Restoring a Rival
William Stanton takes a very deep breath before committing to an unloved 40-year-old Rival 34 lying ashore in 'interesting' condition
William Stanton takes a deep breath before committing to a 40-year-old Rival 34
Isold my Contest 29 Coda because I wanted to share a boat with a friend, so we could double the experience and halve the cost to each of us. We wanted a GRP yacht about 35ft overall, and the budget would be the combination of our sales.
In the event the project stalled, but then along came another friend, Martin Harvey, who’d sailed with me on two of my previous boats. He was keen to share and was able to match the money I had from Coda, which gave us an initial budget of about £20,000. The game was on.
When we discussed boats, I said I’d wanted a Rival 34 ever since they appeared in the 1970s and Wild Rival won its class in the 1976 OSTAR. The trouble was that their price reflected their build quality (Lloyd’s 100 A1) and I’d never been able to afford one. But GRP doesn’t rot away like wood and the second-hand market is swelling all the time – including of course boats built when GRP laminates were hefty and long-lasting – so prices have fallen.
Martin was happy to become part of this little co-op, so we started to look for a modern classic. We didn’t look at many boats: a Rival 32; a Sadler 32, a Twister and the Rival 34s on brokers’ websites, all offered for between about £18,000 and £28,000. Then we decided to look at Fréhel, a Rival 34 ashore in Plymouth. It was February 2017 and she was not in good shape; but then again, neither was I. I was waiting for a hip replacement, which had been held up by a lingering chest infection. But at £13,950 Fréhel looked interesting, the price having steadily dropped from £29,950 over four years. I thought perhaps we shouldn’t get too excited, because while I could work on a project, I wouldn’t be able to sail until my hip was fixed, which meant not until the following season.
Of the 174 Rival 34s that were built, most had the shallower keel (4ft 8in compared to 5ft 10in), as does Fréhel.
At some point after her build in 1978, someone bolted 75mm x 25mm iroko rubbing strakes on top of the GRP rubbers that were moulded into the hull. They were lifting in places, a sight made worse by the
fact that all the teak on the boat – bulwark cap rails, grab rails, hatch trim – was covered in brown shed paint which of course was peeling.
On that first inspection it was also clear that the prop blades were damaged, the Kemp boom (original, made for rollerreefing) was broken, the running rigging was destroyed by UV and it looked from the lichen on the mast as though it hadn’t been down for years.
But underneath the neglect and the mould was a lovely yacht, which was waiting to be revived. A deep breath, and despite the fact we wouldn’t be able to sail her for a year, we contacted Rob Feloy for a survey. He found very low levels of moisture in the structure and the only sign of water in the balsa-cored deck was where a hole had been cut for a ventilation cowl up forward and the edges not sealed.
The hull below the waterline had been soda-blasted back to an epoxy coating, the three batteries were kept up by a Rutland 913 wind charger, the cooker was almost new and the interior joinery, though not completed to full Rival spec, was solid – and the two canvas sea berths in the saloon hadn’t been taken out, as is often the case. There was a decent mainsail, an almost-new genoa, a very old asymmetric and the original Kemp spinnaker pole lay on deck.
The instruments, though vintage, were of good quality and seemed to work: a Sestrel Moore compass (no air bubble, but also no light), Furuno radar and GPS (pre-chartplotter), a Seafarer echo sounder, a Simrad VHF and a Stowe towed log. The engine, a 35hp Westerbeke, was startable. There was no dinghy and the anchor chain was rusting.
It was clear that Fréhel had been neglected. We offered £11,000 – then, with no information as to the age of the standing rigging, reduced it to £10,000. The owner wanted to stick at £11,000 and we should have stood out for less, bearing in mind what we were to find later; but at last she was ours and we could start work, beginning with the things the survey had identified. The gas locker was cleared and cleaned, the gas system serviced and the loose cylinder secured. Three of the seven sea cocks were seized, and all needed new stainless jubilee clips on the hoses.
A sub-bulkhead up forward was coming away from the hull and was re-glassed when the rubbing strakes were taken off. We epoxied the edges of the opening for the cowl vent up forward, stripped and serviced the winches and threw away the boom.
The mast was unstepped, which meant removing the head lining on the starboard side of the saloon so we could access and free the cables.
We scrubbed green mould off the decks and mast, fitted a Windex, replaced the various lamps with LEDs and pulled out the rotted running rigging, leaving messenger lines behind.
We took off the masthead cap and freed two jammed sheaves, while Eurospars made a new boom, cut a new slot in the mast for the genoa halyard and replaced the standing rigging. In the process they took off the spreaders and found a dent in the mast beneath one of the roots.
After much sucking-in of breath they said it would cost £1,500 to fabricate new spreaders anchored through the mast, or £6,000 for a new mast.
A dent under a spreader is probably caused by the boat leaning against something, say when going on a wall.
A dent above or below the spreaders is a lot more serious. But this was a heavy mast and the dent was old, so we told Eurospars to put it all back together.
A visit to Jimmy Green Marine provided
‘Underneath the neglect and mould was a lovely yacht’
enough Liros braid line to replace the halyards and sheets.
While the head lining was down we rebedded three leaking port lights and dried her out, then moved on to the wind generator. It was making quite a lot of noise, including an intermittent juddering.
Marlec Engineering supplied new bearings and brushes, but didn’t know why it was juddering and suggested we send it to them. Before we did we discovered that it had been wired to work only when the batteries were switched on. So if you left the boat with batteries off and wind generator on (as we do), it kept tripping over itself electrically, switching on and off. Once this was fixed and the bearings and brushes replaced (one of them had broken in half) it ran perfectly.
A small detail that’s typical of a project like this is that when we took off the primary fuel filter it was of course clogged. But the glass bowl was chipped round the top edge and wouldn’t seat properly, so that explained why a small amount of diesel was leaking into the bilge. New filter, new bowl, new gaskets, lots of Bilgex. Almost everything we touched in servicing the engine was like that, including a leaking anti-siphon vent and the remote greaser broken off.
The tiller was varnished and refitted, only to discover that the alloy end cap is so worn that we have to retighten the securing bolts ever hour or so when sailing. Next winter: a new stainless fabrication to fit tiller to rudder head.
The diesel filler hose was falling off, so we replaced it. The water filler hose was filthy so we replaced it and installed a cartridge filter under the sink. The washboards didn’t fit properly, so we bought some 18mm teak-face marine ply and made new ones, this time with a vent. We took off the anchor chain and reversed it, pending re-galvanising.
The prop was stuck on the shaft and, lacking any pullers, we asked an engineer to come and free it. He did, and found the cutless bearing was worn out. We took the prop to C&O Engineering in Newton Abbot and they condemned it, so that meant a new 16x12 left-hand prop. Meanwhile the engineer took the screws out of the short tube that holds the cutless bearing and the whole thing fell off, stern tube and all, because it wasn’t fixed in. Old cutless bearing out, new one pressed in, shaft and bearing tubes epoxied and fastened in, shaft alignment checked, new prop fitted.
My Irens lug yawl Romilly was built by Rod Hallam and Simon ‘Ginge’ Murphy. It transpired that Ginge’s father had owned Fréhel years ago, so Ginge was able to tell us more about her. I’d contacted Rod, who was based at Plymouth Yacht Haven, to ask if he could remove the iroko rubbers and make good. He was working for Nathan Bone, and together they did the job.
There was of course osmosis underneath the rubbers, so they ground off, repaired and filled, sanded and painted, leaving an immaculate GRP rubber with its cove line ready for us to apply cove line tape.
We lifted and re-bedded the bulwark cap rails, then cleaned the shed paint off all the teak, scrubbed it with oxalic acid solution and fed it lots of teak oil.
So it went on, job after job, steadily through the year: things the survey had found, things we wanted to do and things that were broken or worn out. Martin was teaching and I was writing and hobbling about, but we managed a day a week and gradually worked through the jobs.
We ordered a stack pack and other canvas work, tested the instruments again and found that the radar was fine, but the GPS only works intermittently and the VHF has lost many of its functions. The final verdict on these two is still pending.
The old Seafarer echo sounder was
‘the gearbox was going astern when we were going ahead: yet another bodge’
above the chart table and impossible to read from the cockpit and the log didn’t work at all, so we decided to fit a Nasa Clipper Duet in the cockpit. The echo sounder is in an oil bath and pings through the hull, but the paddle wheel goes through the massive laminate.
A season afloat
In January 2018 I had a new hip, then at last we got the bottom sanded, primed and antifouled. There was a six-week pause while Martin directed the play I’d been writing at a London fringe theatre, but by the end of May we were ready and in she went.
That was when we discovered, motoring round to our berth at Mayflower Marina, that the new log tube was weeping (as well we might have) – and out she came again. We hadn’t seated it perfectly flat on the hull, but we’d also discovered that the new prop was vibrating badly above 1,250rpm and the head (the original Simpson Lawrence 400) pumped water out, but couldn’t be persuaded to pump anything in.
So while Fréhel was out for Paul Roach to refit the log tube, he installed a Jabsco Compact WC and Darren Flint came back to pull the prop off for us to take back to C&O Engineering. No problem with the balance, so back on it went – and Darren discovered it was key-bound. This meant filing down the shaft key until the prop made perfect contact all along the shaft taper. No more vibration.
A few days later we went for a short shake-down, sailing her to Fowey, then
Falmouth – our first proper passage and a great sail. The wind stayed in the east so we punched wind and sea, motor-sailing up to Fowey – and coming up to a buoy, discovered she was stuck in gear. We eventually managed to get her alongside a pontoon and found that the gear-change cable had broken, as had the Morse control, although we’d greased it and checked that it worked.
Another bout of swearing about past neglect, then first thing the next morning Fowey Harbour Marine came out and fitted a new one.
They also said our left-handed prop was fitted to a standard gearbox, so the selector had been reversed and the gearbox was going astern when we were going ahead: yet another bodge, perhaps because someone once happened to have a left-handed prop. Next winter we’ll have to decide how much it matters...
Fréhel’s best point of sailing, not surprisingly is a reach, when she heels, immersing her long overhangs, and leans on her shoulder as she powers along. Light airs aren’t too good for her, but a good Force 4+ and she’s in her element – and she doesn’t pound in a seaway.
We’re spending this first season sailing days and weekends, finding out the ways of our fine modern classic and knowing it was worth all the hard work.
ABOVE Back to her former glory: a restored Fréhel looking very smart tucked up in Plymouth’s Mayflower Marina RIGHT Fréhel at Dartmouth in the 1980s
A new boom, stack pack and washboards
Instruments fitted were old and not always serviceable
BelOW Relaunch day, May 2018
left the owners sorting out the reef pennants
RIGHt Waiting for paint and a new prop
A good fetch andFréhel doing what she does best