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Greg Elliott- From Sports boats to record holders and cruising tourers

by Richard Gladwell on 24 May 2011
Elliott’s cruising designs are designed to be sailed by just a single crew. Elliott Marine www.elliott-marine.com

Latterly top New Zealand designer Greg Elliott has been better known as the creator of the Elliott 6, the Womens Keelboat to be used for the 2012 Olympics.

Designing the Olympic keelboat is another tick in a list of many boxes for Elliott - who began designing in his teens.

He started out as a boat building apprentice - a five year exercise which included a design stint at Auckland Technical Institute. His first design was a 26fter named Outsider, which was very successful, and the commissions flowed from there.

Elliott's name has become synonymous with the sports boat match race genre. The first in that line was the Elliott 5.9 - a very quick little boat which paved the way for the development of club racing fleets.


The Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron led the way with their project to built a fleet of 10 of the Elliott designs, and use those to create its highly respected Youth Program. Led initially by multiple America's Cup PRO, Harold Bennett, the program offered a great option for youth sailors to receive two or three years of solid training, and many top match racers and America's Cup sailors and helmsmen came through its ranks.

Elliott expanded his thinking in that area, producing several editions of the quick sportsboat cum youth trainer in the 5.9 to 7 metre length range including the Olympic Elliott 6 Metre.


He's got a simple design philosophy: 'I'm an enthusiast - it's been the racing side of things that has kept me in there. And naturally fast hull shapes has been a big thing for me.'

He's not big on rating rules - the way he pronounces the acronyms IOR, IMS and IRC is the give-away. Like biting a sour apple.

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'During all this time, I just been designing fast boats', he adds. He admits to doing a couple of designs aimed at the IMS rule. 'They were pretty competitive, actually. I had about six of the 40fters like Sassy, which represented New Zealand in the Kenwood Cup - we won that year - the first time for a while.'

'They were fast boats, but at the end of it all the rule wasn't fast enough for me.'

The Coastal Classic has been long regarded as the drag race of New Zealand sailing - at 120nm it is a good speed test. At one stage Elliott designs held the records at all overall length levels. Enough said.

'Now I hold only one record - with a 30fter which also has the 35 and 40ft record as well', he notes.

Jumping up to the 140ft Trans Atlantic record holder, Mari-Cha IV, Elliott says the principles remain the same. 'I've always been in the lightweight monohull camp'. A 50ft schooner Elliott Marine was the forerunner for the Mari-Cha project. 'And if you look at them - the 50fter and 140fter - they are essentially the same boat'.

'We did all the testing at 50ft, and it scaled up very well.'

Elliott was involved for five years on that project - being the first designer signed, and did all the conceptual design, deck layouts, wind tunnel testing (five weeks ) and tank testing (two weeks). All told there were five involved in the design process.

'But in the end we got the result for the owner - the TransAtlantic record for manually (winch) powered yachts. I struggle to think that her record will be broken,' he adds. 'We also hold the Pacific Cup record of five and a half days from San Francisco to Honolulu.'

The focus on easily driven designs transfers well into Elliott's cruisers. 'Cruising boats to me are about safety, comfort and speed. Once you have sailed what I call the Tourer version, you'll never go back.'


Here it is about layout which marks the distinction of the Elliott design stable. Instead of climbing down into the 'bear-pit' a feature of so many cruising boats, Elliott likes to keep people high in the boat - so you can walk through from the cockpit into the cabin, and keep involved with what is happening outside, from the comfort of within.

'I've borrowed all the good things from racing boats, they have good keels and rudders and right through to the rigs. It might not be as big a market as some of the other caravans that get sold, but I like to have good things.'

The Tourer range starts at a 1250 (12.5metes long) and goes up through the sizes, until the 1750 and bigger which are pretty well one off's. Production moulds exist for some of the smaller sizes.

When questioned as to the target crew size for one of the Tourers, we didn't think we heard right. 'One' is the repeated reply.

'They are designed to be sailed by one person. All the controls lead down aft, and can be handled from the wheel. With a decent auto-pilot you can sail by yourself. that's what you do when you are cruising - even with a family.


'The gear is angled and set up to sailed single handed or with two people. But they are not race boats and are not designed to be sailed off the rail.'

A benefit of the Elliott layout is that all the big items - engine and tankage - are located under the cockpit floor and are central in the boat - for optimum weigh distribution and ease of access.

'It gives the boat a much better motion at sea. We have started to bring water ballast into it - the 1350 has two 900ltr tanks built into either side. Normally you'd only fill one tank and then take it across. Having 900kg of water on one side of the boat works well', he adds.

A 1350 Tourer is currently being finished and will be on display at the Auckland International Boat Show later in September this year.

On the racing side a new 57ft fast cruiser/racer is under construction in Germany. She is a canting keelboat and is due to launch in August. There's a new project about to get underway - a 30ft racer.

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In the second part of this series we talk about the Olympic keelboat decision, the Elliott 6 and other aspects of the sailing scene.

For more on Elliott designs and projects see: www.elliott-marine.com


Women´s Match Race EC-qualifier heavy weather video from MAXsport.tv on Vimeo.






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