16 March 2014

Longobarda (Farr Maxi)

Longobarda was a breakthrough IOR maxi that set a new standard in the class during 1989 until the early 1990s. She was the product of a successful combination of Bruce Farr design talent, SAI Ambrosini (Italy) build quality and a no-expense-spared budget, courtesy of her owner, Italian yachtsman Gianni Varasi (who had previously owned Raul Gardini's earlier yacht, Il Moro di Venezia II).

Longobarda benefited from an extensive design development programme carried out by the Farr office. This used the Spanish Navy’s maxi yacht, the Farr masthead-rigged Hispania (seen in more recent times here), as its springboard. This involved research into hull shape variations using velocity prediction programme (VPP) studies that were enhanced by concurrent Whitbread maxi hull testing, that was then corroborated with one-fifth scale tank testing. One feature of Longobarda's design was her distinctive rounded stemhead.

Advances in structural engineering were also pursued to achieve the most beneficial weight concentration relative to required strength and stiffness criteria, utilising carbon fibre, Kevlar and Nomex in her hull layup. The development of foil shapes was no less rigorous, and four different keel configurations were wind tunnel tested in the Wolfson Unit in England.
Longobarda (middle) at the start of one of the races during the 1989 World Maxi Championships (photo Franco Pace/Sea Spray)
Varasi’s new maxi was launched on 17 July 1989 and was fast from the beginning, winning her first regatta in the 1989 World Maxi Championships in Palma, Majorca, just two weeks after launching. Longobarda reigned supreme throughout the 15 race championship, which took place over three regattas of five races each. Longobarda won each event by wide margins against a formidable fleet of 12 internationally recognised yachts, including Alan Bond’s much heralded Dave Pedrick design, Drumbeat, and Raul Gardini’s Frers design Il Moro de Venezia, the previous form boat of the fleet.

Interior profile view of Longobarda
Longobarda during the 1989 World Maxi Championships (photo Franco Pace/Sea Spray)
Longobarda’s easy victory in 1989 surprised some who expected the tuning of round-the-buoys maxis to take some time, but she showed superior upwind speed to all the fleet, over a wide range of conditions, which allowed her to stay consistently ahead of her opposition. She went on to repeat the feat in the Maxi World Championships in 1990. These victories set in train a string of international successes in the US, Australia and Europe; in iconic events such as the San Francisco Big Boat Regatta, the Sydney to Hobart and the Isle of Wight Round The Island Race.

Longobarda in her first season of racing on the Mediterranean (photo Franco Pace/Sailing World)
Longobarda (photo Farr Yacht Design)

It wasn't long, however, before Longobarda was in turn outclassed by the all conquering Matador2, Bill Koch's bigger and more powerful 84 foot maxi that was the product of even more research and development. Following the 1993 Nioulargue regatta, the swansong of top-flight IOR maxi racing, Longobarda was sailed to Southampton where extensive modifications were carried out over that winter, in preparation for a year of international sailing. These modifications included strengthening of the hull structure to take the rigours of offshore racing and ocean crossings, fitting of watertight collision bulkheads for'ard, provision of a quality 'racing' interior, strengthening of both rigs for offshore and delivery, and the fitting of a hydraulic winch pack.

Re-launched in the spring of 1994, Longobarda was sailed to Newport, Rhode Island, where she took part in that year's Bermuda Race before the Onion Patch Trophy and New York Yacht Club's 150th Anniversary Regatta. From this article it appears that it was in this period that she lost her mast in spectacular fashion, with the exploding running backstay lifting a crew member clear of the deck.
The classic shot by Sharon Green/Ultimate Sailing - the crewmember survived, but with a broken nose
She was later transported across the US to take part in the Big Boat Series in San Francisco, then delivered across the Pacific for that year's Sydney-Hobart classic. Following this she was sailed back to the England to take part in European regattas including the Maxi Worlds in Sardinia 1995.
Longobarda thunders downwind (photo www.sailingyachts.com)
During the winter of 1995/96 further modifications were carried out to enhance her performance and rating under IMS. These included the addition of a new bow, with a more upright profile, modifying the rocker and filling in the bustle under the stern. The internal ballast was also removed, significantly lightening her. Later modifications included the addition of a bulbed IMS-type keel and further reduction in displacement. As a result of these changes, Longobarda grew in length by over 3 feet at the waterline, and reduced displacement by nine tons for the same righting moment.
Longobarda (above and below) in her more recent revamped ex-IMS and cruiser-friendly configuration (photo Farr Yacht Sales)
Longobarda took on a new role after 2000, and became available for charter in the Caribbean and beyond, providing an opportunity for guests to enjoy sailing in a Maxi-class yacht, combined with luxury cruising.

In January 2008 Longobarda took line honours in the Barbados Round the Island Race in a time of 5 hours 29 minutes, a new record for the south-about route. Longobarda has recently returned to Europe and is now understood to be located in Portiamo, Portugal.

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