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A Calculated Risk

By Brian Barnes

No one has ever built an ordinary G.R.P. National and it now seems fairly likely that no one ever will. The recent ‘rationalisation’ of the rules (R.Y.A’s word), to allow, from 1st July, up to one-inch skin-thickness, in composite materials, lets in end-grain balsa sandwich con­struction. This is three times stiffer than plywood for the same weight - and more buoyant into the bargain.

But for the determination of Don Woof to achieve this end, the rules would probably be the same as before, and no help to us. Don is a member of Maidstone Sailing Club, where the enthusiasm of Graham Rabbitts in Escapade N666, and a ‘teach in’ last year by half a dozen Ranelagh, Pevensey and Whitstable boats, has started another - Croydon.

Don wanted a Twelve for his son Richard; Graham and Don designed and built a wood boat jointly — a nice looking all-rounder — which has been likened, probably unfairly, to a China-Hare. Don then made a glass mould which when shown at the C.C.P.R. at Crystal Palace, caused quite a stir. At this point poor Graham was involved in a bad car crash, from which he and Diane are still recovering, and this set the project back a good deal.

I had a (famous?) Lucky Number, which Anne and I couldn’t control, and I had a very long standing order (the first) for a Rowsell China Doll. Much to his utter disgust—and I don’t think he will ever really forgive me — I decided to make the sacrifice, cancelled the Dolly and gave Don his first order, because I felt he deserved one from somebody! That would not be a sufficient reason for many Twelve owners to choose a boat, but I think my reasons were sound. Boats to so many designs have done really well at times, when other examples of the same design have been hopeless, so that I would never pin my hopes on a hull shape. Many people will only buy a Burton winning design and will wonder why Don didn’t choose one. However I was so impressed with Don’s knowledge of these special construction techniques with which he has been closely associated since the war, and the nice workmanship of the wooden decks of his canoes and other boats which he builds at Charing, Kent, that I was convinced that there would be a reasonable demand for these new hard shells, if only one or two appeared. I believe also that an alternative form of construction can only help the class, bring in new builders and ideas, and perhaps some competition, even if it is unlikely to take over entirely from plywood.

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