Global Challenge 72 Fleet

Design number: 86 Year: 1991

The design opportunity for Sir Chay Blyth’s second round-the-world fleet was thrown open and the Humphreys studio won the contest from about fourteen other design companies invited to submit proposals. The 72 footers had a very specific brief and there is no doubt that the project was a challenging one, but all the more interesting for that. It was a very enjoyable team project, with Andrew Roberts of the Challenge Business in day-to-day control, and able to bring first hand experience in the way of lessons learnt from the 67ft original Global Challenge boats. Built of steel like their predecessors, and like Sir Chay Blyth’s original Robert Clark-designed British Steel, the boats needed to be robust but relatively inexpensive to build. Working hand-in-hand with the Humphreys office was Jim Moore, who ‘exploded’ the steel scantlings into a complex flat panel ‘kit’ that could be laser-cut, enabling the construction to take on the characteristics of a very reproducible assembly operation. Testament to this success was the fact that while the main body of the fleet was built by DML in the UK two were built in China, yet the results were indistinguishable even to very experienced eyes.

This was a commercial operation and with a twelve-boat fleet required cost consideration was paramount not just in initial build-cost but in terms service and reliability. The fact that these boats have raced around the world twice, with one record-breaking singlehanded cirmunavigation (by Dee Caffari) thrown in, it is a tribute to all involved that there were no major breakages or other serious reliability issues. That’s after an aggregate sea mileage of about 1.3 million miles, over 300,000 miles of them in the Southern Ocean.

It is doubtful whether any other design has been tested to such extreme lengths, and now these boats are in their second life, fulfilling new roles with similar capability. The Humphreys office is well-placed to keep a watching brief on these boats, and Paul Kelly, the Humphreys yacht broker, was himself a skipper on one of tese boats in the last Global Challenge Race, so knows them inside out.

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