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Builders Report: Building new boats

29 August 2016 Phil Smidmore

First place at Mooloolaba

"First place at Mooloolaba"

Photo by:
Kylie Wilson,

With the process of mould changes complete, we can now concentrate on selling and building the world’s best Etchells, and those who have ordered will soon be enjoying the delights of racing their new boats. Get in quick if you want a new boat for the Jan 2017 Nationals!

Many boats have now installed an electric bilge pump. Note that Class Rules (and many local rules) still require a manual bilge pump (in good working order!) Electricity and salt water have never been good friends, so this adds another item to the maintenance list. All the connections and battery terminals need to be frequently inspected for green corrosion build up, and your bilges must be kept clean to ensure the pump does not become clogged with waste.

The Brolga turnbuckles most boats now use are a fabulous rig-tensioning device. Yet the fact that they allow the shroud wire to twist, as the stay is constantly loaded and unloaded, causes the wire to cut into the spreader tip. As Brolgas have been in use for many years now, the problem is appearing more and more.

Keeping the ball race and thread of the Brolga turnbuckle well greased is also a regular maintenance issue. I have often seen them where the ball race is hard to turn. Often the grease inside the race turns to a black solid material that resembles squashed rubber. Clean them with kerosene or similar and repack with Harken winch grease, which I believe is a better alternative to a lanolin type grease.

The thread also needs regular lubrication with either winch grease or a compound such as Teff Gel. And while you are lubricating, a smear on the main halyard ball and the screw winder step is a good idea. Only ever use a WD40 or CRC type spray on these items, or any ball race blocks or travellers as an emergency if it is jammed. Make sure any such lubricant is quickly and thoroughly cleaned off and the correct lubricant is used.

While on the subject of spreader wear, some boats are using spreaders that can swing. Class Rules and spar drawings limit the swing and define the zero point for swing. Being an aluminium spreader in a stainless socket, there will be wear and the spreader may be swinging more than permitted.

After discussions with Bill Abbott and Bruce Nelson, the maximum recess for the jib car tracks has been ruled at 6mm, which to me is too small to consider, so I have removed them entirely. Our other recesses have been OK’ed to remain as they are. Electronic compasses have been another item for discussion, and it has been confirmed that no function relying on any form of GPS data is permitted. I think the Etchells Class rule is clear, but there is always someone who wants to push it.

Great to see a couple of slightly older Pacesetter Etchells fill First and Second places at the ever popular Mooloolaba regatta this year. Despite what their original owners may have thought or wished, they were both built to the letter and spirit of the Etchells Class ONE DESIGN Rules. Good sailing again won the day.

The windy final day saw a number of gear failures, including a new mast with every item of rigging renewed except the backstay tail and guess what broke? The good news for me was that none of my mast levers were amongst those that bent. It is reaching around during the pre-start time that places the lever under greatest pressure, so please give it a bit of an ease during this time.

For those of you who read it, there have been two very interesting debates in Scuttlebutt, both of which are very relevant to the Etchells Class. The first item is Professional vs Corinthian crews, and the second issue is the increasing use of electronic devices on small boats. Both sides of each argument have put great points forward.

We have a number of professionals in the Etchells advising owners on boat equipment, and based on requests I have had to make certain items and build boats certain ways, but they do not necessarily know the Class Rules. It is up to skippers and crew to ensure compliance, and just because something was used at a World Championship does not mean it is legal. Logistically, it is just not possible to measure every item on every boat at a Worlds, but I know that Bill Abbott’s intention is to measure more items on more boats.

Good Sailing,

Phil Smidmore.


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