McConaghy Boats has only ever built one type of racing boats – very quick ones.
The current list of monohull elapsed time records for offshore races reads like an alumni book for McConaghy Boats – more first-to-finish line honour awards have gone to yachts from this builder than any other. The first-to-finish award going to Wild Oats XI once again in the latest Sydney- Hobart race is a testament to the high-quality build of this boat that is now a whopping 13 years old – very few Grand Prix race boats can claim this kind of competitive longevity.
McConaghy has been doing well for more than 50 years, having built more than 150 raceboats over 30ft that have been among the world’s fastest and most successful in all competitive contexts: from high-speed keelboat one-designs to custom inshore and offshore yachts of all sizes. The impressive cumulative race results of this enormous fleet likely exceeds that of any other builder in the world.
In the ultra-competitive and fastmoving world of modern composite technologies, how is it possible to amass such a remarkable track record over such a long history?
‘It’s simple, but complex as well,’ says Mark Evans, managing director of McConaghy Boats. ‘The answer is innovation. Our mission is to be one of the best composite facilities in the world, which means we have to not only use what we know works well, but also remain vigilant for new ideas in design, materials, and fabrications so that we are always getting our boats and their parts to be stronger, lighter and easier to use and maintain.’
This is not new for McConaghy since their expertise in working with advanced composites spans four decades and more at their facility in Sydney, and now in Zhuhai, in southern China too. An example is their composite built in pre-preg carbon skins, bonded to thermoformed honeycomb, and foam cores. Proprietary techniques developed in-house with use of high-temperature post-curing ovens, autoclaves, and precision tooling has ensured ideal resin/fibre ratios to meet or exceed weight targets from designers and structural engineers. As a result McConaghy hulls and decks are light, strong and they don’t break, even with complex geometries.
To continue to meet and exceed these standards Evans has overseen an expansion and equipment upgrade at Zhuhai with the installation of three digitally-controlled Kuka robots for highly accurate, repeatable fabrication and trim functions for moulds as well as composite parts. He has also worked hard to ensure a steady supply of high-quality carbon fibre, steel, titanium and other materials essential to high-tech boatbuilding, along with the craftsmen needed to work in these materials.
‘We’ve always had great composite work, and recently the work from our metal shop is now not only equal or better than our previous suppliers, but we have much more control on timing and cost than we ever had,’ says Evans. ‘While boat building is our core business, we’re getting enquiries all the time to fabricate high-quality custom moulds and parts for other builders’ projects. This is nice, though we do not want to lose focus on our own projects for our own clients.’
Along with the original McConaghy facility in Sydney, the work in Zhuhai is directed by a dozen in-house draftsmen who do the critical design work needed to transform ideas into reality. This is another indication of the flexibility and creativity that the team at McConaghy uses to pursue that ultimate goal of innovation.
And while some owners give free rein to the team to work through the details, many have project managers who participate in the build process alongside the McConaghy team.
‘It’s certainly not necessary, but if the client prefers, we are happy to work with owner’s representatives,’ says James Kinloch, sales director at McConaghy. ‘The more interaction we have with clients and their reps, the better job we do at finding solutions to meet everyone’s expectations.’
Wade Morgan has project-managed seven builds recently at McConaghy, for boats ranging from 38-72ft in length. ‘It’s the details that are important,’ he says, ‘for everything from keels to bunks, and all the bits and pieces, small and large, that make the boat turn-key ready when it arrives with the client. McConaghy has been really great at collaborating on these details, and I have had many happy clients with successful boats out of Zhuhai.’
Happy clients from 2018 include Bill McKinley’s US-based Ker 46+ Denali 3, a design now optimised to perform well in both IRC and ORCi racing, and two Botin 40+ yachts Team Hollywood and Swing. Other notable recent builds include Sir Keith Mills’ Ker 40+ Invictus in the UK, a proven weapon in the white-hot Fast 40+ class, the Mark Millsdesigned 41ft Ambush and the Reichel-Pugh IRC52 Highland Fling XII. These boats have created a queue at McConaghy for owners interested in having their high-tech racing dreams turned into reality.