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).


  1. LOBO Was Lost in a Marina Fire in Michigan. January 1998. Many Fine Racing Boats Were Lost and LOBO Was One of Them.

    1. Thanks for that information TG, I've updated the article.