sheep was built by Lidgard Yachts in Divinycell, Kevlar and unidirectional glass, and was launched in February 1984 - an instantly recognisable yacht thanks to her striking black finish, and snorting ram motif on her graceful retrousse stern. She was of reasonably heavy displacement, although probably considered moderate under the IOR, of some 25,900lbs, with a total ballast package in the keel and hull of some 13,800lb - a further ton was added later to improve her performance in a breeze. She sailed with an IOR rating of 40.2ft.  
 Black Sheep under construction at Lidgard Yachts
Black Sheep was Lidgard's third IOR design. The first, Barefoot, was a Quarter Tonner of mid-1970s vintage, the second was the 40 foot design to which the trio of Defiance, Dictator and Domino II were built  - the former two being members of New Zealand's ill-fated 1982 Clipper Cup team. Compared to those earlier designs Black Sheep was less extreme, with more emphasis on enabling clean water flows through a faster underwater shape less pushed at the measurement points.
Black Sheep fully powered up and working her way to windward off Mission Bay, Auckland, during the 1984 Clipper Cup trials
Black Sheep two sail reaching down the Rangitoto Channel during the 1984 Clipper Cup selection trials
Black Sheep was skippered by Graeme Woodroffe and started her bid for selection in New Zealand's 1984 Clipper Cup team with a line and handicap double in the first race of the trials, the Balokovic Cup. She went on to produce a strong performance throughout the remainder of the trials races with a 3/4/1/1/2/4/1, resulting in a clear lead on points.

However, Black Sheep was not selected for the New Zealand A team, instead joining Anticipation and the Ross 44 Blast Furnace in the B team. The trials were based on an 'observation' format rather than points, and her inclusion in the B team caused some consternation for the crew, and Woodroffe was outspoken in his criticism of the selectors who preferred Pacific Sundance, Exador and Shockwave for New Zealand's A team. Unfortunately the controversy around this decision attracted more media attention than the trials series themselves.

However, the relegation of Black Sheep to the B team was justified somewhat when Black Sheep became an early victim of New Zealand's broken mast syndrome, losing hers in the first race through a rigging failure at the middle spreader (where the rod passed through the spreader bend). It happened at the start of the second beat, with Black Sheep well placed in Division B. Only four masts were lost during the series (compared to seven in 1982), but three of those were on New Zealand boats (including Exador who lost hers in the final 'Round the State' race which cost New Zealand the Cup).  
Black Sheep sails downwind during the 1984 Clipper Cup
Black Sheep was sailing again for the fourth race, after a new mast had arrived from California at 0130 that morning and the crew had worked all night to get it rigged and stepped. Fortunately everything fitted, but the crew were exhausted and were still adjusting the rig during the race. Not surprisingly they were over at the start and had to return. On the last beat they lost a jib halyard, broke a jib sheet and the jib tore out of the headfoil. They were still using the old damaged one because a new one hadn't arrived with the remainder of the rigging. In spite of all this, they finished 14th in the Clipper Cup fleet, one place ahead of A team yacht Shockwave.

More bad luck was to ensue in the Round the State race finale, when Black Sheep struck an unchartered rock off the north coast of Oahu early in the race, and she had to be slipped soon after finishing. She managed to continue, however, and finished 11th overall in the triple-points 780 mile race and beat both the redoubtable Checkmate and Tomahawk from the US team on corrected time.

Overall, Black Sheep had looked good in B division which had some of the best boats in the fleet. Lidgard was satisfied with her performance, commenting afterwards that Tomahawk was probably the best sailed 50 footer in the Pacific and they managed to beat her in the long race. In the end Black Sheep finished in 22nd place overall with placings of DNF/DNF/DNF/14/11, not far behind team-mate Anticipation in 18th but ahead of Blast Furnace in 26th, while the B team finished 7th overall (of 11).  
Black Sheep sailing upwind during the 1986 Kenwood Cup
Black Sheep returned to New Zealand for repairs, and later sailed for Hong Kong in the 1985 Southern Cross Cup series, but with four 'DNC's and 31st in the Sydney-Hobart race finale it was clear that she was not a serious campaigner. She went on to have another tilt at the Kenwood Cup series in 1986, where she finished 32nd with placings of 29/27/42/27/25.

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