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Tank testing milestone for Brisbane boat builder

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A significant milestone has been quietly achieved at the towing tank, when the facility’s longest and most regular client completed experiments on their 28th new vessel in 28 years.

Bill Wright, managing director of Brisbane boatbuilders Norman R Wright and Sons, ran through a series of tests studying the effects of beam-to-length ratios on pilot boats.

“If we can find the exact beam-to-length ratio for certain boats we can offer superior seakeeping and better fuel consumption which leads to greater efficiency,” he explained.

The 107-year-old, third generation family business originally tested all its models at Sydney University before the tank closed in 1988, coinciding with the opening of the Australian Maritime College facility.

“From then on we’ve always tested here – it’s very professional, competitively priced and we get treated extremely well when we’re here,” Mr Wright said.

“If I have unknowns, I can go and talk to [Towing Tank Manager] Gregor Macfarlane or his team and they’ll go out of their way to help me. When I’m back in Brisbane, if I have a question I know they can answer I’ll give them a call and they’re always extremely helpful. And that high level of client service goes a long way.”

The towing tank is the largest and only commercially operating facility of its type in Australasia. It has been used to test more than 500 models of ships, submarines, offshore oil rigs and other ocean structures since being commissioned.

For boat builders such as Norman R Wright and Sons, being able to conduct physical model experiments in such a facility is an essential step in the design process.

“It gives me the best security that I can possibly have, other than having a real boat in front of me, to make sure that what I’m guaranteeing will actually happen,” Mr Wright said.

“So it’s a matter of confidence in what we’re predicting, but it’s the ability to pretty much guarantee that what you’re presenting will work.”

Mr Wright said the business builds both commercial vessels and pleasure craft and has tested police and pilot boats, pleasure craft and ferries in the towing tank. Some tests have proven more rewarding than others.

“All the projects are different and satisfying in their own ways, and can be totally frustrating in their own ways. There has been one occasion where I stopped the test, took the boat up to the rubbish bin and threw it in and started all over again. This is opposed to another test I did about a year ago that fulfilled all my optimistic desires, but I’m just happy if they do what I’ve calculated them to do,” he said.

Published on: 19 Jan 2016