free as a bird

Over the past 3 years, there has been a thread in the forums called TP52 Cruiser.  As the owners of this refit, I thought it was time to answer some questions as forums tend to have a lot of people’s opinions that aren’t based on facts.

First things first.  It should be RACER/Cruiser.  It was never meant to be a full-blown cruiser.  It will always be a RACER first and foremost with a few cruising additions.  

J-Bird III was Hull #2 of the TP52’s.  Originally there were three in series 1, all built together to create the class.  Remember that these initial boats were built for one purpose, hence the name TP, the TransPacific Yacht Race.  They were built as offshore racing machines, not like the current 52 Super Series vessels.

When we bought the boat we paid AUD$30,000.  One person said we paid $29,500 too much for it.  Well, if you consider buying a boat that the mast is worth over $100K and the winches close to $100K as bad buying, then I guess we got ripped off.  In fact, we could’ve sold the mast and winches countless times throughout this build and made our money back several times over.

But as stated, Annika fell in love with the boat and so did I. The hull lines are incredible and it is built solidly.  As to implying that Annika gets what she wants, it’s what we both wanted.  I’m just fortunate enough to have a wife that loves what I do and lets us take on a project like this.  O.K, when we bought it the balsa in the deck was rotten due to reconfiguring the deck layout, but we had always wanted a fast yacht that we could replace the deck to give us room for me at 6’4.  So this project was perfect.

As for another member stating we would be ‘surprised’ when we sailed her, well that just means they have no idea of who we are and what we do.  We are both commercial skippers and sailed maxis in the Whitsundays.  Annika had delivered the TP52 Shogun from the Whitsundays to Sydney so had TP52 experience and I’ve sailed my fair share of boats including Volvo 60’s, Brindabella, and several of the maxi’s.  So we knew what we were buying.  I’ve also sailed a 38-footer solo around Australia in 42 days so know what short-handed is about.  

As for the draft, well we would love to decrease this, but we aren’t loaded like many of you thought we were.  We run a charity called Ocean Crusaders and by running a charity, you don’t become rich.  Hence why we had to buy this boat.  We couldn’t afford to modify it into a lifting keel, so we have to stick with what we have.  Is it an inconvenience, well yes at times it is, but we will learn to deal with it.

Lots of people stated we could buy sails from TP52 campaigns.  We could, but we tried that and it doesn’t work.  Our rig is a single backstay and hence pin top.  Hence no current main will fit and the rigs are actually a different size.  At some stage, masts got a little bit longer and hence even the jibs don’t fit.  Those that do are so old the glues just let go, as we experienced on the way to Sydney on our first sail.  

As to budget, we have put the boat on the water for under AUD$350,000.  So to those that stated that we could buy a new 50-foot cruiser for what we were spending, well you need to tell me where you buy your yachts.  We were able to achieve this by doing most of the work ourselves and with support from sponsors like B&G, Gurit, and Harken, who whilst they didn’t give us the gear, we didn’t pay full retail either.  Annika has become the ‘Carbinator’ and does all the carbon work for us, including bagging, infusing the works.  I’ve done the main fit out work with the electrical system and drive etc.  So we didn’t pay someone else to do it and that’s how we could afford to do this.  

And before you all state that not everyone has $350,000 to throw at a boat, well consider that we don’t have kids, have worked our whole lives for this, and hence invested our life savings into this dream boat.  Was it worth it, hell yes.  If you could see this boat in person and what it can do, how comfortable that couch is, well it turned out better than we ever thought it could.  

As to sailing it, even two-handed we don’t reef until after 15 knots, the boat is that good and the B&G electronics drive the boat very well.  We carry kites up to 20 knots.  One joy of the TP is that they are point-and-shoot boats, so they don’t roll around, they simply see a wave and send it down the face.  Our cruising speeds are now around 10 knots whereas the Beneteau’s of the world struggle for 7’s.  We hunt down cruising boats for fun.  

As to the boat being competitive, well it is far better than most would think.  Our IRC rating is currently 1.316 whereas the next lowest TP is 1.348.  In Australia it sits in a band with no other boats.  The 40-somethings are 1.278 so we in theory should be sailing in our own air which is critical to race wins.  In the Sydney to Hobart we competed 2 handed purely because we didn’t know if we would make the start line and didn’t want to let crew down.  We took out 2 handed line honours and currently hold the 2 handed race record.  Then we recently did the 75th Brisbane to Gladstone and finished 2nd over the line to Celestial, the winner of the Hobart on handicap.  Whilst it wasn’t a race for TP’s with the slowest boats winning overall, we beat Celestial on Handicap and they had paid crew and we had a bunch of mates.

So I guess you could say that every dog has its day, but on this occasion, the Early Bird Catches the Worm!!!  We’ve created our dream boat.  It took a lot of hours and we still have work to do, but it was worth every cent, every hour and all the stress to have what we have and if you are as committed as we are, you too could create your dream.  In fact the TP52 known as Pirate which had a deck fire in South Australia is about to do a similar thing with a big deck saloon, so interested to see that play out.  And I know What Eva is for sale too from Making Waves Foundation and you could pick it up for a song and it has a full container of gear.  

Old TP’s will never be competitive we’re told…….unless you repurpose them and given the right conditions, we can match it with the newest boats.  Polars state we are slightly slower off the wind but upwind we match them.  But no matter if we win or lose, we’ll have a great time trying and unlike all the latest TP’s, ours stays dry downstairs and has a huge fridge for beverages, and the microwave convection oven cooks meals really quickly so having a hot meal in crap conditions is still possible.  

We’re sorry we couldn’t create edited videos and stopped the articles on that other site, but we ran out of time.  Building the boat was more important and then last year, the year of the launch, we had the Brisbane Floods and that kept the charity really busy removing 278 tonnes of debris from our waterways.  

And as for not being able to tell me how to do things, let’s just say that we listened to the experts from Gurit (Engineering), Andrews Yacht Design, Southern Spars/Diverse Rigging and Doyle Australia more than we listened to people who weren’t involved in the project.  

Check out the Facebook page for the ongoing story.