6 October 2013

Librah (Farr 44)

Librah was a Farr 44-footer, designed to fill the 'big boat' slot for New Zealand's hoped-for defence of the Admiral's Cup team in 1989. She was commissioned and owned by banking merchants Michael Fay and David Richwhite, who by this time were well known in sailing circles following their sponsorship of Lion New Zealand in 1984-85 and the New Zealand America's Cup effort in 1987. Librah was named after the owners' wives, Sarah and Libby.

With few boats remaining in the New Zealand IOR fleet, it was fortunate that Propaganda and Fair Share, the latter an unsuccessful trialist in 1987, were able to be counted on as the nucleus of a defence team. After much analysis of the new time multiplication factor (TMF) by the New Zealand team, in conjunction with the Farr office, Fay and Richwhite elected to proceed with a 44 footer, as a 50 footer was seen as too much of a risky proposition. 
Librah under construction at Marten Marine
Librah emerged as a highly refined mid-sized yacht, encompassing an extremely aggressive approach to weight saving in all departments, and the use of many small-boat systems in her set up. Her high tech construction and weight savings led to the achievement of a reported 75% ballast ratio. 
Librah works up in light airs on Auckland Harbour in preparation for the 1989 Admiral's Cup (photo Seahorse)
The clean and efficient deck layout of Librah, with her team-mate Propaganda in the backgound
The yacht was long and narrow for her rating of 34.43ft, aimed at fast running and reaching, with a slight reduction in sail area in compensation. She had a very fair overall shape, as a result of changes to the IOR in 1989 in respect of increased measurement stations which reduced the bumping inherent in earlier versions of the rule. 
Librah during early sailing trials in New Zealand
In a trial series held just after her launching, and with an expert team led by Peter Lester with Rod Davis as tactician, Librah was able to more than hold her own against her smaller opposition. She went on to perform strongly at a pre-Admiral's Cup series, the Lymington Regatta, establishing herself as a clear contender for possible top honours in the Admiral's Cup. 
The Librah crew set the spinnaker soon after a windward mark rounding in the 1989 Admiral's Cup (photo Roger Lean Vercoe)
In the end, however, New Zealand's defence fell short, although Librah finished an impressive third place overall, with consistent individual race placings of 2/11/7/12/6/6. She was clearly the leading mid-rater in the fleet, suffering from only one error, and that was in race four when Lester and Davis misjudged the tide at two marks and never really got into full swing. Librah was the only yacht to break up the otherwise complete takeover of the series by the 50 footers.
Librah has a good start in this race during the 1989 Admiral's Cup, to leeward with clear air
The RORC had changed the TMF to give some easement to the bigger boats following near domination by One Tonners in earlier editions of the Cup, and to reduce the points loading for the offshore races. Combined with a significant jump in 50 footer performance, the Cup became something of a 50 footer bonanza, and instrumental in Britains victory in the regatta, with the standout Farr 50 Jamarella taking out the top individual yacht honours. 
Librah showing her windward form during the 1989 Admiral's Cup
The 50 footer equation was a major factor in New Zealand's failure to successfully defend the Cup won so convincingly two years prior. Had the 1987 TMF and points loadings remained in place from that earlier series, New Zealand would have won again, and Librah would have been the top individual performer by a comfortable margin. In the circumstances, however, New Zealand was never going to win without an Admiral's Cup 'maxi', so it achieved everything it could by finishing third.
Librah in close mark rounding action during the 1989 Admiral's Cup (photo Leon Sefton)
But it was also generally considered that its campaign was not as polished as that in 1987 and while Librah's campaign was almost flawless, those of Propaganda and Fair Share did not meet the high standards the Kiwi's had set themselves, finishing 19th and 14th respectively. Unfortunately too, 1989 would be the last of New Zealand's Admiral's Cup efforts.  

Librah was bought by a Japanese yachtsman and was renamed Swing - she competed in the Japanese 'Blue' team in the 1990 Kenwood Cup, alongside the One Tonner Will and the 50 footer Tiger. She finished ninth (with placings of 11/5/10/15/14/6), contributing to the team's overall win, Japan's first team victory in an international ocean racing championship.


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