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Building a TP52

source: www.thedailysail.com

We speak to Wellington-based Paul Hakes about the build of the Vrolijk TPs Mean Machine and Anomino.

[...] In January/February this year Hakes completed the two Rolf Vrolijk-designed TP52s Peter de Ridder's new Mean Machine (now called Mutua Madrilena) and the new Sotto Voce for Dutch owner Arien van Vemde. Unfortunately as the latter was nearing completion her owner died, aged just 56. Fortunately within a very short period of time the boat was acquired by Italian owner Riccardo Simoneschi and is racing this week in Punta Ala as Anonimo.

Hakes Marine is based near the water on Wellington harbour. In his unit there is an oven with a 186kW diesel heater and doors on wheels allowing this to be re-sized at will. Curing temperature is a subject all boatbuilders have a view on and Hakes gives his: "I like to go 5° above the manufacturer's minimum. The TP52s have been built with the new generation SE70 prepreg from SP, so it is a minimum of 70°C cure, so we cure at 75°C to make sure it all goes nice and crunchy and there are no cold spots. The oven only has a 4° temperature differential between the front and the back. We are pleased with that." Construction of the TP 52 was obviously in carbon fibre with a Nomex core.

With the TP52s they built female moulds split down the middle with the gunnel built into the mould. "Weight has been an issue all the way through the boat which is why we female moulded them," says Hakes of the sisterships. "We saved upwards of 100kg by female moulding the hulls with the gunnel in them as opposed to male moulding. We saved about 30-40kg of filler over a 50 footer. More importantly the engineers then optimised every single panel in the boat, so we have seven different core thicknesses through the hull shell because they could change the thickness because it wasn't going to impact on the fairness of the boat."

When they weighed Mean Machine she was just 8kg over minimum weight, 2mm off maximum length and 3mm off maximum draft.

So what is different about the Vrolijk boats? "I think the waterlines of all these boats are pretty much all within millimeters of each other," says Hakes. "What they do with the topsides is a little bit different of course and it has the Vrolijk kick-up at the sheerline at the bow, which is a bit of trademark and shortens the forestay length a little. The cabin tops of these ones are the best of a bad bunch. They have to have an IMS certificate and therefore they have got to have headroom inside. So these meet the minimum headroom requirements and it is what all the others do. The other tricky things we have done is we have put in an extra D fittings in so they have two settings in for the lower diagonals." To comply with the IMS the boats must have 1.98m of headroom over a certain area and 1.74m of headroom over a bigger area - hence the 'unusual' cabin top profile.

Mean Machine is also different in being the only TP52 fitted with a tiller, owner Peter de Ridder having huge experience in smaller keelboats and prefering this option. However Mean Machine is already fitted with the necessary gear for it to be easily changed over to wheel steering. "We can adjust the balance of the rudder and have tricked up the top bearing so we can adjust the balance of the top rudder and it has got sockets so that if the breeze is too much they can just take a little balance out of the rudder. Then you can drop the pedestals straight down into sockets in the deck, tie all the ropes up and away they go with wheel steering."

On Anonimoinstead of a tiller they have some very 'Gucci' carbon fibre wheels, made by Performance Composites in Auckland. These weight just over 1kg and have shafts C&C milled out of aluminium. The rig is one of the new generation low windage two spreader affairs made by Southern Spars.

What is not evident looking at Mean Machine or Anonimo at the dock is their extensive internal rope plumbing. The decks are very clear with a majority of lines running below decks including the outhaul, Cunningham, main sheet and traveller. One of the ingenious systems incorporates is a magic block or drum winch (as used on the back stays on some of X-Yachts' range but also on the Z39 one design Hakes Marine build). This is effectively a big and small pulley joined together, the control line going around the former. With the pulley system mounted forward in the bow, this tackle is used to control the up and down component of the flying block for the jib sheet (will someone please come up with a name for this...). "It has a massive amount of purchase on it," says Hakes. "You can either have tons of triple and double blocks or a huge cascade or you can have something different other than go for hydraulics. On the drum winch we get 20-1 and then we have a 4:1 on the purchase taking it up to 80:1. So we took that and developed some carbon drum winches. There is no weight saving but it has no friction in the system. On Mean Machine they have had the no.1 fully loaded and have just been able to make singlehanded adjustments."

The only hydraulics on board are for the forestay, the Cariboni ram attached to a high tensile U bolt fitted before the knuckle was added. There is the possibility of adding another ram for the code zero. Hakes says they have preferred rope systems rather than hydraulics which could otherwise be fitted for jib up and down, top mast back stay, code zero and you could have ones for the jib ins.

The keel is a high tensile steel fabrication with a main beam down its centre with a solid lead nose piece and a solid trailing section and then the actual spar itself is filled with lead. This is then all C&C robot machined to the exact shape. "So the actual fin itself weighs a ton. Then you have just under 3.5 tonnes in the bulb." Fitting the keel is a straightforward operation, the top of the foil pulling into a tapered socket and attached to the hull with just one 45mm bolt.

Cost-wise Hakes reckons that a New Zealand-built TP52 can be put on the water for 1.6-1.8 NZ$ (roughly 530 - 600,000).

Hakes Marine currently have a third Vrolijk TP52 under construction along with two Reichel-Pugh IRC 45s.


Paul Hakes
photo: James Boyd /





judel-vrolijk MeanMachine