Projects: “This dragon boat is my obsession – I wanted the best epoxy.”
Igor Bzik spent nearly four years building DRACO, a wooden Dragon daysailer, having previously never built anything bigger than a guitar. As he tried to achieve perfection, the project took over his life – and epoxy products became central to realising his vision.
Igor Bzik is no ordinary boatbuilder. For one thing, he lives 300km from the sea. Before he was able to sail DRACO – the Dragon daysailer that became an “obsession” after he started building it in 2010 – he had to qualify for an additional driver’s licence so that he could transport the 17-metre craft to the coast. “I had to go back to school to learn how to drive a trailer,” he smiles.
He has also never learned to build boats. A graphic designer who studied engineering, he spent many years on the water in speedboats but then decided he wanted to “get rid of all that noise and the feeling that you’re cruising around in a gas station”.
So the process of building DRACO began. After discovering The Dragon – the elegant, long keel yacht designed in 1929 by Norwegian John Anker that rapidly spread across Europe before becoming an Olympic sailing class from 1948 until 1972 – he began to research what would be involved in creating his own.
That was in 2010. Three years later, the boat Igor drove to Novi Vinodolski on Croatia’s Adriatic coast for the first time was no ordinary vessel. “I wanted perfection,” he says. “I thought about everything in advance. I thought about the boat all the time and as part of that perfection, I wanted the best epoxy I could get.”
The start of a dream
Igor found a Dragon, built in 1953, in Split. The owners wanted to sell it because it was ruined and taking up valuable space in the marina. Igor bought it intending to rebuild it.
But after shipping it to his home in Zagreb and taking it apart, he quickly realised that wasn’t an option. “It was better to build a completely new boat,” he says. “The cast iron ballast keel from that original boat is the only part that I used.”
So it was back to the drawing board – literally. Blueprints were ordered from the International Dragon Association in London (https://internationaldragonsailing.net/?fbclid=IwAR12MGCFvSO7XQ4EzCAWpgUlwp-AcVjbIK40KY_h2-Sjc9ZGiQFfGupFtnM), which Igor replicated at actual size, modifying the hull to include a sleeping cabin and to offer increased protection from choppy seas.
He took a year off work and began the building process by spending a whole winter laminating 120 mahogany frames and the oak keel in a friend’s art studio, using WEST SYSTEM 105 Epoxy Resin® with WEST SYSTEM 206 Slow Hardener® and WEST SYSTEM® 406 Colloidal Silica as a thickener.
“Using epoxy wasn’t a problem at all,” Igor says. “It doesn’t smell or give off pollutants; you could practically use it in your home. I’d worked with polyester resin before and I didn’t like it because it’s uncontrollable. If you have a large amount of polyester it goes off too fast and it’s hard to work with. With epoxy, if you mix it well, there are no problems.”
“So I laminated the actual size blueprints onto large boards and then laminated the frames directly onto these boards, creating holes for the clamps at strategic places to create the required shape.”
Creating the hull
The laminated frames were then transported to another workshop and the process of assembling the yacht’s frame and planked mahogany hull began, with planks fixed to the frame using WEST SYSTEM 105 epoxy resin and WEST SYSTEM 209 Extra Slow Hardener™.
“Putting the frames together on the keel was one of the biggest parts,” says Igor, “because you have to have total consistency. It took two or three months and in the evening I was online trying to source all of the other parts I needed for the boat.”
Once the structure was in place, the hull was laminated with three layers of biaxial fibreglass cloth, using PRO-SET® 125 Resin and 229 Hardener. “For that part I had to call in some help,” Igor says, “because I wanted to laminate in one day using a wet on wet method. We prepared a lot of epoxy – around 100kg. But if you are prepared and confident that you know what you are doing, it’s not a problem.”
Perfecting the final details
As the cabin and teak deck started to take shape, Igor turned his mind to creating an interior that reflected his quest for perfection – with no detail too small. “I put on around 15 layers of varnish,” he says, adding, with characteristic understatement, “You can’t do that in a week.”
And finally, nearly four years after the project began – and having borrowed a crane from a local phone mast company to check the mast fitted properly – Igor drove alone to the coast to put DRACO in the water for the first time. “I liked it,” he smiles. “There was no wind that day but it was still quite satisfying for me. Everything functioned well.”
Why choose epoxy?
Epoxy products played a significant part in creating DRACO. “I used epoxy for laminating the frames, for bonding crucial elements of the keel, for ribs that have a role in reinforcing the boat and for laminating the deck. Actually I’d say I used epoxy on 90% of the bondings,” says Igor, adding that – if he decides to build another boat in the future – epoxy would again be the only option.
“I used epoxy because I want this boat to last,” he says. “You can use it in a slow and fast manner, which is an advantage. The bonding is significantly stronger and of course it’s not susceptible to osmosis.”
“I chose it because I want the best products available, and nothing better exists.”
About Igor: Igor Bzik lives in Zagreb, Croatia. A graphic designer by trade, he is currently considering whether to begin building a second boat.
Explore the full range of WEST SYSTEM products used to turn Igor’s obsession into a reality.
For more information about the boat and to see additional images, visit the DRACO website.