OLYMPIC SAILING AND CONSTANT INNOVATION
Innovation shaped my 16-year Olympic sailing career. Everyone is there to win, so everyone is developing and pushing boundaries. It’s a process of testing and modifying and pioneering the latest technology. We constantly improved our boats because whatever the result, it was never enough.
Taking the knowledge with me, I began building catamarans for Grand Prix Races – known as the Extreme 40. When you build a racing catamaran, everything needs to be lightweight. Each component is built with high tech materials to make sure it’s the best in the field. That’s what it takes to shave seconds off a race time. Even when the team wins, you go back to the drawing board to find out where to improve.
In 2009, I founded Xtenders, a company that builds bespoke tenders for superyachts. Tenders are vessels, like limousines, beach landers, RIBS, or rescue craft that service and support the mothership. Every vessel is unique. Each design starts with a blank canvas and we work with our clients to build bespoke boats.
Our tenders will outlast a lifetime because every major component is made from autoclave pre-peg carbon fibre. It’s a material that minimises weight while optimising performance and if you don’t go over the breaking strength, carbon boats remain in great condition. All of our vessels are exceptionally lightweight while heavy duty and robust. That’s why we’re the frontrunners of carbon-only boats in the tender world.
CARBON FIBRE TECHNOLOGY
Carbon fibre is stiffer and lighter than steel, and much more versatile to work with. There’s excellent strength to weight ratio and the textile easily combines with plastic, fibres, wood, concrete and metal. Carbon fibre is being used right at the forefront of technological innovation; the techniques and textiles we use are also found in Formula One racing and aerospace engineering.
To make components, like an engine mount, plate or hull, we layer segments of carbon fibre textile. The material is pre-impregnated with a resin system, so we heat it, put a vacuum down and run epoxy through to get everything rock hard. Prior to layering the segments, the carbon fibre material is prepared. Even as a textile it takes a force of 600grams per square metre, so the fabric is heavy, thick and it’s difficult to cut.
TRADITIONAL TOOLS TO CUT CARBON FIBRE
We’ve found that Ernest Wright Tailor’s shears are the best for cutting straight and sharply through carbon fibre textile. The hardness of the steel and the way they’ve been made, mean that despite a 100-year old technique, the shears are sharp enough to handle the latest carbon fibre technology. And they stay sharp, very sharp.
There are several pairs of Ernest Wright 10” and 12” Tailor’s shears in the Xtenders workshop. One of my guys is even using a lefthanded version. He used to be cutting with his wrong hand, which is frustrating and uncomfortable. Now his work has greatly improved with a new tool.
Another employee, and a carbon composite veteran of 30 years, Frank, is amazed by how the shears perform. He advises his companions in the same industry to stop looking at other models. Frank once told me, “My hands are my treasures and the smooth handles fit perfectly. But everyone should have their own pair because my scissors are mine!”.
Owner Xtenders – the ultimate superyacht tender