New Sunbeams provide a ray of light for classic boat lovers

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A new chapter is being opened in the story of the Solent Sunbeams.

A new chapter is being opened in the story of the Solent Sunbeams.

The classic racing keelboats designed by Alfred Westmacott were first raced in 1923.

Sunbeams are raced in two divisions, the Solent division at Itchenor in Chichester Harbour and the Falmouth division on the waters at Falmouth Harbour in Cornwall.

Sunbeams have an unbroken record of attendance during Cowes Week since 1923, apart from the war years, and are thus one of the most successful long-standing yacht-racing classes.

Early in 2010 both divisions gave their blessing to the building of a trial boat in GRP – and just 20 weeks later Betty was launched and sailed in her first race.

Following trials in the summer, including racing during Cowes Classic Keelboat Regatta and Cowes Week, the Solent division have voted to adopt GRP hull V61 Betty as one of their own and have now formally approved the building of new boats with GRP hulls and decks.

In all other respects they are to be identical to the existing wooden Sunbeams.

Betty completed 36 races following her launch in July, with an average place of 3.5 out of 8.9 starters. She has been built to a high standard, looks fantastic, is indistinguishable externally from the existing Sunbeams and has been proven to perform on level terms with the best of the existing wooden boats.

She has fore and aft bulkheads and successfully passed a half-hour flotation test when fully flooded.

Two more boats, V62 and V63, are now being built, and will be fitted out by Haines Boatyard during the summer.

Meanwhile five complete sets of stainless fittings are being sourced in order to fit-out a further three new boats in addition to these two.

Betty’s hull colour is cobalt blue, V62’s is pigeon blue, and V63’s is turquoise pastel, all with cream decks and interior gel wash. The colours of the next three have still to be chosen.

For 2011, V61 Betty will be available to an individual or a syndicate for charter on the basis of just paying for a season’s running expenses.

With her GRP hull and deck and epoxy coppercoat below the waterline her maintenance costs will be minimal – just a hull anti-UV polish and varnish on the teak.

The Solent Sunbeams have also taken the decision to allow wooden-hulled Sunbeams in the Solent division the option of using epoxy glue to install softwood splines in the seams and as an exterior coating.

This will allow the use of epoxy coppercoat in place of traditional antifouling and will significantly reduce future maintenance costs.

With these developments, Solent Sunbeams will offer a range of choice from traditional to more modern construction thus bringing the superb sailing qualities of the Solent Sunbeam to a wider section of potential owners.

They will support the traditional boats with which they will race equally. Together they will ensure the strength and vigour of the Solent Sunbeam racing fleet.

The quality of the one-design keelboat racing at Itchenor SC is of the highest standard, possibly the best in the UK, with racing from April to October inclusive on every available non-working day.

In addition, the Solent Sunbeams treasure their Thursday evening racing when these beautiful classic yachts race in a deserted Chichester Harbour with glorious sunsets, followed by informal dinners at the club. They can be happily raced with a crew of two or three, many by husband-and-wife teams. For further information call the class captain on 07767 686595 or for charter or purchase call 07785 232012.