First looks: the Fenn Mako Elite Triple

Tuesday, 31 March 2009 18:00 | Written by 
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Fenn Mako Elite Triple Fenn Mako Elite Triple Credits: Owen Middleton

Most of us know the sadness and despair of breaking a ski, and usually the pieces are consigned to a dumpster.   But when Dale "T-bone King" Lippstreu smashed his new Fenn Mako Elite Double recently at the end of a downwind paddle, he met the challenge full on.

For a larger version of the image, click here 

"T-bone King"

His "T-bone King" sobriquet is derived from his habit of losing control and ramming his paddling buddies during high speed downwind runs, and some say that the accident with his new double was caused by an attempt to claim yet another scalp as he came through the surf line.

Be that as it may; the fact is that he ended up with a long face, a short double and a conundrum: what do to with the wreckage?

Answer: strap the wreck together, take a mould off the centre section and add a new seat to make it into a Triple!

Why a Triple?

In South Africa particularly, we often have big surf conditions - and this can be somewhat intimidating for visiting international paddlers.  Think of the Durban World Cup for example or, even worse, the Southern Shamaal PE2EL Challenge where Day 2's start at Woody Cape is notorious.

It has been suggested in the past that "ski jockeys" would take visiting paddlers' skis out through the surf.  That's all very well, but you can't really ask them to swim back - and there remains the challenge of transporting the paddler to the back line.

The Triple solves both these problems.  The ski jockey takes the paddler's ski out through the break, while the timid paddler goes out in the centre seat of the Triple.  Behind the backline, the paddler gets onto his ski while the ski jockey gets into the Triple to be taken back to shore...

(From a surfski.info website point of view, there are other advantages too - imagine the spectacular video footage as a ski that long is taken out by the massive waves at Woody Cape!)

Fenn Mako Elite Triple!

For a larger version of the image, click here

Fenn Mako Elite Triple!

For a larger version of the image, click here

How was it done?

The rehabilitation started by doing a light repair to tack the hull back in position and alignment after which a mould was taken off the deck between the rear of the front bucket to the back of the rear one.  Once this new deck section had been fabricated the entire ski was then mounted on a long a very long keel line jig and the new deck centre section was put in place.  The new and old sections were faired in at this point but in fact little fairing was required because the sides are essentially parallel at the midpoint of the ski. 

The ski and jig were then rotated and the new deck sections were heavily reinforced with unidirectional carbon fibre tape and 2 layers twill weave 200g carbon cloth.

Once the deck was reinforced a foam/carbon keel was made up and bonded in place as reinforcement and a link between the front and back sections.  The new hull centre section was then made by laying up 2 layers of 350g Kevlar / carbon cloth over a coremat on a sheet of glass.  When the resin was cured to the "B" stage the laminate was removed from the glass and placed over the hull of the ski so that the t acted as a former for the new section. 

When the new section was fully cured the joins were reinforced by a further layer of carbon /Kevlar followed by 2 further layers 200g glass.  The last 2 layers were added as sacrificial layers to ensure that the structural Kevlar layers were not affected by the sanding which was required to fair the hull to its final finish.  Finally 3 coats of medium solid were applied followed by final sanding and application of 2K white enamel. 

In anticipation of racing next season, some spare Men's Health stickers were even applied to the new section.

The Triple has an overall length of 9.85m and weighs in at 37kg.

Fenn Mako Elite Triple!

Paddling the ski

In a straight line and on flat water the ski is amazingly fast and it is very easy to sustain 13kph very comfortably (even with the third paddler out of synch).  As is to be expected the turning circle is huge; this is definitely not a ski for around the cans racing.  Performance on the runs is really dependent on conditions.  In small long period swell conditions it is unsurpassed but it becomes very wet in rough water when the centre paddler sometimes disappears under water for up to a minute. 

It is definitely a specialist ski.

Fenn Mako Elite Triple!

Putting the Ski into Production?

Keith Fenn said that he would wait to see what demand the prototype generates, since it would mean extending his factory to accommodate the mould. 

"I've actually looked at doing this before," he said.  "I've got two kids and it's always an issue when I take one of them out in my double - the other sits on shore sulking and yelling that it's his turn now.

"I take my hat off to Dale and his team putting this together," he added.  "It's not too easy to do!"


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