Fremantle, Australia, 1987….

…..the America’s Cup challenger series was being dominated by the New Zealand team on KZ-7. They were undefeated except for one loss to Dennis Conner on Stars & Stripes.

The Kiwi boats had been built from fiberglass (and maybe Kevlar?), the only 12 Meters ever built from composites rather than wood or aluminum.

The Kiwis were tight-lipped about why they went composite; aluminum is strong and light as needed, or so everyone thought….

“Glass-gate” raged, competitors accused the Kiwis of cheating. Dennis Conner said it out loud at a press conference while seated next to the very outspoken Tom Blackaller, who for once in his life said “I don’t think you should have said that!”

Of course the Kiwis were livid. The challengers demanded core samples of the hull. The kiwis said no way and the controversy dragged on. Eventually core samples were taken and the boat declared legal.

But a lot of time, energy and thought had gone into the glass vs aluminum issue (who was psyching out whom?) and the kiwi team rolled on-

It’s been said since that possible advantages of the glass hull were increased stiffness and it didn’t “oil-can” the way aluminum hulls did in the big conditions of Fremantle. Others have said that the controversy over the material distracted everyone from looking closely at the hull form (she carried her max beam further aft than other twelves).

Whatever the case she went up against Stars & Stripes in the challenger final and Conner and the boys handed them their only losses of the series- in big breeze and waves, it was awesome. Crazy roundings, blown sails, close finishes, great stuff.

S&S of course went on and beat the Aussie defender KOOKABURRA by 4-0.

Fast forward to 2015 and KZ-7 is based out of the Hinckley yard in RI. Looks like she was trying out a new bow and the old one was left in the parking lot. Much more than a core sample available here!

Any composites experts (Jeff Kent, Oliver Moore, Chad Atkins, anyone else….) care to weigh in? Why is there no core along the centerline? What is the laminate material? What is the core material?

The regatta may be over but I’m still looking for answers!

Seriously, email me.

What’s this have to do with IceBoating? Not much but when I saw this bow at the yard I couldn’t resist.

This rambling essay brought to you by a big cup of Mystic Market dark roast.

Think Ice! T

James “T” Thieler12 Channing St.
Newport, RI. 02840

401 258 6230

One response

  1. Joachim Roesler

    Just weighing in on “Plastic Fantastic”, the famous KZ-7 boat.The core looks like Nomex honeycomb. Further laminate details hard to determine without better focused or high res pictures, but one would guess vacuum bagged unidirectional (stitched not woven) glass layers with epoxy. Don’t remember if aramid or carbon fibers were allowed back then, but it looks like glass.The reason for no core material along the centerline is probably related to attaching the keel. Any keel bolts could certainly not go through cored material, that would create too much localized compression. And such coreless (but otherwise reinforced) section would have to be phased in gradually, over a larger area. Remember also that this 12 Meter class has an exceptional heavy keel in relation to the total boat weight (70% not uncommon). That’s one reason you never see them sailed with a reef, even in Freemantle conditions.JoR

    Joachim P. Roesler 4 Parting Brook Rd New Canaan, CT 06840 (203) 801-0130

    (305) 318-2369 cell

    Date: Wed, 18 Nov 2015 19:47:32 +0000 To:

    11/19/2015 at 1:50 pm