Secret Designer's Notes
The design foundations of this type of vessel were laid in the nineteenth century by which time the archetypal English gaff cutter had evolved into a near perfect expression of hull and rig. Whether racing or trawling their straight stems, graceful counters and rakish rigs dominated the sailing scene in late Victorian England. Their speed and sea keeping abilities were the stuff of legend and even today cutters such as the restored Partridge of 1885 are still winning classic regattas and races. I grew up in and around the south east of England where many a fine cutter had her home port and I had wanted one for the best part of forty years. Although tiny by comparison, Secret shares a common heritage with those wonderful old cutters and I have worked harder on her lines than any other in an effort to capture the essence of the old timers in a thoroughly modern trailer yacht.
Intended primarily as a day sailer with good weekend accommodation facilities, the emphasis is on cockpit comfort and space rather than a cavernous cabin with all mod cons. The boat will sleep two down below and two under canvas in the cockpit. Ample space is provided for portable toilet, sink stove and icebox. The cabin features a canvas hatch and specially cast bronze oval ports. The cockpit is self-draining and will comfortably seat four along one side (“R” Type.)
Auxiliary power is supplied by an electric motor sliding down through a flap in the counter; the batteries stowed forward under the bunks. A small generator and solar panels can be fitted for complete peace of mind (a petrol outboard can be fitted but should be removable.)
Structurally, Secret is built around our time honoured slot system marine ply framework. A two inch laminated keel/stem/stern assembly runs the whole length of the boat, extending down to include the ballast which is in the form of lead ingots, housed in a faired hardwood “box.” The machined marine ply frames, seats and bulkheads interlock and slot into the keel, forming a light, strong box section framework. Next a series of closely spaced stringers are fitted around the hull and the ply skin is screwed and glued in place. The bilges are “planked” up in cedar and faired to a firm yet fully rounded profile. The bulkheads, floors, seat bunks, and lockers are all an integral part of the structure. There are no jigs or strongbacks needed and with all the components pre-fabricated, initial build time is very fast. Most builders will be able to get a Secret in frame within a week or two. Fairing the hull and achieving a good finish will always take time and superb cabin joinery is not an overnight job. To help make the work easier, many finishing components are pre-machined to fit to the framework and a selection of matching off-cuts is provided for custom work.
The keel is of Oregon pine (Douglas fir) and Tallowood, stringers of Oregon and Western Red Cedar, the turn of the bilges is also Cedar. Interior trim and other bright work is in Queensland Red Cedar – a tough, resilient yet lightweight timber, finishing to a beautifully figured rich red brown. Options include Australian Silky Oak or Silver Ash. The spars are hollow and of the best clear Oregon pine. The sailcloth is available in tan, cream or white and the custom made fittings are in stainless steel. Good quality cordage and chandlery is by Ronstan. The rig includes two rows of reef points on the main, roller reefing to the foresail and a variety of jibs set flying on the bowsprit. Secret can be rigged, launched and sailed by the single hander. She draws 2’3” (.675m) when afloat.
Secret has proved to be beautifully balanced on all points, quick to manoeuvre and satisfyingly fast. In about 8-9 knots of breeze she points efficiently to about 35 degrees, making true 45 degrees over the ground. On a reach over 7.5 knots has been recorded. The boat has an easy motion in moderate chop and has exceeded all expectations and we are delighted with her. While the “C” Type hulls and an “R” Type rigs with their larger battened main, larger jib and with optional gennaker is by far the most popular combination, for those who require even more performance there is the "R” type cabin version with larger cockpit and a smaller, lower cabin roofline. The two bunks below will remain for basic accommodation but there’s no space for stove or sink in the cabin, although a port-a-potti will sit snugly under the cockpit sole. Both rigs on both hulls are interchangeable. The “R” type with a crew of three or four will be very competitive in classic boat competition and in mixed handicap fleets.
The boat is thoroughly engineered to the best of my ability and while certainly not cheap, in kit form it will represent a huge saving on similar custom built craft.
Secret is for those who appreciate the very best in small boats – I am proud of her.