27 October 2015

Quarter Ton Cup 1981

The 35-boat fleet that assembled for the 1981 Quarter Ton Cup in Marseilles, France, included qualifiers from the well-attended French and Italian selection trials (a total of 70 boats competed in these two events), and several boats from other countries. The winds ranged from Force 2 to Force 11 (4 to 60 knots), and in the last race of the series, only three boats were able to reach the finish line.
Protis, winner of the 1981 Quarter Ton Cup
The pre-regatta favourites were the many custom and semi-production boats designed by Frenchman Jacques Fauroux, whose Bullit had won the previous two editions of the Cup. Fauroux sailed one of his designs, La Concorde, which, like many other of his boats in 1981, had less extreme stern sections than Bullit, in response to changes in the IOR. The best competition for the Fauroux boats promised to come from the Italian Willy Willy, designed by the Fontana/Maletto/Navone team, and from New Zealand, the Davidson-designed Hellaby that had finished second to Bullit the previous year. 
Cifraline in trouble on a downwind leg during the 1981 Quarter Ton Cup
The opening race was an Olympic triangle sailed in Marseilles’ South Bay in a 17-33 knot easterly. Hellaby took the start and kept the lead throughout the race, with a careful cover over a new custom Fauroux design, Protis which was co-skippered by Bruno Trouble (interestingly, Protis was the only boat in the fleet to carry an inboard engine, which allowed her to be a little bigger and to carry a little more sail area). As the wind freshened, Hellaby extended her lead and won by more than two minutes, with Protis second, and Petite celte, another Fauroux design third, and Willy Willy fourth. 
Adelaide - her ability to carry her spinnaker during the fourth race gave her a big advantage over the rest of the fleet
The second inshore race, sailed in similar conditions to the first, was won by Adelaide, yet another Fauroux design, owned and skippered by Dominique Caparros, who had co-skippered Bullit in 1979 and 1980 and had Adelaide built from the same mould. She led the race convincingly from Protis, while Willy Willy finished fourth and Hellaby sixth. 

The photo to the left is of Lorraine, another new Fauroux design owned by Hong Kong sailor Gilbert Ng and skippered by Helmer Pederson. The photo was taken by Beken of Cowes, on the first day of racing - another reef was needed on the second day and was too fresh for the photographers.

Due to the hard going in the first two races, only 29 entries began the 80-mile middle distance race, which started in much lighter conditions, with La Concorde taking the early lead. Protis moved up to second on the next downwind leg before passing La Concorde to move into first, a position that she would not relinquish. La Concorde was subsequently disqualified for rounding a mark incorrectly. 

Protis during typically fresh downwind conditions during the 1981 One Ton Cup
In the next race, another Olympic triangle held in West Bay, the seas were less rough but the wind was much stronger than the previous inshore races. Adelaide again showed excellent speed in these conditions, gaining the lead early and setting her spinnaker on the reaching legs and opening up a huge lead in dramatic planning conditions. Several other boats tried setting spinnakers and suffered broken masts as a result. While Protis held second place at the start of the run, she too broke her mast after setting her spinnaker. 
Protis - possibly during the first race, and before the more wild conditions of the second and fourth inshore races
The start of the third triangle race (photo Frederic Allain/Seahorse)
Only 21 boats started the 180-mile final race, and four more dropped out in the early stage. The fleet beat their way east in a moderate breeze towards St Raphael, the only mark of the course save for the requirement to stay seaward of the islands along the shore. Protis, which had been allowed to install a new and stronger mast after her fourth race mishap, took over the lead on the first leg and turned the St Raphael mark early the next morning. La Concorde, the early leader, reclaimed her position at the head of the fleet as they worked their way southwest to the islands again. 
Willy Willy
As the fleet entered the last stage of the race in the late afternoon, a mistral wind began blowing from the west at 35-60 knots. Willy Willy, built of plywood, broke some frames and retired as did a number of others, including La Concorde and the New Zealand crew on Hellaby, who professed to never having encountered winds of mistral force before. 
Protis above and below caught in the mistral wind in the fifth race

Greg Dagge from Lorraine recalls that by evening they were just holding station off the Isle de Hyeres against huge waves that were coming off the land. They were in a good position when the compression strut between the chainplates gave way and they were forced to retire, but sailed back to Hyeres under bare poles and incredibly recorded speeds of up to 18 knots.

New Zealand's Hellaby, sailed by John Lasher and which finished in fifth place overall
Another photo of Cifraline in trouble on a downwind leg
By early evening, there were only three boats left in the race. Gyptis, a Jezequel design, was anchored far to the east and would not finish for two more days. Cifraline, a steadily improving Daniel Andrieu design, was battling with Protis which, unbeknownst to the crew, now only needed to finish the race to win the series. Both boats managed to beat past the dangerous Cape Sicie, but then found it so rough that they ran back into the lee of the Cape and anchored for most of the night. They began racing again in the morning, but since Cifraline weighed anchor half an hour earlier, she made it home against the still heavy mistral ten minutes ahead of Protis.
Her second place in the final race gave Protis the Cup, and Fauroux his third consecutive Quarter Ton title. Cifraline finished second and Gyptis third. Willy Willy was fourth, while Hellaby finished the regatta in fifth place. 
Protis during the 1981 Quarter Ton Cup (photo Seahorse magazine)
Protis as seen in 2015


  1. What a great article and insight into the racing many years ago. the loved the bit about anchoring up for the night...
    I have just purchased a 1/4 Tonner. Named Sam Pan II (possibly used to be called Rapier)?
    If anyone has any details of her history please let me know.
    Believed to be a Fauroux design from the early 80s?

  2. Glad you enjoyed the article. Nothing on San Pan II sorry, other than yes, she was a Fauroux design according to the histoiredeshalfs website, circa 1983.