We did build them as a joke.
And then we found that they worked.
Finally we found they were more than capable.
This is from the old website and is the moment of truth. A summary of all the answers to all the questions we and others had about our approach to lightweight, big sails and very nice detailing of the sailing bits.
And the test, like always, was on the water.
Peter Hyndman showed me the website and I laughed and told him … “Why would anyone be interested in those”.
He said “read it through”.
Reading it made me realise that the concept of a really simple boat that was cheap was doing what all the sailing clubs and yachting federations couldn’t do. Introducing a large number of adult sailors to sailing.
So that made it worthy.
This was then (and it was great)
But this is now (and it is great too).
But we are Australians! Go Light!
So Peter said he would fund two boats. I said I would design and build them. This is a photo from the first day.
I’d had a bad bicycle accident and was in a bit of a mess. I’d quit my job as too hard (after a year) and went overseas for the first time – so I wasn’t doing anything else. By that time (2005) I’d worked out that Ebay had trained people to buy stuff from the internet so it was time to try a second time to make my boat plans into sole income.
I had very few other options. I couldn’t sit and I couldn’t stand or carry. Except at my own pace.
So “yep, lets build two … but we will do them OUR way”.
Plywood boats in Australia (NZ and South Africa too) had an extra 25 years of development compared to most Northern Hemisphere countries. They had jumped from near traditional building to fibreglass production. So there wasn’t a chance to explore light weight.
Australia, New Zealand and South Africa only had small populations, making the setup costs of fibreglass production difficult.
So we continued with home building boats. A couple of decades of development and brilliant antipodean starting point with the dinghy designs of John Spencer … and it was a R/Evolution
Our plywood boats ended up at weights of around half the northern hemisphere. 8 to 10 pounds a foot. A 14ft dinghy would be 140lbs.
In the Northern Hemisphere a “high performance” 14 footer would be double that, if not more.
Our plywood Moth dinghies were heading towards 4lbs a foot. Not bad for a fast and crazy sailing boat for our rough water and strong winds.
So our boat had to be light. So it had to come out of three sheets of ply. Also good for expense.
The end result were two hulls at 64lbs. And that was with cheap exterior ply. So 8lbs a foot … right on the bottom end of our traditional range.
But what to power these light boats with?
Sail Area – an antipodean joke.
Ok .. our strongest Oz sailing tradition are the unlimited sail area dingies … so we had to do that as well.
The craziest are not the fast 18 footers, but the 12 footers.
240 plus in the main and jib and the old spinnakers used to be over 550 square feet.
The 18 footers had found that smaller sails are faster when the boat spends most of its time sailing faster than wind speed.
But we had these photos 🙂
How could we avoid the temptation?!?
Most of the Ducks were playing with sails of 45 to 55 square feet.
So we went to 82 in the Sprit boom rig and 89 in the balance lug.
We had been told that its not a boat to take seriously. Here on the beach with two boats of the same length.
If it didn’t work we would make smaller sails. After all it was only 20 bucks for a new polytarp sail.
A note on taking seriously – we did everything to full racing spec.
Foils were to state of the art.
And finished well. We knew that this attention to detail improved handling dramatically as well as from repeated experiments was an extra 10 percent of upwind performance. And that is compared with something that looks nice but hasn’t been shaped with a template.
With the rig we did a light box section mast to keep the weight out of the nose of the ducks. We expected it to bend and designed a sail to match the bend characteristics of the mast.
The first two bent a bit too much. The aim is to have good power when in balance with the sailors weight and the sail/mast combo releasing excess power in gusts above that.
So How Did the Boxy Ducks sail?
Here we go into the original report.
I thought I would write a bit of a spiel about how the little boats are going…
We (and several other people) have been sailing them over the last few days.
The performance is pretty much how I expected when I drew up our version.
In light winds they move along really nicely – as you can see from the videos which were all filmed in under 8 knots of breeze.
We had decided to put heaps of sail on them 82sq ft vs the more normal 45 to 60 sq feet – the rules restrict the hullshape only. We wanted the performance to really sparkle in the light stuff.
As you can see from the vids they steer pretty well and are capable of turning in their own lengths – far faster in fact than this sailor can move!
One of the points I wanted to prove is that the original designer (Phil Bolger) said that the boats wouldn’t plane – and that was the opinion of (it seemed) many of the American Sailors.
Headed for a sail upstream in the Mooloola River – spent a coupla pleasant hours exploring and trying to make headway against the outgoing tide in the light winds.
In the end I gave up in one particularly light area (lots of trees both sides of the river – the tops were waving in a reasonable breeze, but there was nothing at water level where I needed it.
Anyway, headed back and the wind had picked up to between 10 to 13 knots.
This is the sort of wind speed where I expected to start having problems from the big rig.
No Problems and on the upside got the boat planing a couple of times in some of the stronger gusts.
The main reasons for us being able to do it is that our boats are about 1/3 the weight of the average, they have lots of sail, they have carefully shaped centreboards and rudders and though the sails are made of crap material (polytarp) the mast and boom and resulting sail shape are quite efficient in light and moderate conditions and downwind in these stronger breezes – though I am not happy with the amount of stretch distortion in the sails upwind in the stronger stuff.
Oh, yes – both Biting Midge (Peter Hyndman) and I have a background in performance sailing craft too – so we both know how to cajole a boat onto a plane.
Holding together in stronger winds
Oz Goose in a wild wind … even a big nosedive with no drama and fingertip steering.
The next day brought winds of around 10 to 15 knots – so the peak of the gusts was greater than the previous day.
So I spent some time generally getting a feel for the boat upwind and down.
Upwind the boat points quite well sailing at close to 45 degrees to the wind (that’s those foils working). In a gust the mast bends as it was designed to do and spill some of the excess wind pressure automatically.
I was worried that the masts – made from radiata pine floorboards – would be two week because of the poor grade of the timber – They stood up OK before breaking at a knot. The plans have been revised with a slightly larger cross section for the mast.
I was also worried that the boats would become a handful in a breeze – all that sail area – but in 15 knot gusts when they should be well and truly starting to give us a hard time – no probs at all.
In the last years we have fleets of the Oz Goose sailboats in the Philippines. They are very strong and reliable. In collisions the other boats have come off much worse. Despite the light weight of the Goose.
The OZ OzRacers work well in capsize.
This picture shows how they float on their sides with the cockpit well clear of the water – it was taken by the shore,but the mast top is in the water being supported by its natural buoyancy.
When they come up they have little or no water inside so can be sailed immediately and effectively – there is no need to bail the boat out before it can be sailed. This is a pic from immediately after the capsize.
Here are Jinky and Job (Wife and Husband) practicing their first capsize in the 12ft Oz Goose. Jinky is pulling the boat up. She weighs about 100lbs (45kg). It was Job’s turn next.
The boat is so light it can be easily pulled upright from in the water – there is no need to climb up on the centreboard – just pull it down as in the video right and the pic below.
Reaching is where the fun starts – going across the wind. As soon as there is enough wind pressure for me to put my feet under the straps and start hiking (not going for a walk with a backpack, but stretching my body out from the side of the boat to keep it flat and stop it from capsizing from wind pressure) – as soon as there is enough wind to hike out on a reach the boat planes efforlessly – at least in the smooth water in front of Peter’s house on the Mooloola River in Queensland.
Modest planing in the 8ft Oz Racer
Vs insane high speed planing in the 12ft Oz Goose. Box shapes have no problem moving fast. On the day below we had GPS readings of 14, 16 and two seconds at 18 knots. Crazy wind. Racing cancelled.
For the smaller boat …
The only thing that you have to remember is to move about a foot further back just as you start hiking to stop the bow digging in.
If the bow digs in the boat stops suddenly and is going too slow for the rudder to be very effective. But if you hike and move aft that little bit the boat accelerates, the bow rises into the air mightily (that’s all the excess curvature of the bottom toward the back of the boat starting to suck the stern down) and you are moving along quite nicely.
Easy to sail
Almost anyone can jump in and have a great deal of fun – they feel faster than they are and behave just like little modern dinghies.
They are not too hard to hold up and with only one sail and the steering to take care of they are simple.
On launch day one of the ppl there took his two little girls out for a sail – he hadn’t sailed a keelboat or dinghy before – only windsurfers – and he had no trouble at all.
Don from up the road dropped in the day after to take one out for a sail. The last time he sailed a small boat was when he was racing VJ dinghies about 30 years ago – he came back beaming.
These little boats are a hoot!
Rigging and unrigging
The other advantage is that they take about 5 minutes (tops) to get ready to go sailing.
Put hull upright.
Drop mast in hole. Unwrap the sail from around the mast and stretch it out.
One end of the boom is already attached at the back end of the sail – but you have to thread the rope on the other end through a pulley (nautical = a block) and then tie it off around a cleat.
Thread the mainsheet (rope that controls the sail) through two blocks
Put the rudder in its housing.
Put the elastic shock cord line on the centreboard
Put the boat in the water and go sailing.
It’s faster than me typing this.
For the performance minded – but the Goose doesn’t have the “pig rooting” tendency.
If there is anything “wrong” with the 8ft boats it is the attention required to stay in the right place fore and aft for whatever conditions you are in.
The 12ft Oz Goose boats don’t have much of this tendency at all – much less attention and way more speed.
This will be one of the main skills required to sail these boats efficiently when racing. When cruising around it doesn’t matter at all.
It is about EFFICIENCY … not about control. There are no wild moments … the boat will always go where it is pointed because the foils are right. But to go faster on the OzRacer you need to do this …
The OzRacers are very sensitive to fore and aft crew placement – the huge curve of the bottom makes them like a rocking horse. Move too far forward and you can hear the bow starting to kick up water (in light winds) or the sudden deceleration of the bow digging in (in strong winds).
The Goose in comparison just accelerates and the bow goes up much more easily.
In the smaller boats if you time the move aft so the bow doesn’t dig in the boat accelerates and the bow rises mightily because of the hullshape – so you can move close to your original position to trim the boat a bit better for speed.
You can just sit in the back position all the time but it means the boat will be going slower because the stern is dragging in the water – you can see the turbulence in the wake (turbulence always means lost energy that could have been used to drive the boat forward).
The optimum solution is just watch what happens and move fore and aft as needed.