lithiumRoad to Marblehead

July 2012


It was only a matter of time….. It had to come up…

Just add…….. beers…

“Who wants to do one of the regattas in the states?” someone asked.

If a plane was handy, 12 West Australian Viper sailors would have been on it.

After the alcohol effect receded, six of us remained committed and two Australian crews are on the road to Marblehead, Massachusetts for the 2012 North Americans.

Boats to charter, airfares, accommodation, – there was much to organise – but more importantly – we needed beer money.

Another great idea surfaced – lets do the Rottnest Island Festival of Sail.

There was a first prize of $2000 for the Around Rottnest Island race on IRC. Viper owners, Grahme and Heather Monkhouse had just purchased a beautiful J 122, Lithium, and if we could put together a Viper crew we might give it a crack.


Some training was required – Why do you gybe sheets around the outside of a large asymmetrical and what the hell was a code 0 and how did the furler work???

Race day arrived and luck appeared to be with us. We fluffed the first start but there was a general recall. The Second start was a perfect – boat end start with clear air and speed, on top of the larger boats, free to tack–

We picked the wind for most of the race and as we rounded the west end of Rottnest we were a couple of hundred metres behind the overall leaders. General Lee was still behind us, after breaking the start, and we were close to the Farr 40 and other 52 footers.

Things were looking good.

A two knot wind provided a slow work up the northern side of the island and saw us finish in a good position compared to similar size and larger boats.

As we motored into the anchorage, the wind increased in strength and the smaller yachts had a quick spinnaker ride to the finish. Unfortunately the late wind change meant a 34 footer Beneteau beat us on IRC. We finished second 25 seconds ahead of another Beneteau 35 footer.

A great night was had at the Quokka Arms for the crews of 70 boats who took part in the weekend. Our second place provided $1000 for the NA beer fund

The road to Marblehead is on track.


Rod Beurteaux and Graeme Monkhouse Relax on the chase boat after the race.


In Australia we’re used to long trips but…..

aussie abode

Rod Beurteaux and Chris O’keefe, who imported the first Vipers into Australia, were joined by Rod’s long time crew, Jon Stubbs.

Graeme Monkhouse, John Park and Paul Liddington combined to make the other crew.

How was it going to work??Four skippers and two crew!! That meant ony one person on each boat who knew what they were doing….

We arrived Boston in body, if not mind. 5 hours flight to Sydney, 16 to Fort Worth and 3 to Boston (plus the stop overs) does that to you.

We arrived at the house at about 11pm and had a few reds to finish off the night.

The house is great.

It’s got all the mod cons in a house that was built in 1735. ( Jeez, Captain Cook was stiil 35 years from landing in Australia at that stage)

Three storey, low ceilings, comfortably furnished.

Our flag confused a few neighbours who enquired if we were Puerto Rican…a pleasant change from Austrian.

We had chartered the boats and we eventually found where they stored the boats. … But there was only one… Graeme’s.

We knew that we were getting a new one, so we figured we would have to pick it up from the factory. Next morning we headed out to the US Rondar factory while Graeme and the boys got out on the water for some practice.

The Vipers have been built in the Rondar factory in England for years. Increasing demand has exceeded the one boat a week building capacity, so Rondar has set up a factory in the US. We had heard they were close to popping out the first US hull.

We met Paul, the US builder and he showed us our boat

We found the boat in two bits. Hull and deck….. Mmmm this looks good.

Picture 21

Paul, in his laid back style, assured us it was not a big deal to complete and true to his word two days later we were on the water with a beautiful, brand new Viper. The boys at Rondar had worked their butts off.

They not only finished our boat but got USA 1 out of the mould and on the race course for the NA’s

Many thanks are due to Paul, Dan, Paul, Ben and all the American contacts for supplying two great boats.


How do we Rate???


Our first racing is the Labour Day Regatta. It is a low key, lead up to the North American Championships next week. A chance to get a gauge on our speed.

The regattas are being held at the Eastern Yacht Club.

Think, lots of Mercedes, martinis, Americas Cup yacht models, etc

The clubhouse is an amazing three story mansion. It is very east coast where you have to be a millionaire to join. It has accommodation upstairs, 50 metre swimming pool, six tennis courts.

While the vipers are craned in and out, there are no marina pens for any of the club yachts. All the yachts are kept on moorings in the bay. There are about 2500 boats in the bay. The yacht club has beautiful open launches that ferry people out to their yachts.

eyc flagstaff

They have some interesting traditions here.

They have a working yacht club cannon …..not a mini one like the America’s cup or Sydney to Hobart starting ones. About waist height, lovely polished brass.

The boys were up at the bar the other day being roudy, admiring the setting sun when the cannon goes off. All of a sudden, everything went silent, and everyone’s standing to attention as they lower the American flag and club burgee…. And the exact same thing happens happens at every other yacht club on the bay…. It sounds like a war.

The Labour Day Regatta was five races over two days. There were only about eight boats out, but one of them was Brad Boston who has previously won two North American championships and Peter Beardsley who had another Aussie, Matt Belcher’s brother, sailing with him.

Rod and the boys on Alice were still doing finishing touches on their boat.

Graeme Monkhouse and crew got the show on the road with two seconds and a third on day one. Rod joined in the last race and were pretty happy with their speed. Just needed to alter the spreaders. On the last race it was Aussie one and two for the whole race, with Graeme and the boys finishing 10 seconds ahead of Rod. Brad Boston finished fourth.

So, a good start with Graeme, John and Paul winning the 2012 Marblehead Labour Day Regatta by one point to Brad Boston.

The North American championships start Thursday – 45 Vipers registered.


North American Championships

Day one of the North American Championships

8 – 10 knots

Some good names in the fleet, with quite a few Aussie accents. Jeremy Wilmot is sailing with Justin Scott. His cousin, Dave Chapman, sails with Glynn Locke on Fleur de Lance. Both boats will feature in the top few.

And thenl the rest ….Pieter Taselaar sails M24 and Melges 32, Bliksum, regularly and successfully.

Then there are another ten or twelve skippers that can win races on their day.

Time to see if our rig set up, rates with the standard setup.

Race one

Race one has a general followed by I flag. A bit out of practice with the starts and Rod and crew get hammered. Eventually they work their way into a reasonable position and have equivalent speed and good height so looking better. They give up up a few positions upwind due to not being quite aggressive enough. Downwind speed good and eventually finish 8th, but with their speed, should have done better.

Graeme finishes two positions further back.

Race Two

Race two has a general and then start. Bad start again for the boys on Alice, then they find a gap to extricate themselves. About 10th around the top. About 7th around bottom….. happy. Graeme is just in front so the Aussies are doing well.

About half way up leg Alice seems to be slowing.

Weed on keel. No worries…all prepared….a knotted rope to throw over the bow and then pull from the side of the boat over the front of the keel. It was meant to be the go…. Useless!!!

Alice hits the top mark in16th. Shit, shit. Graeme has gone well and rounds in 6th.

Graeme had a great race and finishes 4th.

Alice has a better downwind course and finishes 12th….. With weed still attached.

Need to find a better way of removing weed. Grahame and his crew Paul Liddington say they have discovered an effective way – the Liddington Technique – patent to follow

Graeme sits in fifth and Rod is in eighth. Taselaar and Glynn Lock seem to be the ones to beat, and have a first and second each.

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Day Two of the North American Championships

Race 3

Head out at about 10:30 am for a 12:00 o’clock start. Sheet of glass.

Finally a light seabreeze came in. Race started at about 2:00 pm.

After shit starts, Alice goes for the chicken start, right on the boat end, second row. They sail along the start boat and then tack into clear air. 100 m out, clear air and tacking back and they’re looking good. Long story short … Alice finishes third behind the guns, who seemed to be dominating, on Bliksum and Fleur de Lance.

Graeme and the boys had a good downwind leg and gained four to five places on the downwind finish.

vip na calm

Race 4

With increased confidence Alice starts a bit more adventurously. It’s a wonder how your confidence comes back with a good placing.

A close fourth results, with the first four boats finishing downwind within twenty seconds of each other.


Race 5, and Alice has a good start and gradually works into second place behind Jason Carrol who was sailing four up with two very nice young ladies on board. Jason is about 30 years old and came up with an algorithm to make stock trades. He now sails quite a bit…. Tough life. His Gunboat 50 is tied up at the jetty as accommodation and his RIB tows him out and becomes the music boat on light days.


Alice is right on their tail at the top mark the last time. They Jibe on top of them on the run to the finish but just can’t soak low enough to the favoured end of the finish line and we are still happy with a second.


So, Graeme and the boys had a good first day and Rod and his crew on Alice enjoyed their second day.

Blicksum and Fleur de Lance uncharacteristically have two bad races and the overall positions tighten up.


Graeme sits in eighth place and Rod has moved into third.


More wind is promised tomorrow.


Day Three of the North American Championships

Day three developed into the best sailing breeze of the regatta.

Race 6 was in about 10 to 15 knots. Alice rounded about 5th. Bliksem gybed off early. Alice carried on for a couple of hundred metres. Bliksem had made big gains as had four or five boats that also gybed early.

Alice were back in 12th or 13th. Alice had a great last run and sailed the large swells well to get back to 6th.

Bliksem finished first, Fer de Lance third and Jackpot 7th.


Race 7Alice had a good start and were 4th at the top mark. They had Bliksum on their tail and gybed early. They just led Bliksem around the bottom mark. Barry Parkin, previous world champion in the Flying Fifteen fleet, in Pink Storm, still had a fifty metre lead. A straight line speed test against Bliksum showed Alice had a bit better speed…Bliksem a bit higher.

They met at the top mark again with Bliksem tacking under Alice who rolled over the top of them.

100 meters into the reach and Bliksem gybed off and then Parkin covered.

Alice spotted some breeze above them and carried on another couple of hundred meters. They gybed and it looked good but there was still a lot of separation. As they came together Alice had the lead by 50 meters from Pink Storm and got the gun.

Fer de Lance had gone out the left further than Alice and got through Bliksem for 3rd place.


Race 8

Looking forward to race 8, Alice set up at the windward end. A 30 degree shift 40 seconds before the start meant you couldn’t lay the leeward end.

Chaos… surely they would bang off the start… No

Alice rounded in the 20’s. Good downwind speed on the waves saw them work their way to 11th. They got up to 9th at the top mark the last time. They came in on port and pushed the lay line a bit tight and fouled on the rounding. They dropped three or four boats doing their penalty turn. Some good downwind work in the waves saw them gain three boats back to finish 11 th.

Race Nine

Alice hoped for redemption. They had an average first leg.

Picked up five downhill and a few more uphill.

They gained on the leaders on the next downwind but couldn’t catch them.

They finished 4th.

The boys on Velocity had 11th, 16th,26th and DNF. That pushed them out of the top 10.

Going into the last day Alice sat in 5th overall and Velocity in 13 th


Day Four of the North American Championships

Last day was light and shifty and the committee hoped to get two starts away. Fer de Lance had a slim lead over Bliksem followed by Jackpot. Alice were in fifth overall, one point behind Justin Scott on Mambo Kings. The Velocity boys were in 13th.


Race 10

Another 30 degree shift to the leeward end just before the start.

They’ll bang it off to be fair.. Oh that’s right…. They won’t.

The boats at the pin end sailed away. Fer de Lance who crossed the fleet on port when this happened in race eight were on the wrong end and struggled. Blicksum were off to a good start as were Jackpot.

Fortunately Alice were at the right end this time but still behind the boats that were closer to the pin. A tense first leg saw about 11 boats in front of them around the top mark. It became a very light drift around the course. Alice was closely tailed by Justin Scott. Alice gradually got away to Finish 8th, moving them one point in front of Justin.

Fer de lance finished ninth with Bliksem 3rd, which meant Bliksem won the title by four points. A consistent Brad Boston finished third and the Australians on Alice finished fourth overall.

It was a good effort for both Australians, with Graeme Monkhouse, John Parkes and Paul Liddington finishing 13 th overall in their first international regatta.

The first three boats were a bit more consistent and polished in the moments that counted.

Their crews had already done three or four viper regattas this year in 40 boat fleets and were now off to sail in the Farr 40 worlds followed by the Melges 32 worlds.

All in all it has been a great trip. The Viper 640 offers the excitement all sportsboats offer, but the one design racing in a 45 boat fleet, in a boat of this size and price, is unique to the Viper 640.

With a container of 4 vipers arriving in Sydney, the Australian fleet is growing, and hopefully Australian sailors will gain more experience in larger fleets too.

The boys are off on a road trip for a few days. The trip starts getting messy from now on….. If it hasn’t already started.