Behind the doors of a modest-looking workshop in Brightlingsea, Essex, you’ll find exquisite composite parts being crafted with expert precision. Graham Eeles, of Eeles Boatbuilders, is taking the boating world by storm with his cutting-edge composite foils, masts and other designs. We spoke to him to find out how a trade became a passion – and why PRO-SET® Epoxy Products are at the heart of everything he builds.
I’ve been mad about boats since I was a kid. I think you have to be to do this job; it’s certainly not nine-to-five. I’m a racer at heart and I love getting out on the water and going fast.
When I left school I became a joiner and I started out working on wooden boats. In the early days you’d also find me racing one of the old wooden Cadets. However, I soon ended up playing with fibreglass. The 505, the Fireball…they all started to be built in fibreglass, just at the time I was getting really interested in boat-building.
It sparked a passion.
I worked for White Formula for a good few years, before going on to work on the Olympic-standard Tornado class. I’m proud to say that the resurgence of this class is in part thanks to a lot of the composite work I did. At the time, something like 95% of the Tornados in production had my spinnaker chutes.
Today, I absolutely love the exploratory side of boat building. Learning about new products and new techniques is what really fires me up.
For example, I’ve been perfecting techniques for epoxy infusion for quite a few years now. It’s one of those processes that looks very simple, yet is painstaking to get right. Today, we’re producing some absolutely flawless composite products; the epoxy-to-carbon ratio is spot on and the surface finish is excellent. However, it’s taken a lot of trial and error.
It’s worth saying that David Johnson at West System International has been a fantastic support with the infusion process. He’s such an enthusiastic guy and he knows his stuff.
In fact, there’s no way we could deliver composite products of such a high standard without PRO-SET epoxy products. You can’t build high performance boats with polyester, for example; it’s too heavy and it has a tendency to break. Epoxy is lightweight, robust and flexible, which is perfect for boats that need to sail fast.
I’ve advocated PRO-SET epoxy products to all sorts of people, including the team at White Formula, where I’ve been using it to infuse the masts on their outstanding Whisper foiling cat. Over the last five years, I’ve also been working with boat designer William Sunnucks to develop the Vampire. This is inspired by the International Moth and the Americas Cup designs – but of course we don’t have the constraints of any of their rules and regulations.
You’ll find my Canted T-foils on board and I also infuse the masts. It’s a liberating project because there’s no financial goal; we’re just doing it for the love of it – to keep pushing boundaries and to constantly hone the design to see if we can find new ways to foil as fast as possible.
It’s working, too; we’re seeing peak speeds of 17-20 knots upwind and over 30 knots downwind.
Then again, a high ‘top speed’ is only a part of what we’re trying to achieve. This year our aim is to prove that we’re getting a consistent average speed out of the Vampire. In fact, just this month we’ll have two boats on the water for the first time. So we’ll no longer be testing her against theoretical models – we’ll be racing her against herself!
I’m looking forward to some interesting times ahead!
Visit Graham at Eeles Boatbuilders, 6B Morses Ln, Brightlingsea, Colchester CO7 0SF or call 01206 303025.
Interested in finding out more about PRO-SET products? Visit http://www.westsysteminternational.com/en/pro-set/pro-set.
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