The HOD 35 is a little known fleet, but for Major Peter Scholfield they're the perfect cruiser-racer

Among the high profile race yachts and swarms of tiny keelboats at Skandia Cowes Week it’s easy to overlook the cruiser-racers that make up a huge proportion of the fleet. It’s even easier to miss the HOD 35s, which with only six boats attending the regatta tend to fade into the melée. But forZarafa’s owner and skipper Major Peter Scholfield the design offers exhilarating racing combined with seakeeping and practicality rare in a modern design.

The HOD 35 was conceived by Captain David Allen, who had a vision for a 35-foot cruiser-racer, not designed to rating rules but with good seakeeping and practical, seagoing accommodation. Scholfield, who knew Allen and his son, was consulted regarding the design from the beginning, and designer Rob Humphreys was commissioned to realise their dream.

The result was the prototypeHavoc, with six sea-berths – rare in a modern 35-footer. Launched just in time for the 1996 Round the Island race,Havocwon several contests and attracted sufficient interest on the water for an impressed third party to volunteer to buy the next boat to use as a plug for future GRP reproduction.Zarafawas built in western red cedar with a GRP coachroof and deck, and was the model for a further 18 boats, bringing the class total to 20. Unfortunately, the demise of the Bowman and Westerly yards brought production to a premature end, leaving the HOD 35 as a small class, partly scattered in Holland and Ireland.

Asked about the future of the HOD 35 as a one-design, Scholfield was pessimistic: “We did once have a combined Prima/HOD 35 class at [Skandia] Cowes Week, but with so many new classes coming up there’s little chance of a class revival. We could probably get 10-12 boats, but we’d be very hard pushed.” Given Scholfield’s anecdotes from the annual class championship, at which “bloody good fun racing” included one contest where four boats crossed the finish line within 10 seconds, spectators could be missing a treat.

As a result, says Scholfield “we do have our own little pecking order within the class, but we’re most interested in IRC Class 4.”Zarafacurrently holds first place for the HOD 35s, but a respectable third place in the current IRC Class 4 results keeps him going for gold: “there’s a very good French boat [Région Ile de France] with a very good rating, and of course the dreadedJacobite. If it wasn’t for those two we’d be right up there.”

Scholfield’s loyalty to the class is very evident, understandable given his input to the design. Asked about how the HOD 35 coped with the variable conditions this week, he responded: “You never go out and think ‘it’s not our weather’. She’s pretty good round the clock. If she has any ‘best’ weather conditions it’s when it’s really blowing – she’s very stable down wind.”