27 September 2015

Quarter Ton Cup 1978

The 1978 Quarter Ton Cup was sailed in Sajima, Japan, and featured strong winds with choppy seas, that took out the masts of the production versions of the previous 1977 winner, the Holland-design Manzanita, and saw numerous capsizes. The Cup was won by a Japanese design Magician V, a fairly conventional but modified production boat, built by the Yamaha Corporation in a lengthy project to win the Cup and to promote their designs.
Magician V - winner of the 1978 Quarter Ton Cup
The 1978 Quarter Ton Cup marked Japan’s first victory in a world yachting championship, and also began of a new era of grand prix-style yacht racing, with open works team participation. Magician V, helmed by Roy Cundiff and Gerry Gavin of North Sails USA, with a Japanese navigator and foredeck hand, sailed consistently to take the series with a 4/3/1/5/2 scoresheet. They were able to harness the potential of the relatively light displacement fractionally-rigged boat. This potential was revealed in the first race when they were able to carry a spinnaker on the second reach, while many of the leaders could not, and consequently planed up to the front of the fleet from a poor early position.   
Magician V with a weather position on the rest of the 1978 Quarter Ton fleet
Magician V won the shorter offshore race in extremely strong winds (reported by the Japanese Navy as gusting to 45 knots), recording nearly a solid half-hour of planing in rough water where some of their less-powerfully shaped rivals were on a thin line of control. Cundiff recalled the conditions encountered early on the second leg; "Before we arrived at that mark the wind had built to 45 knots with 15 to 18 foot seas running. Boats were capsizing all over. In that race we dropped the spreaders in twice. With a strong current running in the vicinity of the second mark and with the sea conditions the way they were, few boats were making any progress at the mark. We quickly saw that and decided to sail right in next to the beach off a nearby island. There we managed to work our way up the shoreline, and by the time we cleared the island, we were nearly one hour ahead of the nearest boats. Then on the last leg, the 45-knot wind fizzled out to nothing, leaving a stomach-churning 15-to-18-foot sea. Fortunately, the wind finally filled in for the remainder of the leg, allowing us to finish the race". 
Even the winning yacht was not immune from being knocked down during the wild conditions encountered during the 1978 Quarter Ton Cup
In equally strong winds during the last, long offshore race, they started four minutes late after a premature start, but managed to sail steadily through the fleet to secure their overall victory.
Magician V - winner of the 1978 Quarter Ton Cup
Magician V started life as a production fibreglass hull. But after extensive modifications, including microballon bumps, carbon fibre reinforcement, an extended transom, flush deck, stripped out interior and a taller mast, providing 25 square feet of extra sail, she bore little resemblance to the production boats that normally left the Yamaha factory.
Kamikaze Express (left), second overall, and Seaflyer (right), third overall
Another Japanese boat, Kamikaze Express, a rakish looking Japanese-designed centreboarder that had one the Japanese selection trials, finished second overall and won the last race, with series results of 7/6/3/2/1 indicating continued improvement throughout the regatta. Six of the top ten finishers in the 32-boat fleet were Japanese entries, which may have been due in part that they were well accustomed to sailing in the wild and hazardous waters of the Sagami Nada. Competition in the local fleet was also bolstered by a 30 percent tax levied on all boats over 7.5 metres that had seen the number the Quarter Tonners in Japan soar.
Kamakaze Express - above and below, sailed by Mikio Tokano and designed by Toshio Kihara

During the series, the mainland of Japan seemed to be teetering between two huge wind systems, so that depressions and anti-cyclones rushed past to the north and south, while the wind in between became extremely unpredictable in direction and strength. This coupled with a current that ran as much as four knots, creating seas that were often extremely rough and confused.
Part of the 32-boat fleet soon after a start during the 1978 Quarter Ton Cup

New Zealand had a design connection to the third placed boat, the Whiting-designed Australian entry Seaflyer, which finished with results of 5/7/2/1/3. Seaflyer was a development of Magic Bus, and of specially designed offset construction plywood and had a centreboard. Potentially Seaflyer was the fastest in the fleet, but a lack of tuning time probably cost the Australians the win. The boat had also been designed for optimum performance in light to moderate winds and flat seas. Unfortunately it blew hard for four of the five races, with vicious sea conditions common throughout, churned up by a combination of wind and racing tidal currents. 
German entry Four Samurais designed by Axel Mohnhaupt finished fourth overall (with placings of 1/5/9/4/8)
As it was, Seaflyer lost the series by a mere two placings in the final 210 mile race – strong winds and high seas in the last half of the race proved too much for the lightweight centreboarder and she wasn’t able to hold off the determined challenge from the two top Japanese yachts. Knowing they had to finish two places ahead of Magician V in the final race, Hugh Treharne and his crew drove Seaflyer to the limit, capsizing twice as they sought the achieve an overall victory. Her first capsize came midway through the race, the result of a wild broach under spinnaker. The second was at night while sailing upwind – a rearing wave knocked the boat into an involuntary tack, while the crew were still stacked on the weather rail. The Australians recovered from that more frightening episode to finish behind Kamikaze Express and Magician V (profile plan, left) to take out second overall.  
Japanese yacht Shoun A approaches a gybe mark - she finished ninth overall

Another Japanese yacht, Paradice, a Peterson-designed centreboarder, did not fare as well. On the last leg (upwind) in 25-35 knot winds and 12-foot seas, Paradice rounded up during a gust, and a wave caught her and tacked her. With the no.3 jib cleated and the double-reefed mainsail held by the running backstay, the boat lay on her side until a subsequent wave completely turtled her, the centreboard fell out of the boat, and water poured in through the open companionway. The boat began to settle by the stern, upside-down. The crew had just enough time to dive below to release the liferaft before the boat sank in 600 metres of water. The crew were rescued by a passing freighter 17 hours later, having been swept 24 miles eastward by a strong current into the main shipping lanes. 
Four Samurais leads Magician V into a leeward mark during the 1978 Quarter Ton Cup

At least four other centreboarders capsized during the series, including the yacht Oooh Vind, a Groupe Finot design with a swiveling keel, controlled by a lever on deck that could be angled to windward, hopefully to provide a few extra degrees of pointing ability. The same gale force wind that hit Paradice caused Oooh Vind to promptly capsize, tossing all four crew into the sea, with one sailor nearly drowning. The capsizes all happened in the two long offshore races which had taken the fleet into the ‘black current’ waters at the entrance to Sagami Bay, where racing tides of up to four knots rip between rocky islands. The reaction of wind against current whipped up short, steep waves which at times looked – and felt – like brick walls. Many competitors were critical of the organisers for sending the small yachts into what was considered to be a dangerous sailing area. Altogether there were 23 DNF’s in the series, and six earlier retirements did not even start in the final race. 
Magician V sails upwind in moderate conditions

Of the three New Zealand crews competing, the best effort was tenth overall by Black Arrow II, a Peterson design skippered by Tony Bouzaid (16/12/12/9/18). Mark Patterson, sailing the Holland design Vago, withdrew after a win and a dismasting, while John Bonica in Self Whiting finished 22nd overall, and suffered from a torn mainsail forcing her retirement in the final offshore race. Helmer Pederson skippered the Japanese yacht Rodem V, which was uncompetitive and finished 17th.
Magician V seen in a more forlorn state in Japan in recent times
A film of the 1978 Quarter Ton Cup that has recently surfaced can be seen below.


  1. If you would like to hear the perspective of the series from a young kiwi sailor who built the rig, centerboard and fitted out, rigged and helmed Kamakaze Express with Mikio Tokano, I'm here, let me know.

    1. Hi, i have just obtained a Paul Whiting QT in Australia. I'd love to get some of your specialised knowledge on the rig!

  2. Hi Team Scribe, yes please, it would be great to hear a first-hand perspective. You can use the email address above - rb_sailing@outlook.com