Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Articles from Nedslocker: Aussie Plywood, Frame and Stringer Construction

Over the past year Neil Kennedy had been digging into his vast archive of magazine articles and sending them along to Earwigoagin. These two articles about the introduction of the plywood frame and stringer construction in the 16 footers I find particularly interesting. The 16-footers may be considered the baby brother to the 18-footers but, as Neil points out, in the late 1950's and 1960's they were developing faster than the 18-footers. The Australians (in the 16-footers, the Western Australians) were the leaders in pushing lightweight frame and stringer construction for their performance classes.

Even back in 1959 the plywood they used for the 16-footers was 4 mm., which is really light for what is essentially an open boat. As a comparison, most plywood International 14's of the 1960's (there weren't many - most were cold molded designs) used 6 mm. On Evelyn, the 16-footer, I count twelve stringers over the hull bottom (plus the center plank).

You see a similar surfeit of fore-aft stringers in "Vitamin C", one of the last plywood champion 12 foot Cherubs of the early 1970's.

Photo courtesy of Andrew Chapman

"Vitamin C" on a ripping tight spinnaker reach.

Photo courtesy of Andrew Chapman


Dieharddinghysailor said...

I wonder how many seasons they'd hold up....! Guess it doesn't matter, as they'd probably be building to the latest design within a year or so....

Tweezerman said...

At least from my experience from the Classic Moths, the plywood Moths from the 50's and 60's eventually had the plywood check, water get in, then the plywood was then a goner. Many restorations of the Vintage plywood boats, mostly Ventnors, have had the hull plywood replaced. The introduction of epoxy has alleviated some of that problem.

Chris Thompson said...

The 16 Footers led the 18 Footers in the development race for many years, although that's been hidden by popular mythology that's grown up. As early as 1908, the 16 Foot Skiff type 18 Footer Oweenee was leading the Sydney selections for the 18 Footer nationals when she was banned from the last race for being too narrow. The battle to let the narrow, light 16 Foot Skiff style 18s into the class continued for over 30 years with boats like Aberdare and The Mistake.

In 1955, my dad built the hard chine 16 Daring, which took the southern zone championship and therefore became the first chine 16 to win a title. She was inspired by the Gwen 12 as Dad and his sailing partner Kevin Shepherd were both former Gwen champs, and VJ sailors before that. It was another indication of the enormous impact the lightweight dinghy types like VJs and Gwens had on skiffs - an impact that has been sadly forgotten in the modern rush to call anything light and fast a "skiff" in a way that ignores the fact that dinghies are generally more progressive.

There's a fair number of 30 to 40+ year old lightweight ply boats around. The fact that they were cheap and easy to build meant that they were regarded as more disposable than something like a classic 14 Footer, and the fairly loose class rules meant that the shape normally became outmoded quite quickly.

Unknown said...

Cool stuff!
The impulse to bend plywood and go fast, like hope, springs eternal!

Tweezerman said...

Chris, thanks for the historical update. Ian Smith, in a talk when the Historical 18-Footers were over, said much the same. As you said, it was the Aussie dinghy classes that jumped on plywood construction after WWII. Interesting that you say they were ahead of the curve compared to the skiffs.

Amy, Jeff has built a couple of frame, stringer plywood sail craft; one that won the Everglades challenge in record time.