After 50 years' building everything from foiling Moths to the supermaxis McConaghy Boats are entering new markets with a ground-breaking supercat plus a mini-Canonball to take on the growing Fast40+ class
McConaghy Boats are celebrating a half-century in performance boatbuilding this year with an impressive pedigree of raceboat excellence that, in the hands of the world’s best sailors, has now won pretty much every major contest in the sport. This ranges from Aussie 18s in Sydney Harbour to custom offshore IOR, IMS and IRC designs, ACC America’s Cup boats, first-tofinish maxis, supermaxis… the list goes on and on. Oh yes, did we mention the Andrew McDougall Mach 2 foiler Moths which continue to pour out of the door of the company’s Chinese facility?
Yet, rather than rest on these laurels of always being on the cutting edge of composite fabrications, McConaghy have recently further notched up the pace to adopt some recent innovations that will have this firm well poised to enter the next half-century with greater efficiencies and versatilities in production of a new range of boat types wider than ever before.
A recent infusion of capital from Tiger Group Investments prompted a significant growth in infrastructure, placing McConaghy in a position to meet the ongoing demands of a competitive marketplace that is evolving in its appetite for every form of performance sailing boat from those foiling Moths to supermaxis.
‘This is an exciting time,’ admits co-owner Mark Evans. ‘We are expanding rapidly in both breadth and depth of our skillsets which will give us greater diversity in product lines as the different markets evolve.’
For more than a decade Evans has overseen the development of McConaghy’s China operation just outside Hong Kong from its modest beginnings in two buildings of 2,500m2 to the mammoth operation it is now, with over 12,500m2 of space spread over five buildings.
Along with the additional floor space, the acquisition of more equipment has increased production capacity two-fold from just a year ago, and Evans and his team are now hiring at the rate of 10 new employees per week, with over 200 currently employed. With such extensive use of pre-preg composites, five-axis CNC milling machines for tooling, autoclaves and the like, the new hirings include qualified engineers and technicians who help manage the details of design and fabrication for any composite assembly order they take on.
To add to this capability, Evans recently purchased three Germanmade Kuka robots that he says will greatly enhance the speed and accuracy of parts production in functions such as panel trimming, where close tolerances can mean better bonding with fewer secondary adhesives and other materials, thereby also saving weight. Consistency is also enhanced in making a more seamless transition from CAD files to finished parts. McConaghy sourced these robots through a local dealer in China, then hired a local-based engineer to install and now manage these machines. Evans says this would not have been possible where McConaghy started in Australia, so this is a distinct benefit to being located in China.
Above: Mark Evans has good reason to look proud as the first MCCat comes together in China. To achieve the light weight and good stiffness needed to attempt a new level of supercat performance there is a lot of obvious crossover from the technology McConaghy developed for their long string of fast and reliable race yachts. This is an ambitious programme with far reaching implications… exciting times
These robotic tools enable McConaghy to become not only more efficient but also diversify their product line, whether it’s boats, spars, submarines, radar domes, furniture, architectural components or… the board sets used in Bermuda at the Red Bull Youth America's Cup feeder series.
When the organisers of this series decided – with just six weeks to go – that they wanted some more boards to hand they turned to McConaghy. Using the new automation tools, the boards were fabricated quickly to replicate the original eight sets built in 2014/15 and meet the tight deadline.
This is a perfect example of how automation is playing a growing role enabling new projects on short deadlines to be taken on that would not have been possible using conventional methods.
This efficiency is becoming of paramount importance and it’s hard to imagine a modern composites operation anywhere in the world with more diversity in performance boatbuilding. Not only do McConaghy keep pace with orders for their signature high-tech raceboats (with the latest being the bold new Botín Fast40+) and composite parts and components for other raceboats, but they also continue to produce dinghies and small keelboats at prodigious rates.
For example, the Mach 2 and Waszp foiling Moths are built at a rate of six and 15 per week respectively, with some 600 built to date for the still-expanding world market.
Meanwhile, a recent deal with Laser Performance for Club420 production could yield production figures up to five times this rate within a few months. Elliot, RS Sailing, Phantom International and J/Boats all have similar production deals already in place.
The boatbuilding operation ranges from these small craft up to the newest and largest semiproduction project McConaghy have taken on – the exciting new Jason Ker-designed series of MCCats, a new concept that combines performance, safety, comfort and style. This range has been designed using a group of experienced owners and sailors (who between them have spent decades sailing and cruising multihulls), a highly experienced design and engineering team and McConaghy’s 50 years of building yachts for the most demanding customers and conditions.
The MC50 Cat is the first in this series, with three boats already sold before even halfway into production – all three being bought by dealers confident that they can sell them very quickly.
‘The innovations in design in this boat are so clever that we had boats sold in the Cannes and Miami Boat Shows sight unseen,’ said Evans. ‘We have never seen this before, where our dealers are committing to buying rather than us having to urge them to bring in their customers. All are convinced they would have sold boats at the shows had they physically been there in the water; and this will happen in 2018 with these boats targeted for delivery in only a few months’ time.’
It’s no secret that offshore multihulls are now on the ascendancy in the marketplace, driven by their essential features of simplicity, speed, space, stability and style. This is why when you visit nearly any boat show most of the sailboats on display are some variation of multihull design.
The MC50Cat is aiming to please a cost-conscious, but not frugal customer, that is either new to, or already within this genre, who appreciates performance, but does not want to be foiling. One who will want power in the sailplan, but only if it can be handled by a cruising couple without professionals onboard, one who has long passages in their itineraries so that comfort at sea will be as important as outright speed. And, with offshore sailing in mind, the MC50Cat customer will be attracted to a design that has full certification that the yacht can handle any conditions of blue-water sailing.
With complex interior elements seen in the MC50Cat – the modern open saloon with its fold-away doors is an example – accuracy is of paramount importance to stay not only on weight but within strict budget targets as well.
So, with a 50-year heritage of boatbuilding excellence in hand and the tools and expertise in place for the future, along with a large skilled workforce, McConaghy stand ready today to offer high skill, high efficiency, high automation and high quality to any grand prix, semi-production or productionbased project.
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