Thursday, June 26, 2008


Cassandra - 30ft Ron Swanson Designed Sloop

Well shipmates when I do my circumnavigation it will be in a boat of this or similar design.

This New Zealand built and owned yacht is the 'Cassandra'. She has a New Zealand sister ship 'Castanet' that was campaigned during the 1960's and was runner up to the famous 'Rainbow II' in the 1969 Sydney Hobart yacht race. She was designed by the Australian yacht designer Ron Swanson. The design is now over 40 years old and in those years this design has been proved both in ocean racing and in high latitude cruising. Her dimensions are approximately 30 feet over all, 24 feet on the water line, 9 foot beam with a 5 foot draft.

Cassandra and Castanet have two other famous sisters as well. One is the 'Cadence' which won the 1964? Sydney Hobart race and the 'Carronade' which completed a brave Cape Horn passage (again in the 1960s)which included a capsize in one of the most dangerous places for sailors on the planet.

One of the keys to the racing success of this design was its ability to maintain consistently good hull speeds in a wide range of conditions. The cruising success of this design is its sea kindly attributes, flush deck, long keel and its strong construction. Incorporated with good load carrying ability, good accommodation for its size, manageable sail area and good turn of speed it would be a good choice for an extended cruise - if you were looking for something small and relatively inexpensive.

The Cape Horn passage is told in Des Kearns book 'World Wanderer - 100,000 miles Under Sail."

"On the 26th March, 1967, just 500 miles from Cape Horn we were awed by what we saw and heard 'beyond the common experience of men'......... Carronade was long past the point of no return and fast bringing up the latitude of the Cape. At the change of watch I remarked to Andy that the Southern Cross was directly overhead. Craning his neck to see it, he said quietly, "Yes we're a long way south." The barometer had been falling for three days without a change in the weather. We had been lucky till then but now silently scanned the weather horizon waiting for the contest to begin. The barometer stood at 28.6, a quarter of an inch from the end of the scale; we shook with uncertainty and tenseness - waiting for the unknown, men fear most. It happened quickly......... " - Des Kearns "World Wanderer - 100,000 miles Under Sail "


Anonymous said...

Hi there.

My Husband Victor Hopwood now owns the Castanet. She was in the Cleveland River for 7 years and is now moored at Pine Harbour. We will be taking her up North to the Mahurangi Harbour very soon where we hope to race her in the Classic Boat Races. She recently raced in the Auckland Classic Boat race but was unable to finish due to gear failure.

Regards Ngaire Hopwood

Alden Smith said...

Thankyou for that Ngaire. I really love the Castanet design. I saw her sistership Cassandra at Gulf Harbour a while ago - she was for sale - if I had been in a position to do so I would have loved to have bought her - I love these little boats, they are great.

wotevr said...

Hi Alden,
I was googling Cassandra as I own her and was surprised to see her photo and your blog. She is a great little ship and I am not disappointed at all having sold another classic NZ yacht, the Tuarangi to purchase her. We still compete in local races and do well on handicap especially when the winds get up. She is still in excellent condition, not far off Cat 1 and awaiting another adventure. If you are in Nelson, let me know and I will show you over her. Incidentally, the design is known as the "carmen class" hence most of the names begin with "C".
Alan Little

Alden Smith said...

Thankyou for your comment Alan, I will certainly take up your offer if I am in Nelson some time, I would love to look on board her.
Yes they are certainly great little boats.

Best wishes and good sailing - Alden

Renfred said...

Hi there. Interesting stuff here. I own a yacht apparently built and owned by Ted Howe and about 30ft long, similar to Cassandra which I think he sailed in the Tasman Solo Yacht race in 1974? I wondered if you new Ted or the boat I now have called "Huka". All the best in your sailing, Renfred Meese.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I have recently bought a Swanson Carmen built 1964 in Perth Australia. I have a set of the Carmen plans signed by Ron Swanson though a little faded. It is great to see her construction details. My Carmen is great to sail down here on the southern ocean.
regards Sue Leith

Alden Smith said...

Hi Sue, I would be very interested in having a copy of the plans of the Ron Swanson Carmen Class - would it be possible to purchase these plans off you - if not, where would I go to purchase them??

David Smith said...

Hi Ngaire,
Loved hearing about the Carmen. We have a Swannie 38 in OZ. But I was really wondering about Victor, is he the same Victor Hopwood who used to be in HUll, UK and who did a lot of fencing? I used to belong to a fencing club, in Hull, with someone of the same name who moved to NZ. I am currently visiting NZ and if it is one and the same may be we could get in touch. Ph. +61401249444.

David Smith

warwick said...

Love the Carmens, I am fortunate enough to own Carmen herself, she has been with me for the last 38 years, a just fabulous boat.

Alden Smith said...

Well, Warwick you are one lucky man - I love the Carmens too - I have read about them for years such as Castanet (she had a successful racing career here in NZ in the 1960s) and Cassandra, a lovely example of the class. I would love to see any photographs of your lovely boat if that is at all possible?

Kind Regards - Alden Smith

Anonymous said...

Hi Sue

Ngaire and Victor Hopwood here owner of Castanet.
We are looking for plans of the Castanet. We would love to know how you obtained yours as we wish to have a copy to frame.
Our email is or phone 09 425 0494 New Zealand or mobile for Victor 021 373 575.

Kind Regards
Ngaire and Victor Hopwood.
Warkworth , Auckland , New Zealand