'Go fast' machine leaves carport

Now that Rob Wood has built one of the fastest sports yachts in the South Island, his family is delighted they can have their carport back.

The Dunedin secondary school teacher christened and launched his Leech 650 carbon-fibre yacht in Port Chalmers last night after spending the past 18 months building it in his carport.

The lightweight 6.5m long vessel was designed by Dan Leech, of Christchurch, and is capable of reaching speeds of up to 35 knots - something he hopes to experience on Otago Harbour this weekend.

''It's designed to go fast and get you wet. It's designed to race.''

Mr Wood said one of the main problems with building his own yacht had been that his partner, Ruth Ferguson, was ''not a fan of sailing''.

He began the project after she returned from a sabbatical in the United States. Feeling philosophical, she asked what his dreams were, and he responded: ''I'd like to build a yacht.''

''She said OK, but I don't think she realised what she had agreed to.

''There was dust of all different colours through the house and the carport was turned into a construction site for a year and a-half.

''She's been very supportive, though, in helping me realise my dream.''

Mr Wood said the boat would normally cost more than $60,000 if it was built

commercially, but because he built it himself, he only paid the price of the building materials - about $40,000.

The yacht was launched yesterday at the Port Chalmers Yacht Club accompanied by speeches, a Maori blessing and the pouring of a bottle of beer over the bow in lieu of smashing a bottle of Champagne.

Mr Wood plans to start slowly with the boat, sailing it locally, but eventually he hopes to sail it in major races around the South Island.

''It's not about prize money or winning races. It's about sailing a boat the best that you can.''

Leech 650
Length: 6.5m.
Draft: 1.8m.
Mast: 9m.
Sails: North Sails 3DL.
Weight: 330kg.
Top speed: Up to 35 knots (65kmh).

- john.lewis@odt.co.nz

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