Norwalk Island Sharpies
San Juan 24
The Pixel - Lively, Stable and Oh So Cool!
There is an enormous advantage to designing a boat for a particular purpose. You are not limited
by class rules or inhibiting tradition. You can make it the way it should be - and these days
a boat for the kids must take advantage of the very best that modern technology and design have
to offer - self bailing cockpit, stable hull form without undue weight or wetted area,
epoxy construction for strength and resilience, and carbon fiber rig for low weight,
flexibility and durability.
The Pixel is constructed for the use and abuse of the inexperienced sailor, and for the pure
delight of the experienced.
A designer frequently is asked what his favorite design is and the answer usually is
"the most recent," or "the one I'm working on." So right now the PIXEL is at the top of the
list. This new design is aimed at kids graduating from the Optimist or other small one design
training boat and not yet ready for a Laser. The PIXEL was also designed to teach youngsters
how to sail together, how to work together, and how to interact in making the boat sail at its
best. In this way the boat becomes a training system for recreational sailing, sailboat racing,
and for personal communication.
Today's young sailors have a word for the type of boat they like. That word is "cool" and we
have worked hard for more than two years to give the PIXEL a whole lot of cool.
Sailing the first of four prototypes in the fall of 2004 and early in '05 we were overjoyed
to find that adults also wear the boat comfortably and there is a growing move to use the wee
yacht for frostbiting and for college and high school sailing.
Frostbiting also gives the boat a double use - junior trainer in the summer and fun for father
(and mother?) in the winter. So he who writes the check has a chance to use the product.
On a November day in '04 when we were sailing the prototype in Connecticut a 240 pound
(his wife whispered that it's more like 255) Sonar sailor decided he wanted to give it a try.
He went out as crew with a 100 pound youngster - a total weight of about 360 pounds plus winter
clothing - and had a good ride in 10 to 12 knots of wind. The boat did not seem to be
overburdened. But perhaps more important than the sailing performance was the fact that
while at the dock the big guy managed to step around the mast and crouch up in the bow to rig
the jib. We had the cameras on him, but he did not go swimming!
EPOXY, HEAT AND PRESSURE
The PIXEL is being built in China in order to provide very high quality at a competitive price.
The hull is being made with
epoxy resin in heated molds and is being vacuumed bagged for laminate quality and uniformity.
The carbon fiber mast is a jump into the future. If it is true that carbon is the material of the
new century, then it follows that the PIXEL has begun life as a child of this century and will
not have to play catch up.
Performance has been exceeding expectations and the carbon mast is a major contributor to this
happy situation. The very light, highly flexible rig has resulted in greater stability, less
pitching and faster acceleration. The mast's ability to de-power the mainsail gives the boat a
wide range of efficiency up and down the wind scale.
THRILLS AND SPILLS
Small sailboats will capsize. Thrills and spills are part of the game, and we have gone to great
lengths to make the PIXEL easy to bring upright and get back into action. The open transom
allows the big cockpit to empty immediately as the boat comes back on its feet after a capsize,
and 25mm drain holes get rid of the small amount of water that's left, or that might come
aboard in the form of spray or rain.
It is also true that dinghies will "turn turtle" or go upside down under some circumstances.
With the PIXEL we have taken measures to reduce the likelihood of turning turtle. There is 8 mm
closed cell foam in the top two feet of the mainsail to give it buoyancy, the mast is plugged
at each end to make it watertight, and we have built in two flooding tanks in each side of the
cockpit so the boat will sink down in the water when on its side to reduce the chances of
turning right over.
Any unballasted boat will turn turtle under extreme conditions, such as when a strong wind or
rough sea is hitting the bottom of the boat when it's on its side; and there is a school of
thought that says that under these conditions having the boat go upside down is not a bad thing
as when in that position the boat stays in one place and any crew member who has been
separated from it can swim back to it more easily than when it is on its side and blowing downwind.