Thursday, June 25, 2009

About 'Just Jo'

'Just Jo' is a Custom 30 sloop that was designed by Naval Architect, Mr Peter W. Ebbutt, as a competitive cruiser/racer under the International Offshore Rule (IOR) held popular in the early 70’s. His design is reported to have won the Australian Half Ton Titles in the eighties, and 33 years later still performs competitively; often scooping the prize Rum during midweek twilight races.

'Just Jo' was reportedly built in 1976 at Fremantle by owner of Custom Yachts Mr Neil Cain, for his son to race in the waters off Western Australia (WA). The most significant and appealing change in contrast to the full blown cruiser version, was the sleek, low profile GRP blister cabin top and flush Burmese teak deck; similar to the design employed by round the world yachts. The strength in build quality (3/4" solid glass layup) and design is still well reported by Marine Surveyors. She has competed in many offshore regattas in WA and bears the plaques of success right up until the late 1980’s.

Peter Ebbutt has designed super-yachts for the well heeled and also yachts that have raced in the Great Circle Race around the world.
One of his projects in 1989 was a 100’ mega yacht worth in excess of USD$2M that took 7 years to build. I like to think of 'Just Jo' as the concept yacht that led to 'Christine' (hah hah) check her out at Peter heads up the multi-national salvage and environment control group Ocean Motions in the USA. Peter confirmed to me by email he is the designer of the Custom 30 and was very excited to hear his design was still sailing competitively after 33 years.

'Just Jo' has a history that can be traced back to Fremantle. Following her sale by Cain, she was a live-aboard fast cruiser for a couple who cruised from Fremantle to Darwin. 'Just Jo' is Australian registered and is reported to have voyaged through Indonesia. The couple parted ways and 'Just Jo' was sold to a sailor from Queensland. She was sailed ‘over the top’ and around Cape York to Bowen in North QLD; testament to her seaworthiness.

'Just Jo' was then sold to Bryan and Jenny Thomas who sailed her back to Townsville in 1997. By this time she was showing signs of wear and tear and they refitted her at great expense. Bryan regularly sailed 'Just Jo' single handed and won many twilight races, much to the disappointment of the skippers of more expensive and modern yachts. Not bad for a 70 year old!

I took ownership of 'Just Jo' in March 2005 and continued the on-water refit over the next 18 months. I should acknowledge a few people here...thanks dad for the work ethic and those metal, maintenance and hand skills, Mr Tooke from my school days for the Tech Drawing and Woodwork knowledge, brother Dave for the paint and preparation knowledge. Still can't sew yet.....I have sailmaker Relle covered off on that task! My lifetime of accumulated knowledge and skills of maintenance, engineering, woodwork, mechanics, design, aircraft avionics, electrical and electronics permitted me to undertake a level of refit that would be cost prohibitive to the average person on such an old yacht if contractors were to be employed. The result is an exceptionally strong and seaworthy yacht that still, after 33 years, maintains a competitive edge on handicap.

In late 2007 early 2008, I solo sailed 'Just Jo' over 1100 nm from Townsville to Port Stephens north of Newcastle, where she is currently moored. In Dec 2008 I replaced the standing rigging and continued to improve her condition...must stop those annoying leaks one day. A new mainsail and Genoa are planned for the new sailing season. I have sailed her regulary in and around Port Stephens, and in Apr 2009 I sailed her solo to Sydney and return in 30-40 knot winds and 4 m seas. On a broad reach I achieved a new hull speed of 11.4 knots under a single reefed main and rag of a headsail! We are now waiting for our next challenge – a circumnavigation of Australia in 2010.

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