- Thursday, 13 December 2007 18:30
From Alistair Skinner in Shanghai
Some time ago, I shipped my Bolero '4 Dragons' out to Shanghai. She has an inline rig with runners and is a pure joy to sail but over the intervening 3 - 4 years a germ began to grow.
My soon to be wife, Li Li has also caught the sailing bug so wouldn't it be cool to be like the Mortons(!) and then we cold have a boat to race against here in China. So feelers went out to Hong Kong and Japan for a cheap second hand quarter tonner. There had to be one or two, the Worlds were over this way a few years back. Then a mate told me where there was a new one, never sailed. Didn't fall for that one, bound to be a wind up....
There was...., he assured us, built in the same yard that produced two of the Hong Kong team that had come third in the '77 Admiral's Cup.
Still doubting, Li Li visited the yard, now largely just a sevice base for the owner David Lieu's 200 ft motor yacht 'Van Triumph' and she took some photos. When I saw them I knew I had to visit.
I walked into the shed where the boat had sat under a sheet for 25 years determining to spend a couple of hours and fine tooth comb looking for dents, gouges - the sort of thing that 25 years of neglect would produce, but in actual fact 10 minutes told me she had been well looked after and cared for in the corner of the huge shed. Her rig was complete with an IOR hand built maxi depth boom and a Proctor mast still in its brown slightly oiled tape wrapping and in the delivery crate - 2 spreaders, rod rigging, runners and checks - here was a proper little IOR race yacht.
She had originally been drawn as Dubois No 55 (Shiny Shovel) just 5 before the landmark No 60 'Police Car' which had been part of the victorious '79' Australian Admiral's Cup team (and many other things beside). Shiny Shovel originally had a centreboard which proved less than ideal so Ed Dubois was asked to draw a modification with fixed keel and our boat was born.
She has been built with a full Airex foam sandwich hull, a lead keel with a touch of Antimony for hardness, has had the tracks and winches fitted but not even the hole has been cut in the deck for her keel stepped mast so we have in reality found a '25 year old brand new Quarter Tonner' (no you can't have her - she's not for sale - just sail....!).
Ed Dubois's design office were incredibly helpful and found her original plans which I was happy to pay for (14 sheets) and we pored over them when they arrived and these proved incredibly valuable when we visited Frank Gerber at North Sails (UK) to order a set of sails. We currently have a main, 3 jibs and 2 kites in build through Frank designed partly off plans, partly off measurements of the rig-less boat and partly through photographs.
Stan Cockeram of Harken was enthusiastic with his advice of which size wheels to place where and his help was invaluable. The only piece we decided to replace was the main track as having a windward sheeting car on the current boat we felt we couldn't go back to something lesser on the new one.
Tacktick have also been very helpful and she will sport a full set of their wireless gear.
She will be completed at Far East FRP, a dinghy builder here in Shanghai and frankly I have been amazed at their skill and care. She will however remain unmodified as I think a find like her deserves to be rigged as original and I am sure she will still be an IRC flyer.
Her sister is already there, at the yard, getting a makeover an aging Hollywood starlet would be proud of. I expected them to tart her up but they are giving her the boat equivalent of liposuction, tummy tuck and facelift all at once.
First public appearance will be at the Shanghai International Boat Show so the locals can see a couple of 'proper' sailing race boats amongst the cruisers, dinghies and stink pots then into Chinese waters.
Boat boats will be weighed and IRC certificates will be obtained and we intend to work the boats and crews up and compete in next years China Cup in Shenzhen, the first real big boat regatta in China which had its inaugural running this year.
Next project? I hear Shiny Shovel is about somewhere looking very sorry for herself and there are bound to be one or two in Japan. We may as well help teach people how to sail on proper tweaky little boats, everything else for them after that would be simple.
Yep - I suppose I am 'Still Crazy after all those years'.......
Alistair Skinner and Li Li