Early Boat Building Continued
Building the moulds and facing a hand full of pending St Francis catamaran owners called for a change in plans. I would have to postpone my desire to go sailing. My wife stressed the need for the kids' education and a stable home.
In the initial growth phase, we discovered that building and selling a hull, deck and bulkheads was easy however, the most costly and time consuming phase is the finishing.
BOATS LINED UP TO BE FINISHED
As a result of all the additional work it meant that we would have to expand the factory. The easiest solution was to add on to the sides and the back. The hull and deck moulds each required a storage space of 10×20 metres plus building space for a least 2 boats and storage space for materials and equipment. Although this was a slow process we finally built a work area of approximately 4000 square meters including offices.
Many of our clients, who possibly like me, thought that finishing off a catamaran was easy, brought their boats back to be finished off. This resulted in a three year delay in our production time.
Our First Boat named "Splendidum" was sold to Andy Buys. South African's super bike ace and raining champion. An interesting jolly character who wanted a change of scenery.
One evening, just prior to the launch, alone in the factory I embraced "Splendidum's" bow. This was originally my boat, I had toiled and dreamt about her for 2 years and now had to say good bye. I believe that good boats have a soul.
St Francis Bay is one of South Africa's unique wealthy holiday resorts that extends down to the Kromme River Estuary, a tidal stretch of water that extends inland for about 7 miles. There is a canal system off this estuary where we planned our launch.
The time chosen for the launch was a high spring tide at approximately 3pm. Launching is a joyous occasion and being our first it was attended by most of the local residence, including the police and fire brigade. This event developed into a great party onboard shortly after sunset.
One very happy spectator disappeared through the escape hatch, which in those days was situated close to the middle of the saloon and had been opened for more ventilation. Dripping wet he readily rejoined the party.
EARLY MORNING, ANDY BUYS WASHING "SPLENDIDUM" AFTER LAUNCH PARTY
At the next spring tide, approximately 14 days later, we motored over the KromRiver bar into the Indian Ocean, headed 60 miles east for the Algoa Bay Yatch Club in Port Elizabeth, where we would be fitted with mast and sails.
MOTORING TO PE FOR MAST & SAILS
As visitors we were given a mooring just below the balcony and bar of the Algoa Bay Yacht Club. Naturally our new boat attracted a lot of attention, as most of the sailing fleet were monohulls with only one other catamaran about the same size. She was called "Jingle Bells". A new Simonis design, which had been actively sailed and held the best times recorded in all the previous years racing calendar. 1st Boat in the Port Elizabeth to East London Race, 1st around the Island, 1st in the national regatta, etc. She was the epitome of ABYC's Racing machine.
Being the weekend, we stayed onboard, awaiting the mast and riggers arrival on Monday. I spent most of the time proudly showing sailors around including the "Jingle Bells" racing team, all in their matching attire.
Their unanimous opinion was that "our boat is very pretty, but don't expect it to be fast 'Jingle Bells' is fast".
VERY PRETTY BOAT
Curious I was invited onboard "Jingle Bells". She was extremely fine in the bows. The rigging very organized with colour coded sheets etc. Below positively Spartan a racing machine with curtains for cabin doors etc. Again it was voiced that "Our boat is pretty, but don't expect it to be fast – 'Jingle Bells' is Fast"
Having no experience of large catamarans I politely remained silent. It took us until Wednesday afternoon to get the rig up and sails fitted. Geoff Meek of North Sails fitted and checked the sails; he was SA's most sort after skipper, who had many sailing accolades in every kind of boat.
We cleared the harbour, faced into the wind blowing easterly at a steady 15 knots. On hoisting sails, Geoff decided to start with one Reef in the Main. Our first boat had running back stays that came with a very undersized shackle. As Geoff pointed out this would have to be changed.
We started sailing for BirdIsland, about 6 miles north. Looking back we could see "Jingle Bells" leaving harbor and following us. She was slowly gaining. As we rounded the Island "Jingle Bells" overtook us.Their uniformed crew all at their stations grinning from ear to ear. We must have looked a site with the riggers, sail makers, Andy Buys, friends and myself.
At that point, Geoff turned to me pointing at the undersized shackle and said "Do you think it will hold?" to which I answered a resounding "Yes" . We shook out Main reef and gave "Splendidum" her head. She responded and stretched her legs. In no time we were sailing a knot or two faster and overtook "Jingle Bells". Our crew was very restrained hardly daring to believe that we were so easily sailing away from Port Elizabeth's racing machine.
When we reached the harbor at least ½ mile ahead, we were all bubbling jubilantly and poured into the club house crowing how we had beaten "Jingle Bells". Andy Buys (the owner) bought drinks all round.
The dethroned crew did not even appear at the club that night. Next morning Andy placed a bunch of carrots over "Jingle Bells'" bows.
A brief story about Angelo Lavranos & Geoff Meek
Angelo designed a Formula 40 racing catamaran (which looked similar to a 40' Hobie cat. Geoff took it out on its maiden sea trial, being towed out the harbour by a dinghy. He hoisted sail; the catamaran took off and ran over the dinghy. Next going at speed the catamaran jumped over a swell & buried its bows on landing.
The impact broke the carbon fiber mast, ending sea trials. On analysis, the spar maker had not followed instructions, Formula 40 did not take off as a local class, Geoff tired of sailing it, as there was no competition.
Formula 40 racing catamaran