Renovating a vintage Irish racer: part II

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What does it take to renovate a carvel planked racing sailboat that’s more than 100 years old? In part two of this Your Project, Ian Byrne talks us through the restoration process of his 1907 Howth 17 Gladys.

WEST SYSTEM® G/flex® epoxy looked like a strong alternative to traditional plank seams using sealant and cotton caulking. Its ability to expand/contract 30% and its ability to attach to wet wood were significant advantages. This was a particular issue with Gladys; many of the plank seams had opened to a point where sealant and caulking were insufficiently structured to maintain a seal, particularly racing in heavy seas with the inevitable risk and relatively common occurrence of falling off a wave. 17s are raced in all conditions.

Getting to grips with G/flex epoxy

We were not familiar with G/flex epoxy but – after a training course given by Gary Thompson of West System International and organised by Kevin Wickham and Ryan Cairns at Waller & Wickham – we had a much better understanding of the product.

Following a couple of trips to Waller and Wickham for a number of discussions, and briefings with Ryan and Kevin, we decided on:

Getting the restoration underway

The priority was to remove the keel, forward and aft deadwoods and fair the top of the keel with WEST SYSTEM 105/205 epoxy with 407 filler added. We needed to replace the keel bolts and deadwoods with four frames laminated in American White Oak (repairing the stem plank with the help of local shipwright, Larry Archer) and refit them with new 316 stainless keel bolts and copper rivets, using sealant between the keel top, deadwoods and hull.

Howth 17 Gladys keel repair

The long detached rudder was also refitted after repairs and fairing using WEST SYSTEM 105/205 epoxy with fillers, to the rudder. The steering box was re-sealed with G/flex 655 epoxy. Whilst this work was in progress, the decks and interior were stripped, the spars varnished, the spinnaker pole was re-scarfed and the gaff was stiffened with biaxial cloth using WEST SYSTEM 105/207 epoxy, to retain a clear wood-grained finish.

The most time consuming activity was the removal of perished sealant and caulking below the waterline and preparation for re-caulking and sealing with caulking cotton and G/flex 655 epoxy. In practice the G/flex epoxy was easy to use; being thickened, it could be applied without much running out and remained usable for up to 45-50 mins at 8-12ºC. This permitted relatively large quantities to be prepared and applied.

Howth 17 Gladys repair

On the water at last

Finally, on 26th April 2016, after an estimated 600 hours of amateur, professional and supporting effort, Gladys was launched. Unlike the previous occasion, she floated with only two small leaks in the garboards which we plan to replace next winter along with a new deck and stem plank.

At the time of writing, Gladys has competed in four races – two in very fresh conditions of up to 28 knots – and everything has stayed in place. Gladys and some of her sisters also returned to Belfast Lough after nearly 110 years to compete in the Royal Ulster Yacht Club Classic regatta in late June.

We were very lucky to have had the support and enthusiasm of many friends and professionals including Ryan and Kevin at Waller & Wickham, Larry Archer, Barry O’Loughlin, Tony and Karl at Mac Engineering, Ben at Inox Stainless and the Protector of the class Ian Malcolm who provided his home, workshop, tools, assistance and advice for the project.

Howth 17 Gladys

Many thanks to Ian Byrne for this contribution to epoxycraft. Did you miss part I? You can read it here.

Find out more about the fascinating history of the Howth 17 class here and here.

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