10 August 2013

Epic (Farr One Tonner)

Epic Lass (left) on launching day (photo Gibbs Family Collection)
Epic was a Farr One Tonner (just under 40 feet long), which started life as Epic Lass, a thinly disguised reference to the Epiglass brand owned by the yacht's sponsor, Healing Industries.

The yacht was a development of Bruce Farr's dominant One Ton design, Design #136, which had formed the basis of New Zealand's outstanding 1983 Southern Cross Cup team. Epic Lass, and her sistership Swuzzlebubble V, were designed and built with a view to competing for New Zealand in the 1985 Admiral's Cup series, and were twin versions of Design 138, optimised for the lighter airs expected in Europe being slightly shorter in length (approx 7in), lighter (approx 190lb), with a fractionally lower ballast ratio, and carrying more sail for the same One Ton rating of 30.5ft IOR.
Design 138 in profile
Epic Lass in light airs during the Auckland Anniversary Day regatta, January 1985 (photo Dan Nerney/Yachting New Zealand magazine)
Epic Lass and Swuzzlebubble V were launched together amongst much fanfare outside the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron in December 1984. Epic Lass was skippered by Peter Walker and featured many of New Zealand's top offshore yachtsmen in her crew, including Peter Lester as helmsman.
Epic Lass during the 1985 New Zealand Admiral's Cup trials
In the five-boat Admiral's Cup trial series held in early 1985, Epic Lass lined up against sistership Swuzzlebubble V, veteran performer Exador, the Davidson 40 Canterbury Export, and the Peterson 43, Barnstorm. The trials series was closely fought, but Exador and Canterbury Export selected themselves, while two more races had to be added to the evaluation schedule to determine whether Epic Lass or Swuzzlebubble V would make the team. Being slightly smaller than their predecessor Exador and optimised for European conditions, both yachts gave no real indication of being an improvement on the original Farr 40. 
Epic Lass sails downwind during the 1985 Admiral's Cup trials
Epic Lass sails upwind past North Head and into the Rangitoto Channel
Epic Lass during the 1985 Admiral's Cup trials, approaching a windward mark off Westhaven behind Canterbury Export, Exador and Swuzzlebubble V (photo Rob Tucker/Sea Spray magazine)
However, neither boat demonstrated that they were fully optimised either - changing gears was a problem common to both boats - and the selectors wondered how much performance was untapped. In the end, both final races went Epic Lass' way, with skipper Peter Walker winning the first race and finishing third in the second, pulling in Exador and Canterbury Export as she went. 
Epic Lass during final warm-up trials in Auckland before being shipped to Europe
The inherent link of the name Epic Lass to her sponsor was too obvious to sustain in international competition under Rule 26, and so her name was shortened to Epic after the team was repainted in matching grey and black livery for their European campaign. 
Epic is loaded aboard New Zealand Pacific for her trip to England
All three New Zealand yachts competed in the 1985 One Ton Cup curtain raiser, held in Poole before the Admiral's Cup. With so many Admiral's Cup teams fielding One Tonners, the series was well attended with 38 boats from 16 countries, and was closely fought. Exador had a solid series, but after incurring a significant penalty in one race slipped from a possible third place overall to fourth behind Jade, Highland Fling and Panda.  

Epic finished eighth with an 22/35/7/11/19 series. She was lucky to have completed the series - in the final leg of the second race the barrel fitting at the bottom of her forestay let go - there was no securing split pin and the whole thing unwound and finally pulled out. Epic quickly bore away and ran off while the crew managed to re-attach the stay and they then belatedly completed the leg and finished the race. Her fourth race result was affected by a 20% penalty after being involved in a mark rounding contact with French yacht Coyote. The points lost between these two events cost her a potential third place.
Epic in the thick of the action during the 1985 One Ton Cup
Epic battles it out downwind with other One Tonners during the 1985 Admiral's Cup
Epic rounds a mark in a group of One Tonners
In general, though, the European boats had proven quicker than the New Zealand boats downwind, much to the consternation of the New Zealand crews who were used to having the upper hand once sheets were eased.  

Exador then went on to lead the New Zealand Admiral's Cup team from the front, finishing as fifth yacht overall to help secure the team's third place amongst 18 teams, the country's best result in the regatta up to that time. Epic had a reasonably strong series, and like Exador, she was one of the best in the fleet upwind, but lacked the legs two-sail reaching. It was hard work though, and the crew had, somewhat caustically, referred to her as 'E-pig' - in response to the difficulty they had keeping her in the groove.  
Epic and team-mate Canterbury working along the Solent shoreline during the 1985 Admiral's Cup (photo Alan Sefton/Yachting New Zealand magazine)
Epic heads off downwind at the start of the Fastnet race (photo Roger Lean-Vercoe/Sea Spray magazine)
Still, Epic was in the top ten going into the Fastnet race finale. However, in another windy edition of the offshore classic, and while level pegging with Exador and other top One Tonners, Epic lost her rig in while two-sail reaching in 25 knots and just 30 miles from Fastnet Rock. Her retirement dropped her to 21st in the individual placings.

Sometime after her Admiral's Cup campaign Epic was bought by US yachtsman Don Wittenberg, and sailed her out of Greenwich, Conneticut. She sailed for a few years in the mid-1990s in Marblehead before she was relocated to Chicago. Chris Upton ran the boat in stages over this time, and has good memories of regularly racing the boat against other One and Two Tonners on Long Island Sound. Upton recalls that she loved to go upwind, but was a bit of a dicey proposition downhill - "we had a complete yardsale downwind doing 16 knots before wiping out".
Epic, now Big Time, at the Erie Yacht Club
Epic has been recently bought by a Dutch sailor who found her at the Erie Yacht Club (and now named Big Time). A survey confirmed that she was in excellent shape besides a few scratches, and most of the original gear is still on board, including the ships bell and sails, although all the electronics have been removed. Her new owner plans to keep her in original condition, and has even renewed her membership at the RNZYS! Big Time has been sailed down the US east coast and is expected to make a crossing of the Atlantic in June 2017 to her new home in Holland.  
A recent photo of the interior of Big Time
Big Time safe and secure for the winter

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