11 September 2015

The International 50-Foot Class - Part 4

The final installment in the International 50-Foot Class story...

Jim Andrews' Richel/Pugh design Abracadabra, skippered by John Kolius, comfortably won the 1990 50-Foot World Cup, and went on to win again in 1991, this time skippered by Paul Cayard sailing under the Italian flag (with many of his crew from the Il Moro di Venezia America’s Cup campaign). But World Cup honours didn’t seem likely after the first event, in Key West, when Mike Peacock’s new Farr design Juno V topped the 15-boat fleet, marking the first time in over a year that a Farr boat had won a 50-Foot event. 
The 50's get underway in a start at Key West, 1991 (right to left - Carat VII, Container, Windquest, Mandrake, Heaven Can Wait, Pro-Motion, Springbok)
The competition was as hot as ever, and only two points separated second through sixth in the overall standings. The new Australian Farr-design Heaven Can Wait came in second overall, while the early leader, Mark Morita’s latest boat, Champosa VII, a Reichel/Pugh design, finished third. 
Windquest comes head to wind as she is hit by Carat VII (right)
The most spectacular sight at the regatta had to be the three-boat pileup on the first beat of the last race. Windquest was approaching the starboard layline on port tack, to windward of Carat VII. Both ducked behind Pro-Motion on starboard, then tacked to leeward of a pack of starboard tackers led by the new Briand-designed Capricorno. Carat spun the helm hard and hit Windquest, which was slower to tack. As Carat slammed into Windquest’s aft quarter, she stopped Windquest’s tack and pushed her back onto port tack. The two boats were locked together, Carat’s bow stuck in one of Windquest’s staunchions (photo, right), and Capricorno, coming in on starboard, had nowhere to go. She barrelled into the intersection between Carat and Windquest, costing Capricorno the first four feet of her bow. This raised serious questions about her berth on the French Admiral’s Cup team later that year, and whether for that reason or not, that place was taken by Corum Saphir (although this could have been the same boat).
50-Foot racing circa 1991

Abracadabra didn’t feature in the results in Key West, but claimed a clear victory in Miami, with impressively consistent scores of 1/2/3/1/2/4, yielding a 13 point win over the second placed Nelson/Marek design Insatiable, while the new Farr design Mandrake (Design #224) was third. Abracadabra had undergone slight modifications before the 1991 series – more ballast was added, and a new lighter rig had been stepped. 
Typical close quarters racing in a 50-Foot World Cup event, circa 1991
The beginnings of some disquiet within the class at the escalating costs of commissioning a modern 50-footer led to president of the International 50-Foot Class Association (IFYA) Wictor Forss taking the unprecedented step at the Miami owner’s meeting of recommending that the class become one-design. Forss presented the owners with a pair of drawings of how a new one-design 50-footer could look – featuring light displacement with good upwind stability, a deep fin keel with a bulb, 10-12 person crews, and unhindered by the continual changes of the IOR. A panel of six owners was formed at the meeting to study the feasibility of going one-design. 
More close quarters 50-Foot racing, with Container on the outside of Windquest
Skyrocketing costs aside, the racing remained as good as ever. Abracadabra took a third consecutive win in the Lymington leg of the World Cup, held in July 1991 as part of the Oracle IOR Regatta, and ahead of that year's Admiral’s Cup. Juno V kept the pressure on Abracadabra right to the end, and took second place, followed by the new Container. The presence of the 50-footers in the 1991 Admiral's Cup had been assured when the organisers had earlier decided that each team include a One Tonner, a Two Tonner and a 50-footer, reflecting the typical composition of teams in the 1989 event (although the need to field a 50-footer hardly encouraged more teams to attend). 
The Australian Frers-designed Cyclone
The eight 50-footers in the Admiral's Cup were Corum Saphir (the top 50-footer of the regatta and part of the winning French team), Mandrake Krizia (Italy), Champosa VII (USA), Juno V (Britain), Container (Germany), Tuborg (ex-Container 89, Denmark), Will (Japan) and the Frers-design Cyclone (Australia). 
The 1991 Container (photo shockwave40)
Container's owner Udo Schutz, had a new boat built for 1991 - although she was scarcely different from her predecessor, she had grown a little in length to suit the new 40.5ft rating that the IFYA had introduced in 1991. The Danes had chosen the old 1989-vintage Container to fill the 50-foot berth for their team. Another name change reflected her new sponsor, Tuborg. However, while the old Container had been a mainstay of the Dane's impressive second placing in 1989, Tuborg was off the pace in 1991 after suffering a collapsed mast step and significant loss of rig tension, with the problem only diagnosed halfway through the 1991 series. Tuborg became the weak link in the Danish team's disappointing sixth place. 
Tuborg - the 1989 Container, sailed for the Danish team in the 1991 Admiral's Cup (photo shockwave40)
The final regatta for the 1991 World Cup was held in Miura (Sagami Bay), Japan. As with the 1989 series held in the same venue, only four races were possible when a large high pressure system prevented completion of the scheduled seven races. Mandrake won the series, with Champosa VII second. Cayard and Abracadabra were third on countback (with Champosa), which was enough to give them World Cup honours over Juno V and Mandrake
Juno V after finishing a race during the 1991 Admiral's Cup (photo shockwave40)
Abracadabra crosses behind Mandrake during the 1991 Japan World Cup series
After the Japan series the issue of one-design was tabled following the deliberations of the feasibility study, and the owners unanimously voted for a radical change in boat design. It was decided that, beginning with the 1995 circuit, the IFYA would scrap its adopted IOR measurement rule and become a one-design class, which would be a collaboration of the top 50-foot designers (Farr, Reichel/Pugh, Nelson/Marek and Judel/Vrolijk). It was intended that the boat would be designed for offshore grand-prix racing, but not to a formula driven IOR design, although it would be raceable under the IMS rule. The new design did not come to fruition, however, with the IFYA eventually following the IOR into sailing oblivion, and seemingly taking any momentum for a new type of boat with it. 
Champosa VII (1992 IFYA World Cup champion) douses her spinnaker ahead of a leeward mark during the 1991 Admiral's Cup
The 1992 World Cup was won by Morita's latest Champosa VII, another Reichel/Pugh design, skippered by John Kolius. Champosa VII had struggled in the 1991 Admiral's Cup, and despite being an update of Abracadabra, she had not been able to reproduce the form of the two-time World Cup champion, or that of the top Farr 50-footers, which at that time included Will for Japanese owner Ryouji Oda (#211), Juno V, Springbok and Mandrake.
Australian 50-Footer Ragamuffin in power reaching conditions during the 1993 Admiral's Cup

The original Will was followed in 1991 by a new design (#260). The Farr design notes for the new Will describe the changes from earlier generation boats - "Design 260 has a higher sail area to wetted surface ratio and lower drag keel and rudder arrangements. She has significantly higher stability and lower displacement. The deeper keel will give a large performance improvement in stronger upwind conditions without any loss downwind, particularly as refinements in keel shape improve downwind speed." 

In what was the last of the 50-foot World Cup circuits, coinciding with the final demise of the IOR, the 1993 event was won by Carat VII Citroen. The 1993 Admiral's Cup was also the last one sailed under IOR, and the eight 50-footers that sailed were Container (for the winning German team), Ragamuffin (Australia), Corum Saphir (France), Mandrake (Italy), Champosa VII (Japan), Indulgence (Britain, the ex-Juno V) and Jameson 3 (Ireland, the ex-Heaven Can Wait) and Pro-motion VII (Netherlands). The series was notable for the incredibly close win by Germany over Australia (by 0.25 points), but also for the serious collision between Mandrake and Pro-motion VII in the fifth race (photo, right) that saw both yachts forced to retire for the remainder of the regatta.

Container is pushed hard in fresh reaching conditions during the 1993 Admiral's Cup
Germany's Container prepares to round a weather mark during the 1993 Admiral's Cup

Ireland's Jameson 3 (ex-Heaven Can Wait) broaches in fresh downwind conditions during the 1993 Admiral's Cup
Champosa VII was bought by a New Zealand yachtsman and underwent some modifications to fulfil a new purpose as a cruiser/racer (and has had her rig recently trimmed to improve handling while cruising). Other 50-footers that seem to be enjoying a second life include Container and Yeoman XXVII (for sale here).  

Champosa VII re-launched in Auckland, early 1995
Champosa VII returns to Auckland following a cruise in the Hauraki Gulf, 2012
Will (possibly the second one) is sitting in the Tamaki River in Auckland looking somewhat worse for wear. Cyclone has been converted to a cruiser-racer and has competed in the Sydney-Hobart.

Part 1 of this series can be seen here, Part 2 here and Part 3 here.


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