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J Composites 2022 - J99 LEADERBOARD

Is it a Beiker? Is it a Rocket? No, it's an upside-down Bladerider!

by Mark Jardine 14 Aug 2021 23:45 PDT
Brad Gibson on day 3 of the Wetsuit Outlet UK Moth Nationals 2021 © Mark Jardine / IMCA UK

We've written about, and seen the photos of Brad Gibson's Bladerider over the years, and it's been amazing to see the transformation of the boat, keeping it bang up-to-date and incorporating many innovative ideas. This winter, stuck at home, unable to go to the pub (and enduring the winter temperatures, which isn't easy for an Aussie in the UK) Brad was looking for a project, and boy did he pick one this time!

"I didn't set out for it to look like this! The idea was that I cut the sheer down, but to do it properly I approached A-Mac (Andrew McDougall) to try and get the lines, but for pretty clear reasons he wasn't happy to release those, which I respect. So I had to plot the boat and put it in the hull designing software that I use with my model yachts.

"In the software, by the time I started cutting the sheer down and putting in fixed wings the boat had no buoyancy in, so the wings would have been dragging in the water and the whole project got put on hold.

"I pulled it all apart, everything was measured; I looked at it and decided to have a week off it to have a think about which way to go. I left the boat inside my garage turned upside-down and had one of those eureka moments where I went in after two or three pints one evening, stood there in the doorway and looked at it, thinking 'What should the deck look like?', and I looked at the hull upside-down and thought, 'Well that's the perfect deck!'.

"The following morning I spent an hour on the software, flipped it over, trimmed it, drew another hull underneath it so I could put some buoyancy in it and make a sweeter looking hull shape. Then it was a matter of, 'This is going to be a project and a half... do I do it, don't I do it?' A week later I charged up the Dremel and took off on it! Then for the next six or seven months thought, 'What the hell have I done?!'"

In the end it proved to be the perfect lockdown project and was exactly what Brad needed to keep him sane at a difficult time.

"Being an Aussie from Sydney the weather's usually a bit warmer through October, November and December into January; when you're in 4degrees Celsius in the north of England, the pubs are shut, only one of you can leave the house at a time in the middle of a proper lockdown, I think if I hadn't had a decent project to get on with then I was going to go insane. I probably was insane to take it on, but in the end it was a blessing as it kept me busy. Mentally it was a very good thing to do."

One of the great features of the boat is solid, detachable wings.

"Full credit to the guys with their Beiker boat. It's a similar platform to what they've done, but we've gone for curved wing bars fore and aft, which didn't affect the shroud base too much but did allow the rear bar to go further aft in the boat. Watching Brad Funk trying to tack his boat in the early days at last year's UK Nationals with a long deck sweeper mainsail was certainly interesting. Brad's at the top of his game, so if you get someone inexperienced like me then I was going to spend more time in the water than on it; so I moved the wings back a little bit. I'd seen that Rob Greenhalgh in Australia was doing a similar thing moving his wings back a little bit, so it made a bit of sense.

"As for as the curvature of the wings, in a front-on view, credit goes to Mike Cooke as the ergonomics of his wings are far better looking when the boat is heeled over to windward; it keeps your ankles below your waist, which is a lot more user-friendly. I certainly borrowed an idea from that as well.

"Lots of little things that I think will work. I'm not of the ability that I'll ever show them to their full potential, but it's always good to try! One day we'll put a top sailor on it and see if it's any good!"

When looking at the boat it is simply impossible to know that it's still a Bladerider hull, albeit upside-down and now with solid wings, but it goes to show what a couple of pints, a lot of work and some great carbon skills can achieve with an old hull.

Bravo Brad - the ultimate boat bimbler!

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