re-enter the dragon

Long time poster Rail Meat (aka Michael Hennessy) briefs SA on the recently completed refit of the mighty Dragon, seen here exiting the shed at Maine Yacht Center. They are now on their way in the Atlantic Cup.  Start Video Above, story below.

dragon 2Every boat owner does refits.  Buy a new line to replace the ratty old one… there is a refit.  Replace a block, buy a new sail… all are refits.  Every winter work list represents a refit, a chance to try to incorporate some new thinking , new gear or new ideas into your boat and repair the ravages of time use.  Dragon’s recent refit was not much different – just a longer list.

The refit was focused on three simple goals:

  • bringing updated functionality to the boat

  • reducing weight

  • erasing the wear and  tear of 5 years and 30,000 miles of sailing

Design science has advanced since Dragon was drawn in 2007, and amongst other things most of the recent launches have articulating bow sprits.  When Soldini showed up in Le Havre for the2007 TJV with an articulating sprit, every one took notice.  And when he cleaned up on the fleet, everyone started copying him.  For me, the religion was found when Joe Harris  extended badly on us at the end of the first leg of the Atlantic Cup simply by being able to sail 10 degrees deeper than we could.  That pushed me down the path to refit, with a new bow sprit at the top of the list.

That list started in May of 2012, and I commissioned Owen Clark to start the design work, and engaged Jaz Marine to build the actual sprit.  Timing and budgets being what they are, the actual refit had to wait a year to get started.

I chose Maine Yacht Center to do the work because the general manager, Brian Harris is well familiar with the Class (he co-owns one) and I had seen the great work they did on Great American III and on James Burwick Open 40.  Right after the Halifax race, the boat went to Portland and was hauled by the beginning of August.  Work started immediately.

8 long months later, the job is done, the boat is launched, and we are down in Charleston getting ready for Dragon’s fourth attempt at glory.  Hopefully the work we just finished ends up paying dividends, although teething pains will result in some set backs if past experience is any judge.

The list itself ended up touching every corner of the boat:

  • Bow Sprit –  The sprit came out awesome.  Fully articulating, slightly longer luff lengths, and what should offer a great deal of improved kite stability when running the deep angles which I feel as if I have done a lot more of than I ever expected.

  • Deck Paint – The non-skid was no longer non-skid, and the deck needed a new life.  MYC sanded it down, and shot a beautiful new coat of Interlux which should keep me sure footed for years.

  • Deck Hardware – Clutches got new jaws, and the boat got new winches.  We serviced every item and made some design changes where we saw a chance to get better leads and lower friction.  The team at Race Rock Associates also helped me with some custom fabricated mounting solutions for the traveler blocks.

  • New Rig – My old rig got the job done in some hairy circumstances, but the new designs on the newest boats are lighter, have less windage and lower center of gravity.  In the Class 40, virtually every new launch is coming out with Axxon rigs, so when Merf and I started talking about this we looked to Axxon for a quote.  Built in Romania, with French ownership and design involvement,  the team at Axxon was a true pleasure to deal with.  From deposit to rig sitting on a dock in Europe ready to ship took 5 weeks, and the quality is outstanding.  My independent NDT guy traveled from the UK to ultrasound the tube, and came back with the thumbs up for what is a very well priced mast and boom.  And as a result of getting the weight out of the top of the boat, we were also able to take more than 100 kilos out of the bottom of the boat.  MYC chain sawed off the back of the bulb and then put on a fairing cone to bring the boat’s weight down closer to the Class minimum, while still maintaining a max righting moment boat.

  • Sail Plan and Sails – The old main was shot, which was fine since the new rig calls for new designs.  Doyle built us a new Stratis Main and new Stratis Storm Jib, and Mark Washeim recut the Solent and Trinquette.  Once we get a few miles on these, we will be getting some new headsails from Doyle as well.  Given the way these projects come together, the sails come last and are always the heaviest lift in the shortest period of time.  Huge thanks to Mark for working his ass off to get the job done.

  • Rigging – New Rig, plus lots of miles, meant that there was a lot of work for Jim Stone and Carl at Gorilla Rigging to do for Dragon this winter.  Their work was the usual quality stuff, and they sourced some absolutely beautiful cables from Future Fibers.

  • Rudder Bearings – Martin Boulter did a great job building Dragon, with very few issues.  One of the limited problems was the top bearings in the rudders, which were installed at an angle to the rudder shaft well off the 90 degree target.  The JP3 bearings allow for movement, but they were pushed beyond their tolerances and it caused wear which lead to lots of leaks.  So MYC cut out the top bearings and replaced them.

  • Hydro – Race Rock made some additional adjustments to the hydro mount design, and I also stripped the paint and redid it in Dragon red.  It is still the go-to way to charge the battery plant.

  • Engine Work –  We were having lots of problems last year with the engine transmission sticking in gear, which we ultimately traced back to burrs on the gear spindles created when the engine jammed on sheets wrapped around the prop.  We also found water in the sail drive, caused by a thrown thrust bearing.  Post-race laziness contributing to a hell of a problem.  I ended up replacing the transmission and sail drive.

  • Electronics – Rob Windor’s experience in the TJV scared the hell out of me, so the electronics got a full overhaul.  Servicing in some instances, replacement in others.  One most awesome upgrade was to replace one of my nke Gyrographic displays with their new Multifunction Display… very trick functionality.

  • Water Ballast – The water ballast pump was struggling, and at almost 10 minutes a tank it was taking what felt like a very long time to load water.  I commissioned Uwe at Jaz Marine to build me a new pump, and then we redid the plumbing in the system to eliminate as many right angles as possible in order to reduce the back pressure.  Fills are now sub 2 minutes.

The Atlantic Cup is our first test, and it will be interesting to see how we pace ourselves against some boats that we have raced against before.  Follow along with in the thread, and here  or the Face Book page .For more on Dragon’s refit, check out her Face Book page and watch the Atlantic Cup start here.