The acid test

SV Olaf Trygvason – Hasko Scheidt GER

Developing the PACIFIC and PACIFIC PLUS sisters seemed like the logical next step for me at the time because in those days (back in the 1980s) I was hand-building my windy pilots in stainless steel and my enthusiasm for the time-consuming processes involved (and the collateral damage to my muscles, nerves and health) was wearing thin. And the metal components were only half the equation: I spent quite a portion of the year in hay fever mode (how the time dragged as I lay drained and dishevelled in my bunk waiting for rain in the countryside to rinse the air clear and let me breathe freely again) and working with GRP to produce my rudder blades oppressed me just as much as the pollen.

Another factor played into the decision too: prospective bluewater sailors were dreaming of ever bigger boats. My Bianca 27 was a yacht to be reckoned with in 1972: heads turned and covetous eyes burned when we hit the water. I had no reservations about recommending my transom ornaments for boats in that range, of course, but a stately 33-footer would be enough to set my knees knocking and I had started to answer enquiries with the claim that an Atlantik auxiliary rudder system would provide pretty good steering for a boat of that size “most of the time”. It always pays to be cautious!

There was no mistaking the fact that I was running out of runway with the Atlantik, something clearly had to be done and the idea of the making the Pacific and Pacific Plus sisters a reality dominated my dreams every night. The time was ripe. Work began…

The remarkably gifted patternmaker Mr Hoffman of Sachsenwald worked his magic – I remember at the time thinking that every model was a work of art in its own right – and Hamburg’s own Mr Günther then set about manually sand-casting the aluminium components.

When all of the units from the first production run were ready, I proudly laid them out on the workshop floor to admire and photograph them. I felt so attached to them that I didn’t want to sell so much as a single one! That didn’t mean I couldn’t try them out though and before long I had 16 holes in the transom of my Hanseat 70 so that I could swap between the two models.

A wonderful opportunity to put my new developments to the acid test came along very soon afterwards.Hasko Scheidthad the hull of the Olav Trygvason, a design inspired by the Bristol Channel pilot cutter, constructed by the Knierim yard in Laboe on Kiel Bay in 1984/1985 and then completed the build himself. Somewhere along the way he downed tools for a moment to send me the following message:

Hey old man, if your new Pacific can keep this monster on course and stop it rounding up, you can start selling it with confidence.

Obviously, this was too good an opportunity to miss, so a Pacific factory unit was quickly installed for demonstration purposes on the Olav Trygvason’s elegant transom, where it stayed for many years.

The Scheidt family, three boys included, took their new boat off to the Caribbean for several years of exploring and meticulous study of the underwater flora, fauna and geology, the results of which they then published in the form of nautical charts. Hasko would sometimes accuse me of trading in scrap metal, at which I point I would enjoy pointing out that he himself was in the wastepaper business…

OK, so our in-jokes weren’t always vintage material, but the Windpilot did everything that was asked of it. Or at least everything that could be expected of it: one day, after having been using the system happily for years, an appalled Hasko called me from Horta, “Hey old man, the steering lines have worn through. What am I supposed to do now? Do you have a spare parts warehouse in Horta?” Some people…

Not long afterwards, Harry Schank decided to bring an end to his long-distance wanderings aboard Grisu, put down roots in Horta and make his support services in Hortaliving providing support services for the international sailing community. He’s still there and so is the official Windpilot service point he operates for us, so the answer to Hasko’s question now would be “Of course!”
Our works Pacific eventually came back to us when the Olav Trygvason went in for a major refit. I think the rather rustic mounting we had fabricated for it didn’t fit so well with the boat’s smart new deck and in any case there was now a plump new autopilot installed ready for an anticipated future of shorter trips closer to home.

Peter Foerthmann

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