-Chancegger to be Reborn
A Sydney-based property developer and keen yachtsman has purchased the historic 12 Metre yacht Chancegger and is restoring it to its racing glory — beginning the process by taking to a tacked-on coach house with a chainsaw.
Living in Australia for 40 years, he spent much of the past 30 years cruising and racing the 1970 Sydney-Hobart Race winning sloop Pacha around the world.
In recent years he has switched his focus to historic and traditional yachts and a couple of years ago had Garry Lidgard design him a new International 8 Metre yacht called Juana. The sleek 45 footer was believed to be the first 8 Metre yacht to be built in Australia since before World War II.
Chancegger, often regarded as the fastest wooden 12 Metre yacht ever built, has a remarkable history. It was built for French ballpoint pen and cigarette lighter magnate Baron Marcel Bich when he decided to join Australia in challenging for the 1970 America’s Cup regatta.
Bich owned three 12 Metre yachts, the British boats Sovereign and Kurrewa, and the American boat Constellation, but realised he was hampered in his challenge because no-one in France had built or designed a 12 Metre yacht.
He decided to commission American designer Britton Chance Jr to design him the fastest 12 Metre ever seen and, after the plans were delivered in June 1968, had the boat built in Switzerland by renowned shipbuilder Herman Egger using imported French craftsmen. Both Chance and Egger then led the world in the design and building of the classic 5.5 metre yachts.
Chance’s design was for a yacht with 30 square feet less wetted area than any previous design and for the lightest 12 Metre then built. It was also the first yacht of that type to have the distinctive knuckle bow that every 12 metre designer from then on copied.
Knowing he could only ever use Chancegger as a trial horse for his French-built challenger, Bich was not hampered by the rules that demanded that everything on a challenging yacht be designed and built in the country of origin. He sourced masts, booms, winches, sails and rigging from the best makers around the world – and produced a superyacht.
Such was interest in the challenge in France that the French navy donated to Bich the Honduras mahogany used in the hull. They had had the timber in storage since it was used to repair frigates 100 years before.
In all test sailing and racing, there was not a 12 Metre in the world that could match Chancegger. Unfortunately for Bich, his French designed and built yacht, France, never showed similar speed.
Chancegger changed hands a half a dozen times after the 1970 America’s Cup and finally ended up in Hobart 15 years ago. It was bought a few years ago by a Queensland yachtsman who spent a small fortune converting it from an aging flush-decked racer to a comfortable, if very ugly, cruising boat – complete with twin anchor rollers, furling sails, life-lines and staunchions and even the aforementioned dog house over the saloon.
Speaking to the Boatsales Network from the yacht in Coffs Harbour on Australia Day, Chancegger’s owner said that despite recently turning 60, the restoration project had him feeling “like a little kid again”.
“The guy I bought it from had turned it into a caravan, complete with a tin bath and a washing machine,” he said, “He didn’t know what a piece of history he had.”
Joined by two shipwrights, he took to the interior of the yacht and removed three skip bins of fixtures and fittings in the first 24 hours and established that the hull and the basic structure were still sound. He now plans to sail the yacht to Rangoon in Burma where he has already secured a boat yard and shipwrights.
“I’ll put on a new flush teak deck and have the topsides sanded back and varnished as they originally were,” he said. “I’ll keep the interior as original as possible with just a couple of cots and a tiny galley.”
Chancegger’s owner has already obtained a copy of Chance’s original plans from the America’s Cup museum in the United States and hopes for a faithful restoration. “The whole process will probably take about a year,” he said, “Then I’ll sail across the Indian Ocean, around Africa and back to France.”
Once back in her home waters Chancegger will become a regular on the increasingly popular regatta circuit for historic 12 metre yachts around Europe each summer.