Bill Wright, Ian Wright and Tony Riek, Norman R Wright with the hull of Saltash (Left to Right).

High-Tech Composites will Revive Champion Keelboat

Saltash gets a new lease on life

By ATL Composites

The nifty keelboat Saltash—an eight-time winner of Australia’s Brisbane to Gladstone Race—is getting a new lease on life from the craftspeople at Norman R. Wright & Sons using WEST SYSTEM® Epoxy and carbon fiber. Currently upturned in the yard at Norman R. Wright & Sons (and dwarfed by the carbon fiber bulk of the supermaxi Comanche) at the Rivergate complex, the hull and skeletal superstructure of Saltash belie her glorious past and pedigree.

Built in 1966, Saltash is a 30′ Yachting World Diamond keelboat by designer Jack Holt in 1958. The editors of Yachting World commissioned Holt to create a one-design, affordable open keelboat to dispel the perceived elitism around the sport in those optimistic post-war years. He conceived the Diamond as a simple, stitch-and-glue “build-her-yourself” sailboat. The Wright family bought Saltash in 1981 for $2,800, intending to enjoy this compact cruiser on Moreton Bay.

The Diamond was an early planing keelboat, coming about ten years after Uffa Fox’s 1947 Flying 15 design. Ian Wright explains: “She was a very fast yacht back in the day. She only weighs 1,500 kg (3,300 lbs)—the same as an Etchells racing sloop—and she easily jumps up on the plane.”

Saltash’s modifications

Ian Wright and his brother Bill modified Saltash by adding a cabin, cockpit, inboard engine, and safety features to suit Category 3 ocean racing standards. They raced her in the 1985 Brisbane to Gladstone Easter Classic and over the next two decades, Saltash would win eight times. This boat was widely referred to as “the freak” for her ability to nimbly pass yachts many times her size.

“We did twenty Gladstone Races, then we decided that was enough and we would have Easter at home.”

Not that Ian has been idle since then. Norman R. Wright & Sons has a proud 110-year history of boat building—commercial, recreational, and custom. Renowned for their timber vessels, their craftspeople moved into and mastered fiberglass and more recently, carbon fiber. “In the eighties, we pioneered several techniques of wrapping timber in layers of different types of glass or carbon fiber,” Ian said. He explained that the advantages are reduced maintenance, greater strength, lighter weight, and imperviousness to water.

The overhaul of Saltash

Saltash is now poised to undergo a total overhaul that will see her revived to the pinnacle of her prowess. “We have a long history with ATL Composites, and they’re the first people we consulted when we took on the rebuild,” said Ian. “We want her to be the best quality, to make her as good as she can be, beautiful, and yes, still competitive.”

ATL Composites is supplying WEST SYSTEM Epoxy products for bonding, laminating, and filleting applications along with a lightweight carbon plain-weave fabric to laminate the hull. This will provide strength and stiffness while retaining Saltash’s light racing weight.

“For over thirty years we have been working with Ian, Bill, and the team at Norman R. Wright and Sons,” said Lorraine Murray at ATL Composites. “Ian, Bill, Tony Riek, Dave Kircher, Dave Fussell, and Alistair Harvey joined, co-exhibited, with us at the Australian Wooden Boat Festival in Hobart, Tasmania, and Dave Kircher gave a practical demonstration using WEST SYSTEM products.”

“We have supplied materials for the construction of multiple timber-boat projects from medium and large bay cruisers, to repair and maintenance projects, to commercial pilot boats for the Brisbane City Council. More recently we have collaborated on a multitude of composite projects, like the recently launched Aura, a 60′ Sportfisher designed in-house by Bill Wright.”

“We are certainly proud to have a hand in restoring Saltash and can’t wait to see her back in the water and racing, or cruising, again,” Murray said.

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Editor’s Note: Thank you alert reader Jim Peniston of Lyndhurst Ontario, who caught the oversight of Uffa Fox’s Flying 15 design in the original version of this article.