Velocette part 9, She sails!
13 March 2022
Anyone who has been following my blog knows that Velocette has been a labor of love for over a year now. Like most of my projects, they are exhaustively conceived and built in my head long before I pick up tools. I had expert help from another head, Jean Francois Masset, naval architect in Nice, France.
We collaborated on the design for about six months while Lisa and I were sailing in French Polynesia on Uproar. Velocette was conceived to be a high performance harbor toy, not a yacht tender. We still kept our RIB dinghy with 20 HP Mercury (If you are in the market for a new motor, don't overlook this one-of-a kind RIB motor).
Fate and Covid brought us back to Milwaukee, WI for the 2021 summer where I was able to build Velocette in my garage. It took only five weeks to complete the hull. I acquired all the rigging parts but did not have time to install before we took off on Uproar again. Velocette rode unceremoniously on the cabin top for months before I finished the build in Black Point, Exuma, Bahamas.
I didn't install all the rigging blocks and cleats but put just enough together to go for a sail. Weather was perfect, about 10 knots of wind or less. Velocette sailed as light as a feather. The helm was so light and she just glided along. I'm especially critical of sailboats with heavy, weather helm. Jean Francois and I spent a lot of time calculating mast position for a neutral helm. It worked!
We sailed around for about an hour tacking and gybing. Velocette beat to weather like the thoroughbred she is. One tack, I kept the mainsheet cleated. Velocette turned and the main filled on the new tack before I could shift around to the other side. We dumped. No problem, she floated on her side, I just grabbed the daggerboard and righted her. It took a good kick and I was able to slither back aboard. The hull hadn't swallowed much water either, most drained out the transom holes.
We sailed back to Uproar and disassembled the rig. Lisa helped me hoist Velocette back on deck. Oh, she was quite heavy. We saw water pouring out of the centerboard trunk! Guess I hadn't glued a joint properly. No worries, I can easily get to both sides of that joint and caulk. The other disappointment is that the double bottom is just not high enough. There was always a little bit of water sloshing around in the aft hull. I can install transom flaps that will keep water out until I want to open them to drain. Ooops, on my part.
Feeling Velocette come alive is a thrill! I built a wooden Sunfish sailboat when I was 12 years old. It brought back the same thrill. There is also a small sense of being anti-climatic. The project is nearly over.
Velocette and I will have many hours of fun together. Uproar is a great sailboat but I have always maintained that real sailing is done in small boats. Jean Francois is ecstatic about seeing pictures of Velocette sailing. He immediately sent me results of his VPP (velocity prediction program) and wants me to verify sailing speeds to check his predictions. Velocette is still a project and improvements will continue.