Throughout the build of C56 Never Say Never, owner Geoff Gritton has been teasing us with hints of multiple innovations. Following the boat’s launch on Easter Friday, we caught up with Geoff to find out more.
“Coming from a sports and big boat sailing background I was keen to introduce some of the developments in fit out that I’ve seen in other classes. My first call was to BOD Measurer David Chivers, as whilst I wanted to take advantage of what I’ve learnt from other classes, I equally wanted maintain the ethos of the class and the traditional style of the boat.
“Many of the innovations are really just a natural progression in boat equipment and materials. For example the boat has only three hard shackles – the main halyard as it’s locking, jib tack and centre plate – everything else is soft attach, including all blocks.
“It’s been an exciting five months and 23 days, working so closely with boat builder Simon Hipkin who has brought my ideas to fruition and fine tuned them to work superbly without detracting from the traditional look of the boat.
“It’s also been fascinating working with David and analysing the class rules in more detail. Traditional classes tend to follow a pattern purely on the basis that ‘we’ve always done it like this’, but this time with David’s help, each item was assessed against the Class Rules in detail. Some of my ideas had to be modified, but interestingly it also revealed a few areas where the current rules are not as clear as they might be. But with Simon and David’s help we’ve navigated the mine field and I’m thrilled with the finished product.”
Starting from the transom Geoff takes us through each of the significant developments:
Wooden Transom – for the first time a 4mm plywood inset panel was placed into the mould after the gel was applied but prior to lamination to give the appearance of a traditional wooden transom. The finished result is even better than Geoff had hoped and certainly makes Never Say Never much harder to pick out from the wooden boats.
Stainless Steel Winch Assembly – With John Saker’s help Geoff took the opportunity to develop a new stainless steel centreboard control winch, replacing the traditional bronze. John had made a new stainless steel wheel for C51 Grethe in 2015 to resolve the issue of the bronze castings binding, but this was the first all stainless winch.
Rudder Assembly – To prevent the long term stress issues which have caused a number of rudder stocks (which are made in two parts) to separate, a carbon fibre band has been wrapped around the head of rudder stock. The rudder lift control line dead end is moulded into tiller, the line ten goes through a channel built into the rudder stock immediately
below the tiller, rather than through the traditional cheek block on the side of the rudder. This makes no practical difference to it’s operation but is much neater and makes one less thing for the mainsheet to snag on.
Mainsheet Horse – the mainsheet horse is constructed of stainless steel in the traditional style with the normal fixed end stops. To createstops at the current 300mm spacing, the underside of the horse has dimples and there is a pair of adjustable stainless stops which are held in place by knurled screw nuts which locate into the dimples. In recognition of a possible future rule change to allow the stops to be closer to the centreline Geoff has also added dimples closer to the centreline which are currently plugged to prevent use.
Mainsheet System – the mainsheet system is effectively as standard with the exception th
at instead of having strops or or a sail cloth sleve of some type to prevent the dangling mainsheet from strangling the helm in manoeuvres, the mainsheet leads from the final aft block, into the boom and then back out again just prior to the lead block to the mainsheet jammer. In addition Geoff has chosen a tapered mainsheet.
Thwarts – over time, the position and number of thwarts in the BODs has varied. Early boats were built with a single aft helm’s thwart and then a pair of thwarts port and starboard approximately half way down the centreboard case were added. There was a period post second world war when the class experimented with removing the thwarts by centreboard case completely. Perhaps unsurprisingly this resulted in a certain amount of torsional twist on the now unsupported centreboard case and in order to rectify this the thwarts were reintroduced. When Avocet was built in the 1980s Malcom Goodwin introduced an additional pair of thwarts at the forward end of the centreboard case and moved the original central pair to the back of the case. In recent years this has become the norm and is of help in the wooden boats in securing the integrity of the case. The initial GRP BODs continued this practise, however the GRP construction means the centreboard case does not require this level of support so Geoff has returned to the original design with a helm’s thwart and a pair of thwarts in the middle of the centreboard case. To ensure the forward end of the case remains secure Simon has laminated in two supporting knees.
Clearing The Decks – at first glance the one big difference between Never Say Never and her predecessors is just how clear her decks are. Key to achieving this were:
G-Nav – the starting point for clearing the decks was the introduction of the G-Nav kicker system. This above boom system is already tried and tested in many classes and in the BOD it helps considerable to minimise the issue of limited crew space in the front of the boat – much to the approval of C56’s crew Derick Gentry and Chris Walker. To strengthen the mast to take the added pressure where the upper end of the G-Nav attaches to the mast, the mast is internally sleeved with a strengthening tube. There is a three to one purchase inside the boom, from there the control goes through the mast end of the boom, down through the deck, to a turning block at the bottom of the mast and into a four to one cascade system along the starboard side of the centre plate. The adjustment is led both sides of the centre plate to a pair of cleats on the thwart on the centre plate.
Having created this extra space it allowed Geoff to take a new approach to the deck layout.
Jib Sheet Controls – initially the jib sheets look to be a conventional two to one setup, with the exception that the block is attached with a soft shackle. From there however, instead of the typical deck mounted turning block and cleat, the sheet passes through the deck, around a pair of blocks including a ratchet and then through the cockpit combing via a carbon fibre tube onto a custom made cleat fitting.
Runner Controls – again the runners initially look quite conventional, however, the control line now runs through the deck, around a pair of turning blocks and exits the cockpit combing to another custom cleat fitting approximately two feet forward of the aft end of the track, enabling both crew to more easily operate the runners.
Spinnaker Halyard – having had the opportunity to sail C52 a number of times last year, Geoff realised that one of the most unnerving moments in a BOD can be steering through a crowded weather mark rounding with just the very end of the tiller (which does not protrude far) clamped between your thighs and hoisting the spinnaker at the same time. Having used pump action spinnaker halyards in the past, he installed one on Never Say Never. Initial trials prove this to be very effective. Alongside the pump action spinnaker halyard, Geoff has opted for twin poles using the same system as fitted to Eider last year.
Control Lines – the cunningham, outhaul and kicker all lead back to the helmsman and can be adjusted from port and starboard with cleats located on the aft face of the centreboard thwart. Because this thwart is two feet further forward than previous GRP boats it is easier for both helm and crew to operate. The centreboard, spinnaker pole up/down and in/out and jib halyard controls are all located on a bank of Spinnlock cleats under the aft edge of the foredeck.Jib Cunningham – Geoff has refined the jib cunningham system used by Steve Heppel on Aina by leading the control line down through a custom bow fitting, through a watertight tube in the forward buoyancy tank and out to another cleat on the cockpit floor.
Toe Straps – rather than the conventional two part toe straps, with one section for the helm and a longer section for the crew, Geoff’s toe straps are in three separate sections, one for each crew, to prevent the problem of the heaviest crew dominating the position of the strap.
Self Bailers – there have been a number of experiments with self bailers over the years, but for the first time Geoff and Simon have taken a new approach. The first step was to solve the problem of how to contain the water in the area of the bailers to enable them to work efficiently. To achieve this the floor boards were used to create a pair of sealed floor compartments port and starboard with drainage channels along the centre line and outboard. The bailers are located at the forward end of the side tanks on the turn of the bilge, and there is drainage reservoir between the sealed floor sections enabling the water to naturally settle by the bailers.
Having launched and now sailed the boat for the first time, Geoff’s closing comment was “The boat felt very well balanced and powerful and I’m really pleased that everything worked straight out of the box. Of course there are a few bits and pieces still to sort and I’ve already spent a couple of hours trimming ropes to length and fiddling with little bits and pieces – but that is the part of the joy of owning a boat surely!”