Success on the racing circuit often depends upon small, even tiny components for a race yacht – requiring good access and storage
Whether you need blocks or bolts, ball bearings or gears it is good to have everything tidily arranged and within easy reach so that you can service or repair your equipment directly on a clean workbench.
The same should apply when you are on the move: today Barcelona, tomorrow Cowes and possibly Sydney right after that. The company pcube on the outskirts of Kiel creates custombuilt containers for sailing teams, mainly for use as workshops and sail storage. These units, which are 20 or 40ft long, can also be modified to serve as a travelling café, chill-out refuge or even a retail shop.
The familiar marine freight container, made of robust Cor-Ten steel, is brought to Europe from China in an as-new condition for conversion. Worldwide there are currently only five standardised types of shipping container. Both the basic sizes, at 20 and 40ft, offer internal dimensions of 2.35m wide and 5.895m or 12.029m long. The simple ISO version is 2.392m high, but both sizes are also available in the High Cube configuration, with an increased internal height of 2.697m.
In the main, clients favour refrigerated containers (the 40ft High Cube Reefer), although they offer slightly less space because of the extra insulation. The refrigeration unit is integrated into the front bulkhead opposite the door and also operates as an air-conditioning system or in cold climates as a heating system. The temperature and humidity, if desired, are controlled electronically and are fully automatic.
With their innovative design and creative functionality, pcube’s solutions are alluring, with the company skilled in maximising the entire space up to the ceiling. The contract begins with planning a design concept faithful to the client’s wishes and ideas. Once agreed, a tender for a detailed design is prepared with implementation drawings for production. Depending on the amount of work involved this takes anything from 10 days to five weeks, to include metalwork, carpentry and electrical work, all carried out by specialist tradesmen. A paint finish to the client’s colours and transport to the first place of use can also be arranged.
Because internal walls and ceilings in the Reefer consist mainly of thin aluminium and stainless steel plates, pcube reinforces these before building the interior using high-quality 20mm multiplex plywood.
At this stage sophisticated shelving and cupboard systems are fitted as required – these are designed from the start to last a long time under arduous conditions. Box shelving above and below the workbench for spare parts and accessories can all be labelled at this point as well. If requested, an integrated parts washer for cleaning winch drives, for example, can be let into the workbench. Pcube never uses off-the-shelf products: when someone needs a 2.5m-wide drawer they will always get a customised product, with or without sub-divisions.
The company tailors individual criteria for storage, use and transport according to the size of boat. Storage areas, for example, are matched precisely to different-sized sail bags for the racing class in question. Several top teams from the Melges 24, RC44, TP52 and Maxi 72s have known the value of such a tailored product for some time. Among pcube’s blue chip clients are Artemis Racing, Rán and Quantum Racing.
Workshop and storage form the basic fit-out of any multifunctional container. A small office area with desk, shelving, communication connections plus a pantry with refrigerator are among other integrated facilities that are frequently requested. Pcube’s experience of container conversions means they can also advise on floor coverings, ranging from chequered plate through laminates to natural rubber, plus the various options for lighting systems. Recently modern lighting strips such as LED flat-panel lamps have frequently been preferred to traditional – and vulnerable – neon tubes.
Precision tools made in Germany are also at a premium on the sailing scene. Pcube negotiates or procures high-end mills, box column drills and other special equipment, such as sailmakers’ sewing machines. By means of a 110/220V voltage transformer, the teams are also ready to operate in the USA and other countries. Anyone who simply does not want to wait for a land connection will hold out for an emergency generator, using one of the four standard storage areas on the front bulkhead, adjoining the air-conditioning system. An air compressor and spare tank can also be accommodated in the same place.
All compartments are ready for transport with lockable, manually turned aluminium shutters. Incidentally, extra storage shelves in the container doors are also fitted with these shutters, to hang rigging or sail battens so that space is saved and items are protected against UV.
At the head of pcube is Marc Pickel, now in great demand as a top sailor in the Dragon class. Pickel also finished seventh in the Star class at the Beijing Olympics in 2008. There the experienced boatbuilder sailed his own P-Star, which he designed and developed himself through laborious testing and which remains firmly among the dominant designs in the class. The 43-yearold has since sold his successful P-Star business to the USA.
Meanwhile, in the pressured climate of the 2008 Chinese Olympics, the German sailing team used a comfortable, extravagantly fitted ‘chill-out container’ which Pickel designed at the time. After the Games demand grew and more and more customised container conversions followed… and since 2013 they have been marketed professionally under the pcube brand.
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