Fast and fun can be affordable and accessible
When introduced a year ago to the marketplace, Jason Ker’s Bolt 37 design seemed like an impossible dream: a manageablesized pure race boat that promised to be fast, fun to sail, offshore-capable, and with all the features expected in a modern race boat, but at a price affordable to a broad marketplace. And nearly a year after the launch of the first boat, its speed on paper and in design renderings have translated into reality, with boat-for-boat horizon jobs achieved against many larger racer and cruiser-racer designs.
But how can this be possible for a production boat, and one fitted with a Hall high-modulus carbon spars and Harken hardware, at a base boat price of only €149,000? Anything else that comes this close in performance is usually twice this price.
The answer is in the careful attention made to choosing the right trade-offs in performance and cost-efficiency in both the design features and the materials and production techniques used in the build. These choices have been made with the extensive experience Ker has had with numerous other performance designs created in both custom and production form from a variety of builders around the world.
‘Our brief was to create a low-cost high-performance boat that could interest the large market of club-based racers who wanted an accessible, easy-to-race design,’ said Jason Ker. ‘Furthermore, this boat had deliver excitement and performance, but also at a modest price and good build quality. We think we have achieved this in the Bolt.’
In design, Ker’s extensive use of Fine-Marine RANS CFD computations on their in-house cluster of computers has produced an attractive low freeboard hull shape that nicely balances the opposing forces of stability and drag. The quite generous sail plan produces plenty of power, and with minimal wetted surface area the hull shape allows impressive boatspeed when other boats are struggling just to move in light air. Yet when the breeze comes on, the hull shape has excellent form stability and sufficient righting moment to continue to harness that power and hit planing speeds sooner than most of the competition.
While offered at a low price, the build process for the Bolt 37 represents the same no-compromise approach using the latest techniques found among any contemporary high-performance production boat builder. The hull, bulkheads, stiffeners and the deck are built in female tooling with E-glass and use of Core-cell M-Foam core, a superior material 40% more expensive than conventional PVC foams, with vinylester resin infused with vacuum assistance to minimize voids and control the amounts of resin to keep the design weight consistent enough for one-design standards and at just under 4000kg. This choice of resin in the laminates takes advantage of the compatibility of vinylester with the gelcoat finish for a further reduction in cost and build time.
CNC-moulded composite skins encase the cast steel keel fin, which supports the antimony-lead alloy bulb cast in CNC-milled plug, then faired with templates and painted. This approach ensures that no additional fairing and finishing is necessary before racing. Static and dynamic loads from the keel are linked to the hull and rig via an internal alloy frame structure bonded to the hull.
At such an impressively low price, the Bolt 37 could be bought in bulk and easily start sprouting one-design fleets. However, an important aspect of the Bolt’s design is in the excellent value for rated performance when racing under ORCi and even IRC handicaps. No doubt the cost-control credits being built in to the HPR rule will also make the Bolt an attractive option for those that want to play among similar-sized high-performance designs but at a fraction of the cost.
‘We are very pleased with the reception we have had among the first several Bolt owners,’ said Karem Ozkan of KA Yachting, developer of the Bolt 37. ‘Even with teams that represent a mixture of talent levels, they are still able to access the high performance levels in this design. In this way we feel the Bolt is truly a breakthrough in its ability to deliver unparalleled performance value to the racing sailor.
‘We look forward to seeing the Bolt come to more racing venues throughout Europe and beyond so that everyone can see that high performance does not have to come at a high price.’
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