Billy Ruffian

8th January 2021

Billy Ruffian

Near the end of 2016 we built perhaps the most special of all our many Special singles, each one unique in its own way.

This sculling boat was named “Billy Ruffian”, in honour of the British ship “Bellerophon”, a 74–gun ship of the line whose crews had fought with great valour in many naval battles. Why the disparity in names? To the sailors, Billy Ruffian sounded like Bellerophon and the name made more sense.

After the Battle of Waterloo, Bellerophon blocked Napoleon’s escape to the Americas and he surrendered to her captain before being exiled onto Elba. But there’s a vital connection: a forebear of the new Billy Ruffian’s owner had captained Bellerophon.

In homage to that illustrious history, we built this boat with Pau Ferro (aka Santos Rosewood) and Birds-eye Maple veneers, and we inlaid into her aft deck a silhouette of the Bellerophon. Her name was inlaid into the hull. A truly Special boat!

Sadly, the staff member who laminated the hull, failed to do this properly – then left us. Yet it was almost two years (and many races) before any lamination problems appeared. We take huge pride in our work and in the longevity of our products, so were shocked by this awful news. But we stand by our products and our clients, so promised to restore Billy Ruffian to its former glory, whatever it might cost us.

As our hulls are multilayer laminates of wood veneers and Kevlar cloth, it seemed potentially feasible to remove the defectively–bonded outer veneer layer and replace it. We painstakingly removed the original outer layer, uncovering multiple defects in bonding, then cut the new Pau Ferro veneers and laminated them in place. It looked pretty good to the untutored eye, but by our standards the result was inadequate. Only the very best would do. And the only answer would be either to scrap the boat or to make and fit it with a complete new hull.

That was a fantastic challenge – something never done before – but we determined that it could and should be done.

A new hull was moulded, complete with identical Billy Ruffian inlays. We inverted the boat on a jig which preserved the precise shape and alignment of its topsides and internal structures. Then we painstakingly cut and pared away every last bit of the original hull.

As you see from the photos below, there is a complex internal structure which, after construction, no one ever sees. This one case, however, was the exception! But so precisely do we build our boats that were able, with epoxy resin on all mating faces, to then slip the original topsides, including the full structure of decks, cockpit, carbon–laminated shoulders, bulkheads, keelson (and even the washboards), into the new hull. It was a perfect fit!

We sanded, primed and refinished the whole boat and returned it to her proud owner. And we are proud to confirm that the re-made Billy Ruffian has passed every test with flying colours. Quite a saga, but the original Billy Ruffian never let her crews down. Nor will the new one. And nor will we!

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