6 October 2021

Laurie Davidson (1926 - 2021)

New Zealand and the wider sailing world lost one of its great yacht designing talents, Laurie Davidson, this week (4 October 2021). Davidson was a major force in leading edge IOR design in the 1970s and 80s, starting off with his breakthrough Quarter Tonner Fun before going on to find further international success with winning designs in Half Ton, Three-Quarter Ton and One Ton world championships in the 1970s and was a key part of New Zealand's success in international yacht design through into the 1980s and 1990s. He will of course be best remembered for his breakthrough designs for Team New Zealand in their successful 1995 America's Cup challenge and 2000 defence, but created fast and beautiful looking yachts across the whole design spectrum.

Fun - fifth at the 1976 Quarter Ton Cup in Corpus Christi (and fifth again in Helsinki in 1977)

A tribute article can be found on the Yachting New Zealand website here, and some of his famous designs from the IOR era are presented in the gallery below.

Waverider - fourth in the Half Ton Cup in 1977 but went on to win in 1978 and 1979

Laurie inspecting the hull of Pendragon at the 1978 Three-Quarter Ton Cup in 1978 (photo Sailing Anarchy Forums)

Pendragon on her way to winning the 1978 Three Quarter Ton Cup

Laurie seen here checking in with the crew of Pendragon following her conversion to a One Tonner and winning the 1979 One Ton Cup (photo Paul Mello)

Pendragon winning the 1979 One Ton Cup (photo Paul Mello)

Stu Brentnall's 46-footer Shockwave at the 1980 Clipper Cup
Quarter Tonner Hellaby, racing at the 1980 Quarter Ton Cup in Auckland

The 38-foot Southern Raider at the 1982 Clipper Cup (photo John Malitte)

Graeme Woodroffe's 50-footer Jumpin' Jack Flash - although not designed to the IOR (and carrying a high 48.3ft rating), she was New Zealand's top yacht in the 1982 Clipper Cup
Digby Taylor's 51-foot Whitbread yacht Outward Bound during the 1981 New Zealand Admiral's Cup selection trials

Bernard Clay's 50-foot Great Fun during the 1982 Clipper Cup (photo Phil Uhl/Facebook)
Australian 39-footer Szechwan 

The One Tonner Canterbury Export formed part of the New Zealand team for the 1985 Admiral's Cup

One Tonner Pendragon III 
Mad Max (also known as Goldcorp) seen here during the 1985 Southern Cross Cup
One Tonner Swuzzlebubble VIII (ex-Beyond Thunderdome) at the start of the ill-fated 1994 Sydney to Hobart yacht race




1 October 2021

Will (Farr 50)

The sad sight of the yacht Will languishing on a mooring in Auckland has spurred me to look into its history, alongside the second Will, both Farr-designed IOR 50-footers that were owned and campaigned by Japanese yachtsman Ryuoji Oda during the heyday of the 50-foot class in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Will sailing upwind during the 1989 Admiral's Cup on her way to second place overall
As discussed in earlier articles (Part 1 begins here), the World Cup events for the 50-foot class had evolved by the late 1980s to a focus on short-course inshore racing. However, the Fifties still had an offshore purpose, and their fortunes in mixed fleet ocean racing received a boost for the 1989 Admiral's Cup when the Royal Ocean Racing Club resolved to reduce the previous dominance of the One Tonners. This was done by changing the time multiplication factor (TMF) curve in favour of the Fifties, to reduce the points loading for the offshore races and by adding a fourth (and long) inshore race. These moves coincided with the continued evolution and performance gains of the 50-foot class in response to the increasing competition within its World Cup circuit. 
The sailplan for design #203, on which Will was based (Farr Yacht Design) 
The first Will was built at Cookson Yachts in Auckland from the same female mould as Farr's other 50-footers of that time, Carat (#203), Windquest (#206) and SpringbokWill (sail number J-4001) sported a deep blue hull finish and flew Diamond sails on Sparcraft spars, and rated very close to the maximum for the Admiral's Cup and 50-foot class at 40.03ft. Although she was probably initially commissioned by Oda for the 50-footer circuit, the changes to the format for the 1989 Admiral's Cup made her a primary candidate for the Japanese team, where she was joined by the One Tonner Arecan Bay and the 1985 vintage Two Tonner Turkish Delight, both of which were campaigned by the Nippon Challenge America's Cup syndicate.
Will seen moored here at the Hamble River during the 1989 Admiral's Cup (photo shockwave blog)
As was predicted by some, the 1989 Admiral's Cup did indeed become the year of the Fifties, with the new breed of these Admiral's Cup 'maxis' having line and handicap wins in five of the six races, and they took four of the top five places overall. Alan Gray's 50-footer Jamarella (Farr design #213), led the charge for the British team to be top individual performer in the 42-boat fleet (from 14 nations), and spearheaded Britain's first Cup win since 1981. Will was second overall (with placings of 8/1/4/6/4/5). Arecan Bay and Turkish Delight finished down in the standings at 27th and 34th respectively, but thanks to Will's performance the Japanese team finished a respectable seventh overall (of 14 teams).
Will approaching a windward mark during the 1989 Admiral's Cup
Will sails upwind during the 1989 Admiral's Cup
After the 1989 Admiral’s Cup the Fifties gathered again in Newport Rhode Island for the sixth and final event in the 1989 World Cup. This was won convincingly by Windquest, with Will and Jamarella, which had been shipped over from England after the Admiral’s Cup, taking second and third.
Interior profile view (Farr Yacht Design)
The 1990 World Cup for the International 50-Foot Yacht Association (IFYA) got underway with a one-off series in Japan, in November 1989 – a notable series for the fact that Mark Morita, the Japanese owner of Champosa V, underwrote the shipping costs of all the yachts, containers and crews to the tune of an estimated $5m - half of which was raised from seven major Japanese corporations under the aegis of the International 50-Foot Yacht Association of Japan, which Morita formed.
Will in fresh conditions during the second race of the November 1989 50-foot series in Japan
While the event was notable for the impressive size of the fleet (the largest to ever compete in an IFYA event), the conditions in Miura, a commercial fishing village in Sagami Bay south of Yokohama (close to the 2021 Olympic sailing venue), were less so. Conditions were cold and the winds swung between very heavy and very light, and the race committee barely got in the minimum four (out of seven scheduled) races to constitute a series. The second race was in the very upper limit for the fragile Fifties, sailed in breezes that reached a steady 39 knots. Windquest took out the honours again, but Will, after a second place in the light air last race, took second place overall.
Will in a strong position during a IFYA World Cup event in Key West in 1991, to windward of Carat, Container, Windquest (US-42450), Mandrake, Heaven Can Wait, Promotion and Springbok (photo Sailing World)
Will can be seen here behind Springbok and Carat during a Key West Race Week (photo Sharon Green/Ultimate Sailing)
Will seen here in a 1991 International Regatta, rounding a leeward mark behind Champosa
Oda then commissioned a new boat, the second Will (hereafter "Will 91") (Design #260) was a development of Farr's earlier 50-foot designs, and the Farr website design notes outline the philosophy behind the new boat:

Design 260 has a higher sail area to wetted surface ratio and lower drag keel and rudder arrangements. She has significantly higher stability and lower displacement. The deeper keel will give a large performance improvement in stronger upwind conditions and without any loss downwind, particularly as refinements in keel shape improve downwind speed.

To illustrate these changes, it can be seen from the published specifications that Will 91 had a keel depth of 2.99m and displacement of 11,570kg, compared to the earlier generation, typified by Carat, with 2.81m and 11,836kg. Further changes included alterations to the deck layout and geometry to reflect efforts to improve crew work and efficiency, and was longer and more open. The mainsheet was moved aft in line with the boom end, behind the helmsman, and the large diameter wheel was placed further forward than usual. 
Will 91 (Design #260) profile view (Farr Yacht Design)
These latter features were a noticeable difference from the earlier tiller steered Will, which had her mainsheet further forward and in front of the helmsman. The stern on Will 91 was also of a slightly different design, with the end of the transom being cut off to a more upright angle in the area of the backstay attachment points. Both yachts had the usual narrow cutaway along the aft-most part of the deck, a device that was used to move the measurement point of the transom and After Girth Station to a position further forward and aligned with the corresponding bustle at the rudder skeg position.
Will 91 at the Admiral's Cup 1991 (photo shockwave blog)
Construction of the $700,000 yacht was specified to include use of pre-preg intermediate modulus carbon fibre fabrics over Nomex honeycomb cores for improved stiffness without any increase in weight. Tim Jeffery's 'Official History of the Admiral's Cup' (1994) comments that Will 91, built by McConaghy Boats, "was being marked down in the chronicles of yachting as the finest and the last big IOR racing yacht outside of the maxis for the 1993-94 Whitbread Race". Of her construction, he notes that she "was one of the very first yachts to be built from T800 carbon fibre. This made her no lighter but some 25 per cent stronger for an added material cost of some $50,000. The gain those dollars bought was a stiffer structure, allowing 16-17,000lb to be loaded on the running backstay - instead of the normal 12,000lb found on a 50-footer - to produce a straighter headstay for better upwind pointing". 
Will 91 during the 1991 Admiral's Cup
Will 91's carbon construction went beyond just the hull however. Jeffery goes on to say that "Will was the carbon fibre boat. Seemingly everything was made from the black, magic material, the winch grinding pedestal, the steering wheel, the stern light bracket, the mast collar, the guy blocks, the companionway ladder, the bunk frames...", and that "even the kitchen sink was made from carbon. Not that it was ever going to be used". But as the boat was a fixed price contract, it was just as easy for McConaghy to build the items in carbon as to buy them in. It was suggested, however, that things had perhaps gone too far when McConaghy even built the fuel tank in carbon fibre.
Will 91 seen here sailing back to Cowes after finishing a race during the 1991 Admiral's Cup (photo shockwave blog)
Will 91 can be seen here, second from left (to leeward of Container) during the 1991 Admiral's Cup
Will 91 crosses ahead of Corum Saphir during the 1991 Admiral's Cup
IOR measurements of some of the IOR Fifties at the 1991 Admiral's Cup, showing Will 91 to be in the shorter (L and LOA) and lighter (DSPL) end of the (narrow) range, with less sail area (Bateaux magazine)
Will 91 was once again the star performer for the Japanese team in the 1991 Admiral's Cup, with placings of 3/2/5/1/4 culminating with a close second place in the Fastnet, after chasing down the French 50-footer Corum Saphir in the closing stages, and finishing second overall (to Corum Saphir) in the 50-footer division (a class scoring system was used in the 1991 regatta). Will 91's effort was however not backed up by her team mates Carino (Two Tonner) and Spica (One Tonner), with Carino losing her rig in the second inshore race and Spica failing to fire in the One Ton division, and Japan finished a disappointingly seventh of eight teams.
Ragamuffin (ex-Will 91) leads a fleet of Fifties at a regatta prior to the 1993 Admiral's Cup (photo Sharon Green/Ultimate Sailing)

Ragamuffin (ex-Will 91) in power reaching mode during the 1993 Admiral's Cup
Will 91 was then bought by British sailing interests (sporting the sail number GBR-4681, possibly as Graham Walker's interim Indulgence before he bought Juno V) before being acquired by Syd Fischer, the famous Australian yachtsman who has campaigned numerous champion offshore yachts, and she became the latest boat to be awarded the famous Ragamuffin name. She formed part of the Australian Admiral's Cup team for 1993, and exceeded her earlier impressive form in 1991 to be the stand-out 50-footer in the 1993 series and finish as the top points scorer overall. This effort was almost enough to allow the Australian team to lift the Cup for what turned out to be its final edition, but the loss of Great News II (the former Wings of Oracle) in the Fastnet race finale and team-mate Ninja (ex-Spica) not able to make up the difference saw Australia lose out to Germany by the narrowest of margins (0.25 points). 
Ragamuffin (ex-Will 91)
The original Will was also bought by Fischer and both yachts were campaigned in what I believe was the 1992 Kenwood Cup, as seen in the images above and below. By this time it appears that there had been some changes to both boats, with the former Will 91 now sporting the same deep blue colour scheme, and from the above photograph, which looks like Will 91 (due to the placement of the mainsheet and wheel), the lower part of the transom has been lengthened to match the angle of the rest of the transom. In the photograph below both yachts are rounding a weather mark at the same time, but suggests that Windquest has become the latest Will as she now sports Windquest's sail number and has the same rigging detailsThis sail number remains on the bow of the current Will as seen in the photographs at the end of this article. 
Ragamuffin (left) and Will rounding a mark during the 1992 Kenwood Cup
From here the history becomes even more uncertain, but it is understood that Will lost her outside skin in the 1993 Sydney to Hobart race, 100 miles east of Flinders Island and retired to Ulladulla. She became Ragamuffin 95 which was a new 50-foot IMS hull using Will’s deck, and which was launched in September 1995. Initially it retained the inline spreaders but these were later converted to swept spreaders. Will 91 later became Ragamuffin 97, with a new IMS 49 hull under the Will 91 deck, and did the 1997 Admiral’s Cup (held under IRC) and was then sold to Italy. 
Ragamuffin during the start of the 1994 Sydney to Hobart race
Ragamuffin 97 (I think) after the 2001 Sydney to Hobart race with the ex-Will 91 deck
The third Will, the ex-Windquest, was then converted to a cruiser with a full interior and a ballast bulb was added to the keel for additional stability. She is understood to have arrived in Auckland, New Zealand, sometime in about 2005, and is listed twice on the Yachting New Zealand keelboat register, with sail numbers 8450 and 9991. At some point she was moved onto a mooring in the Tamaki River in Auckland, and now looks very forlorn, with her mainsail left on the boom, and the hull slowly gathering more and more moss on deck, and extensive marine growth on her hull. It is understood that the bulb has also parted company from the keel, and the interior (including batteries and engine) are affected by water ingress.
Stern view of Will as seen in 2018
My estimation is that this is the original Windquest (sistership to Will), primarily due to the sail number on her bow and the similarity of details to Windquest in terms of mainsheet position, steering wheel details, pushpit design, exhaust outlet location and the winch arrangement (see deck image of Windquest below). 
Windquest deck detail (from the Japan 1989 regatta)
However, if anyone has more information that clarifies the history of the Will yachts, and the more recent history of Will / Windquest, please leave a comment below, or use the email address above.
Will as seen in 2019 on the Tamaki River in Auckland
Will as seen in 2019 on the Tamaki River in Auckland (note Windquest sail number on the bow)
Will still languishes on her mooring in 2021

Acknowledgements: Thanks to histoiredeshalfs for finding some of the images and details for this article.

10 September 2021

Steinlager 2

This article is a tribute to the mighty Steinlager 2 (or Big Red as she became known), Sir Peter Blake's all-conquering Maxi ketch that won the 1989/90 Whitbread Round the World Yacht Race.
Blake had been involved in all previous Whitbread races, including as skipper of Ceramco New Zealand (1981-82) and Lion New Zealand (1985-86). Due to race course changes for the 1989/90 edition of the Whitbread, a different kind of yacht was called for due to the expected increase in downwind and reaching conditions. Farr Yacht Design was commissioned to design Steinlager 2 - and she would be initially modelled on the base design developed by the Farr office for the 1989-90 class of Maxis, which were to be an evolution of Farr's earlier yachts such as UBS Switzerland and NZI Enterprise. Development of the base design followed tank testing of hull concepts at the Wolfson Unit, the costs of which were shared between four Maxi syndicates (the process embarked upon by the Farr office is detailed here).
Those four designs were then developed to suit the different needs of each syndicate to create Steinlager 2 (Farr design no.190), Fisher & Paykel (another New Zealand entry, skippered by Grant Dalton, design no.191), Roger Nilson's The Card (no.195) and Pierre Felmann's Merit (no.183).
Steinlager 2 in profile (Course au Large, Histoiredeshalfs website)

It was initially intended that they would all be sloop rigged but, as this race would include more downwind sailing than the previous races, three syndicate heads, Blake, Dalton and Nilson, asked Farr to investigate the relative speed potential of a ketch. Farr’s research, using 'Fast Yacht' software and a Velocity Prediction Programme, revealed that a ketch had potential to get around the Whitbread course more quickly. The ketch rig also yielded rating benefits on two fronts. Firstly, the IOR treated a ketch rig as old-fashioned and inefficient, with the mizzen being rated less than the mainsail, a benefit that increased with greater distance between the two masts. It also only measured the mizzen, and not the mizzen staysail. Secondly, these benefits were further enhanced when calculated under the Mk IIIA version of the IOR, a rule amendment that was developed to penalise lighter displacement yachts (and where Farr yachts were particularly targeted) in the late 1970s. The reduction in measured or rated sail area could then be transferred to hull length.

Although designed for downwind conditions, Steinlager 2 was a very capable yacht upwind too. Note the fore-and-aft spreader on the mizzen to provide support for the narrowly angled outer mizzen forestay (photo Histoiredeshalfs website)
The Farr office delivered a design to the Blake campaign that looked very similar to Dalton's Fisher & Paykel (F&P), a mast-head ketch. Blake went one stage further by suggesting that a fractional ketch could be even faster, based on his experience of his father's ketch yacht, and so he persuaded a reluctant Farr to run his models again based on this new concept. The VPP result was encouraging, but even more gains were made on the rating side of things. The fractional rig provided an even lower rated sail area, but the Mk IIIA equation provided additional benefits through increased length and displacement, and so in the end Steinlager 2 became longer and heavier than her sisters, for the same 70.0ft rating (the maximum allowable for the Whitbread and IOR races generally). She also sported a bulb keel - such a feature would normally be a rating disadvantage as the IOR tended to penalise stability (to a minimum point), but perhaps such a penalty was deemed worth it given the length and sail area gains made elsewhere under the rule.

Steinlager 2 slips along in reaching mode flying a huge mizzen staysail that was effectively 'free' sail area under the IOR
So Steinlager 2 was a big Maxi, at 25.5m long (nearly 84ft) and 35,177kg displacement, half a metre longer and more than 3,200kg heavier than F&P. However, it's worth noting that she was not as big as the fastest inshore Maxi at the time, Bill Koch's 26m-long Matador 2, which was 25% heavier at 45,350kg, and Steinlager 2's offshore-orientation meant that she was also significantly lighter than Farr's inshore Maxi of the same era, Longobarda (39,450kg). In addition, and despite the cloud of sail she was able to carry when reaching and downwind, and thanks to the quirks of the Mk IIIA formula, she also had a much lower rated sail area, at 288m2, compared to Matador 2's 325m2.

Steinlager 2 under construction

Blake's earlier boat, Steinlager 1, a trimaran designed and built to win the 2-handed Round Australia race, established the materials and techniques that would be used by Southern Pacific Boatyard to construct Steinlager 2, with the general construction approach for all four Farr Maxi's being "carbon/Kevlar composite with Nomex and PVC foam core used selectively for various effects in weight (relative to cost), stiffness, strength and overload failure mode". However, despite the success of that earlier project, the first version of Steinlager 2's pre-preg composite hull was found to have serious delamination due to a resin problem which meant the entire hull had to be disposed of. Fortunately the sponsors continued to back Blake's ambitions and a new hull was built with all materials verified by SP Systems. 

Steinlager 2 and Fisher & Paykel work up in Auckland (above and below)



After launching, Steinlager 2 and F&P began an informal two-boat testing programme in New Zealand, with F&P edging out Steinlager 2 narrowly in the 100-mile Noel Angus Memorial Race, before they were both shipped to England.


Steinlager 2 is loaded aboard a ship in Auckland bound for the Tilbury docks in England
Steinlager 2 beating out of the Solent after the start of the 1989 Fastnet race (photo Derek Stroud)
Both New Zealand yachts contested the 1989 Fastnet Race in England, with this classic offshore race providing a useful 'warm-up' for the big race. Steinlager 2 proved to be very fast downwind and she took line honours, just over three minutes ahead of F&P, providing an important confirmation of her design concept. 
Steinlager 2 five-sail reaching after the Whitbread start

Steinlager 2 five-sail reaching out of the Solent and past the Needles (photo Seahorse/Histoiredeshalfs website)
As readers will know, Steinlager 2 went on to take victory in all six legs of the Whitbread against a fleet of 14 maxis, with a total elapsed time of 128 days 9 hours, well ahead of second-placed F&P's 129 days 21 hours.
Steinlager 2 finishing the 1989-90 Whitbread
After the race finished Steinlager 2 remained in the northern hemisphere for 20 years, under three different owners. She was variously known as Safilo and Barracuda before Swiss sailor Stefan Detjen bought her in 2003. He restored her original name and distinctive original livery, sailing her in six Atlantic crossings (including a Huelva to La Gomera race record), three Middle Sea Races and various Mediterranean regattas. She also took part in some Whitbread reunion races, including the Volvo Legends regatta in Alicante in 2011.
Sailing as Safilo (ITA-12222) (photos Histoiredeshalfs website)


Steinlager 2 back to her original livery
The New Zealand Sailing Trust had been established in 2008 to purchase Lion New Zealand – Blake's Ron Holland -designed yacht which he had taken to second place in elapsed time in the 1985/86 Whitbread – so as to provide sail training experiences for young New Zealanders. There was a growing feeling that Steinlager 2 should also be returned to New Zealand and the following year the opportunity to purchase her arose, so the Trust immediately did so. She was then sailed back to Auckland via the Panama Canal. After an extensive refit, Steinlager 2 was relaunched in November 2013 to take up her new role. Since then, she has participated in various races such as the Coastal Classic and Auckland to Suva, but with a focus on taking New Zealand schoolchildren on voyages all over the Hauraki Gulf.

Steinlager 2 during the 2014 Coastal Classic race (photo Histoiredeshalfs website)

Steinlager 2 in her current berth at the Auckland Viaduct

Half of the original hull that suffered from delamination now adorns the eastern side of Auckland's Maritime Museum

The fractional ketch concept was subsequently adopted through three new Farr Maxi's for the 1993-94 race, and taken to the extreme. Dalton's yacht, New Zealand Endeavour, which went on to win that race, is covered in this article.


Sources:
Sources for the content of this article include the Farr Yacht Design websiteThe Shape of Speed (John Bevan-Smith, 1999), Maxi - The Ultimate Sailing Experience (Preben Nyeland, 1990), Sea Spray and Seahorse magazine (1990), On Board Sir Peter Blake's Refitted Whitbread Champion (Yachting World, August 2019, view here), The New Zealand Sailing Trust (view here) and the Histoiredeshalfs website.