31 October 2013

Kenwood Cup 1990

Japanese yacht Tiger
The 1990 edition of the Kenwood Cup was notable for the first ever win by Japan in an international teams ocean racing championship. The defenders Australia dictated the pace from race one, the series went to the wire when the Australian team faltered in the double-points long race, and the Japanese kept their team act together to edge ahead for the win by just 21 points.

The Japanese team comprised the Farr 50-footers Tiger (skippered by Peter Lester), and Will (skippered by Geoff Stagg) and the Farr 44 Swing (ex-Librah). The Australian team featured the David Pedrick designed maxi Drumbeat, the Farr 50 Heaven Can Wait and the Frers 50 Cyclone. Rigging troubles aboard Heaven Can Wait in the short ocean race, and on Cyclone for the long offshore, opened the door for the Japanese, who also experienced their own problems. A new super-lightweight rudder on Will sheared off three hours into the long spinnaker run during the long offshore, and with just the rudder stock and 2 feet of blade Will completed the run without her spinnaker, and the subsequent 120 mile beat, salvaging 14th place for herself, and overall victory for her team.

Shortly before disaster, An dices with another Japanese One Tonner, Will Jr
Another view of An before tragedy struck

The series was marred by the sinking of the Japanese yacht An, a new Farr One Tonner, during the middle-distance Molokai race which resulted in the drowning of one of her all female Japanese crew. An struck a reef at the eastern end of Molokai and sank in about 30 feet of water, and the crew member became entangled in ropes as the yacht sank.  

Tiger, with a large New Zealand contingent aboard, helped sweep the Japanese team to triumph in the 1990 Kenwood Cup (photo Daniel Forster/NZ Yachting)
The series attracted 34 yachts, a drop from previous years and reflecting the loss of grassroots IOR fleets around the world.  It was saved somewhat by the emerging force of Japan, which fielded three teams of high quality yachts and a dozen individual entries. The New Zealand effort was never a serious threat, although the lead yacht in the team, Matenrow (right), a chartered Japanese One Ton yacht skippered by Tom Dodson, emerged as the top yacht overall. While she had finished on equal points with Heaven Can Wait and Tiger, Matenrow was awarded the top spot after a comparison was made of accumulated corrected times.

New Zealand entry Matenrow rounds a leeward mark during the 1990 Kenwood Cup, and below rounding just behind Propaganda which was another Japanese entry

 Bravura - a broken boom put paid to her chances of being top yacht overall and she ended up 12th overall

The series was generally dominated by the 50 footers, and it was only the top two One Tonners, Matenrow and Irving Loube's top One Tonner Bravura (US), and winner of the previous Kenwood Cup, that were able to mix it with the larger boats on corrected time. 
NZ Natural (Graeme Woodroffe) drops her spinnaker during one of the inshore races of the 1990 Kenwood Cup
The other two yachts, Starlight Express and NZ Natural (ex-Emotional Rescue) were decidedly uncompetitive under IOR, and finished 23rd and 27th respectively, leaving New Zealand in a lowly fifth place in the Kenwood Cup results. The US also fielded a weak team, with Bravura joined by two archaic yachts, the Mull-designed Sorcery, a veteran of three Kenwood Cups, and the Frers 44-footer Camouflage, which was one of the top boats in 1984. This team finished fourth, and like New Zealand were well adrift of the top two teams.

Footage from this series can be seen in the following clips:

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