Monday, June 30, 2014

Pacer 27

HBYC Pacer 27 Aquamaniac glides around the course double-handed on a quiet Sunday Race

A picture is worth a thousand words! See this great one by Trevor Wilkins, taken during a recent Mykonos race. It went viral in 24 hours. Its a copyright pic but see it on Trevor's site. Nothing shows the spirit of the Pacer 27 better than this pic!

As far as I know, the Pacer range of yachts was conceived by Tim Dykins, CEO of Pacer Yachts. The Pacer 27 was one of the first (Pacers), and it was intended to become a premier one-design sportsboat class in South Africa. And if I may say, it would be a good choice, if costs were no issue. A serious effort was undertaken to get the pacer 27 approved as the class of choice for SA's Lipton Cup - although this was eventually overturned in favour of retaining the L26 class of which there were far more available, far more affordable, and would benefit the cause of youth and "development" sailing better in SA until now. Probably the right call in my view, but very arguable! Certainly the Pacer is a heck of boat - a miniature Volvo 70 - and possibly could offer an aspiration to the adrenaline junkies being drawn into other sports. Its a boat that's good for sailing as a sport - it  creates excitement and passion like few others. Its the perfect keelboat for dinghy sailors.

In fact the Pacer 27 is not a crazy high-tech boat. Its a great sportsboat design in a simple and relatively affordable package. As a one-design, it can afford to be. It has all the right ratios to make it very fast and exciting - but uses an ordinary aluminium mast for example - making it more affordable, durable and accessible all at once. Single rudder. Single spreader. Lifting deep bulb keel. Light and easily trailerable. Large cockpit for great racing. Small but useful cabin for occasional sleepovers. Modern high performance looks. Good build quality. Mega grin factor! For sailors, this is a Lotus!

This is a boat that will offer a hugely engaging experience for a few hours, then spit you out with a good few hours bar talk and some incredible memories. I think its ideal for club racing. The large cockpit makes for good team racing, and the broad beam / light displacement ratio rewards the efforts of an active crew. Ideally a young, agile and captive crew with good wetsuits who understand the m.o.b. drill quite well.......

Generally, these boats handle extremely well with no significant vices. The rudder is sensitive and responsive except for extreme angles of heel. Controls and lines are very ergonomic and easy to use. Sailing upwind, one does need to use crew weight as effectively as possible and try and keep the hull fairly level. Downwind - these hulls really excel and can hold full control at extreme speeds - even at 20 knots - although this does take some concentration!

So whats the catch? If I may use the analogy of the Lotus again, this is a specialised vehicle. It's not an offshore racer. Fine for Mykonos, but not Governors cup or Rio. Great for club racing. Is it better than a skiff or a Fireball for the adrenaline junkies? Yes if you want to race on the sea - for those involved in the keelboat club-racing scene - its a damn good option! For protected waters it may be overkill vs a good dinghy. But as a high-performance trainer for seagoing adrenaline junkies, its hard to beat. Its a very manageable trailer-sailor too.

I have sailed regularly against Pacer 27s - in the HBYC club races, as well as several local regattas. They really offer a lot as a class. Perhaps bit stickier than one may expect in light airs, and a bit of a handful in winds over 25 knots (upwind!), they still represent a great concept as a one-design class in SA. I expect this class to grow and continue to do well. 

See the write-up at Pacer yachts here - this includes technical specs etc. Design by Simonis-Voogd.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Guest Posting: Westlawn Institute of Marine Technology

Ed: Following is a guest posting from Westlawn Institute of Marine Technology. Many people reading this website will have some interest in Yacht design, and certainly Westlawn is one of the leading academies for yacht and boat design worldwide. Their list of Students and Alumni is most impressive. For example, see this very interesting article about Westlawn Graduate Bob Buck who designed a brilliant 51 footer for himself...


Westlawn's "Elements" Program Helps Bring Creativity to the Boating Lifestyle

You love the freedom and sense of adventure that comes with boating, but have you ever dreamed of sailing on a boat of your own design? Designing your own boat is more achievable than you might imagine, and we’d like to introduce you to the “Elements of Technical Boat Design” program from the Westlawn Institute of Marine Technology. This school allows those with a love for boating to turn their fantasy of sailing on a vessel of their own design into reality.

If you're interested in getting your feet wet in the world of boat design and want to gain the skills of a professional boat designer, you should take a closer look at the Westlawn Institute of Marine Technology. Since 1930 the school has provided the steppingstones for anyone looking to attain the knowledge and skills of a professional boat designer, and caters to a new class of boat owner; one who wants a more hands on approach to the look, feel and design of their boat.
Design by Westlawn Student Bruno N. Ancic

Westlawn's introductory "Elements of Technical Boat Design" program is a carefully crafted curriculum for those who would like to understand the basics of design but don't intend to become professional small-craft designers. The program can be completed in just a matter of months and gives students a working knowledge of the principles that affect yacht design, including fiberglass design, hull lines, as well as stability and resistance.

This effective and comprehensive program will give students an appreciation of the problems faced by a small-craft designer when developing a successful design. The course includes basic-level drafting and manual drawing, which is done to determine a student's understanding of the subject matter.
Design by Dave Gerr, Westlawn CEO

Westlawn students receive practical, timely, and relevant training. Throughout their time at Westlawn, students will create portfolios to showcase their best and most creative designs.

As a distance learning school, Westlawn is able to offer greater flexibility to its students in that you can study from anywhere and the education is convenient to your busy schedule. You can stay connected as well as discuss ideas and issues with faculty members and fellow students in the school's online forum or via email. Faculty members are always available to answer questions and offer feedback to students.
Design By Westlawn Alumni member Dudley Dix, DiDi 34

If you’re enthusiastic about boating and the industry, and want to bring your creative visions to life, you should consider learning about boat design at the Westlawn Institute of Marine Technology. If you would like more information about how the Westlawn Institute of Marine Technology can make you more knowledgeable in yacht design, please call 207-853-6600 or visit the website at

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Argie 15

I have always admired the Argie 15 - its absolutely beautiful to look at, besides being very versatile and practical. However it wasn't until my friend Nick decided to build one that it really struck me what an amazing boat this is. On first sight - it seemed a lot larger than I had expected and far more beautiful as well. It is after all a hard-chine stitch and glue boat. It has very traditional lines - and the spacious cockpit and high gunwales give it all the sea-cred of a commercial lobster boat. Ample seating and storage - all with a very robust look about it. It looks like more than a dinghy - it really shouts day-sailer or camp-cruiser.....

Short Video Clip of the maiden voyage.

Then come the surprising bits! This boat is amazingly light! Despite its ample size, the 15' hull weighs only 60 Kgs (light weight), compared with say a Sonnet (14'3) at 70 kgs. The Argie 15 is a much more substantial hull than the Sonnet and also more robust - thanks to its frameless stitch-and-glue construction. The other surprising part is how fast it is! Well I suppose it shouldn't be that surprising as it has a powerful rig, good waterline length, a flattish planing stern and low mass..... another example of Dudley's ability to put modern thinking in a traditional package. Admittedly it can never be a high-performance skiff like the Paper Jet - for that it would need suitable sides for hiking out, trapeze, and an open transom. But in moderate conditions it will surprise many other contemporary dinghies, and in skilled hands it can reach amazing speeds.
Spacious hull and sailing cockpit.
This example has the side seats fitted, and the daggerboard option
Versatility is excellent. Its a great sailboat, a comfortable boat to row or motor, and a great picnic boat with its ample and high seating. It moves very easily under a 4Hp auxiliary no matter how laden.

The example shown above has the side seat option - which were added later to the design to make for comfortable sailing. Without the side-seats, the floor below can be covered with a slatted cockpit sole which offers plenty of space for sleeping and camp-cruising. Plenty of stowage in the bow too.

Lovely sharp bow, a bit like a fishing "Panga"!
Seakindly and smooth. Hull works well whilst level or inclined.
The high, flared bow with overlapping gunwales makes it a nice dry boat in a chop.
The Argie boats were originally commissioned by our local newspaper - the Cape Argus. The first one was built by David Biggs - a very well known reporter and columnist on the staff. A man with a well known propensity for good wine, the outdoors, classic motorbikes (and scooters) and good humour! Somehow the brands seem very compatible! 

This was not unlike the case of the Mirror dinghy, conceived by the Daily Mirror in the UK in the early 1960s. Although the orginal Mirror Dinghy is significantly smaller than the Argie 15, the boats share a number of similarities - both are uncomplicated traditional boats intended for home-building in plywood. Both offer the option to store the entire mast within the hull whilst trailering. Both are very easily built using stitch and glue construction - in fact the Mirror was the pioneering design of this method for sailing dinghies  as I recall. The Argie 15 is a much more capable boat in every way and far better looking, although the Mirror dinghy class is by now one of the largest in the world now and has a very active racing fleet. Both have been extraordinarily successful concepts. I suspect the Argie would be easier to build in fact despite its larger size, and Roy (of CKD Boats) tells me it is in fact quite a bit cheaper too. CKD Boats do a very good and affordable kit in Cape Town, although many other suppliers are listed on  

Dudley has full details of the design on his website here.

There is a decent skeg running back to the transom which adds strength,
aids tracking, and makes it easy to beach the hull.
There are two additional runners abeam the skeg which serve the same purposes,
but in addition will allow the boat to sit level on a beach without rocking.
Important for a camp-cruiser!

Transom is fairly high, with space and provision for a small outboard next to the rudder.
Hull is amazingly light and easy to lift on/off a small trailer.

Stability is quite acceptable!
(before someone asks about PFDs this was next to the shore!)
For myself - this will be my next dinghy when time allows. I have already acquired the rig and a small outboard! 

STOP PRESS: Dudley has just now (8 June 2014) added a great article on the Argie 15 on his blog. This contains a fair bit of the history of this boat.