26 August 2015

The International 50-Foot Class - Part 3

The 1990 World Cup for the International 50-Foot Yacht Association (IFYA) got underway with a one-off series in Japan, in November 1989 – a notable series for the fact that Mark Morita, the Japanese owner of Champosa V, underwrote the shipping costs of all the yachts, containers and crews to the tune of an estimated $5m - half of which was raised from seven major Japanese corporations under the aegis of the International 50-Foot Yacht Association of Japan, which Morita formed. 
Will sails upwind in fresh conditions during the second race of the Japanese World Cup event, November 1989 (photo Sail magazine)
This attracted to 18 boats for the actual regatta, from eight countries, and coincided with ongoing growth in the 50-foot class, with eight new boats having been launched since December 1988, and another six were expected to debut in early 1990. For Bengal V’s Japanese owner Masakazu Kobayashi, the 50-footers were seen as an excellent training ground for his new Bengal Bay Challenge America’s Cup crew.

While the event was notable for the impressive size of the fleet, the largest fleet to ever compete in an IFYA event, the conditions in Miura, a commercial fishing village in Sagami Bay south of Yokohama, were less so. Winds swung between very heavy and very light, and the race committee barely got in the minimum four (out of seven scheduled) races to constitute a series. The second race was in the very upper limit for the fragile racers, sailed in breezes that reached a steady 39 knots. Boats surfed at 18 knots. Some limped away early - the Judel-Vrolijk designed Container (helmed by Star sailor Achim Greise) was dismasted in dramatic style during a wayward gybe. The rig was cut away and later retrieved by scuba divers – the crew worked all day and night in watches of seven men to splice the mast together again, and they finished just in time to sail the next day’s races. The overall toll from the race was two broken masts and four broken booms, and a variety of other minor damage. 

Container prepares to gybe in the very fresh conditions in the second race - below, the aftermath

In the end it was Richard DeVos’s Farr-designed Windquest, skippered by John Bertrand, that won the abbreviated series, taking the series over another Farr design, the Japanese Will, by just 0.5 points. Windquest led round the course on the first race but sailed past the layline on the last beat and lost to Container. In the second race Windquest nipped the Danish yacht Andelstanken by half a boat-length on the last tack.
Bengal V, with the help of New Zealand sailors Peter Lester and Rod Davis aboard, won the re-sailed third race in light and very shifty airs – Windquest was as low as 14th at one stage but battled back to finish ninth. The last race was another light and shifty contest, which was won by Windquest with Will second, and Will also took second place overall. Third place overall went to Andelstanken, followed by the ever-present Champosa V and Bengal V
Andelstanken leads Will and Windquest in fresh conditions in the second race (photo Sail magazine)
Some of the Fifties on their way to Japan
A new change for the class was the introduction of a Silver Fleet for the 1990 World Cup, which got underway with the Japan regatta. The influx of new boats for the 1989 season had seen a marked speed difference between the new and older generation. So the IFYA addressed the problem by deciding that those boats that qualified for an old-age allowance under Mk IIIA of the IOR would have two ratings. They would then be given two scores, one against the overall fleet and a secondary set of results against other Mk IIIA boats in a Silver Fleet. Fuijimo beat Infinity, Springbok and American Eagle to win this 'classic division'. 

Sixteen 50-footers went on to compete at Key West in early 1990, where the wind blew harder than the previous year’s event, and well above 20 knots for the first two days. Kobayashki’s new Farr-designed Tiger was the early leader, but a premature start in the seventh race cost her the series. The new Farr designed Springbok ended up winning five races of the series, but remained behind Container in overall World Cup standings. 

Close up view of the action aboard Blizzard during the 1990 Key West regatta (photo Sailing World magazine)
Container leads Windquest around a leeward mark during the Tortola World Cup regatta (photo Craig Davis/Sail magazine)
Container went on to win the Tortola leg of the World Cup, held in May 1990, which was contested by a reduced fleet of eight boats, finishing ahead of Abracadabra and Springbok
Container was the early front-runner in the 1990 50-Foot season (photo Diamond Sails)
Abracadabra turned the tables by winning the next event in Miami, beating Container and Springbok. Abracadbra was a new Reichel/Pugh design, owned by Dr Jim Andrews and helmed by John Kolius, and she sailed a very consistent series in Miami, with only one finish below fourth. Container lost the regatta after being disqualified in one of the last races after a collision with Infinity 90 and Champosa V.
Abracadabra - standout performer during the 1990 World Cup series (photo McConaghy Boats)
Abracadabra makes her debut in the Miami World Cup regatta (photo Sailing World magazine)
The final event was held in fresh conditions in Newport, Rhode Island. Abracadabra won the first four races en-route to a resounding victory, her fourth regatta win in the 1990 season and more than enough to take the 1990 World Cup. Container and Springbok fought hard for second, with Container edging out Springbok in the final points. Windquest finished fourth and Carat VII fifth.
Springbok puts her bow in during a gybe in fresh conditions in Narragansett Bay, Newport (photo Sail magazine)
Abracadabra - 1990 World Cup winner (photo McConaghy Boats)
Carat VII - fifth in the 1990 50-Foot World Cup, and sporting her Sobstad Genesis mainsail
In Part 4 of this series of articles we look at the Fifties in the 1991 Admiral's Cup, and the last 50 Foot World Cup events.
Mandrake (photo Carlo Borlenghi / Farr Yacht Design Facebook page)
Part 1 of this series can be seen here and Part 2 here

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