It all started on the 29th of October 2015. Peter Jacops, a specialist CE inspector for the certification of yachts, posted a small note on his Facebook page asking If any designer would be willing to help him create a low cost sailing boat specifically for disabled people and make it freely available to all.
Alex Simonis and Maarten Voogd of Simonis Voogd Design took up the challenge to design a new affordable competitive boat for people with disabilities.
One of the biggest problems is that there are only a small number of boats available, which are nearly all at a price level that puts them out of reach of many potential sailors. As the market is small for boats for the disabled, their price is inflated and there are hardly any available on the used market.
So the idea was born to design a modern looking, easy to handle, stable and safe boat which could be sailed by either one or two persons and which, above all, had to be affordable. How to make it affordable?
In the early design stage we were looking at a GRP boat to be made in a female mould so that it could be produced quickly and cost efficiently. However, it quickly dawned on us that by going that way it could only be realized through professional boat builders who have to make a living out of this by adding overheads and profit in order to have a sustainable business. This would then lead to a higher price and eventually this boat would end up being just as expensive as what is out there already and as such would fail to achieve the very thing it is intended to be.
The other problem going the GRP female mould route is that you need moulds, which are expensive. As such the boat could only be built at best in a couple of locations around the world, adding expensive shipping costs to whoever wants one and is not living close to one of those builders.
So what is the alternative to this? The answer lies in getting people to build the boat themselves. This has been done before and done so very successfully with the International Mirror dinghy class. They came up with a craft that cost £ 63.55 (about £ 1268 or € 1474 in today’s value). It was made out of plywood and could be built at home using a simple method of stitching the ply parts together with copper wire and then sealing the joints by using glass fiber.
Now, 53 years later, there are over 70,000 Mirror dinghies making it one of the biggest and most successful class of dinghies in the world. So why not use the Mirror dinghy concept and pour it into a 21st century format making use of modern technology that wasn’t available at the time when the Mirror was conceived? Today we do all our design work on computers making use of 3D solid modeling programs.
This allows us to design to a very high level of detailing and accuracy, simply impossible to do by hand. Besides that, all these programs allow us to design better boats and it also gives us the opportunity to generate accurate and efficient output for direct CNC cutting.
So what we did was to design a 14ft modern yacht which can be completely built out of 11 sheets of 4′ x 8′ plywood, 1 sheet of 3′ x 6′ 12 mm steel and 22′ x 10′ strips of hardwood. We prepared a CNC cutting package using these raw materials, which can be put together like a jigsaw puzzle to create the boat in an estimated time of less than 200 man-hours.
It should require no more skills than that of your average DIY guy and no expensive tools. The beauty of this concept is that the materials are available everywhere, the plans and cutting patterns can be downloaded at no cost via the internet and 2D CNC cutting is so widely used that this can also be done all around the world in a place near you. Our aim is to get the boat on the water for approximately €3600 ($4400) total material cost.