Sunday, January 26, 2014

Rule 3.7.3: Much Ado About a Rope

Leaked photo of the new Sunfish rig

A rig to lower the point at which the upper spar lies against the mast (known as the ‘Jens Hookansen Rig’) may be tied with an extra piece of line used solely for that purpose. The rig must be tied in such a way that the sailor may lower the sail quickly and easily by releasing the halyar
Proposed Sunfish Class Association Rule 3.7.3. 

This single paragraph has created quite a stir in the Sunfish world after Scuttlebutt posted that a "new Sunfish Rig will be "unveiled" by the Sunfish Class at the Simply Sail boat show in Chicago this weekend.  Since then we at MYCSunfish HQ have been peppered with questions about this "secret" new rig. The wording in the Scuttlebutt post led many to believe that there was some new surprise development by the class.  

The big secret is:  There is no secret.  Since the Sunfish sail cannot be reefed, the Sunfish class has long allowed the halyard to be attached to the upper spar so that the sail is depowered in heavy wind conditions.  The name of the rig is the "Jens Rig", after its inventor Jens Hookansen. 

Rule 3.7.3 is a proposed rule change would allow a separate line to be used to tie the Jens rig instead of making the halyard do double duty.  The idea behind the use of a separate line is to free up the halyard so that the sail can be more quickly and safely lowered in case of an emergency, or if conditions change.  As Eric Woodman, Northeast Rep for the Sunfish Class puts it: "What it comes down to is allowing 2 halyards and a Jens line for easier depowering on the water".

The rules change was proposed and sent to class members in 2012, and is expected to be approved by the World Council, hopefully at or before the Sunfish midwinters in March. 

From all accounts, the booth set up and run by the Sunfish Class was a great success.  Thanks to Gail McCarthy Turlock and the class for spreading the word about our great boat.

Monday, January 20, 2014

New Tool for the Toolbox

A new tool in the Sunfish Repairman's Toolbox

It had been over 30 years since the last new book about the Sunfish was published, and there has never been a book about Sunfish repair.  Kent Lewis has ended that drought with his new book "The Sunfish Owner's Manual".

Kent is known to his followers on FaceBook as "Sunfish Sailboat Restoration", where he has a large page chronicling his adventures salvaging old Sunfish from the scrap heap.  He has condensed his years of experience into an easy to read 135 page manual that covers just about every major Sunfish repair, from fixing bent spars to sawing the deck off to replace waterlogged foam blocks. He has made all the mistakes so that we don't have to.  He includes color photos illustrating each technique, and lists not only how to instructions, he details the pitfalls that he encountered himself along the way, with methods for avoiding them.

Some of the boats that he's rescued were in such bad shape that most people would have put them on the curb. He's brought them all back to life and active sailing, and the results that I've seen look great. Bear in mind that if you are a racer, some of his repair techniques, like replacing foam blocks, aren't class legal, but if you are sailing in just club races, or if you are sailing recreationally, his instructions can rescue a boat that might otherwise be destined for a trip to the dump.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Birth of a Sunfish

Everyone has seen this picture.
Nobody knows that it's part of a collection.
Today we've reached into the archives to present some information which we believe doesn't really exist anywhere on the web.

There are a lot of places on the web, and in books about Sunfish rigging, racing and repair. But nowhere on the web is there any information about how a Sunfish is actually made.  A couple of years ago, LaserPerformance opened up their factory in Portsmouth, Rhode Island for tours.  The photo above was taken on that tour and has been making the rounds on the web for years. The dirty little secret is that it has a bunch of siblings that have never seen the light of day and it's time they saw the light.

The LaserPerformance sales office.
You can see Sunfish stacked against the window on the right.

The LaserPerformance factory is located in a nondescript U-shaped building in the HighPoint Industrial Park, right at the very end of Route 24. An fact if Route 24 went a couple of hundred yards further, it would run right through the factory. In fact the only thing that makes the building stand out is the fact there there are boats and molds strewn about the space between the buildings.  Looking at the U from the top, the factory would be on the right, and the production offices are on the left.

The factory floor is large enough to accomodate multiple boat lines simultaneously. The day of the tour, the Sunfish, and Laser production lines were active and boats in various stages of construction occupied places on the production line.

Empty Sunfish hull mold
awaiting fiberglass

Sunfish construction takes place on two parallel production lines.  The first is for the deck and the second is for the hull.  The production lines merge at the end, where the deck is joined to the hull. The molds are held in large steel frames that make it easy to move the components around the factory floor and to join the two halves together .

Sunfish are built from the outside in. The deck stripes and decals are applied first, before there is even any fiberglass to attach them to. Then the primary gelcoat is applied.

When building a Sunfish,
always remember to paint it first,
then add the fiberglass!

The mast step at this point is only a plug that is used to
align the deck and the hull.
Once the gelcoat is applied, several layers of fiberglass mat are then laid into the mold by hand, using a standardized number and layout and wetting of mat for each boat. Over the years, various Sunfish manufacturers have tinkered with the type and layout of the fiberglass mat, which accounts for the varying dry weights of vintage Sunfish. At the same time that the deck fiberglass is being laid in, the cockpit structure is being built, so then once the resin has cured, metal backing plates for the deck fittings are fiberglassed in place, and the cockpit is epoxied to the deck. Before 1987, the backing plates were made of wood, which often rotted. Once the backing plates are fiberglassed in, the deck is more or less finished.

Cockpits awaiting installation.

Notice that there is no drain plug hole in the cockpit. That comes later.
Mast Step
Daggerboard Trunk

Meanwhile, the hull is going through its own building process. Once the fiberglass base is laid into the mold, extra fiberglass mat is added in the locations where the cockpit will contact the hull, and the daggerboard trunk and mast step are added.

The addition of extra mat is a relatively new feature. Older Sunfish do not have that padding.

Extra mat to protect the hull from abrasion by the cockpit

The last part of the hull structure to be added are the styrofoam blocks which add buoyancy and stability to the hull.  The foam blocks are held in place with a jig until they are secured with expanding foam.
Foam blocks held in place by a jig
while expanding foam is applied to
hold them in place

The world famous Sunfish innards picture
of the finished hull waiting to be joined to the deck!
At this point, it it time for the deck to be epoxied to the hull.  Resin is applied to both sides, and the frame containing the deck is flipped and aligned with the hull.

A flipped Sunfish deck mold
next to the boat that shall not be named. 
When the resin is cured, the finished hull is released from the mold, and the deck fittings are put in place.  Sails and blades come from other areas and are packaged with the boat later when it is shipped to the dealer.

The finished hull awaiting deck fittings.
A finished Sunfish next to one that is fresh off the assembly line.

A finished Sunfish in the showroom awaiting a skipper

Finished Sunfish in their natural environment.