Article on Building a Tri-Star 24
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Cover photo
The Hobby of a Lifetime and a Lifetime's Hobby

Continuing the story of Pat Webb and his amateur boatbuilding hobby from Multihull Magazine 1995.

PAT WAS RUNNING out of designers. Where should he go for his next challenge. Which new kid on th block designer would he favour? He confounded all his followers by choosing a long, long established designer who has been building multihulls for thirty-five years, Ed Horstman. While Ed's designs can be seen in European waters, I think it is true to say that they have not yet become fashionable here. The construction and sailing of his range of Tri-star trimarans is comprehensively described in two very informative books, yet still his work has had only limited success in penetrating the consciousness of European sailors.

Pat's practised eye was drawn to Ed Horstman's designs by an article he saw in a multihull magazine which illustrated an updated version of the smallest of the Tri-star cruiser range, the 24. Looking somewhat different from its brothers and sisters and from what has become the "normal" shape and arrangement for current trimarans, Pat's curiosity was aroused. She had fixed wing decks sweeping right from one float across to the other and no cabin deckhouse. Pat reread the article and obtained more literature. He noticed steady subtle design changes over the years rather than radical changes in direction.

The plans were sent for and building began. Pat noticed that Ed Horstman's designs seemed not to have been influenced by fashion, the designer had trodden his own path. If the designs didn't work he would have disappeared fromt he scene many years ago. There were none sailing then in the UK, but reading the study plan convinced Pat that it was the kind of boat to suit him in his advancing years with lots of deck to stroll around and sufficiently spacious accomodation. The designer said it would perform well... as designers would. Pat wondered if he could be at the start of a traditional multihull movement like the current trend for traditional monohulls which have such an active following.

Ed Horstman draws designs for both wooden and foam sandwich construction, but Pat prefers wood and so embarked upon the double diagonal construction previously rejected as being too time consuming... but Pat was approaching retirement. His garage was alright to build the hulls, but to join it all together, a much larger area was needed. The local sailing club had a boat shed for servicing the rescue boat and club dinghies; it was an old prefabricated house measuring 31 ft x 20 ft with a height of 9 ft. Pat fully believed it when he told the club committee that he would only need it for about three months.

He used double diagonal plywood strips about 16 inches wide over a framework of stringers, keeson, stem, transom and bulkhead, all of which eventually became part of the boat. There was not a lot of spiling (planing matched edges to shape) and the layup was quite fast. The first layer is nailed to the stringers but the second layer has to be stapled to the first. Ed Horstman recommended bronze staples which could be left in place but Pat was unable to find a supplier so he used conventional steel staples in an electric stapler. It is important not to allow the staples to penetrate right through as this breaks away the inner surface veneer of the ply skin. The solution is to staple through a strip of webbing, this also assists in removing the staples as the webbing is pulled off. It takes thousands of staples.

It took Pat eighteen months to complete the three hulls and as he was now retired, four months of that were virtually fulll time. The hulls were moved to the club boatshed and another eighteen months of daily work was needed to get the boat ready for the water. As building progressed the shed appeared to become smaller because the boat was "big for her size." The enormous deck was of a distinctive construction which, Pat reasons, might have been evolved for hot climates. The upper and lowere layers of plywood are separataed by timber deckbeams with dense foam infilling the spaces between beams but not glued to the ply above or below. Such construction did mean handling and fitting eighteen foot lengths of plywood four feet wide.

As the craft began to emerge from the component parts pat had his doubtful moments about what he was creating for the boat departs from current conventional wisdom. The float-mounted daggerboards and the rudder seemed so small. Pat, perhaps more of a racer than a cruiser, began to worry that he had built a "Roomeran." Pat was worried about all that deck, but went back to old books such as D.H Clarke's "Trimaran Development" which contains a wealth of advice on handling decked trimarans. Clarke highlights some areas where he considered were possible weak points in such designs. Pat's confidence was boosted when he saw that the problems had been addressed and development in these areas was evident in the Tri-star 24.

Visitors to the bulding shed always asked the usual question "How are you going to get it out?" Pat didn't bother too much as he had a vague mental plan which involved dismantling most of one end wall and a bit of roof to make the crane lift possible but about a week before this simple operation Pat tackled the concept with a tape measure and found... it didn't work! The whole roof would have to be dismantled... and there was more...and there was worse. This concentrated the mind.

Pat turned his attention to the retaining wall around the site and together with a scale drawing and a cardboard plan of the trimaran found that he could slide the boat out of the shed end and rotate it because one float tip would pass through a conveniently sited gate. If it didn't work, parts of the wall would have to be dismantled , but not much. In fact it worked and she was soon on the beach ready to be rigged and launched under the name of Try Again. She weighed 1.1 metric tonnnes on the crane which was heavier than the designers calculations but, as was to become evident, she can take weight.

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