16 November 2013

Silver Shamrock III (Holland Half Tonner)

Silver Shamrock III was Ron Holland’s first centreboard yacht, designed for the 1977 Half Ton Cup which was held in Sydney just before the Southern Cross Cup series of the same year. Given the pedigree of its designer and crew, which included Harold Cudmore and Butch Dalrymple-Smith, the tiger-striped yacht was expected to perform strongly in the series. The boat was constructed in a highly developed timber and carbon fibre layup, with a fractional rig. Her maximum beam was more amidships compared with her main competition, namely the Bruce Farr-designed boats such as a Gunboat Rangiriri and Laurie Davidson's Waverider. She also carried a degree of tumblehome, and a transom only half the width of the Farr and Davidson boats - the stern was distinctive in the way that it tapered to a narrow rounded tuck. 

Despite her lightweight construction, she displaced twice that of the Farr and Davidson boats, weighing in at some 7,000lb. Some of that displacement was attributable to last minute additions of ballast to bring Silver Shamrock III up to her Half Ton rating (21.7ft IOR). The crew ran out of time with the boat and the ability to optimise its rating. Approximately 625lb of ballast was added to the boat, and this was considered, not surprisingly, to affect the yacht's reaching performance.

Holland had adopted a different approach to the more upright centreboards of her lighter displacement opposition, with the centreboard case piercing the deck for’ard of the mast and the centreboard angling back at a reasonably acute angle. 

An unusual sight on an ocean-racing yacht - Harold Cudmore and crew fitting the centreboard to Silver Shamrock III before racing in the 1977 Half Ton Cup
As with the preceding One Ton Cup held earlier in Auckland, the Half Ton Cup proved again the superiority of the lifting foil. Within the first 10 minutes of the first race, the 22 boat fleet split into two divisions – the six centreboarders in ‘division 1’ and the keelers in ‘division 2’. With nothing between Silver Shamrock III and her main opposition (Gunboat Rangiriri, Swuzzlebubble, 2269 and Waverider), the 250 mile ocean race finale became the decider - this after Silver Shamrock III had a near disaster in the short ocean race when her mast fell over the side just 400 yards of the finish line.

Silver Shamrock III needed to finish two places ahead of either Gunboat Rangiriri or Waverider in the long ocean race to win the contest. It was a light wind affair, and Silver Shamrock III gave herself the best possible chance by finding more breeze in the early stages and clearing out to an unassailable lead, leaving the regatta result hinging on the placings astern. Both Swuzzlebubble and Waverider held too close into the windless Botany Bay, which let Gunboat Rangiriri in for the second place she needed to win the title, finishing some three hours behind Silver Shamrock III, and just beating 2269, to take the Half Ton Cup from Silver Shamrock III by the narrowest of margins – just one point, with placings of 5/1/2/2/2 against Silver Shamrock III’s 1/4/3/5/1.

Silver Shamrock III climbs out to weather after a start in the 1977 Half Ton Cup, with Newspaper Taxi (3223) to leeward and Gunboat Rangiriri astern (3426) (photo Ajax)
That Silver Shamrock III dropped her mast in the short ocean race was therefore a deciding factor in the outcome of the regatta, although it was also fortunate that Silver Shamrock III lost her mast so close to the finish and lost just one place. Had it gone a few miles earlier, it would have been very costly. The loss of an earlier mast on Silver Shamrock III before the series also demonstrated the lengths that crews were going to in order to shave weight in all areas, and not just the hull. It was Holland’s view that in the first incident the bottom of the mast was probably due to too much chemical milling. During the contest itself, the toggle system attaching the runners to the mast seemed to have failed, similar to a problem experienced by B195 in the One Ton Cup. Still, Silver Shamrock III was exceptionally well sailed by defending champion Cudmore, and proved to be at her best in light winds, winning the first race as well as the long ocean race finale.

The difference in performance between Gunboat Rangiriri, in the light corner, and Silver Shamrock III, in the heavy corner, or, as Farr put it at the time, “about as heavy as people want to go these days”, was minimal, and showed the IOR was coping with the differences in displacement concept, at least in the light to moderate conditions that prevailed off Sydney. They represented the development of two entirely different boat types to a similar pitch and were very similar in performance, and similar over a wide range of conditions, although Shamrock was faster downwind in the light, while the Farr and Davidson boats were faster downwind in the fresh. Between those extremes, observed Farr "they were so similar they really could have been the same design."

Silver Shamrock III leads the fleet back to port, with Gunboat Rangiriri and Waverider astern
Silver Shamrock III went on to sail for the EEC (the former European Economic Community) team in the Southern Cross Cup series (with Pinta and Variag), while Swuzzlebubble stayed on to compete in the New Zealand team (alongside the centreboard One Tonners Jenny H and Smir-Noff-Agen). Although they had been similar in speed in the Half Ton Cup, in the stronger breezes of the Southern Cross Cup the heavier Silver Shamrock III proved to be no match for the lighter Swuzzlebubble, with placings of 20/6/12 before the Sydney-Hobart race, compared to Swuzzlebubble's 9/4/2. 

Silver Shamrock III battles her way out of Sydney Harbour in light and choppy conditions at the start of the 1977 Sydney-Hobart race
Both boats, however, failed to finish the storm-afflicted Sydney-Hobart race, which saw only 70 yachts finish of the 130 that started. Silver Shamrock III suffered minor damage to her frames and withdrew. Cudmore commented when he reached the fishing port of Ulladulla, “We are not out to kill ourselves – the storm was very bad and we didn’t want to take any risks.” The other two boats in her team managed to finish, and helped the EEC team to a fourth placing overall. 

It is not known whether Silver Shamrock III returned to Ireland, but she was replaced by a later, but less successful, version Silver Shamrock IV for the 1978 Half Ton Cup held in Poole.

1 comment:

  1. She didn't return to Ireland; she went to Queensland where she sailed a Brisbane to Gladstone race or two.