We absolutely dropped to our knees in admiration when the UK’s Peter Morton won both the Coutts Quarter Ton Cup (with Bullit) and then backed that up with a win at the Half Ton Cup with Swuzzlebubble. It wasn’t so much the victories, but rather the dedication to finding and then modernizing the boats, particularly the Farr designed Swuzzle. Accordingly, we wanted to know more about it all and Peter happily (we think) obliged!
SA: We were impressed with your Coutts Quarter Ton win with Bullit, but then you really went above and beyond with your phenomenal restoration and win with Swuzzlebubble in the Half Ton Cup. Please tell our readers a bit about who you are and your dedication – or shall we say obsession with these boats?
PM: Obsessions are acceptable, but I think I have an illness when it comes to these projects. Seriously though, I don’t ever remember not sailing as my father was a keen sailor. I was raised in Papua New Guinea where I lived on an island called Samarai that was only 650 x 250 yds. My father built me my first boat when I was four years old ( it capsized immediately when launched) and after that if I wanted something I had to order the materials, wait three months for the ship from Australia to arrive and build it as there was only one food store on the island.
My first Fireball was built in the lounge of our house, so I guess that is where my ” illness” started and since then I have been building or refitting boats all my life. Now that I am 60 there have been plenty of “projects”. I was lucky enough to get involved with Graham Walker and sailed on all of the Indulgence campaigns with some great sailors like Eddie Warden Owen and Harold Cudmore. These guys and Bob Wylie taught me how to get the best out of boats and how to mode them.
SA: Of all the Quarter Tonners out there, how and why did you choose Bullit?
PM: My first QT was a Farr 727 and I am a bit of Bruce Farr fan. I met Bruce in the late 70s and followed his boats closely. I owned a couple of QTs back then including Odd Job and a Dubois boat Quickflash. When the QT revival started 10 years ago I first bought my old 727 back and then a Farr QT called Espada. Louise my wife set her heart on Espada as her uncle had built in 1980 so I gave it to her and then tracked down Anchor Challenge, a sister ship that had come 3rd in the 1980 QTC.
I won the QTC with Anchor Challenge and received a tempting offer so I sold it. I then came across an article in a NZ magazine about the QTC in 1980 and what was apparent was that the French designed Bullit ripped the Kiwi boats apart. Farr, Davidsion and Whiting boats were outclassed by Bullit. My thinking was pretty simple, if Bullit could do it then, why not now? It’s a fantastic boat and really easy to get to the numbers, hence our two wins with that boat.
SA: Tell us about the refit and mods.
PM: Unlike Anchor Challenge (Cookson built) and Espada, Bullit was built like shit. The single skin hull was OK but the balsa cored decks were soaking wet and had completely delaminated. All the plywood bulkheads were rotten so we built a new deck and replaced the structure, a fairly big job but something I really enjoyed.
SA: Our fascination with Swuzzlebubble is at least 30 years old, what was your attraction to the boat?
PM: Clearly we think the same. Gunboat Rangiriri and Swuzzlebubble were my all time favourite design and still are. The other boat I adore is Red Lion from the same generation.
SA: We know you found the boat via the Sailing Anarchy forums, which of course we think is very cool! How did you formulate your plan on what to do with the boat? Was Farr involved in the process?
PM: Yes without SA and Juggs from Falmouth raising the subject I think Swuzzlebubble would have been cut up. As for the work, we had learned a lot from the QTs over the years and approached this with the same ideas. The design is long and fairly undistorted compared with the later IOR boats so I think that is a good starting place. Fortunately we did not have to take many decisions as what to replace as it had nothing on it, and starting with a clean sheet of paper was easier. I did speak to Bruce and got his input but the detailed keel and rig design was done by Mark Mills. Mark and I go back years when this pony tailed Californian turned up in Hamble and asked to sail on my Farr One Tonner, Tram.
He then designed for me the first IRM boat, the 52 ft Mandrake. It was and is a great boat. We also worked hard on making SB competitive in IRC which I think is important as with only one Half Ton Regatta a year we needed to have a dual purpose boat. Old IOR boats seem competitive in IRC in light airs but are tricky when it blows.
SA: What are your plans with Swuzzle from here? Can you share your investment in the project?
PM: Up until a couple of years ago I did a lot of work myself on these restorations but have had my hands full at work lately so Anthony Haines at Alpha Plus in Cowes did the work on both Bullit and Swuzzlebubble for me. I’m happy that a number of these small boutique boat builders have seen work out of me and indeed many of the other restoration projects in both the QT and HT fleet lately. In the QT fleet there is a real mixture of boats being restored in boatyards and those being done by a group of four or five lads over a winter. We all need these business’s to survive in order to look after our boats and sport.
SA: Now that you have well and truly conquered the 1/4 and 1/2 Ton classes, how about restoring a bitchin’ One Ton? If you did, which boats would you consider? Mr. Jumpa?
PM: According to Mrs Morton NO, but if Alan Seffton can get it off the ground in NZ who knows. I can rarely go more than a couple of years without a relapse of my illness. If I had a choice it would be Red Lion, Jenny H or one from that era.
SA: Of all the current modern boats, which ones captures your imagination?
PM: Not that many really and I can’t get my head around racing a caravan with cockpit seats and a stupid deck layout. I loved the Mumm 30 and put together the Barlo Plastics campaign with Ado Stead to win the 2000 Tour des Voille. I also sailed on the TP 52s Red and Rio and they are great boats but I’m not a great fan of A sail boats. I prefer the tactical options with an old fashioned pole but then again I’m getting old so maybe just being left in a time warp. I’m past being part of a competitve crew now, but hopefully will enjoy both the QT and HT for a while yet.
SA: What’s your next project?
PM: As long as you dont tell the wife, I’m restoring a 49 ft 1962 IYRU 10m cruiser racer that was designed by Andre Mauric. I’ve never done any cruising but guess at my age I need to start.
SA: Thank you Peter!
PM: Thank you for providing the platform to find Swuzzlebubble and hopefully we can see you over here for a QT or HT event sometime.