The eye-catching gleaming timber hull of the Peterson 50 Checkmate, renamed Team Hollywood for this year’s Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, attracted plenty of attention within the yard as this iconic vessel underwent significant refit work.
The 50-foot yacht is a 40-year-old IOR Doug Peterson design, built of Brazilian mahogany in San Diego by the illustrious Carl Eichenlaub, and updated in 2000 to make her a fast, competitive racing yacht.
In October 2017, Ray “Hollywood” Roberts bought the boat from the Orange County School of Sailing and Seamanship where she had given great service following her donation by the previous owner.
Roberts then sailed her just days later to a win in her Class in the 53rd San Diego to Ensenada International Yacht Race.
Checkmate sailed from the US West Coast across the Pacific to Australia and cleared Customs at Southport Yacht Club at the end of November, before heading here to The Boat Works on the Gold Coast for a well-deserved overhaul.
Roberts said Checkmate is one of the last cold-moulded wooden boats and unique in Australia. “It’s a showpiece and with her age allowance, we could be half a chance.”
Michael Spies, heading into his 41st Sydney Hobart, was involved in the purchase and putting Team Hollywood together.
“The boat was originally commissioned for Monte E. Livingston who, apart from being one of Hollywood’s first entertainment Lawyers, was also one of Howard Hughes’ attorneys. He and his firm partner raised the funding for The African Queen staring Humphrey Bogart.”
While it’s too early to forecast the weather, he said given the impressive pedigree of the yacht, her history of ocean racing and the experienced crew onboard, she is in with a “fighting chance” come Boxing Day.
“That’s the purpose of the exercise,” said ‘Spiesy’, referring to Team Hollywood’s eye on the prize. “There is no other boat like it. She’s a bit of an orphan in this race, which is good. It means we can run our own race, put our head down and get there the quickest way. If it all comes together, we could win.”
Joe Goddard, owner’s representative during the refit onsite, will also manage the boat post-Sydney Hobart, when it will be berthed at Sydney’s Rozelle Marina and used as a training boat for the next generation of sailing talent.
“You don’t see boats like this anymore. The stern is a lot fairer than the usual Peterson boats, making her a narrower, faster boat. It’s a middle-aged boat, but she is incredibly beautiful and fast. During the refit, we must have taken 500kg of junk off her, and with her new sail wardrobe and professional crew, with her IRC rating, she has really good odds.”
The crew comprises Skipper Ray Roberts, British yachtsman Conrad Humphreys, David Chapman, considered the world’s number one Tactician, and what Spies described as “a good mix of old fellas who’ve been around the block”.
“We have a good group with experience, seamanship, engineering skills and sailmakers – people who can fix it if anything goes wrong during the race,” he added.
Preparation was undertaken at the Gold Coast yard, chosen for the expertise of its on-site trades, among them Greg Christie at Everything Marine who oversaw the project and his shipwright, John Lyons, ex-McConaghy.
Greg was thrilled to work on such an iconic yacht, saying “she’s absolutely beautiful! Triple diagonal mahogany, made by hand using very different techniques from today’s modern boats. It’s completely unique”.
The team at Everything Marine completed a massive list of checks, replacements and enhancements.
“We did a steering check and replaced some of the components, we unstepped the mast and serviced it, installed racing sails, did a full rig check, serviced the engine, propeller and shaft, internal repairs, a touch up to the clear coat and the antifouling. Plus we refaired the keel and rudder so she’s slippery ahead of the great race.”
Greg, who has built boats, worked on masts and rigging his entire career and undertaken “umpteen Hobarts”, said a team of nine worked around the clock to get Checkmate ready for her return to water.
“It was all hands on for a total of 10 days from haul out, which is a remarkable turnaround.”
The Boat Works was selected for this specialist work based on its reputation for getting the job done, economically and to tight deadlines.
“I have worked for shipyards on five continents and I can honestly say nothing comes close to The Boat Works,” said Greg. “The management’s eye for detail and attitude of going that extra mile benefits tenants and customers.”
Michael Spies was generous with his praise for the team at The Boat Works, saying “It is always a pleasure and also rare where the tradesmen, staff and contractors have the same amount of passion as we do.”
Checkmate, now Team Hollywood, completely spick and span, race-ready and raring to go, will be a magnificent sight to behold, jostling for position among the maxis at the start line. Her stint at The Boat Works more than preparing her for the rigours of the 630-nautical mile (1,170 km) bluewater race.
“All that’s left to do now is get her racing certificate and she’s away! It has been a pleasure and a privilege to work on Checkmate/Team Hollywood. Everyone who sees her is captivated.”
The Boat Works, 1 Boatworks Drive, Coomera.