25 May 2017

Lobo and Sidewinder (Reichel/Pugh 43)

Sidewinder was the debut boat for the new design duo of Jim Pugh and John Reichel - they had left Doug Peterson's office to branch out on their own, and Sidewinder was owner Randy Short's first boat of any sort after he had sold his supermarket business in Australia to Safeway. Sidewinder, a 43-footer, shared some characteristics of the Peterson-designed Serendipity 43, of which Scarlett O'Hara was one of the most notable - she was the winner of the 1983 SORC, and top inshore boat of that year's Admiral's Cup

Reichel/Pugh adopted some of the Serendipity 43 parameters for their new design but gave Sidewinder slightly more sail area, as well as a considerably greater righting moment (RM), by 11%. The increase in RM was due to a number of factors - she initially had 800lbs less internal ballast than Scarlett O'Hara, much of which was in her keel instead; her up-to-date hull and deck construction, including two full-length longitudinals, which saved weight up high; and had 3.5 inches less freeboard than Scarlett, which lowered the weight of the deck and hardware. Sidewinder initially rated 33.6ft, slightly more than Scarlett's 33.2ft, but this was brought down for the 1985 US Admiral's Cup trials to 33.0ft.
Sidewinder rounds a top mark ahead of High Roler during the 1985 US Admiral's Cup trials (photo Sail magazine)
Sidewinder was the stiffest boat of the 1985 SORC group of Class D 43 footers, with a low tenderness ratio of 96, and her race results in her first season in 1984 bore this out. She won her class in that year's Clipper Cup in Hawaii (8th overall), edging out New Zealand's Shockwave, and was third in class (even as the smallest boat) in the breezy 1984 Big Boat Series in San Francisco (again, just ahead of Shockwave). From her deck plan, Sidewinder was almost the most evenly balanced between boat and stern, with narrower aft sections than was becoming typical at the time, with an effort to provide a more easily driven hull form in confused seas.  
Lobo powers upwind during the 1985 SORC
A second boat to the Reichel-Pugh design was launched for owner Roger Livingston, being the silver hulled Lobo. This later boat is thought to have been constructed in a more advanced layup, and carried a slightly lower rating than Sidewinder, at 32.8ft. Livingston attracted a star line up for his boat, with Dennis Connor on the helm and Tom Whidden as tactician. 
Sidewinder (left) leads Lobo (centre) and Mokuahi and Mandrake (right) during a light air race in the 1985 SORC (photo Paul Mello)
Both boats competed in the 1985 SORC, in a year where unusual weather conditions caused some upsets in the overall results. The SORC was more of a build-up event for Admiral's Cup hopefuls that year, with the team to be decided later in May in a trials series held in Newport, Rhode Island. After the fourth race, Connor reported that they "were hanging on by their fingernails", noting that Lobo is a "good windward-running boat not best suited to these reaching conditions". He proved this point by subsequently finishing top boat in class in the final 23-mile upwind/downwind Nassau Cup Race, to finish third yacht in Class D, and tenth yacht overall. Sidewinder was less impressive, finishing 11th in Class D, and 25th overall.
Lobo running downwind during the 1985 SORC
The message that small boats were required for the Admiral's Cup was well understood by 1985, and the US selectors had imposed a 33.7ft rating ceiling for their trial series. The rating ceiling meant that one of the stars of the 1985 SORC, the Farr 43 Snake Oil (34.1ft) could not compete in the trials. Still, the US trials attracted no less than 39 boats, including a big number of One Tonners. Held in May, it held some tests for the crews due to temperatures so cold that crews could see their breath - perhaps a good test for British weather. "Here I was", said one later, "out there in the middle of the night in the pouring rain trying to qualify for something worse".
The comparative deck layouts of the US Admiral's Cup team yachts - note the narrow stern sections of Sidewinder
The Nelson/Marek 43 High Roler was the best performer, posting a consistent set of results with a third, two seconds and a sixth. Sidewinder bounced back from a disappointing SORC effort to be back on the pace in Newport with Paul Cayard as the new helmsman. Steve Taft and Skip Allan, with a successful Imp campaign behind them, also joined the boat. After the SORC, 640lbs of lead was removed from her keel and 140lbs put back as internal ballast. Her keel was reshaped slightly and made thinner (the photo to the right is from the Admiral's Cup in Cowes, showing that the keel was of a fairly aggressive elliptical shape, as had become fashionable at the time).
High Roler and Lowell North's Nelson/Marek 42 Sleeper established themselves as front runners for the US team places, Sidewinder and Lobo were left to fight it out for the third spot. Lobo had performed erratically - while she was the only yacht to win two races, she also posted a 27th in the first windward-leeward. But she effectively eliminated herself in the second distance race with a 22nd. Connor had wanted to the dodge the tide soon after the start and headed between rocks known as the Dumplings, through a gap which looked close on any chart. In Tim Jefferey's account in the official history of the Admiral's Cup, tactician Whidden was reported to have muttered "This is one of the stupidest things I've ever been involved in", moments before impact at a full six knots. Livingston also called it a "dumb stunt" - Lobo finished fourth overall and lost her place to Sidewinder.

Denmark, France, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea joined the British in selecting an all One Tonner line-up for the 1985 Admiral's Cup. Indeed, 34 of the 57 boats in the fleet were rated at or near the 30.0ft minimum. Against that trend, the US team was comprised of three boats rating near the maximum limit set by the selectors. It did not prove to be a winning combination.
Sidewinder during the Admirals Cup (photo Seahorse)
Sidewinder had a dismal start in the first race in the first race of the Admiral's Cup, after she hit Canada's Amazing Grace when the tiller came apart in the skippers hands as he tried to duck her stern, and had to take a 50% penalty, as did Sleeper when she clipped the stern of a One Tonner.
The Sidewinder crew line the rail during the 1987 Admiral's Cup - complete with pink wet weather gear to match the yacht's spinnaker (photo Seahorse)

Sidewinder at the start of the Channel Race in the 1985 Channel Race (photo courtesy Jonathan Eastland/Ajax)
While High Roler had a fantastic second race, winning by two minutes on corrected time, Sleeper and Sidewinder came unstuck after leading early on the Island shore when the breeze faded as they tried to come back to the mainland. The Channel Race was a small boat benefit with plenty of fresh air reaching. On the leg to France, Sidewinder watched a One Tonner hitch a lift on her quarter wave for a free tow, but then break off to sail on her own - faster. Sidewinder, rating a full 2.5ft higher, promptly latched onto the quarter wave of the smaller, faster boat.
High Roler
The fourth race, in Christchurch Bay and away from the variable breezes and capricious tides of the Solent, was more to the US team's liking, and they finished as top team of the day, by a full 50 points over Germany. High Roler was third, Sleeper fourth and Sidewinder sixth. The team's efforts were, however, further undermined by a poor showing in the Fastnet, another windy affair. Before striking out across the Irish Sea, the Sidewinder team decided that enough was enough - with no chance of winning they retired to Plymouth. Sleeper boxed on and was performing well, in second place, when her mast broke after a shroud jumped out of the spreader tip. Only High Roler went on to finish, but that effort could only salvage a lowly ninth place for the US.
Lowell North's Nelson/Marek 42 footer Sleeper
High Roler and Sidewinder were both rushed back to the US for the 1985 Big Boat Series, where they joined Lobo for this prestigious, and typically windy, event. High Roler won her division, racing for the Atlantic Perpetual trophy, ahead of Shockwave and Sidewinder. Lobo sailed in a different division, and she sailed with her second keel and, with Tom Whidden on the helm, demonstrated such upwind speed that she handily won three races and took the Keefe-Kilborn Perpetual trophy. 
Lobo - this photo is possibly from the 1985 Big Boat Series
Owner Livingston was encouraged to take a spot n the US Southern Cross Cup team, but he had his eye on the 1986 SORC. With Connor on the helm again, and a lower rating (32.5ft) Lobo finished third in Class D (and 10th overall) - beaten by a new Irwin 42 Slick and Sleeper. Lobo's series included such highs and lows as a loss by just one second to Sleeper on corrected time in the Nassau Cup race, and an eighth and 15th in class in the St Petersburg to Ft Lauderdale and Miami to Nassau races, yet posting a class win and two seconds in other races.  She had the better of High Roler and Sidewinder however, who finished sixth and 11th in the same class.
Lobo (left) during the 1985 Big Boat Series
Sidewinder formed part of the US team for the 1987 Southern Cross Cup, alongside Jubilation (Frers 60) and chartered Australian yacht Drakes Prayer. The US team had a dramatic and inauspicious return to the series. Drakes Prayer was T-boned by Australia's Venture One in the first race, and the team was the centre of controversy after officials boarded yachts after the second race and cited the Hong Kong yacht Switchblade and Sidewinder for incorrect measurement figures. Switchblade accepted a 10 percent-of-placings penalty, but the US team, incensed by the citing that related Sidewinder's measurement discrepancies (what skipper John Bertrand called "nitpicking") to the blatant cheating that had been exposed in the I-Punkt scandal several months prior, threatened to withdraw from the series. Fortunately, after a flurry of talks, postponements, press conferences, and a public apology from the host Cruising Club of Australia, the matter was dropped and the US team returned to the racing. However, Sidewinder was later dismasted during the Sydney-Hobart race finale while leading the 150-boat fleet, and the team slumped from third place to finish fifth in the team standings.

It is understood that Lobo went on to race on the Great Lakes during the late 1980s and through the 1990s. Unfortunately she was lost in a marina fire in Michigan in January 1998, along with a number of other racing yachts. Sidewinder was relocated to Mexico in the late 1980s, and competed in the Mexorc regatta in 2016 (photo above).

19 May 2017

Backlash (Everitt 43)

Backlash was an interesting design from the board of English yacht designer Julian Everitt. Backlash was commissioned by Tim and Cathy Herring, who wanted an Admiral's Cup design and they were prepared to give Everitt a free hand to be adventurous with his interpretation of the IOR.  They were also prepared to allow the results to come slowly at first, and to develop the boat somewhat empirically.

The design was somewhat radical, with a very low freeboard for her length, although this was an emerging design feature at the time in the One Ton fleet, with the Humphrey's designed Jade being perhaps one of the most extreme examples.  While a masthead design was initially chosen for Backlash, this borrowed some fractional attributes, with a mast placed further forward than typical for this rig type, allowing for a larger mainsail and resulting in a high aspect ratio foretriangle. The boat featured a well thought out deck layout, with twin wheels set well forward allowing good visibility for the helmsman, and the navigators hatch was placed aft of this position, and behind the mainsheet traveller.  
Backlash in her original configuration (1985) (photo One Ton Facebook page)
Backlash was built in Cowes by Vision Yachts, of a high-tech mix of Kevlar, carbon-fibre and epoxy. The hull when removed from the original plug weighed just 270kg. The ring frames and longitudinals and glass fibre floors gave enormous strength and rigidity. The hydraulic backstay could be pumped up to 5,000kg on the forestay load cell, with just 10mm hull deflection. If she lacked anything, it was in her stability, and she benefited enormously from having an extra few crew on her rail. She displaced 7,484kg, and rated 33.6ft IOR, and flew a mix of Banks, Sobstad and McWilliams sails.

Backlash heading into Lymington Marina circa 1989 (photo from Shockwave40 blog)
The Herrings wanted to race their new yacht all over the world, and didn't want to miss any opportunities to improve the boat's performance, even if this meant changes to significant components of the boat, including the keel. While she was raced in her first season with a 'conventional' elliptical keel, Everitt subsequently designed a radical canard-type keel, which was considered to be worth the penalties that it attracted under the IOR (with respect to the Moveable Appendage Factor component of the rule) - her rating is recorded as having increased to 33.84ft at the 1986 SORC. This was a new keel with a laminar flow bulb projecting forward of the foil, complemented by a centreboard-style canard which was lifted when not on the wind to reduce wetted surface area.  The new keel was set further aft, and was smaller and shallower than the original, with the canard placed 1.8m forward.
Backlash's original elliptical keel, which sported an angled cut at the bottom of the leading edge (photo Seahorse)
Further development is evident from photographs of the yacht, where it is apparent that the rig was changed to a fractional set up, although the 1986 SORC results note that she was still masthead rigged at that stage. Her original long and elegant sloping transom was changed to a more upright profile, enabling crew weight to be placed further aft.  This may have been done before changes to the IOR circa 1988 to allow such amendments without affecting the after girth station measurements.
Backlash leaving Lymington Marina, circa 1989 (photo Shockwave40 blog)

Backlash acquitted herself well in her first season in 1985 and showed remarkable speed upwind and down, winning Class I in Cowes Week with four firsts - the Queen's Cup, the Viscount Marchwood Cup, the Sir Walton Preston Cup and the prestigious Brittania Cup, and five firsts in Burnham Week including the Town Cup. The boat was also declared the RORC Yacht of the Year in 1985, and was awarded the Beken Concours D'Elegance. However, she was unsuccessful in the British Admiral's Cup trials in that same year, so never represented Britain in that series. She did compete in the Fastnet Race, which was considered the most unpleasant since 1979 - after losing her no.4 jib soon after the start, Backlash comfortably loped around the course, and this gave the Herrings the confidence to sail the boat to the US.  
Backlash during the 1987 Admiral's Cup trials
The winter of 1986 was spent in the US, where she competed in the SORC (5th in Class 3, but 34th overall) and the Antigua Race Week and Onion Patch Series before the Herrings sailed her back to begin racing on Britain's south coast again.  At this point the new canard keel made a regular appearance (photo right, and inset showing the carnard).  A reasonably successful Cowes Week in 1986 was followed by further success in Burnham Week, where Backlash again won the Town Cup and the Week's Points Trophy. She went on to win the Queen Victoria Cup, but after again missing out on British team selection for the 1987 Admiral's Cup, she finished third in the 'SPC' regatta held that year against the international Admiral's Cup fleet.
Backlash berthed at the Queen Ann Battery marina at the end of the 1987 Fastnet Race (photo Shockwave40 blog)

2 May 2017

Wings of Oracle (Farr Two Tonner)

With the next edition of the America's Cup about to get underway soon, where the Oracle name is now synonymous with the event, not least of all as the present defender of the Cup, it is interesting to look back at where Oracle's involvement in sailing began.  The Oracle corporation had its first foray into top level international sailing in the 1991 Admiral's Cup. Oracle had sponsored the Royal Air Force Sailing Association's (RAFSA) Sigma 38 one design cruiser-racer, which had acquitted herself well in club-level racing in British waters during the 1990 season. 
Wings of Oracle - Admiral's Cup 1991 (photo Farr Yacht Design Facebook page)
For the 1991 Admiral's Cup, the RORC had decided that the event would be better served by requiring teams to field one boat in each of the One Ton, Two Ton and 50ft rating bands, introducing level rating into an event traditionally built around teams of mixed handicaps. Oracle put RAFSA in charge of a new Farr-designed Two Tonner to form part of the British team, to join the One Tonner Port Pendennis and the 50ft Juno V. Getting Oracle involved in the British campaign was no small feat in itself, and saw the British effort being fully funded, a first for the local team.
Wings of Oracle in fresh conditions during the 1991 Admiral's Cup
The new Wings of Oracle was based on Design #268, a 1990 development of #242 (Larouge) and which had yielded Shockwave (see previous post) and Japan's Donky 6. Like her US sistership Bravura, Wings of Oracle was an improvement on Larouge, the 1991 Two Ton Champion. Design #268 indicated gains in all-round performance, with developments that included subtle changes in hull shape to improve performance in waves, and a more efficient keel and rudder.
Wings of Oracle leads Bravura (left) and Unibank (right) during the 1991 Admiral's Cup
So the boat itself came with evident pedigree from a design perspective, and was well built by Green Marine, under the close supervision of Farr International. The boat carried a North UK wardrobe, flown from a Southern Spars NZ rig (with the successful Steinlager 2 campaign having given Southern Spars a significant jump in international profile). While the boat was being built, the Castro designed Turkish Delight (renamed Oracle Arrow) was chartered as part of an intensive training campaign based in Hamble.  
The ex-Turkish Delight being used for training for the Oracle sailing team

Oracle were, however, told that the lack of experience within RAFSA would let the campaign down, and the saga around the boat's performance preoccupied the British press for many months. When she under-performed in the Two Ton Cup, with questionable tactics on the race course, there was a call for significant changes to the afterguard. Eventually, and just three weeks before the Admiral's Cup, the original skipper (a Flight Lieutenant) was replaced by Stuart Childerley, then a 24-year old Finn sailor.
Wings of Oracle during one of the Christchurch Bay inshore races, sitting to leeward of two 50-footers - Italy's  Mandrake (I-11933) and team-mate Juno V (K-505)
Although she struggled throughout the 1991 series, the British effort started strongly, with both Juno V and Wings of Oracle second in their respective divisions to see Britain in second place overall. Wings of Oracle led the Two Ton pack early in the Channel Race, before being affected by seaweed on the keel that had been a particular problem throughout the season and in the Cup itself, and finished fourth.
Wings of Oracle (photo Farr Yacht Design Facebook page)
Wings of Oracle had a terrible start in the Second Inshore, electing to re-cross the startline even though she had not been recalled. She clawed back two places, only to be hit with a 20 percent penalty when the spinnaker touched the second weather mark during a set. Wings of Oracle finished poorly in the Third Inshore and was a lowly seventh in the Fastnet Race. Overall she finished as sixth Two Tonner, and Britain was fourth in the team standings.
Wings of Oracle sails back to Cowes Marina following one of the inshore races during the 1991 Admiral's Cup (photo Shockwave40 blog)