Thursday, July 17, 2008

CN 55 Eager

Fiber reinforced plastics, FRP, transformed boat building more than any other single technology. Prior to FRP, small yachts were built individually, mostly from wood. The earliest fibers used in FRP were fiberglass, which was discovered serendipitously by Owens Corning in the 1930's. The first frp composites production molding followed soon thereafter. Although today frp can be made with fibers made from different materials (eg., graphite, polyester, boron, etc), fiberglass is still used as a shorthand for anything made from frp.

'Fiberglass' was the perfect material to meet the nascent demand for mass produced pleasure craft back in the 50's. The first successful molded frp production sailboat was the Pearson Triton, which started production in the early 60's. Twenty eight feet long, the Tritons were relatively small and easy to mass produce (there are over 700 of them), and were so solidly built that most of them are still around today (in fact, Bobby Botha, one of the workers on the Cangarda project, recently attempted to single hand one back to Kiwi). Like the Triton, many other old production boats were very solidly built...they still look great and can function just as well as they did when new. There's even a name for them, Plastic Classics.

Eager (ex-Lutine) is undergoing a total rebuild in Jeff Rutherford's yard (which we call Tire Barn for the faded logo of a former tenant). It is a Camper and Nicholson 55, one of the first large, production fiberglass sailing yachts built in quantity. The Nic 55 was a popular and successful ocean racer and cruiser through the 1970's and has a cult following today. Unfortunately, Eager, like many yachts of that era, was built with a plywood core in the deck and cabin trunk ... it's amazing it lasted as long as it did. Hence, the vessel is getting an all new deck and cabin. Here's the deck mold, which Tony and the crew built using the old deck as its core:

With the deck removed, it's a whole lot easier to build a new interior from the top down, rather than passing every little bit in through the companionway. This is how any new custom yacht would be built today. Unlike a house where the roof is put on as early as possible, the deck is put on after the interior, wiring, plumbing, mechanical systems, etc are largely complete.

It will has entirely new interior and deck arrangements. New bathrooms, new staterooms, new engine, mechnicals,new carbon rig...everything new, new, new. Here's our new exterior arrangement. Underbody will be unchanged, except for a new (improved) rudder and skeg.

Is it worth it to renew/rebuild a plastic classic? Well, people choose to do different things with their money (some people may choose to pay the rent, or buy canned goods and medicine instead), but, in spite of the new rudder and rig, it's probably not if measured by cost/performance measure.

1 comment:

matthew geyman said...

Do you have an update on Eager's rebuild? I purchased her from Lloyds of London and renamed her Acclaim ( It's wonderful to see that she's being taken such good care of.
Anything you could tell us (or images) would be most appreciated