Disabled sailors around the world now have the opportunity to own a fully-fledged open sailing boat – the S\V14 – designed by naval architects Alex Simonis and Maarten Voogd of Simonis Voogd Design

Composites version of S\V14 may become reality

WHAT began as a philanthropic gesture to design a low-cost sailing keelboat specifically for disabled sailors, has morphed into a significant challenge and serious passion for Cape Town-based naval architects, Alex Simonis and Maarten Voogd of Simonis Voogd Design.

It all started in October 2015 when Peter Jacops, a specialist inspector for the certification of yachts, posted on Facebook challenging naval architects to design a low-cost sailing boat specifically for disabled people and make it freely available to all.

The result – with 200 to 300 hours of labour, approximately R115 000 for materials (including plywood, steel and a revolutionary seat tilting mechanism), disabled sailors around the world now have the opportunity to own a fully-fledged open sailing boat – the S\V14 –  that caters for a wide range of disabilities in a one-man and two-man version. All the information needed to build the boat, including120 detailed drawings are available free on the internet. The only requirement to download and start building is a pledge that the boat will be used by or with a disabled person.

The first prototype of the S/V14 was built by the Robertson & Caine shipyard in Cape Town, using 11 sheets of plywood and one sheet of steel. Ten further prototypes are going to be tested around the world, including Thailand, New Zealand, USA, Belgium and The Netherlands. The project has received support both far and wide from the industry, including companies like Aerontec, AusThai Marine, Blue Peter Marine, Northern Sails, Nautique TV, Southern Spars, Advanced Material Solutions and many more.


A composites alternative – even more affordable

This is a significant milestone in the sailing world; however, Alex explains that the mammoth task of reading through and understanding 120 drawings and other detailed instructions could put off the more feint-hearted. And because of this consideration, Alex and his partner are now in the process of investigating ingenious ways of manufacturing the hull and deck from composites, but still keeping it affordable.

In the early design stages of the plywood version of the S\V14, Alex investigated the feasibility of a GRP boat made in a female mould so that it could be produced quickly and cost-efficiently. However, it soon became obvious that this option could only be realised using professional boat builders who would have to add their costs, resulting in a boat that was not affordable. Another problem was that manufacturing the moulds needed would also be expensive and add to the overall costs.

Alex explains that the actual composite materials needed would cost just half of the plywood version and the labour hours needed to build the entire boat would also be significantly reduced.

However, never one to back off from a challenge, Alex has used his passion and connections to encourage companies like KZN-based NCS Resins to manufacture the moulds needed for free, while the University of the Transkei has offered to do the CNC milling at no charge.

Also, working together with Oliver Dawson at the Composites Training Academy in Cape Town, Alex hopes to be able to convince the Academy to use the laminating of the hull and deck as a training exercise. Trainees will be given the opportunity to work on a ‘real’ project – a 4-metre “miniature Volvo Ocean racing boat”, as Alex describes it.

“I am very impressed with the industry’s response here and abroad,” says Alex.

The detailed drawings and instructions to manufacture the composite version of the boat will also include various moulding options – hand lamination, vacuum infusion and resin transfer moulding.

“It would be wonderful if individuals could be trained using these different methods, using our boat to work on – a true synergy of outcomes,” says Alex.

“Essentially, the aim is to use the building of the hulls and decks as a training experience, then have these transported to a central point where they will all be quality checked. From there we can sell the hull and decks as part of the home-build kit for much cheaper than the plywood version,” he explains.

And Alex’s vision doesn’t end there! He would like the project to “go global” so that more disabled sailors around the world are given the chance to buy and build an affordable sailing boat. As more and more disabled sailors around the world start sailing, the sport will once again gain momentum and ultimately be re-instated as an Olympic sport.

Sailing was introduced to the Paralympic Games as a demonstration sport in 1996 and became an official Paralympic sport in the 2000 Summer Games. In late January 2015, the International Paralympic Committee dropped Paralympic Sailing from the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games as “it did not fulfil the IPC Handbook’s minimum criteria for worldwide reach.”

“I’d like to see 3000 boats built over the next three years and back in the Olympics,” says Alex. “All the tooling work is ready – we just have to begin.”