New Launch Vehicle
The Llandudno Sailing Club project to replace the launching tractor.
At Llandudno Sailing Club, no-one really knew how old the tractor was that we launched the safety boats with, like Sherlock Holmes ageing things from the amount of dust on them, we could only guess at the age of the tractor with the level of rust that had eaten away at it. The cost of continual maintenance to keep the tractor running and being safe to use was becoming exorbitant and beyond the club’s financial means to continue, another launch system had to be urgently found. The tractor was overdue to terminally fail, and without a unit to launch the safety boats, there would be no sailing at Llandudno Sailing Club. The future of the Club was seriously in peril.
Donald Rumsfelt said that ‘we don’t know what we don’t know’ and never was this so true in the quest for a new launching vehicle. The pages of Farm Autotrader suggested a £15 – £20,000 would be admirable, so we set about applying for grants. Llandudno Town Council very kindly recognised our plight and awarded us £5,000 in 2016, and together with £4,995 from Club funds, we applied to Gwynt y Mor Community Fund through Conwy Voluntary Services Council for match funding of £9,995. When, in 2017, this was agreed we were ecstatic, and set about looking for the perfect tractor.
The perfect tractor would be extremely basic, as our old one was, just to tow things, with no frills, four wheel drive, cheap to service and maintain, without any electronics. We quickly found that it does not exist. All modern tractors are festooned with electronics, everything, brakes, axles, suspension, the engine management systems all operate from electronic sensors that have a complete aversion to salt water. None-marinised electronic sensors would fail virtually instantly if immersed in salt water. Any tractor dealer would sell us a tractor, but when they found out what it would be used for, no-one would give any kind of warranty whatsoever. In short, as one friendly tractor dealer told us, if we paid £20,000 for a newish tractor and subjected it to salt water every week, it would very soon start to fail and within two years we would have a unusable, unrepairable, unsellable wreck.
After a great deal of investigation there was a ‘light-bulb moment’ when we came up with what we thought was an answer, take a dumper truck, remove the bucket, put tow hitches on it front and rear and we have a bullet proof launch vehicle. It is built out of girders, has no electronics, engine high up under the drivers seat (away from the water) built to work in the harshest conditions and extremely cheap to maintain and repair. It’s fair to say that the idea had it’s sceptic’s, but as we looked into it further, the idea seemed to make sense, and with the support of the funders, we took advice.
Thwaites Dumpers of Leamington Spa are the country’s largest manufacturer of dumper trucks and their technical department were really helpful with any technical information. They confirmed that a dumper would fulfil our needs admirably and were not in the least surprised at our enquires, their units are regularly converted for various uses, including towing. Dai Jones, of D Jones Plant at Denbigh sourced us a low usage Thwaites 6 tonne dumper and it was delivered to Rhandir Garage, Treborth who had been keeping our aged tractor going for generations. As a condition of the grants, prior to purchase the unit was inspected and reported on as to it’s suitability and condition by by an independent engineer, Richard Winstanley from Celtic Assessors, a member of The Institute of Automotive Engineers. Richard also oversaw all the modifications and fabrication work carried out by Wyn Roberts, the third generation of the Roberts family to run Rhandir Garage. Wyn did an absolutely brilliant job of fabrication and work, removing the bucket, fabricating wings and brackets, taking axle breathers up higher than the seat out of the way of any chance of water ingress, and strengthening the towing brackets, although even the standard construction of the unit was that similar to a British Army tank. Warning lights, working lights and an audible reversing warning were all fitted, and after a myriad of other minor jobs, finally, the whole unit was spray painted in Rustbuster Mastic 121, the same salt resistant paint used by the RNLI for all their vehicles that work on the shoreline in saltwater conditions, in Llandudno Sailing Club colours.
The vehicle was registered with the DVLA and given a registration number commensurate with it’s year of construction. It was taxed and insured and is now in commission, it’s first role was to launch and recover safety boats for a North Wales regional training weekend for junior sailers.
During this project, only made possible by local grants, we tried to ensure that every penny spent was spent locally, and we are proud to confirm that everything in connection with this project was sourced and paid for to local suppliers and contractors with 25 miles of the Llandudno Sailing Club.
The launch vehicle is pivotal to Llandudno Sailing Club; without it we cannot launch the safety boats, and without them, we cannot sail. We set out to procure a unit that would fulfil the needs and requirements of the Club for a decade without concern or worry. We think that with the help and support of the following, we have well achieved that – and made new friends along the way.
With very grateful thanks to:
Llandudno Town Council
Community and Voluntary Support Conwy
Gwynt y Môr Community Fund
Thwaites Dumpers Leamington Spa
Dai Jones, D Jones Plant Denbigh
Tom and Wyn Roberts, Rhandir Garage Trofarth
Richard Winstanley, Celtic Assessors
From the Llandudno Sailing Club President Tony Lockett:
‘Launching and recovery of the club rescue boats was originally done manually. This took a lot of manpower and was not the safest of jobs. The old tractor was purchased many years ago and has given good service but salt water and electronics are not easy partners. Finding a replacement became of prime importance to the club but of equal importance was the funding of the project. The club were unable to do this without assistance. It was therefore a great relief when the Gwynt-y-Mor Windfarm through the good offices of the CVSC and Llandudno Town Council agreed to assist with grants towards the cost of a replacement vehicle. It means that for the foreseeable future the safe operation of getting rescue boats on the water is secure enabling the club to continue to prosper as a prime sports club in Llandudno’.
From Llandudno Sailing Club Commodore Phil Roberts
‘Llandudno Sailing Club is heavily reliant on its launch vehicle to be able to operate. During the sailing season the launch vehicle is used 2-4 times per week to launch and recover safety boats, without which sailors could not go afloat. The club’s old tractor has been a fantastic servant for many years but it has deteriorated over the last few years to the point where it was becoming a hazard. The funding that we have received from Gwynt Y Mor Community Fund and Llandudno Town Council have allowed us to invest in a new launch vehicle and secure the future of sailing at Llandudno Sailing Club. As Commodore I’d like to extend my eternal thanks to those organisations for their support and look forward to showcasing the new launch vehicle in the coming season.’