Heron Interior

Mark Phillips of Dinghy Sports (current GRP Heron builder) has proposed some ideas for the Heron interior that would make the GRP hull easier and less costly to build.  John Deshon’s comments on the ideas are shown below.

Ideas for Heron Interior            Mark Phillips      Dinghy Sports       April 2016

MkIIIHere is my submission of ideas to be considered to simplify the building of a fibreglass Heron, reducing build time and complexity and therefore cost.  The changes would not affect the on water performance of the Heron, the hull shape, or the hull weight, and the deck plan would remain the same.

MkIIIbThe idea is to have a one piece deck and internal moulding, incorporating the top deck and internal seat and tank moulding into one, combined with removal of the floorboards and the back seat.  By removing the floorboards and back seat from my boat (they were made to be easily removed and replaced) and using some cardboard I can represent what the ideas would look like (see photos).
The floor board supports could easily be removed from the 11 boats I have built and the floor re-painted with non-skid material.  In wooden boats, the floorboards could be lowered to sit on battens making the boat more comfortable (more legroom) and giving them the look of the newer boats.

It would be a much more open (spacious) and cleaner (uncluttered ) look, not to forget pulling around $1500 from the price of a new boat.


The proposal on its face is an application by a licensed builder to the committee to endorse a new mould for GRP hulls.  This would require a simple majority resolution by the committee  (By-law 26)

It would also require amendment to by-law 29 (PERMITTED MODIFICATIONS FOR GRP AND GRP/COMPOSITE HERON YACHTS) which would be offered to the membership as a special resolution to be considered at a General Meeting (5 months notice, 1 proposer and 3 seconders, 2/3 majority vote)

However, this doesn’t extend the modifications to any existing or new timber craft, and it’s questionable whether or not it would permit existing GRP craft to exploit it.  To be fair, it should be by-law 22 (PERMITTED MODIFICATIONS FOR ALL HERON YACHTS) which should be amended.

When assessing any proposal for modification the principles have been:

“Will it make existing boats obsolete?”

“Will the modification make the boat less robust?”

“Will it make existing boats non-competitive?”

“Will it be possible for existing boats to be modified to exploit the new permitted modification?”

There have also been occasions when a boat submitted for measurement has failed to obtain “A” classification because it “didn’t look like a Heron”, although it met all measurement conditions.

Appearance:  This horse has already bolted, with different spar materials and rigs now permitted.  Some of us will recall the original opposition to GRP construction, and the absolute opposition for an even longer period to inclusion of a Cunningham eye.  Any boat with side buoyancy doesn’t look quite like Jack Holt’s design.

Obsolescence:  Any proposal like this will be viewed by many members as producing a superior boat, whether established by evidence or not.


Aft thwart:   The earlier floppy glass hulls came without thwarts, the structural integrity of the hulls being reliant on the integrity of the side buoyancy.  This would also apply to new stitch-and-glue hulls, and any framed hull which has had side buoyancy installed as a modification or installed during original construction.  A framed hull with fore-and-aft buoyancy is likely to retain structural integrity if the aft thwart is removed.  Removal of the aft thwart in a framed hull with bag buoyancy will be detrimental to its structural integrity.

Floorboards:  By-law 25.(8) allows removal of frames outside the tanks where side buoyancy is installed.  There are no frames in stitch-and-glue or GRP hulls.  There are plenty of classes without floorboards.

Competitiveness:  Removing weight towards the extremities of the hull and concentrating its replacement in the centre reduces fore-and-aft moment, making for better stability under way and therefore enhancing hydrodynamic performance.  Removing the floorboards makes movement in the boat less constricted and therefore easier to sail.

Measurement Form:  There would be minimum, but significant, changes required to Form C to allow the proposed modifications.  Not difficult.

Construction:  It’s not at all difficult to modify the drawings for plywood hulls to incorporate the proposed modifications, or to construct to them.  Any hull built after May 2006 must have side buoyancy.

Modification of existing hulls

GRP:  This is the province of licensed builders, as the original constructors of the hulls.

GRP composite:  For floppy glass hulls, remove the aft thwart and take out the floorboards.  Simple.

Stitch-and-glue:  Some cosmetic repair would be required to patch the scar from removal of the thwart.  Floorboard support stringer would need removal and (probably) addition of a longitudinal stringer in its place.

Framed hull, side buoyancy:  Exploit by-law 25.(8) and add a longitudinal stringer on the floor.

Framed hull, fore-and-aft buoyancy:  Further amendment to by-law 25 would be required to allow removal of the frames.

Framed hull, bag buoyancy:  Modification is not practical


Replacement of the aft thwart is not difficult in either GRP or plywood hulls.  Similarly, reinstatement of floorboards and their supports is straightforward.

Paul Armstrong:  Chairman, Measurement Committee   May 2016

As a member of the Measurement Committee for over 30 years and chairman for 10, I have overseen a lot of changes to the class in this time, and I am against all aspects of this proposal.

One of the unique features of this class is that we have carefully maintained the integrity of the original design of the boat which enables any boats built prior to any of the previous rule changes to not be adversely affected and still be highly competitive. Proof of this is we still have Herons up to 50 years of age competing with current brand new hulls.

Another key point is we look closely at any proposed changes and make sure that these can be adapted to any heron in the fleet if the owner feels the desire to “conform” or keep up with these changes.

The new integrated deck proposal changes the way the new hulls would be made and whilst it appears possible to modify existing Dinghy Sports Hulls, it would not be either a simple or cost effective option for the rest of the fleet to do so, and it being not possible for older for/aft buoyancy configured hulls to do so at all. My estimate would be around $1000 for existing Dinghy Sports hulls with glass decks and upwards for all other configurations ie Mark II glass hull/glass deck, glass hull timber deck, timber side tanks and deck.

The changes in appearance would be far more significant than the introduction of side buoyancy tanks with the heron becoming more Tasar like in appearance.

We currently have the following options available in the fleet

  1. Timber with buoyancy bags
  2. Timber with fore/aft tanks
  3. Timber with half front and side tanks
  4. Timber with full front/half side tanks
  5. Mark I with timber deck
  6. Mark I with glass deck
  7. Mark II with timber deck
  8. Mark II with glass deck
  9. Mark II with integrated floorboards
  10. Dinghy Sports
  11. New Integrated Deck type (proposed)

The other proposal for the removal of floorboards would pose an even greater challenge for all hulls other than those constructed by Dinghy Sports. Existing timber hulls, Mark I and early Mark II hulls do not have enough support or strength in the floor to allow the removal of the floorboards completely. The existing support framework could be reduced in height but not removed altogether and these hulls would still need actual floorboards themselves. Again this would only mean that Dinghy Sports hulls and some of the other later model Mark II hulls could have the floorboards removed all together. These hulls would be more comfortable, easier to move around in, easier to bail out and there would again be a big difference in their appearance.

We would also then have a weight equalization issue where boats with no floorboards would have to carry additional weight correctors at a level that would equal the weight of floorboards and supports which would need to be determined. We would then have another option

  1. Hulls with no Floorboards

If we were looking at building 20+ herons a year and the average life span of a hull lasting 2 to 3 seasons before being updated for a lighter stiffer one, I would perhaps think differently. But we are talking about Herons which, if looked after will last forever. I do not believe the proposed changes, if approved and endorsed by the association, for realistically say 1or 2 new hulls being built every so often at a cost saving of approx. $1500 each, would warrant the work and cost the rest of the fleet would have to do to modify their existing hulls to conform to the newer look deck and/or floorboard removal. We would also create another hybrid Heron that is markedly different to the rest of the fleet and for what purpose?

I have not even looked into the possible performance advantages that may be created by adopting these proposed changes but imagine there will be some advantages gained if not in performance in comfort, buoyancy, reduction of weight and weight distribution.

Peter Carey – Life Member, Qld.

I am heavily in favour of pursuing the various and perceived failings of our class……one reason that has obviated any complete or near complete demise of our class has been our ability to consider changes and improvements to the Heron and to trial where deemed advisable.  The underlying consideration has always been to allow existing craft to remain semi competitive and this is a consideration that must always remain.

I feel that the path as outlined in the latest proposal is a very satisfactory move and I applaud.

One example and indeed problem that I have always perceived is the basic necessity to have floorboards,  I applaud Dinghy Sports in often raising this issue…..how many classes now have Floorboards??  They prevent the development of any lower hull design and possible inherent strength measures.  Any move in this direction would be unlikely to affect competitiveness and indeed would make life easier for our sailors.

I look forward to the next moves by our association.

Peter Connor  9525

I would like to support the proposal.

I do not see that the changes disadvantage any other boat more than a new boat inevitably disadvantages an older boat which has got heavier over time or carries damages and repairs.

The heron was originally designed as a car topper and used as a row boat, under motor and a sail boat.

As the Associations is concerned with the boat used as a sailing boat in active sailing competition then anything that relates to the other activities in my view is redundant.

A rear seat is never used when racing and the floor boards are too high relative to the seating level causing aching knees at the end of the day.

I can see that when capsized the boat will float higher and take on less water. I see this as good thing helping to attract people who can see this current disadvantage when considering which class to choose when entering sailing.

If the boat can look cleaner, look more modern, be cheaper and be more appealing to prospective sailors it is nothing but a good proposal.

If these changes can be made available to others to retrofit to their existing herons if they so desired then that is a positive move.

Mike Morrisey  10276 Mosquito

My full support, as long as the minimum hull weight controls are strictly enforced.

Anthony Roe  10252
I agree with and support Peter Connor’s comments

Paul Armstrong 10250 Flat Chat

I also support the proposal.  The more modern the Heron looks the more likely we will attract new people to the class, and this will be especially so if the price comes down by the $1500 as predicted.  If the minimum weight and hull shape doesn’t change then there should be no major disadvantage to existing owners. I do however have one concern and that is we make the decision quickly as anyone in the market for a new boat will hold off making the commitment until the new model is available.  I would certainly be interested in ordering a new one if the new layout is approved and the price comes down a bit.

Mary-Ann Pattison

I support the changes.

Peter Connor 9525

I apologize for commenting a second time but feel compelled to do so.

Although I maybe relatively new to heron sailing in my second coming to the heron I built my 1st Heron 8713 in 1971/1972.

I built it strictly in accordance with the plans with all tolerance maintained to the specified dimension. No straying to the limit of the permitted extremes in those dimensions.

I quickly became aware that not all Herons were the same. There were many approved departures from the plans and thus I had to spend some time removing rubbing strips, reducing supports etc to become more competitive.

I now sail a mark 1 fibreglass boat 9525 a past National Winner.

My conclusion about performance is that there are definitely performance differences between the original boat I built and others sailing at the time and between the my current boat and Mark 2 boats. This is very apparent off the wind.

To say that all Herons are competitive against all other Herons is in my view optimistic.

When I rejoined the Heron fleet at our club it was on its knees. Sometimes when I would show up there would be only 1 or 2 boats sailing.

This in a club that has had a Heron fleet continuously since the 1960’s.

We decided to take drastic action and opened up the division to single handed sailing, and larger mainsails for supper heavy crews.

The result is our registered fleet is 13 Herons and on water fleets average 8 per week.

Our strongest class at the club is an open design class being the NS14.

All other classes are dying.

There is a lesson to be learned here. Very few people want to live in the past. Most of us do not drive 40 year old cars nor do we wear the fashion of a former generation.

If we want to attract new sailors to herons we need to be providing a better product.

I cannot see that the proposal will adversely affect others currently sailing. I personally would not be bothered filling in between the deck and side tanks. I would be interested in lowering the floor boards to make it more comfortable.

In the previous reply it was acknowledged that the changes would be more comfortable. I believe this to be a good thing. As for the look of the heron. the deck layout is unchanged, the hull shape is the same,the weight is unchanged, it is still a Heron. The fact that the rear seat is removed and the deck merges with the side tanks I believe would be of no concern to most people.

The Heron fleet at our club has no appeal to younger sailors and limited appeal to adults younger than 40. If we want to change this we need to embrace change.

Michael Armstrong 8793 One Last Time

I am currently building a S&G hull. Wish this idea had made it to the forum 

sooner! Maybe 10 weeks ago, before I skinned the bottom!  I could have put a 6 mm thick bottom skin to 100 mm past frame 2 then 4 mm from there to the bow.. Then made 4 mm thick floor boards with frame bottoms attached to comply until the rules are changed.

In my current circumstances like all others with timber boats, I could remove frames and or S&G floor board supports and glue another layer of 4 mm ply to the bottom. ( I just love the thought of butchering my soon to be pride and joy). Currently this alternative will not comply with hull thickness rules. So there’s more work to do on the constitution, plan
drawings etc.

One aspect that has not been mentioned about the final product of the ‘glass boat is how much higher it will float when capsized. The current glass boats float quite high to the point that the centreboard can be hard to reach for some small and older skippers.  It will be even harder with the extra buoyancy created by the closing of the gap between deck level and top of the buoyancy tanks. Not to mention where to hide the whisker pole for the non auto launchers in the fleet!

This proposal on face value is a commendable.. If the changing of the rules happens, let’s hope its for the better. It could get more boats on the market so we can gently persuade people to get a Heron. At the moment there are too many sitting in garages unused and unsold which makes promotion difficult.

Michael Thorpe 10199 Dinoboat 

I support the proposal.  I would like to thank both Peter Connor and Peter Carey for their separate arguments in favour of the change.