A Whirlwind Tour Down Under
Sailors bound westward for Australia will find awaiting them not only lavish cruising grounds but also a teeming marine industry. For the rest of us, Aussie exporters are increasingly sending their wares our way. "Special Report" from our December 2011 issue.
Seawind Cats and Sporty Raceboats
As our trip around Australia continued, our hosts provided a couple of more goodies designed to pique a sailor’s interest.
McConaghy workers prepare to dry-fit the deck on a new TP52 hull.
On the day we visited the McConaghy yard in Mona Vale, New South Wales, workers had just pulled Audi Racing’s new TP 52 hull, built entirely of carbon fiber and Nomex, from the 120-foot-long oven and were preparing to dry-fit the deck. This Judel/Vrolijk design, when we saw it, was squarely in fast-lane mode. Construction began the first week of January, and the company faced a ship-to-customer date so the boat could be in Europe by May for the lead up to the Audi MedCup. McConaghy is a world-renowned raceboat builder, and the company also has a yard in China, where it turns out a swarm of Moths each season, along with other custom projects and the McConaghy 38, a one-design racer. The company does luxury and quirky as well. It recently built an experimental boat for Aussie yachtsman Ian Oatley that has a keel that swings from side to side, rather than canting at the centerline. Photos of the boat, named Q, sailing closehauled show the keel and its bulb sitting well above the water to windward. McConaghy also builds a range of carbon wheels and other fittings, and it occasionally branches out to do repair work or take on non-marine projects, such as making acoustic panels for a concert hall or telescoping emergency ramps for trains.
We later paid a visit to Seawind Catamaran’s offices and the expanded manufacturing facility where it builds the Seawind 1000, 1160, and the new 1250 catamarans. (To read a review of the Seawind 1250, click here) On the shop floor with founder and managing director Richard Ward, we watched workers prepare to infuse an Airex-cored glass hull with resin; others were busy hand-laying a fiberglass deck and other components for assembly. Australia’s largest catamaran builder, Seawind relied until recently on overseas markets for a good chunk of its business. Exports to the United States, though, have been off due to exchange rates and the overall impact of the global financial crisis, which we’d hear about repeatedly during our visit. Still, Ward expected to build 24 boats this year and had plans to begin tooling for a smaller catamaran, the 950, which is designed to be disassembled and put into two containers for easier shipping.
Ward, whose company turns 30 this coming year, also recently purchased Corsair Marine, whose trailerable racy trimarans are manufactured in Vietnam. At the time of our visit, he was laying plans to build at least some Seawind components at his new facility to cut production costs. To build an 1160, Ward said, five big molds make up the structure of the boat, but there are 62 additional molds needed to complete it; it’s these he plans to make overseas in order to compete with lower-cost production cats being imported to Australia.
Tough Work, but Somebody’s . . .
Our Australian adventure all but over, two of us capped off the visit by flying north to Hamilton Island, in the Whitsundays. There we met Brent Vaughan, Seawind’s director of sales, for an overnight tour aboard a 1250 of the nearby islands that serve as a gateway to the Great Barrier Reef.
Privately owned Hamilton Island, with its resorts, high-end villas, marina, and other facilities, is where our visit began and ended. Lovely as the island is, the best awaited us outside the harbor, where we found nothing but white-sand beaches, uninhabited shorelines, protected anchorages, fine snorkeling, and even better sailing.
If the intent of our hosts at AIMEX was to leave us eager for more, they succeeded. As I said at the outset, if anyone offers you a glass of wine, a bite to eat, and a look at Australia, take them up on it. I know I’ll definitely be back.