13 September 2016

Gerontius (Farr 42)

The Bruce Farr-designed Gerontius (KZ-2302) had been designed for Graeme Eder in 1973 (Design #39) as an extension of the Farr 33 Moonshine, as a fast cruiser but with some emphasis towards the IOR where it was not considered to affect performance too greatly. At this early stage in the development of Farr's larger yachts, and because of her aspirations as a dual purpose yacht, a masthead rig was used, but of reasonably moderate proportions to match her light and easily driven hull. Her relatively squat looking rig and low sail area helped achieve a reasonable rating, although this was still relatively high at 35.5ft.

Notwithstanding that she was not designed as an out-and-out Admiral's Cupper, Gerontius created something of a minor controversy when she was selected for the New Zealand team for the 1975 Admiral’s Cup. Showing surprising speed upwind in light airs, she finished the trials in third place, behind two S&S designs, the 42 footer Barnacle Bill and the 45 footer Inca, with a clear edge over the highly fancied S&S designed 50 footer Corinthian.
Gerontius during the New Zealand 1975 Admiral's Cup trials (photo Sea Spray)

It had not been expected that the unusual looking and homegrown design would be competitive, and after it became clear after the first three races that she was clearly in the running, her competitors aboard the S&S designs lodged a joint protest over her IOR measurement certificate. This was dismissed, although it clearly rattled the Gerontius crew who suffered from poor starts in the next few races. But she ultimately prevailed and was duly selected to be part of the New Zealand team for its first attempt to win the coveted trophy, regarded as the unofficial world championship of offshore sailing.
Gerontius claws her way round Flat Rock (off Kawau Island) in the second trials race in which she finished second to Barnacle Bill on corrected time (photo Sea Spray)
The Gerontius crew for the Admiral's Cup included Farr himself (which meant that he wasn't able to sail aboard his Quarter Tonner 45 South which was making history at the same time in France), as well as Peter Blake. Her optimum performance was in fresher breezes, as was that of the Carcano-designed Vihuela in the Italian team. As Bob Fisher noted in his Admiral's Cup history "The drawback to their light displacement boats is that they lack sail area for light weather and in 1975 that was to be their undoing".

Gerontius in tight reaching conditions during the 1975 Admiral's Cup (photo Jonathan Eastland)
However, despite the typically light air conditions that prevailed, Gerontius' place in the team was vindicated when she ended the series as the top scoring New Zealand boat in 11th place overall. The New Zealand team itself finished a creditable sixth place, of the 19 nations represented.
Gerontius seen here in Cowes during the 1975 Admiral's Cup
Gerontius returned to New Zealand and raced actively for some time, including competing in the 1977 Auckland to Suva race, where she finished fourth on line and sixth on corrected time (amongst no less than 61 finishers!). Eder and Blake also sailed Gerontius in the same year to overall line honours in the 1,250 mile 1977 Round the North Island race.

She went on to race in the inaugural 1978 Clipper Cup, as part of the New Zealand 'A' team alongside the Farr One Tonner Country Boy and a newer fractional rigged Farr 42, Monique, and revelled in Hawaii's reliable breezes. NZ A led the series by just two points going into the last race (the 800 mile Around the State), but were overtaken by a strong Australian effort in the finale, and finished second overall (the NZ B team finished third, thanks to a second place by Inca in the final race).

Gerontius remains based in Honolulu, and has recently been advertised for sale.

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