Elvstrom 1/4 Tonner Brings Back Many Memories

Paul Elvstrom at the helm of an Elvstrom 1/4 tonner on the Vaal Dam during the Ministers Cup.
pic from SAILING Mag RSA archives.

Paul Elvstrom’s crew: L-R. Bruce McCurrach; Terry Clarence; Paul Elvstrom: Garth Hitchens.
pic from SAILING Mag RSA archives.

by Richard Crockett

It all Started on the Vaal Dam!

There was recently some chat on Facebook about the Elvstrom 1/4 tonner. Some of the people were absolutely passionate about the boat and the fact that Paul Elvstrom came out to RSA to sail in the Minister Cup on Vaal Dam once the first boat had been launched.

These 2 pics show Paul Elvstrom at the helm on the Vaal Dam, and with his crew.
Besides the interest in the boat and pics, here are some of the memories shared by people who saw them:

Dudley Isaac. Awesome boat, my first keel boat !

Frans Loots. 1976. I was sailing with Bertie Reed and Steve Meek on a Navy entry. While waiting for the start of the medium distance race we got smacked by Paul Elvstrom’s boat port / starboard. Elvstrom’s on port! To his credit The King was down below having a short snooze, but popped his head up and gracefully offered his sincere apologies. Bertie being Bertie immediately suggested to Paul that a beer or two after the race will be good. And Bertie made yet another friend!

Frans Loots. I saw Bruce McCurrach walking around at the Knysna Yacht Cub Regatta earlier this year checking out the Finns rigging up in the boat park. I told a couple of my younger friends sailing Finns, ” do you know who that guy is? He is a personal sailing friend of Paul Elvstrom! ” It went right over their heads.

Dianne Clarence. Terry (Clarence) and Garth (Hitchens) had a trophy made with that exact photo of the crew and one of the gold medals from that regatta. The trophy was awarded to the boat that displayed the best dedication to the Farr 30 Class in Annapolis.

Wayne Sykes. I bought HAGAR a Elvstrom 1/4 tonner thru Bruce (McCurrach) and had many years of great sailing until we built Hot Touch a Farr 38.

Garth Hitchens. Wayne (Sykes). Hagar was the boat I assembled from a hull and deck at Elvstrom sails in Johannesburg. We sailed it on Vaal Dam for a number of years. We were almost unbeatable until the Sweat Peas came along and the new era of modern IOR boats, started by Bruce Farr, came along. Would love to know what happened to the boat.

Charles Bongers. I was there… remember nailing him at a start….. then in 5 minutes he was ahead of me… Think my old man Bobby (Bongers) won that year in Impact

Garth Hitchens. Charlie (Bongers), those were the days and I remember the regatta so well besides the honour of sailing with Paul (Elvstrom) and Bruce (McCurrach) who were my two heroes of sailing, and the thrill of sailing against icons like your Dad. Elvstrom won the regatta with all firsts except the last race which your dad won. At the prize giving your dad got up and made a small speech. He said until the last race he thought Paul (Elvstrom) was God, and then when he beat him in the last race he realized he was just a close relation. This brought the house down.

David Abromowitz. Remember it well. Bobby Bongers, JJ Provoyeur, John Robertson, Pat Fraser, myself and one other (can’t remember) trucked up the first Impact to Vaal Dam from CT. It was quite an adventure and great fun.

Lex Raas. David (Abromowitz), Do you remember how we stepped the mast? Bobby (Bongers) could not believe how we did it. Let alone that we met then and you helped me move to Cape Town with some jobs, forever grateful – thank you !

David Abromowitz. Thanks Lex (Raas). Forgot about the tree/mast stepping. You were amazing and we recognized that. You deserve the amazing future that unfolded for you after that.

Charles Bongers. I remember painting a mickey mouse on the transom.

David Abromowitz. Hey Frans (Loots). That thunderstorm in the middle of the night was pretty scary for us ‘Kaapenaars’ as well. I remember asking Bobby (Bongers) – the tallest- to sit to leeward with his feet in the water to earth us. He refused…

David Abromowitz. I have just remembered the other crew member on Impact. It was Richard Beytagh who years later went on to become the MD of Novell South Africa and sponsored JJ (Provoyeur) in the BOC single handed round the world race in 1995…phew!!!

Angelo Lavranos. Richard Beytagh & John Robertson owned the prototype Sweet Pea which we raced the next year along with Jeff Meek as skipper. Lex (Raas) meanwhile had started building the production version and we had him sailing Lathyrus Oderatus and Cupea with Dave Hudson and the other wooden one Red Baron with Billy Liesegang . The class monopolised the podium for a number of years after that at every Regatta. That was 45 years ago this year.

So why did it all start on the Vaal Dam?
David Abromowitz reveals all.

Your Facebook article regarding the 1977 Vaal Dam regatta certainly created a lot of interest and brought back memories and stories from the past.

One of them was ‘young’ Lex Raas. Bobby and I together with a few other ‘well known’ Kaapenaars brought Impact up there. He was most helpful in putting her together with us utilising basic facilities.

I was so impressed with this young man that I suggested that there might be a bigger future for him in Cape Town. Of course ‘young’ John Robertson was one of our crew, but NOBODY had any idea what that would lead to EXACTLY 20 years later.

We had a wonderful regatta there and Lex moved to Cape Town.

One year prior to this (1976) I had sold my pharmaceutical interests and started Central Boating and we needed young blood in Cape Town to assist in helping us grow a ‘new’ industry.

Together with John Robertson, Felix Unite, Geoff Meek and myself (maybe others, I can’t remember) we invested in a small manufacturing facility with Lex running it. It wasn’t a ‘roaring success’!!!!

In 1979 Jerrold Salamon and I commissioned Lex (Steve Meek was employed by him) to build a ‘very modern’ Kevlar 2 tonner – Assegai (3 Spears). She was a great success…

Subsequently a few years later in the late 80s Lex moved overseas to join Beneteau in their manufacturing facility in Charlotte in the USA where (amongst others) they supplied The Moorings with Beneteau monohull sailboats.

Lex was then asked by The Moorings to join them in Clearwater Florida to head up the acquisition side of their business for boats to be sent to the various charter bases that they had around the world.

Fast forward to 1996/7.
I had now started my brokerage in 1995 and wanted to represent The Moorings in South Africa in order to send South Africans on charter holidays, so I arranged to fly to their largest base which was in the BVI and suss it out. Bruce Tedder accompanied me (Bruce used to be employed by me at Central Boating).

After that we flew to Tampa Florida where we stayed with Lex and Carol for around a week, and got to understand the workings of The Moorings at their head office.

It was during this time that I suggested to Lex that The Moorings should consider having catamarans built in SA as there was a clever young designer, Alex Simonis, who had started designing good looking, seaworthy cats and that there were a number of up and coming boat builders who needed work.

Lex took this up and came out to South Africa with one of The Moorings engineers and rekindled the John Robertson relationship and sat down with John and Alex to design a 46′ Catamaran for The Moorings.

John needed cash to start the moulding process, and myself together with JJ, Geoff and Bruce purchased hull number 1 to provide John with the cash he needed.

I then immediately sold 2 more of the 46’s to two mates, John Asbury and Stan Ratcliffe. THE REST IS HISTORY.

It all started on the Vaal Dam in 1977!!!!