When boatbuilding duo Tim Loftus and Dan Johnson decided to build a dinghy for the RYA Suzuki Dinghy Show, they never expected it to win an award. However, this “cute little boat with a jolly countenance” impressed the judges so much, it won the show’s coveted Concours d’Elegance. We speak to Tim to discover how their expertise, dedication and the best products created an award-winning Flying 10 in just three months.
“From the moment Dan and I saw the plans for the Flying 10, we couldn’t put it out of our minds,” says Tim. “So we decided to go for it and build one for the 2017 RYA Suzuki Dinghy Show.”
For Tim and Dan, getting the Flying 10 ready for the show was a priority – but it was only one of their goals. They also wanted this to be their ‘flagship’: the boat that would mark the launch of their new business partnership, Johnson & Loftus Boatbuilders in Ullapool. For that reason, it was all the more important they produced something absolutely outstanding.
Tim and Dan believed the Flying 10 had all the qualities they were looking for in a flagship project. “It’s a cute little boat with a jolly countenance. It looked like it’d be a lot of fun to sail!” laughs Tim. “She was also the right size and would showcase all of our different skills, like a lot of bespoke metalwork,” says Tim.
“She just looked quite different to the other boats there… she looked old-fashioned and yet she was brand new.”
Impressively, their hard work paid off more than they ever expected, as this lovable little dinghy took home the show’s coveted ‘Concours d’Elegance’ award. Tim and Dan were delighted. “We never expected to win! It was slightly hilarious being at the show with a wooden boat because everybody came up and tried to stroke it. She just looked quite different to the other boats there in that the whole thing was varnished. Like something from a slightly different era; she looked old-fashioned and yet she was brand new,” he says.
A traditional wooden boatbuilder and keen sailor, Tim built his first boat aged 6 with his father. After finishing university 15 years later, he sailed around the world and found himself working on a boatyard in Trinidad. “I thought, ‘I quite fancy that as a career!’ So I sailed home and did a boatbuilding course.” That was some 20 years ago, and he’s been building boats of all shapes and sizes ever since.
Tim moved from Bristol to Ullapool in North West Scotland in 2016, so that he and Dan Johnson could merge their two operations. It was then that Tim showed Dan the plans for a Flying 10 that a previous client had left with him.
They fell in love with the design – and it’s easy to see why. This 1949 singlehanded dinghy design by ‘father of the planing keelboat’, Uffa Fox, has a sleek sheer line and sits very low to the water. At just 10ft waterline length and 14ft overall, she’s the smallest of Uffa’s ‘Flying’ series. “I remember seeing a Flying 15 when I was younger and thinking it was the wildest looking thing,” says Tim. “The Flying 10 is all of that in miniature which makes her even sweeter!”
A classic that’s built to last
While the Flying 10 has a traditional aesthetic, Tim and Dan’s construction methods were far more modern. “Uffa’s original plans predated the epoxy era,” explains Tim. “He proposed two layers of conventional planking with a layer of calico, nailed together with thousands of tiny copper tacks. A fabulous bit of boatbuilding but not great in terms of longevity and watertight-ness.”
For something stronger and longer-lasting, Tim and Dan opted for a cold-moulded hull out of two layers of 2.5mm utile veneer, encased in an epoxy/glass sheath for added moisture resistance. “We wanted the Flying 10 to be fun, low maintenance and enjoy a long life on the water,” says Tim. “With epoxy, that maintenance schedule is drastically reduced.”
“When it comes to epoxy, nothing beats WEST SYSTEM epoxy for reliability… It just does what it does and we’ve come to rely on it.”
Of course, when building your company’s flagship, it’s vital you use products you can trust. “When it comes to epoxy, nothing beats WEST SYSTEM epoxy for reliability,” says Tim. “It’s not a new product; it has a long track record. It’s remained the same, so I’m not having to change my processes. It just does what it does and we’ve come to rely on it.”
No time to lose
Working around their hectic schedule, Tim and Dan had a window of just three months before and after Christmas 2016 in which to complete the build. It was aggressive. “There wasn’t a spare hour that we could squander!” Tim says.
The build began with the hull upside down over a jig. They dry-fitted the first layer of veneer, edge-glued with epoxy, then applied the second layer on the opposing diagonal. This was glassed inside and out with 200g/m2 woven cloth to create a strong, waterproofed hull.
Tim and Dan used WEST SYSTEM 105 Epoxy Resin® with WEST SYSTEM 205 Fast Hardener®, thickened with WEST SYSTEM 406 Colloidal Silica for the coating between the two layers of veneer. “We always use the fast hardener up here,” says Tim. “It’s rarely warm enough for anything slower in Scotland!”
A strokeable finish
To fill the weave of the cloth Tim and Dan used peel ply, draped over the epoxied surface as the epoxy cured. This was peeled off right before varnishing, leaving behind a smooth surface ready for a light sanding.
“We didn’t need any sandable fillers,” says Tim. “Just a careful sand before applying two-part polyurethane varnish over the epoxy to add UV protection.” The result was the pristine, strokeable finish that commanded so much attention at the show.
Turning her over, Tim and Dan put the bulkheads in with a single layer of plywood for the deck. Next came the mast: a 7m long hollow constructed of Douglas Fir in two halves, glued up with epoxy. “Uffa had a reputation for designing and building very light masts and ours was no exception,” says Tim. “Weighing just 6kg and at 6mm wide, it’s the thinnest wall section we’ve ever done.”
Tim and Dan even built their own foundry to make the 95kg keel – an extreme version of the Flying 15 keel. “The keel was big enough that this was the ideal opportunity to build a foundry,” explains Tim. They now have two furnaces firing on diesel, each capable of melting 45-50kg of cast iron.
Reaping the awards
It was tight, but Tim and Dan finished the Flying 10 at the end of February, bolting the keel on and rigging the boat the week before the show. It was very well worth the dedication and effort. “”The huge attention to detail was staggering,” says Sarah Treseder, CEO of the RYA. “For me it was the meticulous detail, the beautiful grain of the wood and the thought that had gone into every single millimetre, including the bits that people don’t see like the way the keel bolts are all beautifully lined up. We were unanimous in our choice.”
“For me it was the meticulous detail, the beautiful grain of the wood and the thought that had gone into every single millimetre”
– Sarah Treseder, CEO, RYA
So, what’s next for the award-winning Flying 10? “We’ve been invited to the Beale Park Boat Show in June, as well as a few regattas that we’ll take her to,” says Tim. “She can also race against the Flying 15s locally and I’m sure Dan and I will have some longer voyages over the summer.”
As for Tim and Dan, a move is on the horizon. “We’re in the process of setting up a much bigger boatyard in Ullapool,” says Tim. “So, instead of us travelling to the boats, the boats will be able to come to us!”
Wondering if WEST SYSTEM epoxy products might be the right fit for your boat build? Explore the full range on the West System International website.