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In 1984, Matt Fairbrass, a teenager at the time, found her in scrap dealer Fred Brough’s yard on Brimley Road. Young Fairbrass purchased her and began the restoration with his father’s help. Fortunately, the scrap dealer had saved all the hardware with the exception of the maker’s plate, which had been missing when the boat passed to his hands. The restoration proved to be more monumental than the young man was prepared for and when his father passed away, the boat was gain offered for sale.

The assignment was very large and became onerous so the project was put up for sale in 2000 and Rick McGraw seized the opportunity to fulfill a dream of his to own a large Gold Cup race boat. He retained Peter Breen to complete the work and after 24 months of continuous effort, HELDENA II was re-launched in May 2003.
Peter Breen and his staff did a wonderful job of restoring Heldena II to its former glory and magnificence. From the outset there was a determination and discipline to restore every detail of the boat. His work was made a little easier than normal because the boat when he received it was straight and not twisted and it came with extraordinary documentation. Historical photos were enlarged and mounted on the wall of Peter’s shop and constantly referred to. New seats were patterned exactly after the old ones and built the same way with steam bent mahogany. The seats were upholstered with leather in a diamond tuff style just like the old ones. The old dash was used as a template for size and shape when building the new one. The original stain color was copied from the preserved surface where dash instruments had been.  HELDENA II was built as a luxury launch and not a racer so the one inch mahogany deck planks are tapered, book matched and butt fitted (no grout), then screwed and plugged with dowels, as opposed to leaving the screws exposed, which is the way a luxury launch was made in that era. The covering boards have “key joints” and the cockpit grates are lineal as opposed to egg crate shaped, exactly as they once were. The cockpit and engine compartments have ceilings just as all luxury launches would have had.  The four linked engine hatches were copied from the originals which allowed the mechanic to inspect/adjust while the boat was racing. They were made to fit the rounded shape of the deck perfectly. The cut glass cockpit lighting fixtures as well as the one in the engine compartment are original just like the navigational lights.  The most spectacular piece of hardware on the boat is the over sized bow light with HELDENA II name cast into the fixture. It also serves as the forward deck cleat.

Every aspect of the engine installation and mechanical set up was kept as original or period as possible. It has the original drag link steering system with a lanced rudder. In the water the boat handles beautifully and you can really execute a very tight turns at high speed with little effort. You can also take your hands off the wheel at full speed without any drifting. She has dual tapered shaft struts as the original boat had. There are front and aft fuel tanks that are controlled from the cockpit which were also used to adjust the weight distribution in different racing conditions. The quadrant controlled spark advance is original and active and the throttle control is a vernier aircraft type which allows fine adjustment for the low max RPM Liberty. The boat has a 15 gallon remote oil tank (aircraft engine set up) because the Liberty is a dry sump engine. The tank has an exterior sight gauge for easy monitoring of consumption under any conditions.

The dash has reproduced original gauges and an original ignition switch that was overhauled.  There are two port and starboard original sight ports for fire detection and even the old LUX fire suppression system was buffed up and reinstalled but not activated.
There was a colourful decal on the side of the boat which we think is a harbour license and this was reproduced with the help of computers and has been installed on the boat.  It is really impossible to find differences in the boat when you compare it with the historical photos.
Peter then undertook the next part of the restoration which is getting the boat to perform as it did in its prime. The process actually began very early in the shop with careful consideration of things like fuel tank location and rudder construction. Prop size and pitch, transmission adjustments are the final refinements that are currently being made.

The boat has been run several times and is performing very well. She handles like a dream (at any speed) with no helm in spite of the engine torque. She sound terrific with a nice low rumble. In gear at 350 RPM she moves along at about 8 MPH. The top speed so far is around 40 mph but we expect this will improve another 4-6 MPH with a prop change.

As a final chapter to the saga, it turns out that Helen Miller does not recall ever riding in Heldena II when she was a little girl. She was certainly too young to be around the races. This will be remedied soon, as she has been invited by Rick McGraw to join in the festivities surrounding Heldena II.

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