Fairlie 55: evoking William Fife’s age of luxury with modern epoxy techniques

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In the late 19th and early 20th Century, William Fife’s yachts were the pinnacle of luxury. Today, the style and grace of these classic yachts lives on at Fairlie Yachts, which builds exquisite wooden yachts based on classic William Fife designs, all using modern epoxy construction techniques. Duncan Walker, Managing Director at Fairlie Yachts, tells epoxycraft what makes the company’s boats uniquely desirable and sought after and why the company uses WEST SYSTEM® epoxy on all its exquisite new builds, including the iconic Fairlie 55.

Before embarking on a long career restoring and building classic yachts, Duncan Walker read production engineering at Brunel University. He then made his living as a professional yachtsman for five years before charting a new course.

“I decided to end my career as a yachtsman, but I wanted to stay in contact with the sailing world,” says Duncan. “I moved into restoring classic yachts as a way to pursue my love of sailing – while satisfying my engineering bent at the same time.”

During the 1980s, Duncan helped to restore a number of iconic classic yachts and co-founded Fairlie Restorations, now Fairlie Yachts, in 1990. “We named the company after Fairlie, William Fife’s home village in Scotland,” says Duncan. “I’d already been involved in lots of restorations, but the first yacht we restored as a company was Tuiga, which was purchased by HSH Prince Albert of Monaco in 1995 and is now the flagship yacht at the Monaco Yacht Club.”

Since the early days restoring yachts, Duncan and his colleagues have worked with WEST SYSTEM epoxy. When Fairlie was commissioned to build a new yacht in 1997, Duncan and his colleagues decided to use modern epoxy construction techniques widely across the build. “My colleagues and I had prior experience of working with wood and epoxy for restorations, so it wasn’t a huge jump to use epoxy techniques on our first new build. The project was a huge success and we never looked back.”

Vintage class, modern techniques

The experience of using epoxy persuaded Duncan that epoxy wood construction was the way to go for all of Fairlie’s new builds, including the company’s extremely popular Fairlie 55, which is designed for both cruising and racing. While evoking the golden age of yachting, the Fairlie 55 has a modern underwater body and rig, making it a joy to handle. “Epoxy is central to every Fairlie new build,” says Duncan. “By using modern epoxy construction techniques, we can make the Fairlie 55 as strong, light, manoeuvrable and durable as any modern yacht, while retaining those classic lines and the highest quality wood finish.”

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The Fairlie 55’s exceptional hull is created from a laminated mahogany backbone and frames. It’s then strip-planked with a layer of Douglas fir and two layers of mahogany veneers laid at 45 degrees, with an additional layer fore and aft glued on using WEST SYSTEM epoxy.

The strip-planked hull of the Fairlie 55 is laminated with 300-gram biaxial cloth impregnated with epoxy. “To laminate the Fairlie 55’s strip-planked hull, we pre-wet biaxial cloth with WEST SYSTEM epoxy and lay it on,” says Duncan. “We then apply a vacuum bag over the cloth and use a pressure differential to achieve flawless consolidation every time.”

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“The Fairlie 55’s strip-planked hull is extremely strong, thanks to the multiple wood veneers and epoxy,” adds Duncan. “By building hulls this way, we can make them highly resistant to torsional loads.”

Fairlie has now extended its use of vacuum bagging from hull lamination to a number of other applications in all their hull and furniture building, helping the company to provide the exquisite finish customers demand. “We use vacuum consolidation to shape and form ply-teak components for the Fairlie 55 where wood clamps would leave an unwanted mark,” says Duncan. “It’s just another way that epoxy construction helps us provide the best possible finish for our customers.”

See how it’s done: the Fairlie 55 on camera

Fairlie Yachts has documented one of its recent Fairlie 55 builds, providing fascinating insight into the company’s use of WEST SYSTEM epoxy and modern epoxy construction techniques. Click on the images below to see long-play and time-lapse videos of the build.

Getting the best results with WEST SYSTEM epoxy

Fairlie Yachts has built its reputation on quality – catering for customers with the highest expectations of quality and excellence. For this reason, the company trusts WEST SYSTEM epoxy for all its Fairlie 55 builds.

“When we’re building a Fairlie 55 for a customer, the stakes are extremely high in terms of our investments in time, energy and materials so we can’t afford for anything at all to go wrong,” says Duncan. “We know we can trust WEST SYSTEM epoxy to provide extremely strong bonds and a perfect finish for our customers,” he adds. “It’s a product that helps us to minimise risks during the build process and achieve the extremely high quality standards our customers demand.”

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As well as using WEST SYSTEM epoxy widely on the Fairlie 55, Fairlie Yachts uses similar construction techniques across its entire range, including the Fairlie 66, 77 and 110. The company is currently in discussions to begin building a new Fairlie 77. “We’re excited about the prospect of the latest new build,” says Duncan. “When we get the green light, WEST SYSTEM epoxy will have a key role to play in making the new owner happy.”

Learn more about the products Duncan Walker has returned to time and time again, since 1997.

Discover more about Fairlie Yachts, www.fairlieyachts.com

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