Magic Merlin

The Daily Sail examines Fibrefusion's new Merlin Rocket featuring a canting, rotating rig and exotic construction
A must-see at London Boat Show is a radical new Merlin Rocket, centrepiece on the Harken stand, upstairs at 291E. Scantily Clad, as the Merlin as has been dubbed, is unique in several way. She has carbon spars with a mast that both cants and is rotating, similar to that of a 60ft trimaran. Part of her is also built using a novel filament laminate technique. The boat is the brainchild of Steve Neal, whose company Fibrefusion manufacturers composite bits and pieces in Penryn just outside Falmouth in Cornwall. These include carbon fibre panels with Nomex or foam core for yacht interiors and other custom products - currently they moulding some recumbent push bike seats. Aside from laminating they also make hitech PBO cordage. The advantage of the filament build technique is obviously that it pars down weight to the absolute minimum. The structure is specified and then calculated using a finite element analysis programme that plots the path of the fibres. Software can then be used to test the resulting panel. The fibres can then be 'printed out' in an array of unidirectional tapes, bonded to a core - in the case of the Merlin, Corecell was used. Scantily Clad has a wooden hull, centreplate case and transom as required under the Merlin Rocket class rules built by Lawrie Smart, but her main bulkhead and foredeck are made using the filament technique. Neal says that the wooden hull weighed 41.5kg while the deck, centreplate and mast support bulkhead came in at just 9kg. While such a build technique is perhaps overkill in the Merlin class, Neal admits that he has no intention of sailing the boat, but has undertaken the project as a test bed. During the show he has been looking to sell the boat for £10,500. Equally