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Henri-Lloyd - For the Obsessed

Reflections on the 5.5 Metre World Championship in Hankø

by Robert Deaves 11 Jul 2022 07:37 PDT 1-7 July 2022
Top three teams at the World Championship © Hankø Yacht Club

Last week, Jean Genie (GBR 42, Elliot Hanson, Andrew Palfrey, Sam Haines) won the 5.5 Metre World Championship in Hankø, Norway. The previous week they had won the Scandianvian Gold Cup on the same waters.

Jean Genie has become the first British boat in history to win either of these major events and the first boat that was not a Sebastien Schmidt designed and Wilke built boat to win the world championship since 1998.

Peter Morton's Jean Genie is a Dave Hollom designed 5.5 Metre that was built in Cowes, UK. Though Morton put in two and a half years of development into the project, which also included a second boat, Girls on Film, GBR 41, he was unfortunately unable to sail in Hankø, but sent the boat anyway with Elliot Hanson taking over as helm and Sam Haines moving from coach to the bow. Andrew 'Dog' Palfrey was the middleman and has been involved in the project since it started.

Peter Morton explained, "After the 2018 5.5 Metre Worlds in Cowes I was persuaded by Pete Vlasov to get into the class. The 5.5 Metre was conceived in Great Britain but there were no British boats currently on the circuit. I bought a 2003 Wilke boat and got some reasonable results with it. I'm very patriotic and wanted to do something in the UK, but was told by the then Class Chief Measurer that the current Swiss designed and built boats were the ultimate 5.5 and couldn't be improved.

"I've always been slightly irritated when told things like that and set out to prove him wrong. I'd seen the proposals that David Hollom had done and remember his 12 Metre Crusader (the Hippo) from my days sailing with Graham Walker. Eddie Warden Owen reminded me it was the best balanced 12 Metre he had ever steered so I took the decision to 'have a go'. I asked my friend Steve Quigley (who designs most of the hi-speed ferries we build and is a major part of the Wild Oats optimisation programme) to help with some CFD studies on the different designs and Tom Schnackenberg with whom I've been friends with since 1980 to run the VPPs. Steve also designed a boat that we could fit under the deck, using the keel, rudder and rig of the old SUI 222 which Hannes Waimer had in Dubai. With the boatbuilders in Cowes fairly quiet through Covid I decided to build both boats."

GBR 41 was built at David Heritage and GBR 42 at Composite Craft.

"All this was done under the fantastic direction of Andrew Palfrey (aka Dog) and the team also included a very talented team at North Sails with major input from Sam Haines.

"The boats performed exactly as the VPPs predicted. We won the 2021 Alpen Cup in 41 pretty comfortably and when we tested 41 against 42 in Cowes it was pleasing to confirm that over 10 knots 42 did have an edge. During those tests I had the benefit of having three of the world's greatest small keelboat helms, Laurie Smith, Andy Beadsworth and Graham Bailey steer both boats confirming what Tom and David had predicted.

"This is a team effort and hopefully will encourage others to have a go and design and build some new 5.5s.

"They are amazing boats to sail and develop, which for me is half the fun. I'm absolutely not a fan of sailing 50-year-old One Designs because they are supposed to be One Designs yet a new boat is required every couple of years. To me it's like buying a brand new 1980s Ford Cortina.

"What's amazing about the 5.5 is that basically 42 is the same rules that the old wooden planked long keel boats were in the 1950s.

"Many thanks to all the people who have made this happen, but main thanks go to the former Chief Measurer for telling me it was impossible."

The 5.5 Metre class is in a very healthy position right now with interest growing and a number of fantastic venues in the coming years with the world championship scheduled to take place in Porto Cervo, Sardinia in 2023 and New York Yacht Club in 2024.

Palfrey encapsulated the class when he said, "It's so cool to race in this fleet against the family of 5.5 sailors..." The 5.5 Metre is a cool class to sail, with cool sailors and cool venues.

Next up the fleet will gather in Brunnen, on Lake Lucern in Switzerland, for the Swiss Open in August before heading to Cannes, France for the French Open at the Regates Royales.

A reminder of the final results from Hankø:

1 Jean Genie (GBR 42, Elliot Hanson, Andrew Palfrey, Sam Haines) 11pts
2 New Moon II (BAH 24, Mark Holowesko, Christoph Burger, Anthony Nossiter) 13pts
3 Artemis (NOR 57, Kristian Nergaard, Johan Barne, Trond Solli Sæther) 17pts
4 Ku-Ring-Gai 3 (AUS 66, John Bacon, Terry Wetton, James Mayjor) 27pts
5 Ali-Baba (BAH 23, Craig Symonette, Flavio Marazzi, William Alloway) 33pts

Full results here

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