Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Lello 34

Nice looking Lello 34 (SV Double Helix)
Very traditional, long-keeled sloop, with beautiful lines, Designed by Bryan Lello in about 1966, in South Africa.  It was evidently intended for the first Cape to Rio Race in 1971. They were (mostly) built by Henry Vink in Walkerville on the Vaal Dam in South Africa, and very solidly built at that. Both Bryan Lello and Henry Vink are now deceased for some years, and regrettably we don't have much detailed information on the design.

Cascade is this one's name
Full keel with trailing rudder.
Note the position of the prop - aft of the rudder, high up and offset.
Racing aspirations!

Masthead rig, single spreader. Big genoa and long boom.
A simple rig with  good downwind performance.
Nice protected aft cockpit, ideal for shorthanding.

Click to expand.
The advert in SA Sailing in 1968.
Thanks and credit to Richard Crockett (current editor of Sailing Magazine) for digging this up!
Vital Statistics:
LOA 33'7"
LWL: 25'
Beam 9'3.5"
Draft 5'9"
Disp: 6.5 tons
Sail Area 520 sq. ft.
Masthead Sloop with Deck-stepped mast
Aux motor (if fitted!!) 8-15 h.p.
Water tanks 50 gals.

Conventional interior for the time, quite narrow but adequate.
These Lello 34s proved themselves as very solid seaworthy racers, with a number of racing achievements at the time. They were well capable in the very challenging waters on South African South coast. I personally recall the harrowing tales told by two crew (one being an uncle of mine) on a trip from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth - with the late Bobby Bongers - if memory serves. Much of it was upwind....It seems that the boat took it all in it's stride, but the three of them took a few days before they could walk properly!

Although the Lello 34 was a great example of this class of boat - simple long-keel vessel with a simple but modern sloop rig - it would be unfair to compare it with the modern designs we see today. Still - it is very interesting exercise! Looking at say the L34, or Didi 34, the approach has changed fundamentally - these have spade rudders, relatively flat underbodies, bulb keels, high reserve stability, taller rigs, and displace about 60% of the Lello 34. Naturally they are significantly faster on all points of sail. Personally, I think the evolution was driven largely by a combination of modern materials and the contribution of new designs from van der Stadt with the RCODs and similar. However, if I were faced with a passage across the Southern Ocean I wouldn't be disappointed if I was forced to take the Lello.... for all its aged design, this is a true "get you home boat" and a long keel does a good job of looking after you when it gets really tough. Also a very seakindly design, if you don't mind getting a bit wet and hobby-horsing on occasion. One would expect this design to track reasonably well with the long keel, but I do wonder if that rudder is adequate for downwind control, especially with the long boom... I suppose it will all come down to reefing strategies, and favoring the large Genoa as the dominant sail in strong winds. Having said that, I haven't sailed on a Lello 34 personally, so I can't comment on the handling and speed from experience. If you can add to this, I would be glad to include it here!

This boat comes from an era where "auxiliaries" were truly optional, and many of the facilities we take for granted simply didn't exist back then. These were the days of sunsights, dead reckoning, hank-on headsails, plumb-bob depth sounders, wind-vane steering systems etc. No GPS, Decca, autopilot, satphones, chartplotters, digital depth sounders or EPIRBs. They often did have VHF and HF radios  (before SSB though!). This was very much the era of the first Sunday Times Golden Globe Race, famously won by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston in Suhaili. Great movie called "Deep Water" on this race, and especially the fate of Donald Crowhurst, who committed suicide near the end.

Now as it happens, this era of sailing is being revived again, in the form of the 2018 Golden Globe Race!!!  Essentially, it's a re-enactment of the first one in 1968. Personally, I look forward to following this race more than any other event I can imagine, America's Cup included. The race is by invitation only, but already around 30 confirmed entrants. The rules specify yachts of 32-36 feet, long keels, and rudders attached to the back of the keel. Technology is limited to what was available to Sir Robin in 1968 - which means almost no electronics besides a VHF and an SSB radio. Details on the link above. Remember this is a non-stop singlehanded circumnavigation from Falmouth-Falmouth. The routing instructions are quite simple:

"Race Route
The race course is an east-about circumnavigation starting and finishing in Falmouth UK. Competitors will sail down the Atlantic from North to South leaving:
• Cape of Good Hope to port 
• Prince Edward Island to starboard
• Crozet Islands to starboard
• Kerguelen Islands to starboard
• 50°S latitude to starboard 
• Cape Leeuwin to port
• Then to a ‘Gate’ in Storm Bay. Tasmania
• Then leaving 50°S latitude to starboard until 100°W longitude 
• Cape Horn to port 
• Sail up the Atlantic from South to North.
• Finish in Falmouth. "

So that's it then! Did I mention just one lap? Any queries from the French? Are we back already?

At this stage I will confess my sudden interest in the Lello 34 took a new turn when I received an email from one of the signed up competitors asking if I had information on the Lello 34. He would like to have it included in the list as it fits the bill quite well, and is likely one of the fastest, given it's SA / Disp ratio etc. For a number of factors he considers it to be something of a performance boat amongst the other designs. To get the design approved, we are looking for a complete set of plans, plus some kind of confirmation that at least twenty were built. 

Most grateful for any help, it would be great to see this well loved South African design in this race!