Enter Allan Roper, the designer and builder of racing yacht Saturday Night Special, named after the Lynyrd Skynyrd song. A life-long yachtie, Roper grew up building and racing Cherubs and skiffs, and now in his fifties, he was keen for something more substantial that still got up and boogied.
Some years ago, Roper scored a Ross 930 mast, rigging and mainsail, and while he would have preferred something around 12m long, pragmatically Saturday Night Special was designed around this rig.
This meant beginning with a calculator rather than a pencil, the rig’s size determining the yacht’s length, beam and displacement. Furthermore, Roper’s careful study of Bruce Farr, John Spencer, Des Townson and Murray Ross designs showed fast boats used a 5:1 ratio between waterline length and beam.
Another design parameter was the width of Roper’s shed, which limited overall beam to three metres maximum. These numbers provided Roper with a selfimposed box rule in which to draw the fastest, lightest hull possible. designs, Roper had no hesitation opting for plywood construction – it’s light, easy to build, and when sheathed with epoxy, relatively long lasting. It’s also better than most materials from an environmental perspective, because at the end of the plywood yacht’s life it’s much easier to dispose of than, for example, one built from GRP.
Roper based Saturday Night Special’s construction on Spencer’s well-proven stringer-on-frames system. The hull has nine yellow cedar frames at one-metre centres, supporting yellow cedar stringers on 200mm centres. The Meranti plywood hull skin is mostly single-skin nine-millimetre, with 6:1 scarf-joins backed up with butt-blocks. However, the lower forward sections are diagonally planked in two skins of six-millimetre Meranti.
The remainder of the boat is also Meranti plywood, the rounded turtle deck is two laminations – one of six, the other of four – while the cockpit and side decks are single- skin nine-millimetre. The whole boat is sheathed in 600-gram DB glass and epoxy.
As Roper intended to keep Saturday Night Special on the poles at Sandspit, shallow draft was a necessity, so he designed a vertical lifting keel. The lift-keel’s case – which is plywood, sheathed internally with 600-gram DB glass and epoxy – extends upwards from the keelson to the deckhead. The keel came from a Mini Transat 650 that never made it to the water and is laminated from