National 12 - find out more...

 It's only a small hole!

Chris Mark on how to rebuild your Twelve!

It all started when I spotted a notice on the board at Yorkshire Ouse in January, "National 12 free to a good home". Douglas my eldest (15) was showing interest in sailing his own boat so this seemed the ideal opportunity for him to acquire a boat he could afford. Unfortunately a quick phone call revealed that this bargain had gone to Yeadon SC for two teenagers to take up 12 sailing. At least it had found a good home. The idea had been planted; surely there was a boat out there that would meet our requirements, 1) it sails 2) it's cheap. Looking at the 2nd hand boat list revealed several possibilities, phone calls to some confirmed that they were certainly cheap, whether they would sail was dubious. Then someone in our club, Ripon, mentioned that there was a Tiger that might be for sale. It was in the owners' garage in need of repair, a project he had abandoned when he bought an RS200. It seemed worth pursuing, as it had been a quick boat in its day.

Taking along fellow 12 sailor Terry Spence for moral support and to provide the voice of reason, we went for a look. It was N3078 an Andrew Turner built Tiger. Hanging up in the garage it immediately failed the first requirement as the bottom two planks were missing and the keel had been removed. Convincing myself that this was an advantage as we could see all the problems, we made a close inspection which revealed the bottom of the centre board case was rotten, particularly near the bolt-hole where the hog had also rotted. There was also a split in the laminated inwhale. At least it had been hanging up in the garage for 2 years so everything was bone dry. Time to look at the rest of the boat. Better news, the mast was only 2 years old; 2 suits of useable Alverbanks; a good cover; combi trailer; and a large box of assorted fittings. The owner told us it had been rigged with adjustable shrouds and jib halyard. The boat also came with an interesting Roger Angel carbon sheathed centre board. So apart from the gaping hole in the bottom of the hull it looked a good buy.

The big question was "could I fix the hull with my limited boat building experience (small jobs and painting)?" After a long discussion with Terry and much prodding of rotten timber we concluded fitting the planks should be relatively straightforward. The problem would be the centre board case. Option 1, scarf in a new piece of ply for the bolt-hole and stick the rest back together with a mix of epoxy and filler. Option 2, fit a new centreboard case. Time to go away and think about it.

After talking to our friendly local boat builder Mike Saul for advice and obtaining a promise of help from Terry, I pluck up the courage to give it a go. A price of £ 250 was agreed with the owner thus meeting our first requirement, he was happy to see it go to a good home rather than the tip. We arranged to collect the boat so we could start over the Easter holidays. In preparation I purchased a copy of the class building guide, written by Andrew Turner, this proved very useful as it told me how the boat had been built.


With the boat at home Doug enthusiastically started stripping the decks back to the bare wood, while I took some pictures and wondered what I had let myself in for. First, repair the inwhale by cleaning the split, injecting epoxy and clamping. Doug primed and varnished the decks and I measured up for the ply and some mahogany to repair the hog. We turned the boat over to tackle the problems. Firstly cut out the rotten section of hog and epoxy in a new piece, then plane what remained of the bottom plank back to the first stringer.

Time to call for Terry, the new bottom planks would run from the transom to the front bulkhead, this would require a scarf joint at the front. Mike Saul assured me this was not as difficult as it sounded, as you plane the 3" joint use the different layers of the ply as a guide to keep the joint square and even, it worked! For the edges we routed the second plank to half the width of the stringer to create a good area for the epoxy. Next dry fit the plank to the centre line with brass screws and bend down the outer edges to the stringer. Starting at the front we planed the plank to fit, this went much better than either of us dreamt it would. Once the plank was dry fitted to our satisfaction it was glued with epoxy and held in place with brass screws and panel pins, which were removed when the epoxy had cured. Tape and epoxy over the joint then fair into the hull. We now had something that looked like a boat again.

Turn the boat over and work out how to do the centre board case. Several evenings of looking at it produced the conclusion that it would be easier to replace the case than try to bodge a repair. Measure everything (template of rocker line, position of bolt-hole, mast step etc.) check measurements, twice, then half an hour with the jig saw and there was a big hole on the inside of the boat. Construct the sides of the new case, fix the rail to match rocker, laminate inside with formica. Calculate the width of the packing pieces to match the centre board and purchase the wood planed to this thickness. Time to call Terry again, it takes a whole day to dry fit the parts of the case together, make sure the board will fit, then dry fit in the boat checking it is straight and central. When we are finally happy
we epoxy the case parts together.

  We seem to be nearly there now, epoxy the case into the boat and make a new case capping and reaffix the original thwart to it. Glue veneer to the parts of the case where the ply edges and packing pieces are visible. Cut holes in the new planks (very stressful) to fit the self-bailers. Turn the boat over, again, repair bottom of stem where it had rotted and fit a new hog. Our youngest son queries why I bought such a large piece of wood when three-quarters of it is now shavings on the garage floor, answers on a postcard.

Fair up the bottom of the hull, prime and paint, as always this takes much longer than I or my wife thinks it will. There are comments about painting windows never taking this long I can't think what she's talking about! We now have a shinny new boat ready to go sailing apart from that box of fittings in the corner, it is like doing a jigsaw without the picture, particularly identifying which screws go with which fittings.

The boat has been launched and Douglas has enjoying sailing her at the club and at Bassenthwaite Week this year. We are still sorting out the controls and it needs tuning but she sails well. Our thanks go to Terry Spence and Mike Saul whose help and advice was invaluable during this project.

So what is the moral of this story?

  • 12 sailing can be cheap and fun
  • Rescuing a 12 from the tip is achievable for anyone with time, enthusiasm and basic skills
  • This type of 12 is still competitive at venues like Yorkshire Ouse, witness a 23 year old Cheshire Cat beating an all carbon Final Chapter at the open this year.


What lessons have I learned?

  • Make friends with your local boat builder, buy materials from them and they will frequently provide expert advice free
  • Involve a like minded friend to provide help, moral support and encouragement
  • Take your time, think though the various ways of doing a job, then plan itcarefully
  • It always takes longer than you think, be patient

We have enjoyed doing this project and I have learnt a lot. It is very satisfying to have restored a 12 that could have been destined for the graveyard and see her sailing again. what is next, well the decks look worn, but that will be another story.

Chris Mark N3306

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