18 October 2014

Sovereign (Pedrick Maxi)

Sovereign was a maxi class yacht designed by David Pedrick, which was built and launched in Sydney in 1986. She was commissioned and owned by Bernard Lewis, who had formerly campaigned the 12-metre Gretel and the smaller maxi Vengeance (ex-Siska). Lewis wanted a yacht that could take the line and handicap double in the Sydney-Hobart race and be competitive in the maxi world circuit.

Pedrick's design, at 83ft, was then the largest maxi in the world. Pedrick had earlier designed Nirvana, generally considered a beautiful yacht that was reasonably competitive while also having a comfortable fit-out below (and can be seen in this video of the 1983 SORC). This met part of Lewis' criteria for a yacht that could be raced successfully while also suitable for entertaining guests aboard.

A building team was assembled around aluminium boat builder Paul Kelly and Sovereign was launched in late November 1986. She went on to win everything she competed in, except for the Sydney-Hobart of that year when she was forced to retire due to the failure of a bolt in the spreader root connection to the mast.
Sovereign hauled out in Sydney, May 1988 (photo Bob Chapman)
Once this problem was fixed Sovereign bounced back to take line honours in each of the 30 races she contested, winning over half on corrected time. In the 1987 Sydney-Mooloolaba race she finished first, some 80 miles ahead of the next maxi, and went on to be selected for the New South Wales team for the Southern Cross Cup. She secured a rare line and handicap honours double in the 1987 Sydney-Hobart (the first Australian yacht to do so), which formed the finale of the Southern Cross Cup and fulfilled Lewis' dream while helping the NSW team to win the Cup.
Sovereign in a tight tussle with Il Moro di Venezia during the 1988 Kenwood Cup
Sovereign was later chosen to represent Australia at the 1988 Kenwood Cup in Hawaii, where she met with modest success against the first of the new breed of carbon fibre maxis such as Raul Gardini's Il Moro di Venezia (photo above, and below seen leading Ondine, Congere and Emeraude). Modifications were planned for within the six weeks available between the end of the Kenwood Cup and the San Francisco Big Boat Series.
On-board photo of Sovereign in the Tasman Sea on her way to New Zealand and onward to Hawaii (photo Bob Chapman)
The 1988 Big Boat Series was the last to feature a big Maxi fleet, following a good turnout at the Kenwood Cup, and was a last hurrah for IOR on the West Coast, with a big fleet bolstered by the One Ton Cup that had been held just prior. Sovereign was skippered by Peter Gilmour for the series. Some improvements were achieved, but while lying second overall, a running backstay foul resulted in a breakage to the Sovereign's mast, above the top spreader. A team was assembled within the crew to get the boat racing again within 36 hours, and after an all-night effort the mast was repaired and re-stepped in time for the next race, due to a convenient lay day.

Following the improvements achieved in San Francisco, Lewis ordered a new keel, mast and sails to ensure Sovereign was at her best for the 1989 World Maxi Championships to be held over three regattas at the US Virgin Islands, Newport (Rhode Island) and Palma, Majorca. After winning in both the Virgin Islands and Newport regattas, an offer was made to Lewis in July 1989 by Californian yachtsman Victor Fargo for the boat before she was to be shipped to Europe. It is understood that she was renamed Lady Godiva II, before she was again sold and converted to a cruiser for the Caribbean, and in more recent times was converted to a cruiser in Italy.

(Information for this article is based in part on an obituary for Lewis written by David Kellett that appeared in Sail-World.com in 2004). 

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