GROWING UP in Brisbane, Australia, Marcus Blackmore has always lived near the sea. But it was only when he started sailing with a close friend that he really caught the sailing bug.
While Blackmore is Chairman of Australia’s famous Blackmore’s nutraceutical empire, he has yet to find the supplement that can cure this bug. But with his new Southern Wind 82 that’s being built, he may well have found the best way to feed his sailing fever.
We reach Blackmore in a rare quiet moment. Despite his hectic work and travel schedule, he’s happy to sit down and chat about boats and sailing, two of his favourite subjects.
“I began sailing when I was about 16 on a two-man Gwen 12 but probably spent more time in the water than aboard the boat, if you know what I mean,” jokes Blackmore in his easy, conversational style. “I only really got going after I came home after service in the Vietnam War. I moved to Sydney and Biff, my best friend then and still my best friend now, was a ship’s Captain and owned a Duncanson 35. We started sailing on her and that changed everything.”
“I joined the Middle Harbour Yacht Club and through Manly Rotary Club I met Peter Green, the famous Australian ocean racer. I said to him, ‘Peter, I’d like to do the Sydney to Hobart’. He said, ‘Then come sailing every weekend for the next three months and I’ll give you a ride’.”
And so it was that Blackmore first competed in the Sydney to Hobart Race aboard S/Y Patrice III, a Sparkman and Stevens design built in Australia in 1974. Patrice III won many ocean races in Australia and the Southwest Pacific. Testament to the length and breadth of Blackmore’s ocean racing curriculum is the fact that he doesn’t remember precisely how many times he raced in the Sydney to Hobart. “I probably did it 11 or 12 times,” he says.
Blackmore is clear on when he bought his first “real” boat though. “I bought Manly Ferry, a Cole 43 that I got second-hand from Bob Oatley, when I was in my late thirties. In those days, the top Australian racing boats were Sir James Hardy’s Police Car and Denis O’Neil’s Bondi Train. It only seemed fitting to name my boat after some means of transportation as I lived in Manly at the time. In 1984, we competed in the first Hamilton Island Race Week and won our division.” The Oatley family now owns Hamilton Island.
“I like one-design racing and have raced extensively on Farr 40s, Etchells and Dragons. I bought Team New Zealand’s record breaking TP52, had design team Botin and Carkeek optimise it for ocean racing, changed its name to Hooligan, and won all over Australia in a string of successes. We were the only boat to have ever won Hamilton Island Race Week for three years in a row. Today I keep a Dragon in Europe and a full-carbon McConaghy 38 in Sydney. I now prefer to compete in one-design regattas where we might do four faces the first day, hose the boat down, sleep in a proper bed and then do three more races the next day.”
He first saw a Southern Wind yacht at the Genoa Boat Show some 7 years ago. “It was Far Away and I thought that she was just fantastic. I had a couple of mates with me and we all just said ‘wow’. But I ended up going in a completely different direction at the time and built a Nordhavn 76 motor yacht. I had it delivered in California and from there visited Alaska, Mexico and Costa Rica, passed through the Panama Canal to the San Blas Islands and Cuba then across the Pacific to Samoa, Tonga, Fiji and New Zealand and on to Southeast Asia where we won two major regattas in a chartered TP52.
“But I always admired Southern Wind yachts and after a stint of motor boating wanted to get back to sailing. I did extensive research and looked seriously at Oysters, Swans and Southern Winds. After a while I had narrowed it down to Oyster or Southern Wind. An Oyster exec was in town for the Sydney to Hobart race and he was talking with Terry, my crew boss, trying to convince him to convince me to buy an Oyster. ‘Yeah,’ said Terry, ‘but they just aren’t sexy.’ Now that may sound sexist, but it isn’t intended that way. I always admired these boats, they just appealed to me. They’ve got classic lines and a great pedigree. You can’t help but admire them.”
So Blackmore is having a Southern Wind of his own built. “Yes,” he laughs, “they tell me they’ve never had more involved owners. Caroline, my wife, prefers motorboats for the space, but Nauta Yachts that works with Southern Wind is really good at yacht design. We recently spent a week in Milan with them. We figured that we would be working with one of their less experienced designers, but were particularly pleased to spend much of our week in Milan with Massimo Gino, one of two original founders of this successful design team. My wife used to work in fashion and she and Massimo really hit it off. Seeing two such creative minds at work together is very satisfying and I know that it will be reflected in the finished product.”
Blackmore has been visiting the shipyard in South Africa during the build. “I first visited the yard when I was in Cape Town on business eight years ago; I wanted to see if there really was quality behind the good looks. Consider the fact that they have built over 40 boats and almost all of them have taken a maiden voyage of some 7,000nm from Cape Town to the Mediterranean on their own keels. That’s enough to convince anyone about a quality build.”
His SW 82 Ammonite launched at the end of February and he will take delivery in April. “We’re planning on spending the first summer in the Med, then I want to head over to the Caribbean for the superyacht regattas.”
Blackmore is keeping his eye on another SW 82 that has been cutting a fine figure on the regatta circuit, Grande Orazio.
“We should give them a run for the money. We both have racing winches and a high modulus mast. The big difference between the two boats is that I’m having a lifting keel installed. It’s a first for Southern Wind. Jim Schmicker of Farr Yacht Design worked it out so that the bulb is lighter, but when it’s down we’ll have more draft than Grande Orazio. I want to be able to cruise in the Pacific with less draft, but at the same time I didn’t want us to disgrace ourselves in a regatta,” Blackmore adds, semi-seriously.
“We look forward to sailing with Grande Orazio in regattas in Europe or the Caribbean,” concludes Blackmore, with a bit of a grin.