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O’pen Skiff World Championships: The Secrets Behind the Building of the O'pen Skiff

The final countdown is on for the O’pen Skiff World Championships, which will be held from the 18th to 23rd July on the lake at Carcans-Maubuisson. A great opportunity to invite some of young skippers to visit our factory in Vannes and show them how we manufacture the boat they all love to sail.

Paul, Victor, Mathis, and Johann, accompanied by their coach, usually manage one or two training sessions every week in the Golfe de Morbihan here in Brittany and are regularly racing in their respective age groups, Under 15s, and Under 13s. Young in age perhaps, but they’re all experienced sailors already, firstly for pleasure, but now regularly competing. « We always race in the O’pen Skiff, and next year we’re going to start sailing 29ers (a double-hull) » Mathis explains.

Two of the boys have qualified for the French National Championships, which will happen just before the World Championships, from the 9th to 16th July at the same venue. Another one will be part of the French team at the World Championships itself from the 18th.

Accompanied by Yvon Bergot, representative of the O’pen Skiff class in France, Paul, Victor, Mathis and Johann went to meet the teams of men and women who make their boats.

Come with them now as we discover the manufacturing secrets behind O’pen Skiff’s!

Step 1: Extrusion

Booted in appropriate safety shoes, our young explorers made straight for “Kauffman”, our extrusion machine. “Kauffman” is the machine that takes the raw materials of polyethylene balls and transforms them into the sheets that make the next step possible: thermoforming (see below). The polyethylene balls are heated to about 200°C, then pressed into 7mm even-thickness sheets.  

Did you know ?

Actually, the polyethylene sheets we use in our manufacture are composed of two layers. The first, top layer, is always made with “virgin” raw materials, which gives us the possibility of a more “even” finish. The second, the “under-coat”, is made from all our production off-cuts of a similar colour: grey/white, which are shredded, then put back into the production cycle. This actually means that almost all our products have some “secondary materials”.    

Paul, Victor, Mathis and Johann getting a hands-on feel for the raw materials needed for the manufacture of the O’pen Skiff.

Step 2: Thermoforming

Time to move on to « Pinette », our thermoforming machine. The boys are very keen to see how the moulds are prepared. Our technicians install all the footrests, inserts, pads and plenty more besides in the mould so that it’s ready to receive the slabs of PEHD that are pre-heated to 200°C.

The process itself is always impressive to watch: the PEHD slabs bend and are then sucked into the mold by air blown outwards through thousands of tiny holes in the mold itself, giving them their hull shape. That’s what we call “thermoforming”.  When the heating and thermoforming are finished, the boats are taken from the moulds to be cooled and take on their “finished” appearance, ready for sailing.  

The questions arise and so do the comments. 

"This is one of the most complicated products that we manufacture" explains Yvon Bergot, the French representative of the O’pen Skiff class. “It needs a lot of expertise and experience to supply like-for-like boats that comply with the requirements of a monotype class".

Step 3: Finishing

Once the boat is out of the mold, it’s time to go over the whole of the O’pen Skiff, removing the excesses and off-cuts to put them back into the production cycle. It needs two people to remove the boat from the mold, then they start getting the mold ready for the next one on the production line. The boat isn’t properly finished yet, but already Paul, Victor, Mathis, and Johann can finally see the almost-ready O’pen Skiff that they know and love. The surface is still warm, and there’s a bit of dust to clear, but it’s easy to see their fascination in the whole process.

The raw boat then goes on to a roller belt to cool down before the final step: finishing.

Once it has cooled, three more technicians complete the fitting of all the core equipment (the keel housing, mast foot, rudder, etc….). It needs five skilled technicians to bring every O’pen Skiff off the production line.

Then it’s time to package the boats up and prepare them for delivery, which could be anywhere in the world, where they will be put to good use delivering us future generations of keen and happy sailors!

Did you know ?

The dinghy hull weighs in at just 45 kilos and is 275cm long.

What did they think of it all?

« It was great, a great way to really know about the boat » said Paul.

« It was really interesting to see how the boat is made, the machines are brilliant! » was the general verdict.

Paul, Victor, Mathis and Johann left with smiles on their faces and a lot of knowledge in their heads about this fantastic boat that is made right here, on their doorstep!

Fun fact #1:

All the machines in our factory now have individual names, given by the technicians :
Kauffman, Junir and Pinette, to name but three !

Fun fact #2:

Every O’pen Skiff we produce is made by incorporating recycled “secondary” materials (off-cuts etc.).
TAHE is a zero waste manufacturer, everything possible is recycled.

Fun fact #3:

Over 800 O’pen Skiffs are manufactured every year at our site in Vannes.
During an O’pen Skiff production cycle we produce 50 finished boats in 24 hours, that’s a finished boat every half hour, with 3 teams of technicians working in 8-hour shifts, 24/7!

Fun fact #4:

The O’pen Skiff (under its previous name of the O’pen BIC) was the winner of the highly prestigious “Bateau bleu” eco-conception prize, awarded by ADEME, recognized for its minimizing of energy consumption and emissions during manufacture, and the boat is 100% recyclable at the end of its working life.