This piece is a little ‘pimpy,’ but we’ve been fascinated by the dirt-cheap homebuilt i550 sportboat scene for a while now. Considering the fact that not everyone has 30 grand for a new Viper or 40+ for a new Melges 20, we’ll just consider it a public service announcement for the poor and speed-addicted. Enjoy.
So you’ve read all the reports, you’ve watched all the YouTubes, you’ve even seen them buzzing around at regattas. And now you want a sport boat. But the used sport boat market is nearly nonexistent, and the prices are still up there. You don’t have forty-some thousand discretionary bucks, or even thirty-two thousand EXTRA dollars lying around in the change jar, and you’ve already searched for loose change deep in the couch… What are you gonna do?
You’re going to build your own i550, that’s what your going to do. The first i550 was launched in Australia about 2 years ago, home built by Andrew Clauson. It is the fabled Tokyo Trash Baby of You Tube fame. A couple of weeks ago Andrew set a new elapsed time record with TTB in his class during the Bay to Bay Race.
Two more i550’s have been launched in the last couple months in Australia. One in Salamander Bay, by professional builder John Querns, was the second to splash with the moniker of Baby Faced Assassin. The third to get wet was Tonka near Canberra. Chris Beckwith, our illustrious designer, is planning to have his in the water in Charleston S.C. this summer. Chris is building his boat, dubbed Paninaro, from a pre-cut plywood kit by Watershed Sailboats (www. i550sportboat.com, or there has been lots of good chatter on the SA Sportboat Anarchy Forum i550 thread). Four others in the States who bought kits are making great progress and have just received carbon spars from C-tech in NZ.
Others around the world have also purchased full-sized patterns to save time on layout from the plans. We are nearing 200 plan sets sold internationally, including Australia, Slovenia, Italy, Denmark, Germany, Argentina, Brazil, Greece, Singapore, South Korea, Canada and many more.
The i550 is a one design with emphasis on simplicity and quick-to-build-to tolerances. Follow the page by page parts diagrams and the boat will be right. The rig has height and length limits, but layout of deck is open to interpretation. Construction is stitch and glue plywood, epoxy and glass. Two people can have the hull looking like a hull in a weekend. Put in the transom and bulkheads next while it is right side up. Epoxy coat and glass tape the parts in place and roll it over. Fair the bottom and glass it. 200 to 300 hours will yield a floater. Yeah, it’s a bit of work, but think of the 25 or 35 thousand dollars you will save. Resourceful scavengers can put one together for $6,000 or less. Double that and you’ll have a carbon spar, fine sails, nice foils by a skilled maker and new everything.
At 18 feet LOA, 8 feet beam, bulb keel, draft 4 feet, retracted 10 inches for trailering. Class weight is 800 pounds. Main and jib: 236 sq ft., Asym: 350+ sq. ft., SA/D: 42 upwind, downwind: 112. The i550 is annoyingly fast and has troubled much larger sportboats like Elliott 7’s and a Melges 24 around Brisbane. It will be interesting to see how the i550 matches up with the other 20-some footers. It is already a winner in the bang for buck department .
Watershed sells a plans pack for 75 bucks, plus shipping. Full size patterns for $225, plus shipping. Cut ply kits for $2,500 plus shipping (within North America), discount epoxy and hardware for builders. Advice is free forever. For more info, check out the i550 site, or hit me on e-mail.
Tim “Timber” Reiter