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The Story of the Peak Dinghy Mk II Enterprise

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How did a small family business go from selling stuff out of the back of a van, to be the ISAF Licensed Builder of the winning Enterprise at the 2015 Nationals?

The Early Days

The seed of an idea

It all started back in the autumn of 2010 when we heard that there was a MKII GRP Enterprise mould that was not being used and we started to think “could we make a boat”.An easy enough idea, but how easy would it actually be to produce a boat that was of a standard and quality that we would be happy to put our name to?

The first surprise was just how big the boat moulds are and how much space they take up. They are not simply an outside cast of the finished boat, but are made from a much thicker and heavier layup on top of which they are braced by a framework of wood and steel reinforcing to ensure that they keep their shape. As well as room for the moulds you also need room for a cutting table and then you realise that you need a serious amount of space to make a boat.

Can we build it?

Once we had collected the moulds and safely housed them in our workshop, the next question we had to find the answer to was what precise materials do we use, how much and where do they go. The first place we looked were the class rules together with a full set of all the plans available from the Class Association.

These proved useful in telling us some information such as; permitted resin type, thickness and type of core, material make up and thickness and the maximum permitted thickness of the floor and sides of the hull. On the face of it that’s a great deal of information, but the more we worked through the build process, the more questions were still to be answered.

So we started the search for more information and perhaps not surprisingly it was very thin on the ground. It looked like the only option was to put our own layup plan together, make a boat and then see how it felt and what needed changing; then bin it and make the next one incorporating the changes. We felt that we would probably have to make four boats before we had a boat that we were satisfied with.

Whilst this approach would have been a very interesting exercise and we would have learnt a great deal, it would also consume a great deal of time and money. So we continued to look at other options and then we hit upon a great solution.

Building Breakthrough

For many years the GRP Enterprise had been made by Holt at their workshop in Todmorden this passed on to Speeds who continued to make them in Todmorden and production was only transferred to Speeds themselves for the last couple of years. Meanwhile Chris, Ed and Toby continued making boats in Todmorden, but for other classes and under the name of Woodwind GRP.

Woodwind were pleased to hear about the mould and happy to resume making the Enterprise. So having sorted out the build we needed to obtain the ISAF Builders Licence for which we needed agreement from the Enterprise Class Association.

Our call must have been a strange one for the Class Association to receive. Having seen the ending of boat production at Speeds and faced with the prospect of no new GRP Enterprises, they had worked with Rondar to develop the Mk III. Now all of a sudden it looked like the Mk II would be available after all.

Many months followed whilst we worked with both ISAF and the Enterprise Class Association Committee to gain agreement to our application for an ISAF Builders Licence. This was eventually granted, subject to the first boat out of the mould meeting the strict measurement requirements.

With their years of experience building the Enterprise and our determination from the outset to ensure that the Peak Dinghy Enterprise was as good a boat as possible we made sure that our first boat was as good as it could be, as well as satisfying all the requirements set out in the class rules.

Material Matters

Build quality aside, there was little room for improvement within the existing rules, the only significant change we could make was the use of Vinylester resin rather than Polyester; the class rules only allow the use of Epoxy for the Mk III.

Vinylesterresin sits between Polyester and Epoxy. It is a hybrid form of polyester resin which has been toughened with epoxy molecules within the main molecular structure. It is stiffer and better able to absorb impact than Polyester, it is also less likely to show stress cracking. It bonds to core material much more effectively than Polyester and delamination is much less of an issue.

Vinylester is not as tough or stiff as epoxy, but it’s not as expensive either. There are those who will always favour the use of epoxy, but others will argue that its use is over the top. It is hard to know if people would want to pay over £1000 more when the existing boat won so convincingly at the Nationals?

Built to Spec?

Whilst boats had been produced out of the mould before, as this was the first one for Peak Dinghy it had to be measured by Jonathan Woodward (ISAF International Enterprise Class President) to make sure that it was within the class rules. We were confident that with all the years of experience the team at Woodwind had of building Enterprises the boat would be fine and it was.

The first boat out of the mould

Fit Out

Next came the fit out, a critical part of the build and we were helped significantly here by Tim and Saulty who provided us with loads of fine tuning tips. We were also fortunate that our experience running our Chandlery gave us a good knowledge of the right equipment to use. We went for an Allen fit out as we were confident in the quality. This confidence was quickly rewarded when we discovered that the bow fitting was unique to our boat and no longer in production; however Allen were able to make a small batch as they still had the original tooling.

How did it sail?

Tim Sadler and Saulty very kindly offered to sail the boat for us and we were keen to see how it performed. So the boat was fully fitted out and measured and had its first outing at Tynemouth where it performed very well, winning the event. The real shakedown came a week later at the 2013 Nationals at Abersoch where it took a day or two’s fine tuning of the boat before it performed to its full potential.

Following the Nationals we had a post-event review to see if there was anything that we could improve. As Vinylester is stiffer than Polyester Resin we were interested to see if the problem of the centreboard being pinched under high rig tension persisted, sadly it did. So solving that problem became our goal for boat number two.

Boat number two

Once again working with the Class Association and ISAF we looked at ways to solve the problem. We settled on three improvements that we thought would all have a positive effect. These were; to strengthen the forward thwart, strengthen the centreboard case and insert a beam under the rear of the forward deck. The only other feedback from people who looked over our first boat was that they thought we should not have the coloured flashes, so we left those off our second boat.

Tim and Saulty did not get an opportunity to give boat number two a run out before the Nationals, so it was in at the deep end. We were very pleased to hear that the problem of the Centreboard pinching had been solved, brilliant! Also, the boat performed well from the get go, finishing second by only a single point.

Boat number three

Not wanting to rest on our laurels we asked our self the question “is there anything else that we could improve on the next boat?” The answer we felt was to replace the wooden glassed in knees that attach to the inside of the hull and the underneath of the side deck, with flanged GRP moulded knees; thus strengthening the bond between deck and hull.

Again we worked closely with the Class Association and ISAF to ensure that this improvement was permitted. Having got the green light, we set about production of a set of patterns from which moulds could be made. We based these patterns along similar lines to the wooden knees, to complement the styling of the original Enterprise design.

We are very happy with the end result and as I write boat three is undergoing its fit out.

So there you have it. We have taken the old Speeds boat, used a better resin, increased the strength in key areas and at the 2015 Nationals Tim and Saulty won by a significant margin.

We only build the boat and so for a sailor’s perspective here are the views of Tim and Saulty, 2015 Enterprise National Champions


Tim Sadler and Richard Sault 2015 Enterprise National Champions

The National Champions view on the boat.

There are so many things we reckon anyone thinking about buying a new boat should think about, and for us, the following were the most important:

External hull shape – we’ve always preferred the shape of the Peak Dinghy mould, from when Richard started building them at Speeds, and we remain convinced that it’s the fastest hull shape available.

Internal space – I’ve not sailed the Rondar, but Salty has and he says with the raised floor, it feels like there’s significantly less room for the crew compared to the Peak Dinghy. He says it’s so much so, that it’s a lot more difficult to get enough leverage to gybe the boom when there’s any wind and the main is loaded.

Capsize recovery – this is tough one. Salty keeps reminding me that plan A should be to not capsize, but when we think about the impact of a capsize, the (my) jury is still out on this one. For me, there have been too many front of fleet incidents where someone has capsized their Rondar, and haven’t been unable to get onto the centreboard to right the boat for 10s of minutes, which I think is a more significant risk than the advantage of the boat being empty of water if one does manage to right it.

Epoxy .v. Vinylester – it still surprises me that the association won’t let members choose what approved resin to have their boat made from, but we’re perfectly happy with the performance of the Vinylester. I’m told it’s significantly stronger than the Polyester that was used previously, and other boat builders that I’ve spoken with have the view that epoxy shouldn’t be necessary for an enterprise. I guess time will tell, but it’s even easier to be happy with Vinylester when looking at the price difference.

I guess I should also mention what else we have with the boat. We’re really pleased with the performance of the Selden/North rig, which has performed well across the wide variety of conditions we’ve had this year. The Allen fittings you recommended are faultless, and like most people, we’re using Milanes foils, which continue to be as good as they always have been. Wayne at WR Composites makes a neat rudder stock, and it really did surprise me how much weight this saved compared to our previous choice. And of course it’s a double bonus saving this weight from the end of the boat.

Probably no surprise that we’re delighted with our new boat, and look forward to the next.


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