Fire­fly

1948

Practical Boat Owner - - Boats -

This was the first sail­ing boat to be mass pro­duced and was gen­er­ally built in batches of two or three dozen boats. Hull con­struc­tion was of three lay­ers of 1⁄8in (3mm) spruce that had been stock­piled for the war ef­fort, chang­ing to 2.5mm agba ve­neer when this be­came un­avail­able. The planks were ap­plied over a male mould with each tem­po­rar­ily held in place with sta­ples.

Once planked up the boats were put in a vac­uum bag and heated un­der pres­sure in an au­to­clave for 30 min­utes. This process com­pressed the planks to­gether, ac­ti­vated the glue and helped it im­preg­nate into the tim­ber. The re­sult was a lightweight yet stiff mono­coque struc­ture that could be built in around half the time of a tra­di­tion­ally planked clinker dinghy. It sold for just £65, in­clud­ing an alu­minium mast. When the boat was se­lected for the 1948 Olympics, in which leg­endary Dan­ish sailor Paul Elvström won his first of his four gold medals, the Fire­fly quickly gained recog­ni­tion and pop­u­lar­ity.

Hot-moulded con­struc­tion was quickly rolled out to a wider range of craft, in­clud­ing the 15ft Al­ba­core, the 18ft Jolly­boat dinghy and the Olympic Fly­ing Dutch­man class. It was also used for larger boats, in­clud­ing the 26ft and 31ft Fairey Ata­lan­tas.

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