Philosophers say that where you come from is not nearly as important as where you are going. In that case, web developer and imminent ocean rower Danny Sunkel has a few important destinations coming up. He’s off to test his skills and the performance of his futuristic single man rowboat with a run to Australia and back. You can meet the man and his boat at the Auckland Boat Show in May.
Danny Sunkel’s rowboat is nearing completion at Pachoud Yachts in Tauranga. He is a daily visitor with suggestions to boatbuilder Paul de Wild on modifications and enhancements to the Craig Loomes designed rowboat.
“Danny approached Dave Pachoud with this project that he wanted to do – he showed us some drawings. We all fell in love with the concept pretty quick because it’s such a radical and unusual boat,” says Mr de Wild.
“And it will go really nice in the boat show next to the conventional boats that we build – two different aspects of what we are capable of.”
The one-man rowboat was designed by LOMOcean Design and has the look of a lot of designer Craig Loomes’ wave-piercing boats such as the world record setting 24m trimaran Earthrace and the 31m wavepiercer Planet Solar which is about to complete its inaugural circumnavigation of the globe.
“I’ve been working on the project for three years and originally the idea sprung from one sheet of paper,” says Mr Sunkel.
"A friend of mine had worked with Paul in the past so we sat down early and came up with the concept.
“We decided a rowboat is pretty unstable – so with that we sketched something which looked pretty similar to Earthrace. So I thought ineed to go talk to Craig Loomes at LOMOcean about how ideal with this.
“We gelled well and ipretty much gave them a blank sheet of paper – it just had a series of bullet points – and this is what they have come up with so far.”
Mr Sunkel also wanted something that stood out so he could attract sponsors for the project which will raise funds for cancer research.
The build on the boat is being supported by arrangements with companies like Pachoud Yachts and from Mr Sunkel’s pocket.
“I want to have the campaign paid for by the time we hit the water, then every cent of the sponsorships raised will go to the foundation,” he says.
“We are evolving it on the way through. That’s been the basis of the whole project with the designer and the builders – it is a custom boat and we have an opportunity to reinvent everything on the way through.
"We’ve had the opportunity now to design everything into the boat. We are not dealing with a standard off-the-shelf boat – when iget to the start line and I’ve got a big pile of food and gear idon’t want to have to work out how to make it fit.
"One example of innovation comes from past experience when Shaun Quincy rowed the Tasman in 2010 – he had a typical sturdy towing eye off the front – but just the leverage of the sea-anchor eventually snapped it off.
“In our boat there are carbon fibre tubes that go right through the bow and stern section bulkheads – and so it ties all the stress into the entire boat as opposed to being focused on a single mechanical point of failure.
“I’m probably still down here 2-3 hours a day – working on fit out things with Paul, like exactly where the hatches are going to go for the best reach or where a hand grab feels most comfortable,” he says.
“LOMOcean had a lot of data from tank test models and wind tests so that saved us a lot of time. We have also got a lot of ideas to test and develop over the next 8 months.”
The results of those tests on Mr Sunkel’s rowboat will be unveiled as the project nears completion. Like the ability to counter side winds that could quickly blow the boat off course.
“That’s where the designers come on board – the major boat design as far as shape and form – that is their specialty.
“Then working together the designer, build team and myself are coming up with concepts that provide workable and practical form and function.
“Ocean rowboats are notorious for snapping axles or seizing wheels in the rowing mechanism and one of the things we are doing at the moment is machining our own wheels from a Tefl on impregnated plastic.
“By doing that we do away with a wheel, a bearing and two spacers and get an all compassing, self lubricating, single wheel in its place.”
Pretty basic stuff for a man with no formal engineering background but a mountain of experience when it came to being left alone by his Dad to work things out.
“Right from a little boy I remember I was only about eight and Dad gave me a lawnmower and a lawnmower chassis and said take the engine off that and put it on that – and off he went and left me to it.”
Mr Sunkel hopes to be ready to go by Christmas but will be waiting for the right weather window.
“Because I’m not part of a race I can go whenever I like – so my weather window is pretty much 3 up to three months,” he says.
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