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Ap­pro­pri­ately, it’s a long train ride through thick, thick for­est be­fore I reach the LA Yachts yard on the banks of Lake Müritz in cen­tral Ger­many. This seems ap­po­site be­cause the boat I’ve come to see is an ex­quis­ite ex­am­ple of how wood is just as rel­e­vant as ever when it comes to boat­build­ing. In truth, the LA28 has lit­tle in com­mon with the end­less rows of fir that fringe the lake; she is cold-moulded from no­bler stuff. But it is strik­ing that this young ship­yard chose to build in wood. I ask yard owner Lothar Ficht­ner why.

“It’s lighter than GRP and cheaper than car­bon,” he says with­out blink­ing. So much for the ro­mance of tra­di­tional con­struc­tion, then. In fact, there’s lit­tle about this ves­sel the boat­builders of 100 years ago would recog­nise.

For one, cold mould­ing is a tech­nique that re­lies heav­ily on epoxy resin to stick each layer of wood to the last and sheath the whole struc­ture to keep the wa­ter out. Then there can be as much or as lit­tle car­bon in the rig and the fin­ish as you want, while propul­sion comes cour­tesy of a Torqeedo elec­tric mo­tor. De­spite her el­e­gant tum­ble­home and the plung­ing curve of her coachroof, this is a thor­oughly mod­ern boat. “The best of mod­ern and tra­di­tional,” Ficht­ner says.

The story of the LA28 be­gins with the de­sire of a wealthy man to have a beau­ti­ful sail­ing toy. Lothar Ficht­ner was that man and, hav­ing sold his engi­neer­ing busi­ness, he wanted to en­joy more of life from his sec­ond home on Mal­lorca.

He ap­proached a boat­builder in the Mu­ritz re­gion called An­dreas Zehle who spe­cialised in the build­ing of the Ger­man 20er Jol­lenkreuzer rac­ing dinghy class, also cold moulded. Then he drafted in de­signer Martin Men­zner from Ber­ck­e­meyer Yacht De­sign in Laboe on the Kieler Fjord. This small de­sign house has worked on ev­ery­thing from dinghies to high­lat­i­tude yachts, us­ing a range of con­struc­tion ma­te­ri­als and tech­niques. Cru­cially, Ber­ck­e­meyer is strong in cold-moulded yacht de­sign, or ‘speed strip’ as they call it.

The brief was for a trail­er­a­ble 8-9m boat, that was “Sim­ple to rig, as sin­gle-handed as pos­si­ble and with ex­cel­lent sail­ing char­ac­ter­is­tics,” Around of Si­comin epoxy is used in the lay-up Ficht­ner ex­plains. “I am both­ered by the cur­rent de­vel­op­ment in boat­build­ing. Al­most all boats look the same. I wanted some­thing ex­clu­sive that is mod­ern in de­sign and tra­di­tion­ally built.” Men­zner is a suc­cess­ful J/80 sailor him­self, and the two men quickly saw eye-to-eye. The whole de­sign process took just three months. Ficht­ner had no clear idea of it at the time, but he wasn’t just buy­ing a boat, he was es­tab­lish­ing a yard.

“I founded the ship­yard be­cause two boat­builders were un­em­ployed and I wanted to have a boat for my area in Ger­many and Mal­lorca,” he re­calls. But one thing led to an­other, and Ficht­ner is a nat­u­rally am­bi­tious man. “We had a lot of suc­cess at trade fairs and con­tin­u­ous or­ders. Then I found my way into Ger­many’s Yacht mag­a­zine.”

They have now sold nine boats since 2015, when the first gar­nered rave re­views at In­ter­boat in Friedrichshafen.

Work­ing with wood

Cold mould­ing re­quires a rough plug to be made, but no fe­male tool­ing is needed, mak­ing it much cheaper to set-up than in the case of GRP or car­bon. The plug around which the

Spec­i­fi­ca­tion LOA LWL Beam Draught Keel raised Dis­place­ment Bal­last en­gine price ex VAT 8.8m 28ft 11in 8.0m 26ft 3in 2.5m 8ft 2in 1.7-1.9m 5ft 7in-6ft 3in 0.8-1.0m 2ft 8in-3ft 3in 1.5 tonnes 600kg 1,322lb Torqeedo Cruise 2.0FP €120,000

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