|MASH leaves the Mundle factory at The Spit, Sydney (photo courtesy Michael Spies/Doug Sharpin)|
However, by the time of the the 1977 Cup series, held in Sydney, her design features of moderate to heavy displacement, masthead rig and narrow stern, that had been a successful combination in the 1976 Half Ton Cup, had been outclassed by the new fractional-rigged centreboarders in the 1977 series. MASH was well off the pace and finished a lowly 12th place overall (the Cup was won that year by Farr's Gunboat Rangiriri, while a Holland design Silver Shamrock III finished a close second). The boat was considered too light (relative to its designed displacement), and lacked stability and suffered upwind. Some improvements were achieved when the crew carried lots of drinking water in the bilge.
|MASH is seen here at Rob Mundle's facility at The Spit, alongside a standard production Holland 30 (photo courtesy Michael Spies/Doug Sharpin)|
|Screw Loose charges downwind under spinnaker and blooper (photo courtesy Michael Spies/Doug Sharpin)|
But as journalist Peter Campbell reported at the time, none of that background should detract from the sailing skill and fine seamanship demonstrated by Cumming and his crew, who sailed Screw Loose brilliantly. They sailed the boat to the limit as the fleet came surfing southwards before a continuing nor'easter which gave them a spinnaker run for almost the entire race.
|Screw Loose at the Sydney-Hobart race start (photo Histoiredeshalfs)|
Cumming and his crew finished almost a day and a half after Bumblebee IV (in four days, 23 hours and 3 minutes), taking almost 109 hours to complete the journey, with an average speed of 5.76 knots, to claim her Sydney-Hobart victory. She scored a narrow four minute win over Sydney yacht Wheel Barrow, a Carter 30, followed by Tasmanian Half Tonner Apali taking third another six minutes later. In the cold morning hours and through to dawn the Half Tonners kept crossing the finish line and Bumblebee IV slipped further down the list on corrected time, finally finishing 15th overall. Half Tonners took out the first eight places, and 11 of the first 15 places. Such a sweep of the results by small yachts would not be repeated in later editions of the race, although the later Half Tonner Zeus II (Peter Joubert design owned by Jim Dunstans) won in 1981. Screw Loose was also the first Tasmanian yacht to win the race on corrected time since Westward won in 1948.
Screw Loose was later owned by Wayne Brighton in the mid to late 1980s and was the New South Wales Division 3 (displacement) JOG champion. The boat was then sold to Chris Walmsley in 1988, who also campaigned Screw Loose with some success in Papua New Guinea. She made the trip from Cairns to Port Moresby without mishap, but lost her mast during a coastal race in Moresby. The boat was hard running when the rig went over the bow. The rig was retrieved and repaired with an internal sleeve, and the crew were back racing in a couple of weeks.
|Screw Loose circa 2010 (photo mysailing.com.au)|
This article has been compiled from a variety of sources including Peter Campbell's article 'Surprise victory for a Half Tonner', The World of Yachting 1980-81, Editions de Messine, Paris; 'Tiny Sloop Packs Mighty Wallop', The Age, 1 January 1980; Michael Spies and Doug Shaplin; and 'Screw Loose sails again in the Whitsundays', Ian Grant, mysailing.com.au (13 Sept 2010).