WEST SYSTEM: WEST SYSTEM epoxy and the need for speed
When the boatyard founded by Danish boatbuilders Jonas Pedersen and Jakob Frost started to grow rapidly in the early 2000s, the pair decided to revive a Danish tradition – and design and build their own racing boat. Here, Jonas details their record-breaking quest for pure speed – and the key role that PRO-SET® epoxy products played in it.
“If you go back 25 or 30 years, most real raceboats in Denmark were built by boatbuilders and yard owners,” says Jonas Pedersen, one half of the team behind the Tuco Marine Group, based in Faaborg, Denmark. “In the 1980s, a series of large, record-breaking boats were built in Danish waters, with different yards competing against each other.
“But as time went on, the young boatbuilders who had worked on those boats got older, designs became more and more boring, and this competition stopped happening. Yard owners were just producing cruising boats for their customers. The tradition of owners building and racing their own boats died away.”
Jonas and his school friend Jakob Frost set up the company that would become the Tuco group – then known as JJ Bådhåndværk – in 1998. They began as boat repairers but expanded rapidly. By the end of 2000, 30 people were employed at Tuco and over the next two years they built more than 200 boats.
It was an exciting time, Jonas says, and as the orders came in, he and Jakob spoke about reviving the tradition of Danish yard owners creating and competing in their own boats.
“We thought that, being the youngsters, we had a kind of obligation to build something totally focused on fast sailing and on getting results,” Jonas says. “We wanted to show that in Denmark there were not only boatbuilders using heavy materials to build large, very high quality but not particularly quick boats.
“To build a boat that would be strong and flexible, yet lightweight, we needed to use only the finest materials available – and that included PRO-SET epoxy.”
Why choose a trimaran?
Their plan initially was to build a 50ft monohull, but a meeting with renowned British fast yacht designer Nigel Irens changed their thinking. The Tuco team had built a 60ft powerboat based on a design by Nigel, and after Jonas and Jakob explained their ambitions to him, he suggested they should turn their attention to a multihull craft, specifically a trimaran.
Built with a single main hull and two smaller outriggers, trimarans have a shallower draft and wider beam than monohull craft and can raise larger sails without the need for a weighted keel. They are light but stable and – crucially for Jonas and Jakob – lightning fast.
The duo asked Nigel to design what Jonas refers to as a “flat-out trimaran”, inspired by the Volvo Extreme 40 catamaran. “The Extreme 40s were the fastest multihull boat at that time,” Jonas says, “and we wanted a boat that could compete with the 40s all the way around a racecourse, but that also had offshore capabilities.”
The role of epoxy
So how did PRO-SET epoxy products come to be involved? The answer, Jonas says, is simple: as the project evolved, he and Jakob decided to use only the best quality, most reliable technology. And that meant using PRO-SET epoxy for vacuum infusion, laminating and bonding throughout the craft.
“It became a state-of-the-art project,” he says, “and we chose only to use the best. We’re also very familiar with vacuum infusion as we work on a lot of carbon fibre boats, and we wanted to use that technology, because if we didn’t we would have been concerned about losing flexibility.”
The result was Carbon 3: a lightweight, strong but flexible craft with the speed to maintain the proud legacy of Denmark’s yard-owning racers. “Epoxy played a vital part in creating all of these characteristics” Jonas says.
Speed – and nothing else
The brief they gave to Nigel was simple: this should be a boat with “absolutely nothing inside”.
“Many people start building a boat like this with speed in mind, but then start adding features,” Jonas says. “They think ‘Actually there’s room for berths, or a galley, or a toilet’, but you’re actually destroying the performance potential of the boat because you just add weight and weight and weight.
“So we wanted – and we have – nothing! No engines, no cables, no electric lights. We have navigation lights that run on batteries, that’s it.”
The record-breaking Carbon 3
This single-minded focus on speed worked exceptionally well. Carbon 3 is a striking 40ft racing trimaran, 32ft across, with a rotating and canting carbon wing mast and carbon rigging, and a top speed of 32 knots.
And in 2012 the craft set a new record for the Danish Round Sealand Race, covering the 205-mile course in just 14 hours and 50 minutes – an achievement that Jonas puts down both to careful planning and to his boat’s impressive pace.
And while he admits that – because “everyone is working more than they did 30 years ago” – the country’s racing tradition may never be what it once was, he hopes that the next generation of yard owners will still be tempted to follow his and Jakob’s lead: using the best available technology – including epoxy products – to ensure those speed records keep on falling.
Visit the West System International website to discover the full range of PRO-SET epoxy products for bonding, laminating and infusion.