leech line

leech line

We recently noticed some action in the Rondar-sponsored Sportboat Anarchy forum around a sexy little 6.5 meter sporty called the Leech 6.5, and we asked the guy building the first one for his thoughts. Good stuff, and be sure to check the Leech site and the thread for more info. Thanks to Rob Wood for the story and pics.

If I had to give a rational reason as to why I ended up with this design I would struggle. I’m certainly pleased with it though and find Dan Leech great to work with. I have a 30′ keelboat that I’ve raced and enjoyed for the past 10 years, and in the last couple of years, I have been using it for day sailing/racing rather than trips away during the holidays. I have begun to resent the time and money spent maintaining a big boat, so I started looking for something smaller and sportier. There are plenty to choose from, and being a Kiwi, the obvious place to start was a Shaw 650. I rejected this because I thought it a bit extreme (light, fast, athletic crew work, etc.) given I’m 55. Further searching occurred – the GT6 in the UK, T-Boats, the Donovan 6m first seen on SA. The Donovan seemed like the way to go as it met lots of my criteria, sporty, a sprit, a bit more ballast than was typical. Unfortunately plans would not be available for a while and I wanted to get started.

That was when Dan Leech’s name came up in a couple of conversations, and long story short, ne came up with the design that you see now. Now it seems like I’ve gone round in a circle as many of the parameters of this boat match the Shaw – a design that I had rejected. So, I make no apology for my selection process, and I’m quite pleased where it all ended up.

Kiwis have a great tradition of building boats in their backyards. Back in the 70’s, I can remember seeing Hartley 18’ trailer yachts, and Frank Pelin runabouts being built by lots of my father’s contemporaries. These hulls were almost always built with light timber frames and plywood skins. Later on, in the 80’s and 90’s, Elliot and Ross T/Y’s were all the go, usually built in cedar strip by then. I don’t think so many of these later designs were built – by this time the builders were usually serious sailors rather than the Dad-and-Dave types that first built the Harleys and then learned to sail. As the 90’s progressed, home building pretty much stopped, as did commercial builds. Commercially built boats have gotten really expensive – there is for example a nice looking new 8m T/Y for sale on TradeMe at the moment for NZ$130,000. Whoa!

I think the move to fast, light, simple boats like the Leech and Shaw designs will be great for sailing and boat building. The use of CNC moulds and other components makes the process far more accessible to the average home builder. It took me about 2 months of spare time, usually working by myself, to get the hull skin built and carbon on both sides – check the Leech 6.5 page on the SA sportboat forum for 5 guys in Australia who got this done in a couple of weeks! I have yet to get to the foils but when I do I expect these will be equally easy to do.

Designer Dan basically does all the work by first creating a 3D file, sending this to a company with a 3D router together with a timber blank and it’s done. The foils I have seen arrive with recesses for the carbon unidirectionals and perfectly profiled.

Yesterday, having just finished the internal carbon skin, I went up to my workshop and found the front bulkhead that the sprit mounts to. The pre-cut foam panel fitted into the boat exactly – I mean seriously – exactly. Think how long that would have taken if you had to measure and scribe a plywood panel and think also how bad that would be if you didn’t have the skills to scribe that bulkhead.

You can buy a Shaw 650 ready to go for about NZ$50,000, or you can spend a bit over $30,000 and build your own. If you can’t do the $50,000 in one hit (that’s me) then the build your own seems to be a good way to go. I have spent about $8000 so far and that should pretty much get me a bare unpainted hull. In a few months when I have finished this I will have saved up a bit more money – or sold the keelboat!