Mike Smith is building a replica of Sir Robin Knox-Johnston’s Suhaili to compete in the GGR
Mike Smith is a boat builder and former project coordinator for Boatspeed, builders of Dame Ellen Macarthur’s record-breaking trimaran B&Q/Castorama, and the Volvo Ocean Race yacht Movistar. Very experienced in hi-tech composite construction, this South African born sailor is using his expertise to create a modern replica of Sir Robin Knox-Johnston’s 1968/9 race winner Suhaili. He has utilised the latest CAD design system to first fair the lines of this ERIC design, then laser cut the frames. Construction is taking place in a barn outside his home near Newcastle, NSW and she is now ready to be strip-planked and sheathed in epoxy.
Mike’s plan is to compete the hull later this year and have it shipped to Cape Town for fitting out before sailing her to Plymouth for the start.
He writes: “An entrant with no means to buy a boat or to support a campaign is somewhat foolish. Pingo, the animated clay penguin from the TV series, is a natural mascot for me since he embodies much of my crazy scheme. I take hope from so many sailors who have been in the same predicament, and succeeded. Penguins represent the wildlife of he Southern Ocean, I hope my entry will draw attention to environmental issues within this remote wilderness.
Construction of my Suhaili replica has at last reached the planking stage. It’s a tangible stage where the boat takes form and where outside help which I so desperately need, could occur.
Why enter the GGR? I have a strong attraction to the South Ocean, to the winds, waves and its isolation. It has to be the most demanding and most rewarding experience. We will need a high degree of self reliance in all facets of seamanship to overcome the high winds and big seas, sleep deprivation, cold and wet, gear failures and mental anguish.
I chose to build a William Atkins Eric 32 Suhaili replica because I want to race against Suhaili’s times. As an amateur designer and boat builder I found the idea to redesign the original carvel on sawn frame construction for composite strip plank on plywood bulkheads irresistible. Sailing a boat you have redesigned and built gives a huge satisfaction. This replica allows for a very spartan functional work boat interior with minimal equipment, which suits me.
The Eric design is already well recognised as a rugged and very seaworthy boat for its size. Composite strip planking on plywood bulkheads results in a very strong monocoque structure with the bulkheads forming natural watertight compartments. She will have a total of 5 watertight bulkheads and four permanent buoyancy compartments. The revised build method results in a lighter hull structure. The ballast keel will be changed from cast iron to lead to achieve the original design displacement with additional ballast increasing the righting moment and as a consequence, improve her ability to carry sail.
I think of the Southern Ocean as wild and free with a primitive rhythm… a place of solitude and cold. It will be a privilege to be there. I would like to linger at Cape Horn and absorb the timelessness of the place. It will be hard to leave but warm weather and promise of companionship will undoubtedly lure me north.”