Latest Hoot News
February 8, 2010
We are now done. I know I've made that statement before and then had to eat it as something unexpected happened. Hence the long silence. Well, the wounds are pretty much healed and I'm ready to talk again. The boat is now really easy to rig, easy to handle on the dock, and a bit easier to handle on the water. It still offers tremendous speed and thrills. I got the boat planing in about 7 knots of wind -- sitting out on the wing just scooting to windward is a complete blast. The bare hull weight still comes in around 50 lbs, with the all up sailing weight around 150 lbs. This means that I can pick up every single piece of this boat and carry it away.
While I haven't been writing, we have been working on the Hoot. Since this posting is so overdue, I have broken it up into sections so you can skip stuff that is of no interest to you. The first section is tweaks to the design. The second section is where we are for production.
We've made two significant changes to the design over the past year: increased the size of the daggerboard and changing over to a bolt rope sail.
We changed the daggerboard from a 9" chord to a 12" chord. We first tested this idea a while back and found that it gave more speed upwind in the waves and made gybing the boat easier. Essentially thet increased size reduces the pressure across the entire board. When driving upwind in waves, the board is very heavily loaded and is moving quite a lot. What this led to was a feeling that the groove for the boat was really, really narrow. If you were in the groove, the boat was tracking okay and you were moving well. However, if you took a wave wrong, the board would stall and the boat would stop. While increasing the chord of the board will add to drag, as a practical matter we can not tell the difference when running boats side by side. The second beenfit was that the boat tracks better through a gybe.
The second change that we've implemented is giving up on the luff sleeve sail. We'd played with this before, but I had really stubbornly resisted it as it meant more complexity and cost to the mast (sail track, halyard, masthead sheave.) However, as I demoed the boat with more sailors, they uniformly struggled with the luff sleeve/camber inducer set up. So I took out a bolt rope sail Chris had made and sailed it alongside a luff sleeve/camber induced sail. The bolt rope sail turned out to be essentially as fast as the luff sleeve/camber induced sail -- and you can lower it at the dock. We have now gone through a couple of iterations on the bolt rope sail and have finally settled in on one that I'm really happy with. I sailed that sail on Wednesday and then again in the Richmond YC midwinters over the weekend. I love the ability to drop the sail when the boat is in the water. The whole package was easily manageable by one person. With the luff sleeve sail there was always a certain amount of wrestling required to get the sail aloft and then get the boat in and out of the water.
As an added bonus, the new sail is 2 lbs lighter than the luff sleeve sail (and about 0.5 square meters smaller). This reduced weight aloft makes the boat just a bit more stable. This surprised me as my belief was that the reduced weight from the sail would be put back on the mast in the form of track, glue and masthead fitting. However, on balance, we're ahead.
This sail is another Bill Hansen job. It is pretty amazing what the man can do with a pair of scissors and a sewing machine. If you have a sail you need built, go talk to Bill at Hansen Sails.
The reduced sail area has not noticeably affected speed. The RYC midwinters were sailed in little to no wind. I suspect that the luff sleeve sail would have been a bit faster, but I don't think it would have been a great deal faster. That luff sleeve sail has an ability to hook up in light air that I've never felt before. But that hooking-up was most beneficial in real drifting conditions -- 1-2 knots of wind. Surprisingly, this sail feels more flexible and forgiving. I can pump the boat much more effectively with this sail. I think it is staying more connected to the flow because the sail is less rigid.
Between the increased centerboard and the luff sleeve sail, we've not exactly tamed the Hoot, but we've made it more forgiving. I believe that more time in the boat will enable us to bring tremendous speed out of this sail as there is a huge amount of range in it now. It is hard to see in these pictures, but look carefully at the sails. In this first picture, there is a lot of camber, while in the second, I have pretty well bladed the sail out.
We can also get loads of twist by just easing the vang. What will be interesting to find out is; what is fast? With the full draft, the boat does not point as well, but goes quite nicely. We will have to spend time with two boats running next to each other to figure out what combination of vang and downhaul work best for which conditions. The vang and the downhaul still work quite closely together. When you ease the downhaul, you add tension to the vang so, if you want the leach to twist off at all, you need to ease the vang as well. One side benefit of the luff sleeve sail is that we can reduce the purchase on the downhaul. It is currently 12:1 and I think we'll be able to go to a 6:1.
You might also notice the funny dolly under the boat:
Since one of the design criteria is for a boat that can be put on top of a car -- a truly car toppable boat -- we have to have a dolly that is also truly car toppable (or trunkable.) Most dollies are too big. Our first experiment was with wheels slotted into the transom. The problem we had with that was launching and retrieval were difficult because you had to hang over the edge of the dock to remove or insert the wheels. This dolly is Billy's invention. There is no forward wheel -- it is just an axle and cradle with a tab on the cradle to keep it from moving when it is tilted. We are still playing around with this idea as well as a collapsible dolly.
The other really nice Billy invention was a great way to make a really easily extendible tiller extension. It is a twist lock that moves quite easily. We haven't been able to find a production tiller extension that has the range we require. When you're screaming along on a broad reach in 15 knots, you want a relatively short tiller extension to allow for easier gybes. But when it is blowing 8 knots and you want to be fully hiked off the front corner of the wing, you need a couple of extra feet.
The only two minor things to play with now are getting the purchase on the downhaul right and replacing the current flexible mast base with a stub that will hold the mast upright while you are putting on the shrouds.
What is most intellectually interesting to me about the design of this little boat. All my Naval Architecture training is pretty much interesting theoretically. But the process of getting this boat completed has been tremendously humbling.
We are a long way towards production tooling. Recognize that these boats are being built in our shop in Richmond, CA. Quality is a top priority, and labor costs something here in the U.S. That means we have to have tooling that is pretty much perfect as we can't afford to rework every boat that comes out and then spray it with gelcoat to cover up the flaws.
We have the tooling completed for the new daggerboard and have made 3 boards from it (the second two of which are good). The hull and deck aren't changing except for the tabs for the daggerboard which have to be increased for the bigger board. The mast is the big issue at the moment. Neither money, begging, nor thinly-velied threats about the what could happen to kneecaps has managed to get masts out of my current supplier. So I am looking for someone else to build these masts. That's not as easy as it sounds and I welcome all suggestions.
We have approximately 10 nice, fully cambered, luff sleeve sails. Three of these sails are being modified to put on a bolt rope, but the rest are probably scrap. If anyone needs one, send me an e-mail. We should be able to get the new pattern sails made relatively quickly (6-8 weeks is quick in this business).
I would give a date for production, but I am not quite that stupid. This summer is the goal and I believe we'll make it, but I've been wrong many, many times before. What we will have relatively soon is three (possibly four) Hoots that we can use for people to play around with. These boats are all modified prototypes of one variety or another. In particular, they've all had their daggerboard trunks cut out and replaced with 12" trunks. The downside of this is that we don't have enough rake in the boards so the rigs have to be pulled all the way forward to balance out. One boat is in Southern California. The rest will be up here in the SF Bay. I would like to get a flock of Hoots out for a race at the RYC in the late spring. If you are interested in borrowing a boat for a race, let me know.