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Solo

Vessel Number: HV000491
Date: 1955
Builder: Vic Meyer
Designer: Alan Payne
Dimensions:
Vessel Dimensions: 17 m x 15 m x 4 m x 2.4 m, 26 tonnes (55.78 ft x 49.22 ft x 13.12 ft x 7.87 ft, 25.58 tons)
Classification:Vessels and fittings
Significance
SOLO is a steel yacht built in Sydney, NSW in 1955 by its owner Vic Meyer. From late 1955 to 1965, SOLO was one of the dominant racing yachts in Australian waters, and set records that still stand 2011. Built as an ocean cruising yacht, it became famous as an ocean racer with a number of victories and high placings in the Sydney to Hobart yacht race and other offshore events on the east coast during the 1950s and early 1960s. It was one of the early designs by naval architect Alan Payne and helped establish his career as one of Australia’s best yacht designers. SOLO remained in the public view when Meyer then took the boat on many cruising voyages, always with an all-girl crew, and again later when it was bought by entrepreneur Dick Smith and sailed to Antarctica by modern-day explorer David Lewis. Throughout its racing, cruising and exploring career it achieved widespread coverage in the media. This created significant public awareness of the yacht, and helped it toward a successful period in tourism operating as a charter yacht from the mid-1980s onwards.
DescriptionThe design brief for SOLO given to naval architect Alan Payne was for a strong, fast, long distance cruiser. Meyer was a Swiss engineer who operated an iron foundry and was completely familiar with steel construction. Meyer built the 17 metre long SOLO at the foundry in his spare time over a two and half year period.The hull was made of large, pre-formed 3/16 inch ( 5mm) steel plate which gave it a smoother surface that other steel yachts, and the decks and superstructure were made of 1/8th in (3mm) plate. It was fitted with a 75 kw (100hp) Perkins diesel, and rigged as a cutter. It had long overhangs to keep the decks dry, and carried a bigger rig than normal for better performance in light winds. Payne favoured this style of vessel for ocean sailing as it combined strength, sea-kindly behaviour and speed.

Meyer named the yacht SOLO after his Swiss home town of Solothurn. It was launched in June 1955 then finished off and rigged at the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia. Not long after launching SOLO commenced a racing career that extended for almost 10 years. During that time SOLO won over 80 different races skippered by Meyer. It won the Sydney to Hobart race twice on line honours in 1958 and 1959, and twice on handicap in 1956 and 1962. It also won the Brisbane to Gladstone race five times. Success however happened only after more ballast was added quite early on in its career so it could handle stronger winds better. This brought the hull down on its lines and reduced the freeboard. To give the foredeck crew more protection in heavy seas, Meyer plated in the pulpit at the bow, giving the yacht an unmistakable profile which it retains in 2011, recognised as an essential part of its history. It was launched and forst raced as a cutter, but later changed to a yawl rig.

In 1962 SOLO went on its first major cruise with a 13 week circumnavigation of Australia. From 1965 – 1975 SOLO under Meyer's command undertook several Pacific cruises and three world circumnavigations covering over 300,000 nautical miles. It was driven ashore in stormy conditions in Punta Arenas, Chile on the Patagonian peninsula in the late 1960s. Always the practical man, Meyer’s reaction to the damage was to put SOLO on a ship bound for Germany where he worked it back into shape and then resumed his cruising.

In 1977 SOLO was purchased by the Oceanic Research Foundation, an entity sponsored by Dick Smith to carry out privately-funded scientific research on the Antarctic continent. The 8-person expedition was led by Dr David Lewis, a famed New Zealand sailor who had already sailed single-handed to the Antarctic continent in his 10 metre sloop ICE BIRD. Scientists, mountaineers, a Nordic explorer and an ABC cameraman made up the complement. Solo Harbour, on Sturge Island, the largest and most southerly of the Balleny Group of islands and just inside the Antarctic Circle was named during this expedition and is now noted on the Admiralty Charts.

The ABC documentary, “A Voyage to the Ice” and a book with the same title written by Dr David Lewis were produced from this Antarctic voyage. SOLO went north after this on a Torres Strait expedition in 1978 also sponsored by the Oceanic Research Foundation. Dr David Lewis was later awarded a Fellowship of the Australian Institute of Navigation, a Fellowship of the Royal Institute of Navigation, the gold medals of both Institutes, and the Superior Achievements Award of the American Institute of Navigation for his overall work studying early Pacific navigation techniques and his wide experieince with exploration in small craft.

In the mid-1980s SOLO was sold and entered the tourist market in the Whitsundays where it operated for 10 years as a day charter vessel. In 1995, SOLO was brought to Manly Queensland to cater for the leisure and tourist market, sailing to Moreton Island four days each week. For over 25 years, SOLO has been a significant tourist attraction for the local and overseas tourist and leisure market both in the Whitsundays and Moreton Bay, where it remains operating in 2011.

Vessel Details
Ballast:external
Ballast:lead
Cabin or superstructure material and construction:steel/iron
Current status:floating
Current status:operational
Deck layout:cabin
Deck layout:decked with cockpit
Deck material and construction:steel/iron
Hull material and construction:steel
Hull shape:displacement
Hull shape:monohull
Hull shape:overhanging stem
Hull shape:overhanging transom
Hull shape:round bottom
Keel/centreboard/rudder type:full keel
Keel/centreboard/rudder type:keel hung rudder
Motor propulsion:auxiliary motor
Motor propulsion:diesel
Propeller:single
Rig type:sloop
Sail cloth:synthetic
Spar material:aluminium
Hand propulsion/steering mechanism:wheel

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