15 November 2017

One Ton Cup 1977

The 1977 One Ton Cup was held on Auckland's Hauraki Gulf in early November (40 years ago at the time of preparing this article). It was won by local yachtsman Stu Brentnall, sailing one of five new Bruce Farr-designed centreboarders, The Red Lion.  While it was billed as a world championship, the series was dominated by New Zealand and Australian yachts, with six entries from New Zealand and four from Australia.  The remainder of the 14-boat fleet was made up of charter entries from France, the US, England and Canada.
The Red Lion - winner of the 1977 One Ton Cup
The series was made up five races, with three standard Olympic courses, a medium-distance race, and a long offshore race. The Red Lion took the series with placings of 2/1/1/4/3. Second and third places were also taken by Farr-designed centreboarders, Graeme Woodroffe's Mr Jumpa (4/2/3/2/2) and Don Lidgard's Smir-Noff-Agen (1/5/6/DNF/1).  The best showing by a "foreign" boat was B195, a Doug Peterson-designed centreboarder, sailed by former world Half Ton champion Tom Stephenson. B195 was the only non-New Zealand design in the contest, and she finished fourth overall (5/8/2/5/4).
Mr Jumpa - second in the 1977 One Ton Cup
The series was controversial on a number of fronts, with the breed of centreboarders being seen by some to be exploiting the centreboard "loophole" within the IOR rule, that had been so effectively exposed by the winner of the 1976 event, the Brit Chance-designed Resolute Salmon. Compared to Resolute Salmon, however, the New Zealand boat were of decidedly much lighter displacement, resulting in concerns by some establishment figures in the IOR governing body, the International Technical Committee, over both structural integrity and the stability of boats. This would lead to changes to the IOR in the following season that would penalise light displacement for the remainder of the IOR era. 
The shape of light displacement in 1977 - Jenny H is hauled for an inspection and following an incident with a spectator boat after winning the fourth race.

Funding the new boats by young New Zealand crews was also reliant to some extent on sponsorship, and thinly veiled references to the sponsors in the names of the boats also attracted protests before the regatta under Rule 26 of the former International Yacht Racing Union.
The Red Lion - her name survived a protest, but the Lion Breweries insignia was removed from her bow before the 1977 New Zealand trials
The hotly contested self-righting capabilities of the centreboarders were never put to the test, even in the 50-knot winds and big seas that were encountered in the last and longest race (325 miles), but the strength of some of the hulls were. Ray Haslar's Farr centreboarder, Jenny H, and an Australian sistership, Hecate, both retired from the race with hull damage after falling off some big waves, while other boats suffered some minor damage. B195 had split her hull in the rough second Olympic race, which her crew attributed to hitting something.
The top Australian yacht B195 slides downwind during one of the offshore races during the 1977 One Ton Cup
In the first race, an Olympic triangle course, the 18-knot northerly at the start swung to the west necessitating a course change for the final windward leg. The Red Lion led around every mark, in part because of her flying a reacher inside her genoa and spinnaker on the reaches, a sail combination none of the other boats used. On the last beat, the wind dropped to about five knots, and Smir-Noff-Agen, Jenny H and Mr Jumpa were spread across the track, all vying for second. Trying to keep a loose cover on all of them, The Red Lion fell into a flat spot and was passed by Smir-Noff-Agen.
Jim Young's Heatwave (a keeler converted to a centreboarder) showed plenty of speed in stronger breezes
The second Olympic course started in a 25-knot northeasterly, gusting to 30 knots. It was perfect conditions for the Jim Young-designed centreboarder Heatwave (New Zealand). She rounded the first three marks in the lead, but dropped back with slow spinnaker handling and a jammed slide at the top of the main when she tried to get a reef in after the bottom mark. The Red Lion took the lead and held it to the finish.

Smackwater Jack - seen here during the New Zealand trials series, which she won
During the night of the third race, a 165-mile medium-distance offshore race, the wind dropped, and some boats were completely becalmed for five hours or more.  The Paul Whiting-designed centreboarder, Smackwater Jack (the winner of the New Zealand trials) led narrowly around the most distant mark, Groper Rock, but on the reach back to the finish in light airs she was passed by The Red Lion, B195 and Mr Jumpa.
Smackwater Jack - the most radical of the 1977 breed of light displacement centreboarders (note the pronounced concavity in the bow sections)
The fourth race, the last Olympic course, started in a 25-knot easterly, and it looked like another benefit for Heatwave as she rounded the weather mark again in first place. Jenny H sailed past on the first reach, even with a crew member up the mast, and she stayed in front to win.
Jenny H to windward of Mr Jumpa in strong conditions during the third Olympic race
The real test of crews and boats was the final long offshore. It started in 30-knot winds, gusting to 35, as the fleet headed into it on a long bash to Channel Island. At this exposed point off the top of the Coromandel Peninsula the wind was blowing 40-50 knots, with very big seas generated by a contrary tide. Jenny H was leading the fleet on the way to Channel Island when she fell of a wave so badly that she had to retire immediately. Hecate and Smackwater Jack soon followed suit. Two other boats which stuck it out probably wished they hadn't. Piccolo, a Farr keelboat, and Result, a Lidgard-designed keelboat under Canadian charter, were both dismasted.  
Mr Jumpa in fresh conditions at the start of the final long offshore race
Smir-Noff-Agen elected to fly a spinnaker on the wild downwind leg and broached heavily, but recovered to take the lead at Sail Rock, in close company with B195, The Red Lion and Mr Jumpa. These four had a close race over the remaining 150 miles to the finish. Five miles from the finish the breeze began to fade, and progress was hampered with a strong ebb tide. The lead changed had several times until Smir-Noff-Agen and Mr Jumpa split tacks near the finish. Mr Jumpa fell into a hole, allowing Smir-Noff-Agen to take the gun, and the White Horse Trophy awarded to the winner of the long offshore.
US charter entry Rockie rounds Flat Rock during stormy conditions in the final long offshore race

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