Don’t wait for your boat to come in: build it yourself! That’s the variation on the old motto adopted by Rene Froehlich of Sailing School Grenada to realize his vision of improving sailing opportunities for young people on the island.
Since getting involved in sail training on the island in 2013 he has observed that once young sailors grow out of the Optimist and Mosquito sailing dinghies available in Grenada, the options to sail competitively become extremely limited.
Up to now he has been using his own Nautiber cruiser Dione to help young people improve their sailing and navigational skills but frankly the boat is not attractive to keen young sailors. It is slow and heavy – a reliable workhorse, not the lean, mean racing machine that will provide a platform for team building and training the next generation of Grenadian competitive sailors.
“Dione introduces them to the basics, but I need a competitive yacht to help them take their experience to the next level,” Rene explains. “Without this we risk losing their talent and enthusiasm for a sport which is of growing economic importance to the island.”
A professional designer with experience on a wide range of projects, Rene decided he had the skills to build a yacht of the right calibre himself. He put this to the test by accepting a commission from the owner of a classic charter yacht to build a ten-foot tender in early 2014. The result was so impressive he is now forging ahead with the new project in his workshop in Westerhall.
Naval architect Nicolas Roelens and boat builders Jeff Fisher and Roger Adams have collaborated with Rene on the one-off design that goes by the working title of RF33.
The overall length of the boat is 35.6ft with a beam of 9ft. It carries around 1000 sq ft of sail area – main, jib and asymmetrical spinnaker combined. Code zero is approximately 774 sq ft.
The planing hull is strip planked with carbon fiber and lightweight fiber glass. The draft with fin and bulb is 10ft., and displacement is 1.162 kg.
Work on RF33 is well advanced and a major milestone was reached on October 31st when the completed hull was turned. RF33 is too big to maneuver within Rene’s workshop, so this was a delicate operation that involved Rene and a small army of friends carrying the hull out of the workshop, turning it manually within straps suspended from a crane and then lowering it onto wheel blocks, previously attached to the hull, so that it can now be wheeled around the workshop with ease.
Now Rene’s biggest problem is raising the US$ 75.000 for materials for the project – his labour is free – so he and his wife, Daniela, have come up with a crowd-funding model to raise the capital required.
They are hoping to attract support from both local businesses and the growing number of sailing enthusiasts who visit Grenada for events such as Grenada Sailing Week – and also cruising visitors who might want to give competitive racing a try.
In exchange for sponsorship of US$2,000 or more, Rene and Daniela are offering the opportunity to sail on RF33 at one of the local regattas including onshore accommodation if they need it.
A local business, The Canvas Shop, Grenada, has donated support with equipment and the Froehlichs have already signed their first major sponsor, Hugh Pringle, a regular visitor to Grenada Sailing Week from the UK.
Explaining his decision to support the project Hugh said: “Because I have gained so much personal pleasure from racing – particularly in Grenadian waters – I am keen that young people here share in this experience. Not only will it help them build their confidence, teamwork and positive attitude, but it will also harness the enthusiasm of Grenada’s up and coming sailing talent and enable them to develop their skills in a competitive international sailing environment.”
And Grenada’s junior sailors can’t wait. Rene says teenagers from the Gouyave Sailing Club have already asked to book their place on RF33 and want to know whether it will be ready for Grenada Sailing Week 2015. Fingers crossed!