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First Outing for a 3D printed boat

I had the opportunity to buy an Alioth hull and fins on the back of a cancelled customer order which would allow me to rest my Britpop over the winter as well as investigate the new age technology. The Britpop has done a lot of racing and is beginning to show a little wear after so many races so it is good to preserve it for the Ranking, Nationals and International events this year.

At the moment the dominant designs reign supreme. Britpop, Kantun, Venti, Sedici, V 11. The are all epoxy glass constructed and therefore lightweight hulls and tried and tested and fast. The new kid on the block at the Europeans was the VISS prototype from Sailboat RC with a radical deck profile and of course won in the hands of Zvonko Jelacic. However Juan M Egea has been working quietly behind the scenes to create what could be an revolutionary step in IOM design exploiting 3D printing technology. He made the Alioth 3d print design available to all subject to licence. All you needed is a 3D printer and some basic assembly skills (think Airfix kit skills or similar but on a bigger scale). After seeing Juan's performance at the Europeans I had to give one a try especially as they are relatively cheap and available, if you can get someone or yourself with a 3 D printer to print one.

The Britpop rigs transfer nicely to the Alioth with a few minor mods, a locking mast step, slightly longer ends on the bottle screws and an extension to the backstay bowsie cord as the mast is raked slightly forward. After quick sail on Thursday to make sure all the rig settings were good, I took it to Emsworth for their inter club H-P trophy on Sunday.

The boat is pretty, robust and I am confident it would take a serious hit with a sledge hammer let alone a t-bone impact from an IOM. Originally I had reservations about the 3D printing construction but the newer materials are impressive. Jumping with both feet on a sample of a central section of hull with no significant damage alleyed my fears. At the moment the hulls are slightly heavier than their epoxy versions but it is only a matter of time before this is rectified. We are only talking of a couple of hundred grams and this will come down as materials improve.

3D printing technology must be a designers dream. Once you have designed the first boat with all the internal bits, it is very easy to tweak the design and have the new boat printed, fitted out and on the water and tested within a week or less. In a conversation over the weekend, we talked about how we could return to an era of home designed IOMs or at least home built and maybe see a new generation of design development. 3d printers are relatively cheap and used by hobbyists all over the world. The materials are strong and when bits wear out you just print and replace.

The boat I used at the weekend had no finishing on the hull other than a coat of 2K automotive varnish which you can get in tin form and spray on. I have used this to paint one of my Alternatives as the results were good. The hull will need a light sand and a new coat of varnish to create a near perfect finish.

The Sailing

Once the boat was on the water it looked good and was easy to sail. Conditions were 4 to 12 mph with small wavelets. The only niggle was I had not got the rig balanced properly and suffered from slight weather helms all day so I had to keep very focussed upwind. When I got home and rechecked the rake measurements and found I needed to rake the mast further forward. Off the start line (14 in the fleet) the boat had an excellent high mode and when you needed the speed it was there in spades. Because of the weather helm I and a couple of observers thought there was a lot more speed to be achieved upwind. I scored 1, 2, 2 and then disaster struck as I had total battery failure before the start of race 4 and the boat sat in the middle of the pond for the next race. When it was retrieved I ran to the clubhouse to find it locked so I could not get hold of a new battery. Note to self - always have a spare battery to hand. Race 4 and 5 were therefore my discard. I won race 6 but this was scrapped as 4 boats got tangled on a leeward mark. In the next race, a port tack boat tried to cross me and we stopped dead resulting in a poor result. In the next race we had a crowd trying to tack away from a shore on port and I was adjudged by the race officer to have fouled by not tacking back to the shore for a starboard boat. Apparently you have to tack back after two boat lengths away from the shore??????? Anyway after two turns I was last but had a great race to finish 3rd. The last race went according to plan. In the end I finished second on count back which was a good result considering the battery issues.

So overall I was impressed with the performance of the boat on flat water. I know the design will work in a chop because that is what we had at the Europeans. It will be interesting to sail in a breeze to see how it performs downwind. If I can get the boat measured, my next outing will be at Eastbourne next Sunday.

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