Alistair Riddle is a rower, not in the usual sense that we small boat cruisers know, but in the competitive sit on a toothpick with monster oars out on outriggers and blast down a laned course kind of rowing.
He’s mostly a coach these days, a keen member of his club and very knowlegeable about the sport.
Now here in NZ rowing is quite a big deal, many schools have active rowing programs, there are clubs on most stretches of usable water with age group and graded racing going on for most of the year.
Alistair lives by Lake Rotorua in the center of New Zealands north Island, it’s a fair sized puddle, and at times can be seriously rough water. Rough enough to preclude taking the usual rowing shells out, and he was wanting to promote a boat that would be a practical two person all weather trainer, one that was not dependent upon dead calm water, and which would be affordable.
Rather than set up a boatbuiding company with moulds for fiberglass it was thought that kitset builds in plywood would work, group or club builds in the way that parents in clubs or schools used to build their kids sailing trainers would work. As the boats were to be trainers rather than racers, and if racers would have their own class, so expensive high tech weight saving was not so important.
I drew the plans, much attention to the geometry of the seats, outriggers, oar gates, footrests and such ( much sweating on my part, got it very close to right, yay! Much relief, this is critical). Much attention to the distribution of the air tank bouyancy, and how the cockpit trench fitted. It is a requirement that the boat be able to be boarded from deep water if capsized so the big bouyant side tanks are a part of that.
In designing that part of the structure I had to endure the mirth of several women and their friends when I asked if I could measure the width of their behinds, well any excuse, but I did really need to know how wide the cockpit sides needed to be apart so a “mature” woman would fit.
Alistair had not built a boat before, so there were regular phone calls for a while, learning about fiberglass and epoxy, taped seam plywood construction, how kits are cut ( thanks David Milsom of Red Shed enterprises in Cambridge, great service) and all the intricacies of a whole new trade.
We’ve a little tuning to do, not much, she’s performing as expected and within a few days she’ll be out at some senior club members lakeside homes for a tryout among them.
Kits will be available, give it a little while for the assembly manual to be written up, and there is some thought being given to a single scull version.
The prototype is complete, she’s been out for her maiden voyage, and Alistairs emailed report is below.
__________“Afternoon John, well we got it wet - first impressions are that it’s quite lively and runs along very nicely with a good feeling of speed. And it looks good I think, and was fun to row.
I didn't have time to put the keel on and noticed it - it ran in a curve one way and then the other and not too much dead straight. You have a keel in the plan just 1.5m long I think or less running from zero to about 50mm height, 6mm ply - does that seem enough to you ? interesting..
Second thing, I didn't realize it at the time but my son is 105kg and I had him in bow seat instead of stern so you'll see in the photos with us at the finish of the stroke that its bow down more than I'd like. The next boat is slightly wider so it might be a little more forgiving of extra weight. David Milson will cut the second set of plywood in the next few days - I've been redoing the plans and cut sheets over the last 4 months.
Geometry is good. When building, the seat ended up 160 above heels and we put riggers 160 above that. When we put it in the water it floated where expected and we changed the gate height easily to suit each of us with the 'C' washers that clip above and below the gate. Its tippy, but not as sensitive as a racing boat, and we did a half hearted lean to one side and it seemed harder to push over the further we got. We'll tip and recover when its warmer. When we sit it in the water with no-one touching it it sits perfectly level.
The only downside is the weight - too heavy for me to lift onto the roof of the truck - I managed but I'll be on those little pink pills for a few days I think. So number two will have a faster rigger fastening system so we can derig before lifting. That will help. One of those kayak set of wheels that you strap on will help as well to wheel into the water. If you have a husband and wife team then you need a few tricks to get it onto a roof. Maybe you can get a roof rack with a roller on it? Anyway, here’s a few photos, and a second email has a few more.”
( I’m more used to that issue of lifting the boat up onto a car, and there is a way to do it that wont bust peoples boilers - JW).