30-ft stitch and glue Yachting World Diamond racer to join the Round the Island Race on her 50th birthday

  

Greg Dunn and his crew are to celebrate the 50th year of their Jack Holt-designed plywood racer Black Diamond by entering her in the Round the Island Race, raising sponsorship money for the RNLI as they go round (see their Just Giving page), and playing accordions at every possible opportunity.

Black Diamond is a Yachting World Diamond class racing yacht designed by Jack Holt in response to a brief from Yachting World to draw a 30ft keelboat, capable of being home-built.

Like the earlier Mirror dinghy also designed by Holt (with TV handyman Barry Bucknell), the stitch and glue YW Diamond was a deliberate attempt to open up the elitist world of yacht racing to the working man. The YW Diamond was also unusual for its time in that it is a planing keelboat – in that way it was in line with Uffa Fox’s Flying series of designs, including the Flying 15, Flying 30 and Flying 50.

But what about the accordions? Last year, Greg and partner Juliet Doyle founded a company marketing Chinese-made accordions and melodeons fitted with distinctive-sounding Italian reeds – and named it Black Diamond Accordions after Greg’s boat.

So we’re told to expect lots of accordion action before, after and possibly during the race from Greg himself and also from crew member James Delarre, a member of the popular folk-scene band Mawkin.

Greg says Black Diamond has survived until 2012 owing to a restoration that encapsulated the hull in epoxy resin, and will hopefully remain viable for the next 50 years.

Here’s what Greg has to say about Black Diamond:

‘In some ways, she is a Volkswagen, in that her design brief was a deliberate attempt to reduce the elitist image of keelboat racing in what was still the post-war epoch, although I’m sure the ‘you’ve never had it so good’ economy was starting to kick in.

‘Put simply, Yachting World recognised Holt’s use of stitch-and-glue plywood in the Mirror as having potential for a keelboats, and he was engaged to draw a lightweight keelboat capable of being home-built, that would give exciting performance on a modest budget.

‘What he created was the mother of all sportsboats. It does take the best part of a gale to make the hull plane, though, and never wanting to push my old Diamond that hard, I generally suffer by carrying the class yardstick, which definitely assumes planing conditions!

‘The keelboat Holt drew was basically a very large Mirror, but with the sheer line brought up to a bow rather than the pram we see in the dinghy. He also carried the lines including the hard chine that helps in planing well aft, also.

‘He also used the Nordic device of bringing the forestay down well aft of the bow, giving the boat a distinctive skerries-cruiser look.

‘The boats were originally called the YW Keelboat, but changed to the YW Diamond in 1967 to the Diamond. Boat number 1 was Zest, which I have recently seen in a shed in southern Holland, totally original and stripped back to the ply for repainting.

Black Diamond was professionally built (rather than home-built built) in 1962 and this is possibly the reason she’s still afloat, and was restored by a chap called Bob Rule in Portsmouth during the 90s. He encapsulated her in epoxy, and did a good job – I have only had to do a small section of repair under the port chainplates, after a hard winter in the open.

‘There is more of the story at the Bursledon Blogger weblog, more information about YW Diamonds in Australia here, and a very lively video of an Aussie Diamond sailing in 30-plus knots of wind here.

‘I have seen several adapted Diamonds, but the one that takes the biscuit is Saltash II in Brisbane, still a plywood hull, but sheathed, cabined and fenced, with a deep spade rudder, two foot aft of the rudder shown in the plans, a deep bulb keel and faired underwater section, a sugarscoop transom, narrow rigging and 6 feet extra on the mast. She holds the record for the Brisbane Hamilton race, 309 nautical miles in 31 hours!

‘There are many hybrids, as most Diamonds have been fiddled with at some time or other, including mine. The design had great qualities, but back in 1960, underwater dynamics were not then a fully explored science, and the keel and rudder are, quite frankly, disaster areas! I am planning to take the back edge down to a point next winter.

‘I did pay a small fortune to have a carbon fibre rudder designed and moved three foot aft, and this turned her into the last boat in the fleet to drop her spinny – the control we now have is utterly amazing! I’m not claiming to have had the idea: I went to Australia to research the Diamond, where they still race them as a class, with two guys on trapezes, and that was where I discovered Saltash II.’

In fact, the story of Black Diamond, Greg and the accordion business is one for the ‘small world’ file. I remember reading about the boat from Max the Bursledon Blogger’s website some years ago, and I knew Greg from his stand at music festivals and events such as Melodeons & More (some readers may spot someone familiar here). What I didn’t know was that there was a connection. How could I have guessed?

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Damien O’Grady builds Murray Isles’ Aurette dinghy from my book, Ultrasimple Boatbuilding

Murray Isles dinghy built by Damien O'Grady 4 Murray Isles dinghy built by Damien O'Grady

Murray Isles dinghy built by Damien O'Grady  Murray Isles dinghy built by Damien O'Grady Murray Isles dinghy built by Damien O'Grady

Damien O’Grady of the Australian town of Cairns has reported that he’s built Murray Isles’ great little Aurette stitch and glue dinghy from plans included in my book Ultrasimple Boatbuilding, which was published by International Marine a few years ago now.

The Aurette is Murray’s take on the legendary Auray punt (see earlier posts),  and the project has clearly gone well. Here’s a little of what he says about it:

‘Probably the hardest part was early on, fitting the forward transom to the sides – a lot of twisting and manipulating of the ply sides to get them right, and then I had to temporarily screw the pieces together to give me time to get the ties in, and then remove the screws. Also there’s quite a camber on the foredeck, so that took some grunting.

‘Anyway, she’s great to row, and I’m looking forward to sailing her. I have the yard done – the mast is still to be shaped. I have made the sail – making it by hand took a few hours in front of the TV in the evenings.

‘Congratulations on your great book and website – I wish I could persuade some of the jet-ski mob around here to have a go. Actually there is a wooden boat club here in Cairns – http://www.wbac.com.au/ – they have an annual romp up at Lake Tinaroo in the Tablelands (no crocs, no jellyfish, no sharks, but, if you’re lucky, a few barramundi).

‘I’ll send more pics when I get the sail hoisted.

‘Cheers, Damien’

Thanks Damien – it’s always great to hear about successful projects from Ultrasimple Boatbuilding.

João Pereira builds a model Ella skiff

João Pereira builds a model Ella skiff 2 João Pereira builds a model Ella skiff 1

Please forgive me what might seem a bit of self-puffery – but I just love it when people build my little boats, even when they’re models for kids to play with in the shower.

João Pereira’s model of an Ella skiff certainly charmed me, and the Lego people are just about to scale too!

Here’s what he wrote:

Hello Mr Atkin!

I’ve recently come across the intheboatshed web site looking for boat plans and I was surprised by the amount of information available.

The idea of allowing someone to make a model before the real boat was very good.
I tried to build mine entirely with 4mm ply but it didn’t work. The sides didn’t bend easily so I used card-board from a milk carton for the sides and bottom. The frames, deck and gunwales are 4mm ply.

My kids play with it in the shower often because it is glued with Araldite, painted and varnished. I think it is a good test to check for defects and durability.

Best regards from Portugal,

João Pereira

Thanks João! That’s not a bad way to start kids with boats. I hope you go on to build the real thing. If you do, please keep in close touch so that I can help make sure it’s as successful as the bath toy…