SpeedDreamer heads to Romania

Vlad the Designer visits Axxom Composites

Thursday December 1st 2011, Author: Brian Hancock, Location: none selected

The creative process is a funny thing. Most people involved in designing boats work in relative solitude thinking, scheming and trying out different ideas until they find something that works. But new ideas are elusive and sometimes when you really need inspiration, it eludes you. That’s when you know it’s time to head for Transylvania.

Well, that’s what you do if you are Vlad Murnikov, the lead designer and creative force behind SpeedDream. In his small office in the middle of rural Massachusetts, Vlad toils away, usually working through the night when it’s quiet and the ideas come easily. But there are times when, no matter how hard he stares at the computer screen, the screen just stares back at him, unyielding. Which is precisely why Vlad packed his bag and took a flight to Romania.

Actually the trip was to visit Axxon Composites, a modern mast making facility in the heart of Romania that is building the carbon rig for SpeedDream. “It’s hard to grow up with the name like Vlad without being fascinated with stories of Dracula,” Vlad the Designer said. “I’ve looked up on the Internet for the pictures of a fairytale castle, perched at the edge of the cliff and shrouded in mysterious fog. It’s such an unusual place and so interesting that I knew that one day I would pay it a visit. The fact that Axxon Composites, the SpeedDream mast manufacturer is located right at the foot of the Dracula’s Castle allowed me to travel both into the past and the future simultaneously.”

In a way it was a step back in time to when his namesake Vlad III, the Prince of Wallachia, ruled with a brutal hand. Nicknamed Vlad the Impaler the tyrant was said to have ordered the execution of his enemies in a particularly brutal manner; he had them impaled. “That guy was quite something,” Vlad the Designer said. “He certainly did not lack inspiration when coming up with terrible ways to kill people. His father was a member of the Order of the Dragon (Dracul) and Dracula means ‘Son of the Dragon’. It was this legendary fiend who became the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel entitled simply, Dracula.”

While the fictional story of Dracula has remained prominent for decades it is just that; a story loosely based on Vlad the Impaler. The SpeedDream visit to Romania was, however, anything but fiction. In the heart of Romania, Brasov to be exact, there is a brand new facility that builds state-of-the-art carbon composite masts. Heading operations at Axxon Composites is Eric Duchemin, one of the most experienced mast makers in the world, who pioneered carbon fiber for rigs over 25 years ago.

The manufacturing facility in Romania is an effort to bring the experience and engineering from years of production in France to a place where labor is less expensive as a way to remain competitive. It is an impressive place and while the SpeedDream mast is tiny alongside the massive autoclave, capable of producing 50+ meter long masts, Axxon Composites will be a critical partner as SpeedDream grows.

A crucial ally in this venture is John Green of SparcraftRacing, whose friendship with Vlad Murnikov goes back more than twenty years. John had not only supplied the rig for Fazisi, but was also instrumental in bringing in Dennis Conner and the initial Pepsi sponsorship for the project. Fascinated by SpeedDream John is looking for new ways to help make this project a reality.

Toward the end of the Transylvania trip, there in cool of Dracula's castle Vlad the Designer suddenly rediscovered his creative juices. “I was sitting in the castle thinking about SpeedDream when the idea of a canting mast suddenly hit me. Actually, we had discussed this many times before, but the mechanism of how the mast could be quickly and easily canted to windward suddenly struck. I pulled out my notebook and there among the ancient artifacts and weapons of torture I drew a detailed sketch for how the mast would work.”

Vlad is back at his desk now. His canting mechanism has been vetted by the engineers at Axxon Composites and most likely will be incorporated into the SpeedDream27 which is due to start being built in Maine in December. The good news is that during those long middle-of-the-night sessions when Vlad stares at his computer screen, it offers back a myriad of good ideas, and occasionally, a scary tale.

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