Clint Chase of Chase Small Craft wrote of his Drake Raceboat: “This was the first boat that I designed totally from the numbers.” It’s the third in his series of Drake Row Boats and, at 18′3″, it fits in between the Drake 17 (17′4″) and the Drake 19 (19′2″). While the Drake Raceboat has a familial resemblance to these two American-born relatives, I suspect that there is some Finnish blood in its veins. The fine entry, the ‘midship cross section as close to semicircular as you can get with four wide strakes, and the light laminated frames look a lot like they came from the boats Finns use for racing on their vast network of interconnected lakes.

With no keel and very little deadrise to the garboards, the Raceboat won't roll on its side when resting on a beach.Christopher Cunningham

With no keel and very little deadrise to the garboards, the Raceboat won’t roll on its side when resting on a beach.

The Drake Raceboat kit includes all of the computer-cut plywood parts for the boat as well as engineered wood panel pieces for the building forms. There are eight molds, all notched to fit mating notches in the two girders that support them. Five of the molds are faceted where the planks land; the remaining three are curved to serve as forms for laminating the boat’s three frames. Eight 3/16” strips are glued up over the form to make up each frame, and after the epoxy cures, the frame faces are planed flat. Placed back on the mold, a template is used to trace the facets for the planks.

Each plank is made up of three pieces of 4mm plywood to be joined with an unusual three-step scarf joint, which has an internal interlocking puzzle joint concealed by the outside steps. The planks have 1/2” laps between them; to keep the limber plywood running fair between molds, a temporary clamping batten is used when gluing the laps.

The inwales, made of 1/2″ stock, extend just past the frames fore and aft. The outwales run from stem to stern and are built up of three pieces, making a distinctive broad flange that stiffens the sheer. The oarlocks rest on pads fastened to these wide rails. While the kit doesn’t include parts for flotation compartments—the instructions recommend the use of float bags instead—the boat I tested had small sealed compartments in the bow and stern. The builders, Jim Tolpin and Oscar Lind of Port Townsend, Washington, asked Clint to provide patterns for the plywood pieces. The compartments were sealed, but at my suggestion were each given a small hole in the bulkhead to allow air pressure to equalize.

The flotation compartments in the ends of this Drake are an option requested by the builders.Christopher Cunningham

The flotation compartments in the ends of this Drake are an option requested by the builders.

This boat tipped the scale at 82-3/4 lbs, a bit over Clint’s predicted 75 lbs. Jim and Oscar made some modifications in addition to the flotation compartments that would account for the additional weight. They substituted solid mahogany for the plan’s plywood seat, breasthooks, and stretcher; added 1/2″ brass half-oval running from stem to stern and 6’ lengths along the gunwales amidships; and applied several extra layers of paint. Even with the extra weight, their boat seemed feather light. The mahogany breasthooks made solid handholds for a tandem carry.

Here with builder Jim Tolpin at the oars, the Raceboat looks quite voluminous, but the breadth at the sheer belies the slender waterline.Christopher Cunningham

Here, with builder Jim Tolpin at the oars, the Raceboat looks quite voluminous, but the breadth at the sheer belies the slender waterline.

I’d heard from the builders that the Raceboat was rather tippy, but I think much of their uneasiness could be attributed the boat’s wide beam. Getting aboard requires a long step to plant a foot on the centerline and a long reach to get a hand on the far gunwale. The boat’s light weight and rounded midsection make it quick to react to weight planted off center. I’m 6′ tall and have limbs long enough to make the stretch and keep the boat flat. Any rower seated and centered on the thwart will likely feel stable and secure.

The footboard is adjustable for a wide range of lengths and provides a broad and solid base to push from to put power into rowing.Christopher Cunningham

The footboard is adjustable for a wide range of lengths and provides a broad and solid base to push from to put power into rowing.

The rower’s bench is a fixed 10-1/4″-wide thwart that’s set on a short riser glued just forward of the ’midship frame. The footboard is pinned to a pair of 24″ rails with holes every 2″. Although the increment works well enough when adjusting for leg length, a spacing of 1″ between holes would offer not only finer adjustments but also the ability to set the footboard at a different angle to suit the rower. That’s a minor point and an easy modification to make while building the boat; the structure of the footboard is quite solid and provides a foundation for a powerful stroke.

The boat is quite easy to accelerate; a half dozen strokes and it was off and running. I did some speed trials in a marina where there was neither current nor wind. With a lazy, relaxed effort I easily maintained 3-3/4 knots; a sustainable exercise pace brought the speed up to 5 knots.

When rowing a fast boat sometimes requires stopping quickly. Driving the feathered blades in does the job. The light weight of the Drake Race Boat makes this maneuver possible without putting undue strain on the rower.Christopher Cunningham/Jim Tolpin

Rowing a fast boat sometimes requires stopping quickly. Driving the feathered blades in does the job. The light weight of the Drake Race Boat makes this maneuver possible without putting undue strain on the rower.

It wasn’t easy getting a steady reading on my GPS while I was doing sprints at full effort. Even though the Raceboat is rowed from a fixed thwart rather than a sliding seat, the shifting of my weight as I leaned aft to the catch and forward at the release created an equal and opposite reaction in the boat, dramatically slowing it down on the drive and speeding it up on the recovery. Fluctuations in speed may not be quite so noticeable in a heavier boat, but in the lightweight Raceboat they spanned at least 1-1/2 knots. I’d estimate that the boat’s sprint speed averages out around 6 knots. It’s a fast pulling boat.

The flare of the sheer strake and the wide flange of the gunwale are evident in when the boat is viewed from one end. Christopher Cunningham

The flare of the sheer strake and the wide flange of the gunwale are evident when the boat is viewed from an end.

To make the most of the Drake Raceboat’s speed, it’s essential to have good technique and a good pair of oars—spoon blades, of course, for a good purchase, and a low swing weight for quick recoveries. On my second day of rowing trials, Tom Regan of Grapeview Point Boat Works delivered a new pair of 8’ spoons. They were a good match for the Raceboat. With slender blades that were nimble in and out of the water, the oars could keep up with the boat.

The Raceboat tracked well and there was no need to correct its course on a straight run. It also responded well to turning strokes and was easy to spin around in place as I pulled one oar while backing the other. There wasn’t much wind during the weekend when I rowed the Raceboat, perhaps about 8 knots but while I was rowing across the wind I didn’t feel the boat had any tendency to weathercock. The wind was offshore and made the water flat, but I did have a few powerboat wakes to drive through. The Raceboat cut through them smoothly and they passed by without much effect on the hull.

Pushed hard, the Raceboat maintains its trim well and makes little fuss passing through the water.Christopher Cunningham/JimTolpin

Pushed hard, the Raceboat maintains its trim well and makes little fuss passing through the water.

The Raceboat I rowed arrived on a small trailer but could be set on roof racks. I regularly cartop a 100-lb tandem decked lapstrake canoe, by lifting one end at a time. A compact SUV like mine provides enough of a span to keep steady an 18’ boat as light as the Raceboat, which is much lighter and easier to manage. If your back and height aren’t a good match for the lift, a trailer is the better way to go

While the Drake Raceboat is designed “for the greater speeds in race conditions,” you don’t have to compete to appreciate the boat. It will give you an exhilarating workout and reward improvements in your stamina and technique, but it’s not so high strung that you can’t take it out for a relaxing outing.End of article

Christopher Cunningham is the editor of Small Boats Monthly.

Drake Raceboat Particulars
Length 18′3”
Beam 48.5"
LWL 17′
Depth 14”
Displacement 306 lbs
Hull Weight 75 lbs

 

The Drake Raceboat will be available as a kit in November of 2017 from Chase Small Boats. You can also build from the plans package, which includes templates for the molds and forms for the bow and stern—planks will require spiling.

Is there a boat you’d like to know more about? Have you built one that you think other Small Boats Monthly readers would enjoy? Please email us!

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9 Comments

  • John Murray says:

    It is good to see new design ideas coming out like this. Of course we would worry about its tenderness but the same complaints are made about the Adirondack guide boat. I always advise customers to hold onto the gunwale on boarding as overbalancing is the only way of falling in. My studies indicate that for cruising a waterline length of 16′ or less is best to reduce wetted surface. Since we cruise at about 4 knots, wave making does not cause much resistance compared with boat friction in the water. I am inclined to think a smaller person or a female might cruise more easily with a 15′ boat. By the way we race around Dangar Island in Sydney and the best speed for the event in a Herreshoff rowboat (16’5″ waterline length) is 5.6 knots.

  • Jim Dumser says:

    Yet another example of a beautiful boat designed by a talented Clint Chase. I love his use of new methods (CNC) and techniques (three-step scarf) to produce timeless designs with a classic look. Keep up the good work!

    • Clint Chase says:

      Thanks, Jim. And thanks to Mr. Tolpin and Mr. Lind for really building a beautiful prototype. Thank you Chris for putting this review together.

      There is also a 20′ set of lines prepared for kitting, as requested by a gent in the SF Bay area. I think that will go like smoke, too.

  • John Murray says:

    The boat is beautiful but the oars, to give it justice, should be of the spoon type. Of course these may have just been just to hand for the photos. However I also notice that the gap between the handles inboard seems to be larger than would be proper. I also believe it more proper that the oars should be drawn inboard to stow rather than swinging the blades to sit on the seat depositing water. “Efficient rowing” is discussed in detail on my website along with articles on rowboat design and making an oar. I hope this little contribution has been helpful.

    • Christopher Cunningham says:

      We had several pairs of oars available when I rowed the Raceboat.Two would fit the Gaco locks that the boat was equipped with. One pair

    • Christopher Cunningham says:

      We had several pairs of oars available when I rowed the Raceboat. Two pairs fit the Gaco locks that the boat was equipped with. One pair, which appears in the photos without leathers, was about 7′ 9″ in length with blades that were beyond spooned. They were “cupped” and hollow between the blade edges. I didn’t care much for the length or the blade shape. The following day, Tom Regan of Grapeview Point Boat Works brought a pair of 8′ spoons. They appear in the photos as the pair with leathers. We reviewed his oars in October 2015 issue. Clint Chase designed the boat to be rowed with 8′ 6″ oars. The 8-footers worked well, but 8′ 6″ oars would have given me the inboard length that I prefer and that John advises in his comment.

      • Brunengraber says:

        I found this article to be very interesting as I am always looking to try a new rowing boat. This is a decent looking craft. I found the oar talk interesting also as I’m looking for another set of oars for my Seaford Skiff. The tenderness they mention reminds me of the Alden I had. I don’t use a floating dock.

  • Todd Brunengraber says:

    Very interesting article. Boat is definitely a good looker. The tenderness worries me also as I get in my Seaford Skiff from the dock, not a floating dock. I am contemplating another set of oars and contacted Pete at Adirondack Rowing.

  • Ben Fuller says:

    One way that I board tippy boats is over the end. Sounds a little weird, but it is basically crawling into the boat.Bend over the end, slide the hands down the boat as far as you can then dive, in staying as low as you can. Works best if you have a deck in the end like my ducker or a bow seat like my dory. I think someone showed me this launching a guideboat from a boat-house ramp. You push the boat off the ramp at the same time.

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