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Leaderboard FD July August September 2023

Building for the future - the FD Yachts story

by Mark Jardine 18 Dec 2023 12:00 GMT
FD Future sailing at the Yunnan Regatta © FD Yachts

FD Yachts combine Dutch technology and craftsmanship with Swiss precision design and Chinese build quality to create the FD Future - a contemporary design for both youth sailing and sailing club operations.

We spoke to Krijn van den Brink, Owner of Flying Dutchman Yachts Technology, to find out more about the business.

Krijn, firstly when did you start FD Yachts?

We started in 2021, I had already built some keel boats around 6.5-7m, so we did some research in China for what we can do, and in China we don't have many dinghy makers. Most dinghies come from England like the RS, Fusion, Topper and Laser / ILCA. We came up with the idea of doing something ourselves, with good quality materials so we can sell overseas.

And building rotomolded boats, we know China has incredible manufacturing capability, you have a three-layer PE which must make the boat stiff and very durable?

Yes. There is an outer layer foam inner layer, and extra layer for more protection and stiffness.

You've got the same hull for all the designs, but the rig set ups while relatively simple can make the boat really quite high performance.

When we started the project, we met up with some sailing clubs and thought out the design concept. I want to make a single handed and double handed dinghy in one hull. For the FD Future when you have a single-handed boat you can just hoist the mainsail, but if you're double-handed you can use a jib and have more leeward attitude. We adjusted the rake of the mast. The FD Future is mostly a single-handed boat, you can use it as a double handed and use a spinnaker. It's for sail training and you can put the youngest kids on it.

One aspect of sailing that's coming back is the concept of parent and child sailing. This seems like a boat ideally suited for that with a deep, safe cockpit, that an adult can sail single handed, but if you have a crew, they can use the jib and it's a great way of introducing kids to sailing with a parent.

We wanted a large cockpit. When I was young we didn't have a boat like this, we had a wooden Dutch one design dinghy, and I sailed with my father when I was starting sailing. I tried to put some of my youth sailing experience into this boat.

It does look like a parent and child boat and it is so interesting to hear how you have used your childhood sailing experience in the design. What was the name of this Dutch design?

It's called a Flits, which translates as Flash! They were similar sized dinghies with a wooden mast -now they use aluminium. I brought a lot of ideas from that to the FD Future. In those days the transom was closed, nowadays clubs want an open transom so when the boat capsizes and is righted, they can easily get back into the cockpit and carry on sailing.

It looks like it would suit as a club boat as it is low maintenance. Is that your main target?

My understanding is that sailing schools like to use rotomolded boats. With wooden or fibreglass boats the gelcoat can chip, or you get a deep scratch, and it needs repair before you can use it again.

It's always a balancing act between performance, safety and maintenance. With the different rig sizes, it gives you the option to have a performance boat, but also a safe one.

The idea is to make it perfect for kids from age 6-16. Our first concept design was a bit unstable, I worked with VMG Yacht Design, who have both America's Cup and Mini Transat design experience, so that even the lightest of children can easily sail the FD Future.

The mainsail is a non-battened so that you can reef it around the mast. The boat is pretty easy to handle.

This is also the performance DNA of our keelboats, the FD75 and FD65.

There are different masts though for the different rigs. I see the smaller rig is sleeved while the Future X has a halyard.

In the Future X we have a profiled mast with shrouds, and the FD Future has a sleeved mast. When people buy the complete package with spinnaker, we deliver the boat with shrouds if needed. In general, the boat can be sailed without shrouds or a spinnaker.

It is interesting having a combination of a shrouded rig, and then unstayed, and very versatile. If you bought an FD Future with the smaller rig, is everything in place for the shrouds if you upgrade?

Yes, it's fully modular and easy to install. We also have the FD Future 6.8 with a much bigger mainsail at 6.8m", which also has options for a jib and spinnaker.

Whereabouts do you have fleets currently?

In China we have a number of clubs using our boats. Last year in November we had our first regatta with 12 boats in the FD Future using a mainsail, mostly with adults sailing and it went really well. We also had a youth regatta with 20 boats, 10 of them just with mainsails, and 10 with jibs on the Future.

What was the feedback from the sailors?

They liked how the boat sailed and handled, and the schools like how stable the boat is compared to other boats.

What is key is when kids come into sailing is that they shouldn't be put off. That stability and an open, deep cockpit will help. It sounds like with your background, and sailing as a child, that you regard as a key feature. Do you have the capacity to produce a lot?

We can currently produce around 300 to 400 boats a year and are looking at dealers in the US and Europe as those will be our main markets. Production can easily be scaled up.

Is there much dinghy sailing in China?

It's a young market, but it is growing. There are summer camps where you can experience sailing, and some kids want to do regattas. It's not at the European scale but we are growing it. We are looking at events with 100 boats which is pretty big.

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