Oracle boat designer Tim Smyth muses on Oracle and small town life

Boat designer Tim Smyth in the Warkworth factory of Core Builders Composite.
John Selkirk

Boat designer Tim Smyth in the Warkworth factory of Core Builders Composite.

Several members of Core Builders Composites Warkworth team are in Bermuda during the five day break in the America's Cup competition, boat designer Tim Smyth confirms, and they have been there for some time.

"Some of the guys who were building the last parts on the boat went up there to help install them, so there are three or four guys working up there."

CBC has rented a house in Bermuda for the event and made it available for people as a reward for their hard work, he said.

"So quite a few people have gone up there for that reason. Four or five guys are holidaying up there plus several of the guys working at the event also spend time there."

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"It's been an amazing event and while there's been some criticism of the boat designs with detractors saying foiling isn't real sailing, the format and television coverage has provided quite an event," he said.

While pleased with the performance of the Oracle twin hull boat, it is the value of the research and development that's gone into it and the potential for its composite material that enthuses Smyth the most.

Along with marine vessels, lightweight but strong composite materials are now widely used in aircraft construction and have a good future in the aerospace industry.

But it is clear Smyth is frustrated at the slow uptake speed for composite materials like carbon fibre and its impact on the business.

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There's a whole background conservatism that sees things stay the same, he said.

He points to the real promise composites shows for bridge construction.

It's stronger than concrete, will last a lot longer and because of that, will be much cheaper.

"But, to do that, you've got to put a whole lot of steel and concrete bridge builders out of business and create a whole new engineering class who understand how to manipulate those materials. Then you have to rewrite a whole new bunch of rules and regulations that apply to the existing techniques."

"That's going to be expensive, and who's going to pay for it."

CBC have built all of Oracle Team USA's yachts since 2001. The business moved to Warkworth in 2010 and continues a long history of boat building in the area that goes back to the mid1800s and includes the Darrochs, Meiklejohns at Omaha and Mathesons at Leigh.

But the connection was not intentional, rather the large former PMP print building coming on the market.

Expanding the boat building tradition and attracting more big footprint marine businesses to the area appeals to Smyth but the lack of big industrial sections in Warkworth makes it hard to attract big industry.

Ironically, with Warkworth expected to grow to 20,000 by 2040, if CBC wants to grow in the future it would likely have to leave and possibly go north to Marsden Cove, he said.

The increasing value of houses in the area is making it harder for staff to afford homes and the new residential zoning right on their boundary means they can't easily expand.

Compounding this is the small size of industrial sections that will be becoming available in a new industrial zone in the north of the town.

"We would need a three to five hectare piece of land if we expanded not the 2,000 square metres sections that are available."

"We're not really thinking of expanding at the moment but it could be hard to stay here if we did."

 - Stuff

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