1977: Nineteen teams line up
Excerpt from "The Admiral's Cup" by Bob Fisher
Criticism did not stop the entries for 1977 and once again nineteen teams lined up for the Cup. Japan was the only new entrant and the main change came in the acceptance of the younger designers. It was a period of change - Britton Chance had won the One Ton Cup with the centreboarder Resolute Salmon - yachtsmen were prepared to experiment, and many had done so.
Eleven boats fought out the Australian trials, six of them new and four only just making the water in time. The Peterson 47 foot Superstar was the outstanding boat. Keith Farfor planned his campaign well using Tom Stephenson, the Half Ton Champion of 1975, with his offsider Rob Hose and John Bertrand. Farfor was the first Melbourne skipper to make the team.
Jim Hardy was no newcomer to the Admiral's Cup but the designer of his boat, Allen Blackburne, was. It was a bold gamble by Hardy to pick Blackburne, who for some time been on a retainer from Syd Fischer, to design a two-tonner when there were proven products by Holland and Peterson readily available. She was consistently sailed and wound up second in the five race series.
Fischer did not like missing the Cup in 1975 and came back with a powerful 47 1/2 foot Frers design, this time bearing the name Ragamuffin. She was a clear third in the trials, a fast-reaching boat with fairly broad stern sections. Rating one tenth of a foot less than Superstar, Ragamuffin had some close tussles with the Peterson boat.
The Americans again used the SORC to select a team. In that series there had been a deliberate attempt to split the fleet so that each class had two divisions. Division 1 was for boats built prior to the end of 1973. It was in Class B Division II that the competition was hottest and, in spite of the best attempts of the organisers to stop the arrival of an overall single SORC champion, one did emerge. She was Imp, a 40 footer from Ron Holland and built by his brother-in-law Gary Carlin at Kiwi Boats in Florida. She sported a "chassis", a space frame of aluminium alloy tubing to take the rig and keel loads, and showed that this was the way of the future despite the restriction in space below. Her outstanding performance made her a certain team member.
Not so Bill Power's High Roller which, skippered by Dennis Conner, won Class A Division II. Despite her win she was rejected in favour of the Britton Chance daggerboarder Bay Bea, the first wooden boat to be built by Palmer Johnson for many years. Bay Bea, owned by Pat Haggerty, had pulled out of the Boca Grande Race with a bent mast-step but her other results were good enough for her to get the nod.
Second to Imp in the series, if you score the SORC as it has been normally, forgetting the older boats, was another Palmer Johnson creation, this one in their more usual material, aluminium. A 48 foot Frers design, Scaramouche, was the latest of Chuck Kirsch's boats to carry the name. Like most of Frers' designs, there was nothing fancy about Scaramouche - a classic with Hood sails and spars, and at various times in that series Ted Hood and German Frers were observed steering her.
At the SORC, Berend Beilken could be seen doing some early reconnaissance with the Peterson-designed two-tonner, Champagne, owned by Peter Westphal-Langloh. She was a former Williwaw type on which Peterson extended the waterline by 8 inches and increased the height of the rig by 2 1/2 feet and raised the rating only slightly. She was built by Carl Eichenlaub in California and delivered on a truck, untried, to the dockside at St Petersburg for Beilken and his crew to sail. They flashed up only the odd good result but the potential of the boat was all too obviously there. She proved it in the German trials where she faced Willi Illbruck's Pinta, which until he had bought it had been Williwaw, the SORC champion of two years earlier. They made the team but, strangely, the third boat was the Sparkman & Stephens Duva from the previous Cup which had been modified following some tank-testing experiments.
The French again held their trials in the Solent and the Channel. Remarkably, Revolution came to the top of the pile to make it her third Cup in a row. The Finot design did benefit by the IOR Mark III. Under that her 30 foot minimum IOR Mark III (the limits for 1977 were 30-42 foot IOR Mark III) was reduced to 29.3 as the effective rating for handicap allowance. Revolution was supreme; her crew laughed as she beat her newer, and more expensive, sisters and the French selectors, with a strict points system, chose her. She was joined by the Peterson 44 footer Alexandre of Jean Carpentiere, a C-flex boat which performed consistently, and the fast finishing Frers 50 foot Emreaude which was skippered by Andre Nelis.
Hong Kong also held their trials in the Solent and the Channel, with four boats. Hector Ross' Uin-na-mara III, a Farr two-tonner, was the first to show in British waters and was impressive, yet she was the one which failed to make the team. Chris Ostenfeld commissioned La Pantera, the first of the production Contessa 43s, although it was a full-on racing version much like Moonshine but, at 33.9, rated six tenths higher than her sistership. David Lieu's Vanguard was the first of Ed Dubois' designs. He was at the time working for the Miller & Whitworth firm and this yacht featured a very variable rig with long-rammed hydraulics on the backstay and forestay. Skippered by Bill Turnbull with John Oakeley at the wheel she showed her speed in her first race in Britain when she beat all the British trialists in a light airs Solent Points Race. The third member of the team was Dick Carter's White Rabbit for John Mar. A 42 footer, rating a little under the two-ton limit, White Rabbit was remarkably distortion free in her aft underbody, much like Carter's three-quarter ton Ragtime design.
A dozen boats took part in the Italian trials and the best three came from three different designers. The Gary Mull Vanina was a near sistership of Gonagitcha which did so well at the SORC and, like the American boat, came complete with Tom Blackaller at the wheel. Holland produced the same Marionette/Big Apple design for Mandrake, promising some interesting boats for boat racing within the series. The Peterson Moby Dick was a two-tonner similar in style to Yeoman XX.
The Irish chances were sharply set back when Big Apple was badly holed on the rocks while entering a harbour in Guernsey. It took some fancy logistics to salvage the hull and transport it to her builders, Joyce Brothers, in Southampton where she was repaired. It is a tribute to all concerned that Big Apple went on to win the newly introduced Concours d'Elegzance during the Cup itself. She was the outstanding boat in the Irish trials and therefore self-selecting. Two years before Irish Mist, Archie O'Leary's Holland two-tonner, had been outstanding and she showed that this was no one-time flash-in-the-pan by consistently good results to gain selection again. Golden Leigh, another Holland two-tonner but of 1977 vintage, completed a tough Irish team.
Sixteen boats fought out the right to defend the Cup for Britain. Heath followed the trend and went to Holland for his new design as did Chris Dunning for the latest Marionette. Whereas Heath's, from Martland Marine in aluminium, failed to make the Marionette gained a placement in the most impressive way, winning at will early on. But it was the logistics of building a boat on time that made Dunning go to Holland rather then Peterson. He had first chosen his builders but, in between his making his final building order and his choice, Joyce had taken the order for Big Apple and, if they were to build Dunning a boat, it had to be to the same design.
David May went the Holland way with a fractionally rigged two-tonner, Winsome 77, while John Ewart made a late run with a "stretched" Imp built by Souters in ten weeks in wood, Impromptu. Ernest Juer went the Peterson way with a modified Williwaw rating 34 feet. Built in wood by Lallows, Brother Cup was possibly the fastest boat in the trials but she lacked the direction which is so important to put a boat at the top of the trials. The converse was true for the Contessa 43 Moonshine, another Peterson design, which Jeremy Rogers and Bill Green entered. Due to the pressure of other work she was late out of their shed but never lacked co-ordinated talent on board. She did have to make some microballoon and ballast alterations before she was properly in the groove but she was never far away from the leaders.
The British trials were tough, tough enough to produce a team that would be difficult to beat. Yeoman XX, altered in many small ways by Robin Aisher, proved devastating inshore and ousted Morning Cloud into the reserve berth as the trials progressed. Aisher had much the same crew as in 1975 and their performance was highly polished; it proved a telling factor.
The humour was still there while the serious business of the trials progressed. When Ernest Juer was late back to the marina after an inshore race, someone remarked to another skipper that Brother Cup was stuck fast aground. Back came the reply: "Ernie has just bought a farm, he'll be finding out about the land!"
Marionette shone from the start. She won three of her first four trials and then went on to win the last two and never finished lower than fifth; it made her certain of a place. Moonshine went about claiming hers in a very different manner. Her first four trials and then went on to win the last two and never finished about claiming hers in a very different manner. Her first four results were 2,10,7,7. Then she won the de Guingand Bowl and was first in her class and second overall in the Round the Island Race. A second and an eighth inshore finally gave her the edge over Morning Cloud. It was the unrealised potential of her crew that included, in addition to Jeremy Rogers and Bill Green as helmsmen, Phil Crebbin and a Chris Law, that helped to gain her selection. It was Law who also did most of the mainsail trimming while Iain Macdonald-Smith trimmed the forward sails - a powerful combination.
The British were race-honed and stared as favourites although they faced a new challenge from the Orient: Japan was making its first foray into the Cup, with two 54 foot Sparkman & Stephens designs, Sun Bird V and Miyakodori III, plus the home-brewed Takeichi design BB III. One thing more was new: a fifth race, another inshore 30-miler, had been added to the programme, and it was planned to sail it around an Olympic course laid somewhere off the Nab. As it happened, a veering wind put paid to that end of the Solent and it was sailed around a series of triangles in the West Solent.
The eleventh Admiral's Cup series had more than its fair share of delays and was littered with frustrations and disappointments. This time, however, the inshore races were subject to a time limit - there would be no more after-dark finishes on the Squadron Line.
The start of the first race was delayed for nearly an hour to allow the north to north-easterly breeze to settle and a line to be laid from a committee boat to the east of Hampstead Ledge buoy. There was one general recall before Moonshine and Bay Bea, together with Vanguard, forged ahead followed by Marionette and LaPantera. The varnished hull of the American boat was soon in front and gaining ground as the fleet beat up the north shore to cheat the foul current. By Truck buoy, Bay Bea was two minutes clear of Moonshine with Marionette another three minutes astern. The Moonshine judged the leg across the tide to East Grunard rather better than Bay Bea and narrow the gap. At this time Yeoman XX was tenth with many bigger boats astern of her, and she held this on the run to Salt Mead.
At the end of the first round the British hopes were high. On corrected time Moonshine was leading, Marionette was fourth and Yeoman XX seventh. On the next beat, however, as the breeze increased from force 3 to 4, Bay Bea extended her lead, although it was not enough to beat Moonshine and the British boat won by a mere 22 seconds. Imp did begin to come into her own, pushing up to fourth behind Vanguard. At the end of the race the defending team had a 15 point lead with Yeoman XX seventh and Marionette ninth. In second place were Hong Kong, La Pantera at sixth and White Rabbit at twenty-third adding to Vanguard's third. That result wobbled for a while as La Pantra was protested by Austria's Iorana for a starting incident - the protest was dismissed for lack of evidence. Runaway was disqualified and the Australians suffered a severe set-back to their hopes with Superstar and Ragamuffin nineteenth and twenty-first.
Runaway was to make some recompense in the Channel Race with the best Australian result in an event that saw considerable changes in most teams' fortunes. High pressure to the west and a depression over Europe kept the wind firmly in the north for the 225 mile race. It was brisk enough at the start, from Fort Gilkicker (where Scaramouche was the only early starter and returned), for some boats not to hoist spinnakers for the leg out through the forts to the Nab. Big Apple hoisted hers, a star cut, and shot into the lead followed by Marionette, her sistership, which used a twin-headsail rig. They led to the forts but the three big Frers designs, Emeraude, Fortuna II and Recluta IV passed them before the Nab. Nevertheless, on corrected time Big Apple and Marionette were placed first and second.
There was a spinnaker reach to St Catherines where the British team deliberately stayed clear of the bunching which resulted in La Pantera subsequently being disqualified. It was followed by a beat to the Needles Fairway before a run under spinnakers to CH1, an uneventful leg. It was on the beat to Brighton, to the marina Fairway buoy, that fortunes wavered with the wind. Some were becalmed for as long as three hours yet when the wind returned it was strong enough to break Tigre's mast.
Fortuna II was first around the mark off Brighton with Scaramouche, showing no signs of her early delay, just 8 1/2 minutes astern, then there was a gap of nearly an hour. Scaramouche had gone further to the east than most and had not lost the wind. The next group round were biggish boats, Recluta, Synergy and Emeraude together with Big Apple, then came a bunch of two-tonners, Pinta, Vanguard, Champagne and Moby Dick. Fortuna held her lead on the final leg to Gilkicker but, by finishing nine minutes later, Scaramouche was the overall winner. Moby Dick won the two-ton battle for second, with Imp making the United States look good at third. Regrettably for them, Bay Bea was forty-fourth but they still had enough points from this race, 252 to Italy's 240, to lead after two races. British boats were mediocre: Moonshine, Yeoman XX and Marionette were nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-ninth but they still lay second, 16 points behind the USA with Ireland third, another six points adrift.
Sunshine and calm on the Monday morning created sufficient scepticism among the RORC race committee for the second inshore race to be postponed for a day. The following day they caused the abandonment of the race after five hours. Several teams breathed audible sighs of relief, notably Britain, Italy and Australia. The US team, on the contrary, had a right to feel slightly aggrieved. Bay Bea was two miles clear of the fleet when the abandonment, at the expiry of the time limit, was signalled while both Scaramouche and Imp were well placed. For those stuck on the mud of the north shore on the way back form Sconce, the abandonment was music, even if some were stuck there until well after dark when the tide returned the water.
The third race was held the next day (the second race was officially the one that was re-sailed on the Thursday) over a relatively short (20 mile) course. It was started on time and, if there is any justice in racing, the Americans, at least for some time, must have believed that it happened in this race. In the light airs Imp was first. Then came Bay Bea at fourteenth and Scaramouche at seventeenth to clamp a hold on the lead. But that was short-lived as Bay Bea was disqualified for an incident on the starting line with Pinta and 44 points were deducted from the United States team's score.
The re-sailed second race was essentially one which favoured the bigger boats. It was also one which the race committee, if honest, would prefer to forget about. It started with a two-mile run with a strong following tide to the South-East Ryde Middle buoy where the inevitable pile-up resulted in a large number of protests. Despite this the race will also be remembered for the race-within-the-race between Big Apple and Marionette. In the brisk breezes they were at it hammer and tongs all the way round. The advantage was with Big Apple but time and time again Marionette challenged and looked as though she would pass. However, each time the Big Apple crew, including Ron Holland and sailmaker Johnny MacWilliam, pulled out a little more and finally pulled well clear to take the race on handicap by 2 1/2 minutes from her sistership. With Moonshine in third place and Yeoman XX, badly-boxed from the start, at twenty-ninth, the British team went into the Fastnet 19 points clear of the USA.
The pile-up cost five disqualifications: Argentina's Victoria, both Mandrake and Moby Dick for Italy which cost that team 65 points, Pinta for Germany and Golden Leigh for Ireland - but for which Ireland would have been fourth. Hong Kong were third, 53 points astern of Britain, with Germany 41 points further back, six points ahead of Ireland and eight ahead of Australia.
The 1977 Fastnet was the slowest on record since the 1930s and there are countless tales of boats running out of food and water. The leaders took 3 1/2 days to the Fastnet Rock and it was a race where ability to concentrate was paramount. Moonshine was the first of the Cup yachts to round the Rock at 0651 on the Wednesday, some 12 hours after she might have been expected to cross the finish line at Plymouth in reasonable winds. Ahead of her on corrected time, by quite a large margin, was Imp. The green-striped US boat was only 16 minutes astern of Moonshine on the water. Imp leading and Yeoman XX second at this stage mad the fight for the Cup seem tense but Britain's other two, Moonshine and Marionette were fifth and twelfth to give Britain a commanding lead.
Fortuna II was the first to arrive followed three quarters of an hour later by Emeraude. It was nearly an hour and a half before Moonshine slid across the line third, fifty minutes ahead of Bay Bea. But none of them was going to match the performance of David Allen's Imp which ran out the winner by 5 1/2 minutes from Moonshine. With Yeoman XX third and Marionette ninth the British Cup was full to running over. With 1130 points they were 46 clear of the USA with Hong Kong third 163 further back.
The Fastnet Race had once again sealed the fate of the 19 nations taking part. All but the strongest appeared to fall by the wayside. It was not one which demanded great reserves of strength and stamina from the crews, rather the inverse. Syd Fischer, in answer to a query on the health of his crew at the end of the race, quipped: "Six days off the grog and twelve hours sleep a day has worked wonders - they've never been fitter!"
|1 INSHORE RACE||CHANNEL RACE||II INSHORE RACE||III INSHORE RACE||FASTNET RACE|
|HONG KONG||WHITE RABBIT||34||92||38||54||99|
|IRISH MIST II||44||60||22||31||54|
|LIZ OF HANKO||24||86||25||46||153|
16th: Sweden(Victoria, Goodwill, Susette); total points: 362.
17th: Belgium (Raveling, Soizic, Phantom II); total points: 333.
18th: Japan (BB III, Miyakadori III, Sunbird V); total points: 276.
19th: Poland (Bumerang, Spaniel, Bolinsky Hajduc); total points: 158.