Bottle Boats

The BOTTLE boat

Like the PUNCH dinghy, the idea for a bottle boat was conceived in Waldringfield, this time when Roger was washing up the dishes in 1992. His sister, Annie used Ecover washing-up liquid, which came in a rather large bottle, as you needed to use a lot of it to get any bubbles! At this time the highly competitive Marblehead model yacht that Roger raced had semicircular cross sections to minimise the friction drag, with the stability achieved by a deep keel with a ballast bulb.

So why not make the hull with a couple of these circular bottles? Roger did a quick sketch, but then did nothing further until the mid-1990s when the cost of a starter boat for new radio racing competitors was getting expensive, in the order of £2000. The idea was to use two litre fizzy drink bottles, joined by a carbon fibre moulding to include the keel and structure for supporting the cantilevered swing rig and the radio gear etc. As well as recycling the bottles, a plastic coffee cup was used as the ‘bow’, the spars were seconds carbon arrow shaft and the sails were recycled shopping bags etc.

The first boat was produced in 1998 and worked very well with a standard inexpensive servo able to pull in the sails instead of an expensive winch. As the swing rig is balanced, which reduces the sheeting forces, this was achieved using a clever innovative ‘power lever’. Several moulds and jigs for making the stainless steel fittings were produced with the intention that the boat could be made by DIY builders using these moulds and jigs. Other model yacht suppliers made ballast bulbs and some of the detailed fittings on a one design basis.

The performance was amazing for such a small boat made of recycled parts with a ready-to-sail price of under £200. The other important feature was that all of the parts fitted into a briefcase so that transport would be easy; by bike, bus, bus, train etc. Model yachts always require small sails when the wind is blowing too hard for the big rig and in this case the mast was split into 2 halves, with a small top mast for the smaller sails. All of these features allowed the design to achieve a Millennium Product award by the Design Centre, for one of the most innovative products at the turn of the millennium.

The first big event for the class was sailed on the river Deben at Waldringfield in October 2002 in the most amazing gale, which dragged one of the moored yachts onto the mud. However 3 of the dozen BOTTLE boats entered, managed to survive and finished the racing in their small rigs. Every year since then, the BOTTLE boat championship has provided a great spectacle in front of the WSC clubhouse with up to 20 entries and provides exciting racing for both competitors and spectators alike, with children able to compete with some of the best dinghy sailors in the club on an equal footing.

Occasionally, Roger builds new BOTTLE boats and there are other moulders that sometimes produce boats, but newcomers can usually find second-hand boats from the total of about 130 built so far.

Roger Stollery 2019-01-30

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