BILL SHAND & FLYING FIFTEENS – as written by Bill
I started off serious sailing in 1957 . I built a Gwen 12 in the lounge room of the local police residence which we were building at the time and as it was Christmas holiday time I decided to utilize the space and time. It was all clear wood finish including spars & had cotton sails. I made the sail battens too thin and later discovered why we were capsizing up to 12 times in a race. During this time I had decided on a flying fifteen because it had a keel.
While building the ff we actually mastered the Gwen and had a ball. If you have not sailed a Gwen with the shy kite up on a hairy reach you will not know what I am saying. I launched the ff 550 called “ffalanger” in 1962. It was built of 3 layers of 1/16 inch mahogany veneers using urea glue (which was the best at the time) but I later found out about its 7 year lifespan. There were 2500 staples used to hold the veneers while the glue set & then they had to be removed again by hand….. very boring.
Ted & Sandy McLeod watched the project and said they wanted one also , so they took the first & I the second, but they had No 551- Sandy still has 551 but it had one of my early fiberglass hulls inserted before we were required to get new sail numbers. Three flying fifteens were built this way and then another two using two layers of eighth inch plywood cut into six inch strips and glued together with resorcinol glue for a longer life.
By this time I had a number of people wanting ff’s and I was totally sick of the staple process, although the ply strips halved the number. Fibre glass was the new way to go but there was no information available. I heard of a paint company in Melbourne who had their chemist looking into it so I high-tailed it to him and he sold me a roll of cloth and some resin, and told me to go and experiment as that was the best way in his view. The end result was taking a mould of my own ff and building the first fiberglass ff. The mould was not good but with a bit of filler etc. I got about 5 ff’s out of it. They were OK but not to my standard , so I faired up one of these hulls and took off one of my best moulds which produced a finish that gleamed straight from the mould & needed no cutting or polishing ( made my day). This became known as the Shand Mk 1 mould. Almost 200 hulls and decks came from these moulds. All the fibre glass was stacked in order on a table ( cut from templates) ready for laying up. One week there were 4 lots of fibre stacked on the table….. I sprayed the first gelcoat in the moulds on Saturday, then on Monday four of us started and by Friday there were four hulls & decks joined up & in the yard.
All of these ff’s were built to Uffa Fox’s design plan with none of the plus or minus tolerances needed. The first measurement form stated that tolerances were only for building mistakes etc and should not be exploited. However the powers that be in the UK somehow deleted this clause in a reprint, without telling or getting a vote on it, so it became possible to change the shape to anywhere within two inches. This led to a lot of experimenting in the UK and eventually my moulds becoming obsolete.
I did build a mould after this which is known as the Shand Mk 2 but it was a flop in my book and was really a Mk 1 as far as categories go in my opinion. Graeme Lillingston started reshaping some of these older ff’s and then I reshaped quite a few but nowadays they have to race in no-mans land so to speak.
At this stage the Windebank Mould 2 1/2 came to Perth . The boats produced there became very sought after, but the builder had a problem with quality control as he was not doing the job himself. This lead to me being able to purchase that mould, sight unseen, and it was delivered to my place while I was in NSW sailing a national series. I was to pay Roy Windebank $100 royalty on each hull. The last new hull out of it from WA was also there and it looked shocking. After seeing that, Roy told me to not pay the royalty as the mould was buggered. I was thinking “ that is an easy way to do $7000 in cold blood”(- teach me to look first). The mould had a chocolate brown gelcoat finish & I think it had been left in the hot Perth sun so that it had thermoplasticised out of fairness. But not to be beaten, Hal (brother and crew) and I spent 3 months with longboards & sandpaper & then polish to get it back to a better finish than original. This mould became known as the Shandebank Mk 3. Boats from this mould eventually became nearly impossible to measure under the refined measurement tolerances adopted by FFI and ISAF in 1993.
When brother Hal reached 65 he was to retire and 3 months before we had cleaned up all my building jobs on housing, I had nothing to do so I said we will knock a boat out, turn it over, fair it and change the shape somewhat, and then take a mould off it. He remarked that I was mad, as I am the older. However it did happen, and this mould became known as the Shandebank Mk 4 mould. For a start I tried to build a few ff’s but could not alone handle the coremat hulls which were my specialty as it gave a very cheap & good hull. That method needs 3 experienced workers (all laminating needs to be done in one day).
I later started building using a thin skin with core 7, another thin skin. Sometimes I used carbon & vacuum bagging. It all sounds high tech. but put a top skipper & crew into a coremat boat with a carbon rib system & you have a winner. I have used the same rib system from the early days but later put the carbon in as well.
The original timber plug which the veneered boats were built on I gave to the Victorian FF Association who let it out to private home builders. There were possibly 10 to15 built this way all using the plywood method. One still consistently sails- Dave Geldard built it- it took 10 years to finish so he called it “Decade” and is now well known under the name of “Black Pearl”.
For myself, I have built and owned 23 ff’s over the years. It has been a most enjoyable part of my life both as a builder of quality yachts and as a competitive sailor in and against boats that I built.