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RS Sailing 2021 - LEADERBOARD

Development of new fibreglass Zephyr feeds class renaissance

by Zephyr Owners Association on 26 Apr 2016
Rob Ebert sailing - New Zephyr building program Zephyr Owners Association
With recreational sailors being increasing drawn into dinghy sailing, many of the older classes have rejuvenated and are experiencing substantial growth.

The 3.6m Zephyr monotype dinghy is one of the classes undergoing this renaissance, sixty years after being conceived by one of New Zealand's leading designers, Des Townson in 1956.

The early boats were cold moulded using Pinus Radiata veneer, in his fennel surrounded shed in Morrin Road Panmure, and were either finished by Des or by the owners according to a strict one-design. All sails were made to the same pattern lodged Auckland sailmakers Boyd & McMaster.

Sixty years on and the supply of Zephyrs available for restoration is diminishing while the demand for hulls in any condition has increased.

86 boats contested the 2016 Nationals at Manly Sailing Club.

The decision to launch a fibreglass hull, fitted with wooden decks is a move to get more boats available and for the fleets both at club and nationals level to increase further.

Grant Beck is a Zephyr sailor, a former National Champion in the class, and with substantial experience in composite construction.


Beck explains the decision to change to a fibreglass hull.

“The class association which “owns” the Zephyr and controls the build of the boats was no longer able to source the correct timber veneers to build the boats with.

' Various timber options were considered, none of which gave the association the confidence the boats would be class legal, In addition there was a dwindling number of builders available who could build the boats in timber to the quality required and within the price bracket the Association had targeted.

'So to summarise, it was impossible to build the timber boats anymore.


'The best alternative was a fibreglass hull suitable for bonding a timber deck and internal bulkheads, too.

'Greg Salthouse and his Zephyr assistants designed an epoxy, core mat / foam glass laminate that gave much the same structural properties as the triple wooden skins of the timber boats and also had much the same weight/m2.

'Greg cleverly suggested the boats should be infused, a modern technique of introducing the resin to the structural composites by vacuum. This process is very accurate and means the structural and weight differences between boats is tightly controlled. It has further benefits for the owner as the boat comes with a gel coat exterior finish and is as close to perfectly fair as is possible,' Beck explains.

'To ensure the fibreglass boats are strictly to the Des Townson design, the mould was developed from the current timber building jig, in effect a perfect 500 series hull from which a mould was then taken, ” he adds.


The Zephyr Owners Association say they are hugely grateful to the voluntary time and effort, and the high level of expertise provided by Robert Brooke, Marko Scuderi, Brian Peet, Greg Salthouse and Grant Beck in the development and production of the fibreglass hull Zephyr.





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