Noelex Yacht Association of Australia Inc



South Australian builder has given 12-year-old Noelex 25 a new lease on life, with a new interior and smart construction. It will be the toast of all owners, says BARRY TRANTER.

AUCKLAND boatbuilder Steve Marten is a pretty smart guy when it comes to fibreglass. Developer of the world’s fastest 470 dinghies, he became one the pioneers of the pre-wet laminating technique used with success in NZ’s three 12-Metres, Michael Fay’s mighty K-Boat, and a series of big custom hulls since then.
One of the Marten’s early success stories was the Noelex 25 trailer sailer. He had bought the Noelex 22, one of NZ’s most popular classes, and in 1977 decided he needed a 25-footer. With the aid of Alex Tretheway, the 22’s designer, the 25 was born. The Noelex 25 was to become an object lesson to all boatbuilders and designers. The design was clever, the styling timeless, and smart construction techniques have kept it current.

In ’87 NZ virtually lost Australia as an export marker due to currency fluctuations, and hard times locally dried up the production boat market too, And Marten had bigger things on his mind — 130-footers, for instance — so the South Australian Noelex distributor, Maurie Perry, bought the moulds in September ’87, although the first local boat wasn’t produced until May ’88. At the time I wrote this, Maurie was building his 40th boat, taking the class total to beyond the 450 mark.

Perry’s Noelex Yachts factory is at Goolwa, a village on the shores of the Goolwa liver which is really an arm of Lake Alexandrina, the stretch of water into which the Murray River discharges after its long journey down through the hinterland. Goolwa is not far from the Murray mouth, but one of four barrages prevents access to the sea. The barrages are a system of lifting gates which keep the salt water from flowing into the freshwater lake system. Goolwa is TS heaven; beyond is a series of low-lying islands, shallow lakes with plenty of wildlife, a cruising ground that extends down to behind the Coorong, the dune area immortalised in the Storm Boy book and film.

The factory, by the way, has one of the best moulding shops we’ve ever seen — heated, sealed, clean, and based on the Marten operation in Auckland.

The hull is stiffened with Coremat in the bottom (to just above the waterline) and deck, while the topsides are solid ‘glass. Despite an extensive fit out including plenty of wood trim, the Noelex displaces 1180kg; towing weight of the deluxe version is 1780kg. Not featherlight by current standards, these are still good Figures for such a stylish. comfortable craft. The deckliner moulding is vacuum-bagged to the deck moulding, wth filler between the two skins. The hull also has quite a long, shallow keel of solid ‘glass, which takes the trailing loads.

The designers gave this 7.77m by 2.50m hull a drop keel which draws 1.4m fully extended. The keel case reaches only half height in the cabin, although its leading edge is carried up to the roofline to help support the mast. The keel if lifted by a winch handle set in the top edge of the case, so the winding action is horizontal. The short keel case means the interior is not bisected by a keel structure, restricting movement around the cabin, and cutting down the light. All the ballast is in the form of lead in the fibreglass-skinned keel, which is stiffened by a full-depth timber spar.

The interior has a kit of clever touches The forepeak is a proper cabin: two adults can sit here in comfort while avoiding the rain (we did). The large rectangular area between the bunks is filled in by the starboard side settee backrest cushion. The backrest drops down to convert the settee eta double berth. Sleeping five adults may be a bit cramped; four and a child would be fine.

The toilet is in the forecabin, the corner behind the half bulkhead and the centrecase structure. The two-burner Maxi methylated spirits stove sits on a galley moulding which joins the centrecase. Once of this boat’s cleverest features is the slide-out two-compartment icebox fridge, which you draw out from behind the caompanionway steps. The ice box — the front bin — is 85 litres, the fridge behind is 57 litres. The 12-volt compressor unit is mounted at the rear of the icebox and draws power through a cable which remains attached to the unit. You slide out, pull out a few stubbies, slide it hack. Maurie Perry claims there have been no failures with this system.

The interior styling alone will sell this boat to many. The full headliner is a fibreglass moulding with a textured finish that is indistinguishable from vinyl. the cushion covers, carpet on the hull sides, and floor carpet were all berber colour on the test boat, to complement the American Ash trim. Teak is optional but the ash is a knockout. It is a wide-gained timber which must be almost white, the only finish Noelx use is a wax, so it deepens only to a very light honey colour. The overall area is voguishly natural, and everyone on our test sail loved it. This extensive trimming suits the boat’s character, which is that of a small yacht.

The cockpit and hardware are easy to live with, too. The tiller is led through the transom, which cleans up the sterns appearance, and the outboard is mounted in a well in cockpit floor, below the tiller Now, in other yachts with this arrangement I have been known to tall down the slot, but on the Noelex it didn’t seem easy to do. Which is good. You swing the motor head forward, the leg comes up inside the boat and you fill the gap in the skin with a moulding which you wriggly into place with a tubular alloy handle, which then wedges it home. At first sight this seemed a messy arrangement but you quickly get used to and it keeps the water out of the boat, dropped objects inside the , and the outboard is inboard where you can get at it. It also gets it off the transom. where it would be unsightly. And chat wouldn’t do, in such a classy craft. The rudder stock is a nice alloy moulding carrying a swinging fibreglass blade and a very nautical teak tiller The 4:1 mainsheet is attached almost at the boom end, dropping to a traveler that bridges the cockpit thwarts, well clear of the companionway. The traveller lines cam on the traveller car itself, easily handled by the helmsman as he skirts the long tiller. self-tacking lib is controlled by the sheets only, there is no outhaul itself for the car, which runs on a fairly short curved track.
Sheer sheet tension pulls the car inboard when headed upwind, ease the sheets and the car slides out to the end of its track.

The rig is a simple single spreader with three shrouds setup, with forestay tension provided by a high-field lever in the anchor locker, a good-sized locker with a trigger fastening holt_ The forehatch is clear with non-skid strips, with drain channels around its perimeter, a reminder of how classy the mouldings where when we first saw them, and how good they are still.
A clue to the Noelex’s character is an obvious one — you reach for the tiller extension and there it ain’t, You sit in this TS, not out on the sidedeck. You sit in there with that lovely big tiller and you’re the skipper of a yacht not a modern plastic and alloy contraption which you engage in an uncouth wrestling match.

The hull sections are quite rounded underwater, so there’s not a terrific amount of initial stiffness, but the Noelex doesn’t heel too far before settling down. She tacks instantly, and is a pleasure to work up a narrow channel in a shifting, southerly, as we did while heading back to the ramp at Pittwater’s Bayyiew. There is no lurching, or unpredicted change in direction of travel. either. This is not a boat to frighten the unwary, or scare the kids, or petrify the skipper when it attempts to take charge and attack a moored boat or a channel market.

The Noelex 25 is one boat an owner could not fail to be proud of. It looks tight, it sails right, it would he nice to live with. The interior is more than well-trimmed, it has style and it would make the owners happy to cast an eve around their little penthouse afloat.

We borrowed the boat with the help of Sydney Sailboat Centre’s Kerly Corlette who reckons that when the buyers of racer TSs arrive to collect their new boat, they hitch it hurriedly to the back of the 4WD and, without even a grunt of farewell, vanish into the night.

New Noelex 25 owners always bring a bottle of champagne.