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Southern Spars

Mackay Boats dominate the Olympic classes

by Richard Gladwell, Sail-World on 15 Aug 2008
Elise Rechichi and Tessa Parkinson (AUS) current overall points leaders in the Womens 470 event race for the finish in their Mackay hull in Race 2. © Richard Gladwell www.photosport.co.nz

In the 470 and 49er classes, there’s a statistic that’s missing from the results sheet of the 2008 Olympic Regatta in Qingdao.

It’s the builder of the boats in these three classes.

Maybe it is missing because it is almost a constant for the top sailors in the fleet.

In the 470 Mens class, Mackay Boats have built an impressive eight out of the top 10 overall. In the Womens 470, it is an equally impressive six out of the top seven, and in the 49er class half of the top ten are from the Mackay stable.

'We are supplying right around the world', explains David Mackay. 'We have boats going to North and South America, and many European countries as well.'

A scan through the top ten results list in Qingdao show that Mackays are sailed by Australia, Israel, Brazil, Austria, Italian, Spanish, France, Portugal, Britain, Netherlands, Greece, Argentina, Denmark and USA.

'In the 49ers we have the current world champion', Mackay told Sail-World before the Olympic regatta. 'Some crews have two boats from different builders, and you don’t know which is going ton be used', he adds.

With the Olympic regatta a week old, the leading sailors in the 49er, 470 Mens and 470 Womens fleets all sail Mackay boats.

'Most of them have been using the same boats for the last 12 months – in the 49er about half would have had new boats since Sydney and the other half would have new boats since the last beginning of the last European season. In the 470’s some have been using the same boat for the last two years. Others have just been supplied directly to China, so there is quite a range on the age of the boats,' he adds.

In a previous era, hulls in the 470 class, in particular, had become almost consumable items. However that is not the case now.

'It depends on who is funding the boats', explains Mackay. 'At that level it can be worthwhile for a sailor to get a new boats and just sell on the old one. Others actually just like their old boats and keep using them. The British guys who won the silver medal, have always sailed our boats. But they have only bought two boats off us in the last four years. They get a lot of use from them'

Historically, the 470 class has been renowned for special boats. One previous builder in New Zealand would regularly have sailors fly in so they could 'supervise' the building of their latest hull.

Mackays don’t do specials: 'I think that is one of the reasons why we have been so successful in the 470’s. We don’t do specials.

'It works for everyone, because they all know that a special is not going to be any faster anyway. We have gone as far as we can go in terms of weight in the ends and strength. Our development is at a peak and we can’t go any further under the class rules in terms of the type of materials that can be used and the construction.

'The laminate has to be a certain thickness and the ribs have to be in a certain position. We have built the boats so that they are strong enough but not overly built.

'If someone wants their boat to be lighter in the bow it is probably going to break, or if they want it stronger in the bow it is going to be too heavy in the bow.

'We are at a point now where if someone came and wanted a special they probably wouldn’t be getting a boats that was as good as our standard. The whole fleet seems to have learnt that over the last four years.

'We often get world champions coming to us and saying 'just build our boats how you normally build them'. And they just leave it at that.

Mackay points out that for the up and coming sailors the 'no specials' policy has the effect that a crew added advantage who is well down the rankings, or just starting out, an ring up and get a boat that is the same as the world champion. 'That has been proven over and over again', says Mackay.

'Young guys who are getting into the class can get a new boat and be winning inside a couple of years like Nick Asher (GBR) who has won two world championships.

Dave Mackay and his brother Owen who run Mackay Boats from a factory, just north of Auckland are continuing a family tradition of boatbuilding. Father Jim Mackay, was a noted Flying Dutchman sailor and built could moulded FD hulls in his Glenfield factory for many years.

David is a former ISAF World Youth Champion, sailing with Chris Dickson. He went on to compete in the 470 and Flying Dutchman classes, represenbting New Zealand in the 1984 Olympics at Long Beach, USA.

The success their boats have experienced in then past few years has lead to a strong demand for hulls leading up the the 2008 Olympic Games in Qingdao.

'A 470 takes three weeks from start to finish. We have two moulds going so are finishing two boats per week. We have capped our production at that', Mackay says.

'In the build-up for this Olympics, 12 months ago we could have built a lot more boats if we had a bigger factory, but we will just lose it if we get too big. We have just got enough guys working on it for Owen and I to keep tabs on it and be personally involved in each boat. Get any bigger than that we are going to lose that level of personal involvement. '

To be continued.
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