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 Maiden Voyage of Lyra
 The worlds first boat built entirely of the new polypropylene honey comb material, "Polycore".
   These are the conditions we faced. Gloomy, light and contrary breeze. This shot is at River Heads Queensland, looking toward Fraser Island, our destination, dead into the light ENE.

 “Forecast for Hervey Bay waters, winds 15 to 20 knots with squalls to 30 knots…”

Not exactly perfect conditions for sailing an untested boat. And when I say untested I mean nearly every aspect of it.

The design is unique, drawn by an individual who is not a professional marine architect but with a solid footing in general engineering.

Untested materials: Polycore panels have been making headway as an accepted construction material to a point…. I know of several boats incorporating these polypropylene honeycomb panels in their construction but this is the first substantial boat I know of that is entirely of the material.

The rig is unusual. John Hitch incorporated something similar on his magnificent cat X-it but he ran three furlers, centre, port and starboard bows, but John's is a sailer with outboard motor auxiliary. Ian's is motor boat with sail auxiliary… or so it seemed.

Anyway, by 0745 we were off from Maryborough. The 30hp motors were pushing us along at about 8 to 8.5 knots SOG at 3000 rpm out of 3600 available. As far as we could tell and with what we were to see later in the day, this was probably about honest speed through the water.

Navigating the Mary River gave opportunity to test the electronics and the accuracy of the plotter charts. With the radar overlaid on the plotter screen it became apparent that the river wasn't exactly where the plotter showed it however the beacons appeared to accurately placed.

Once past the heads the inner sail was unfurled into a diminishing breeze (so where is this 20 or even 30 knots I heard about?). Our destination was the anchorage off Kingfisher resort, dead into the ENE wind, so I expected this to be a good test of the motors!

Continued below photos...

   First trim.. that's Ian at left and at right, Eddy who headed up the building team. "No one knows more about Polyore than Eddy," says Ian.

 A view from the bow, note the loose fore stay...

 Running along at about 6knots upwind.. sitting nicely if a little low.


The tube under the deck is routing halyards back to the cockpit.

   On the way back from Fraser Island. Running off, showing 7.9 kts of honest speed. and then below...
   Making more of a broadreach, just barely off the wind, and the speed picks up to 8.5 kts! We are in shallows and should not be affected by tide in this location. And just to demonstrate how good this is... see below..
   This shot was taken aft in the same minute as the photo above. We were making 8.5 kts in this!
   note the windex....

The sail we rolled out was a self tacking thing about 53sq metres. On conventional rigs I have rarely seen a self tacking heady do much more than assist the main somewhat but not something very useful on it's own. Nothing you could actually sail with in anything less than a gale. So I didn't expect the motors to get turned off but could feel them reduced to idle speed. Ian took her off the rumb line (and the wind) by about 35 degrees and we were going nicely in the mid to low 5,s. Not bad for the sail and motors idling I thought. The wind was about 9 knots true so motors at low r's and the sail made sense but then I looked at the controls. We had not been motoring, they were in neutral! Ian shut the motors down and we continued at that pace and better. Sometimes up to 7+ knots in wind not strong enough to lift a cup full of foam off the chop. Not a horses head in site and making 5 to 7+ knots, 35 to 45 degrees off the wind (38 best point of sail) on a self tacking heady, er staysail… wow!

I took to the bow to have a look up the stay the sail was on and it was loose as a goose (whatever that means). The sail shape was compromised by the bow in the stay and still… we were going very well. The lower tell tails were right on whilst the uppers sets were flogging on the windward side. When asked Ian said we was a little concerned with the amount of tension on the backstays. I pointed out that the outer (masthead) forestay was tighter so winding up the inner wouldn't increase the tension on the backstays anyway. Then the truth came out… since the turnbuckle is buried inside the furler, which would have to be disassembled to get at it, it is a nuisance to adjust and Ian just couldn't be bothered yet! I wonder how much improvement it would make. I bet it would be well worth the effort and I know Ian will eventually… but when it goes this good sloppy, it can take the urgency right out of hard work.

Going to windward means tacking… and I've been on multi's that were very unforgiving on a tack and with this rig especially, I expected drama. Silly me. The boat tacked like a 16 ton steely with a full keel. In other words, like a freight train. Calm, steady and relentless. The helm went over, the sail ran along it's canopy mounted track and we accelerated and were gone. Ho hum…wow!

Just on 1200 and we are anchoring off Kingfisher. A Dugong greets us as we settle in for a lunch, just before the jet ski thing blasts by us less than a boat length away.

A few relevant facts on Lyra:

She is powered by twin Yanmars, 30 hp each.

The folding props impressed everyone from minute one…. literally. Launch day saw the need for heavy reverse right off the trailer as one keel dug into mud while the current was pushing and twisting the boat around toward some piles. Reverse response was powerful and immediate… whew!! They are Gori's, which Ian considered pretty dear except when compared to the crop of feathering styles available.

Ian sent off inquiries to a slew of sail lofts and received no quick responses except from Gary Saxby out of Brisbane. Perhaps the others didn't regard Ian as serious…?? Whatever, the Saxby quote was delivered quickly and even when the others did get around to a reply Saxby's quote was good so they got the deal. The inner sail is 53 metres and the outer, mainly intended as a reaching sail, is a little over 70 metres.

The stick is 16 ½ metres done up by S&H Spares in Labrador, Gold Coast.

The ground tackle is on 8mm short link chain with a Sarca anchor and a little Maxwell HRC windlass. Ian likes the Sarca and anchoring in the Mary River, known for poor to indifferent holding, is a test of how well the anchor works. Ian says the river bottom is loose rubble so the anchor has to get set right in deep to find anything to hang onto. The windlass seemed powerful enough and had reasonable speed.

There is a small powered winch located port side deck aft for the furler lines and another for the dinghy lines and halyards centred between the davits. The sheet winches are non-powered self tailers located either side in the cockpit. The single sheet for the inner sail runs from the car to a block at the clew then back to the car and then to the port side sheet winch. The car and track are controlled by clutches on the canopy top accessed by a hatch above the helm. The main sheet winches are #40 Arco's.
Electronics? Every bloody thing….
I heard it took two weeks to run the wires…
And the composite material? There was no way of telling the difference between Polycore and any other material from performance. The “feel” of the boat is solid. The design has created a slow easy motion without the quick, jerking I have experienced on some cats. Keeping in mind the boat was not subject to rough seas while I was aboard but my impression suggests it would handle rougher conditions particularly well. The motors cast minimal vibration through the decks and noise was low. The insulating nature of the material was evident when you opened an engine room door. Years gone by are the final test but nothing I can see so far indicates any particular shortcoming. I expect to see more of Polycore in future projects, especially when you consider cost… and who isn't lately?

Ian reckons 6 ton displacement. Not bad for a 40 footer built for comfort.

Lunch done and away we go…. Now the wind is dead astern and we prepare the bigger sail on the outer stay.

It is important to mention (again) that Ian designed a motor boat with sails as an auxiliary. Ian does not do 4 knots so with the wind up our bum I was thinking we might be motoring most of the way back to the river.

We raised the anchor and once clear of other craft, rolled out the sail and shut down the motors. The wind picked up a little on the way back, to a screaming 10 kts true, gusting to 14 (confirmed later with BOM site for Hervey Bay) Lyra took off. Best speed was 8.5 knots in seas I would consider boring in a ten foot tinny…. Wow!

But wait it gets better! When well past the heads Ian wanted to roll up the sail to avoid the blanks spots and windshifts and to keep a steady pace. With the sail rolled up and motors running but not in gear, we were still making 5 knots! We sailed like that for about ten minutes just to make sure it wasn't momentum or all tide but it wasn't! The tide surely was contributing but the water boiling off the stern indicated we were under power and the only source would have been from the windage of the canopy top!! No joke… now that's what I call an easily driven boat… wow!

Ian is keen for some 30 knot stuff, I'll be hoping he needs crew.

Calling this boat a “motorsailer” seems incorrect. We need a new term.

 Nits and Picks.... The sheets for the outer sail are going to be tricky to work out. The windows are mounted with tape and glue on the inside of the cabin sole and I would rather have the structure behind them in case of a solid blow. Being a man of science, Ian was already questioning some parts of the design as we were sailing. Are the keels in the best spot? And are the rudders of optimum size? He was concerned about the rudder angle being 7 or 8 degrees off the course sometimes but time spent in fine tuning the rig may dispel those concerns. As it turned out I think the boat would have been ready for a 30+ sea in spite of a few gremlins. Hey, it’s a new boat!
And why have I devoted this much editorial to this boat? It is pretty rare to have an individual take this much of a calculated risk in a project of this magnitude. Conservative convention had nothing to do with this project. It’s all or nothing and I respect that.

Update on Lyra; Since this was written, the boat has been up and down the coast and to the Louisiaides and back. Ian confirms he is not happy with the position of the keels and intends to haul her out to move them. But otherwise, she has done very well and in fact, there are a lot of boats out there that live long and happy lives with worse faults but Ian won't be satisfied until it is right to his standards.

   huge settee

 a pleasent pilot position forward in main cabin
   the galley

 Nav station

 Engine room door and entry

 port side motor

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