Started Sailing

Plastic (GRP) or Wood?

by Pedro


I know there is great discussion between whether wood or plastic is better for a dinghy. My RS 200 is plastic and I like it. It is lighter and definitely the material to use for a high performance dinghy. Wood looks really nice, but I don't think it has many other traits attributed to it.

Alex, I know that you sail a wooden GP14. How does that compare to a plastic one?

What do the rest of you think?


Comments for Plastic (GRP) or Wood?

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Nov 26, 2009
You are right to an extent...
by: Alex

Hey Pedro,

You are correct in saying that I sail a wooden GP14 with my partner. It does look incredible and is so glossy that you can see your reflection in it. Everyone comes and touches it, because it is so smooth.

However there are more advantages than just aesthetics. I think that the main think about wooden boats is that they have very little resistance to the water when they are glossed over, unlike plastic boats.

However they are usually heavier and cost a lot more to buy (and repair!). Fibreglass boats are usually cheaper and easier to repair as you just inject more plastic into the damage whilst on a wooden boat, you have to remove the damaged section and put a new piece in.

Also when wooden boats haven't been looked after they look terrible! Fibreglass hulls, don't need to be maintained as much and so look good after weeks of no maintenance.

Mainly though, wooden boats will be purchased because they look better and for not many other reasons!

Nov 26, 2009
by: Tonette

mine is made of wood too..i havent seen one whose made of plastic ..would you care to post some pics here? just curious..thanks in advance..

Nov 26, 2009
Here is a link...
by: Alex

Hi Tonette,

Pedro submitted a page about his Best Sailboat! the RS 200, which you can find here:

There is a picture there of a plastic RS 200.

Nov 26, 2009
by: Nakchura

Hello! We're actually using boats that is made of plastic, fibertech to be exact. I've just started sailing. To you experienced sailors, do you know which of the two is better? Or are the two just okay to use but just have some differences?

Nov 26, 2009
oh yeah!
by: nakchura

Hello! I saw the pic. The sailing boat I've used is like that one! Ha ha. But its a little wider. A sailing boat that is narrow is better correct?

Nov 26, 2009
GRP vs Wood
by: Han

Since the first GRP boats were made, magazines have flourished on this topic and libraries have been filled with books on it. Apart from the aesthetics I like wooden boats more than GRP ones, because they give me a feeling of companionship. Yes, pun intended. Now to experience.

The only dinghy-class I know of that allows wooden as well as GRP hulls is the FD, and I maintained and sailed both of them. The wooden one (moulded plywood) was too light to meet class rules, so it had to be ballasted; instead I rigged some extra gear, so that was a big advantage.

The GRP one first met the weight-rules, but within a few years osmosis took over and it became too heavy, that's why I sold it and sailed the wooden one some more, to my delight. That was my comment on the weight-issue.

Then the maintenance- and repair-issues. Both hulls had to be on land when not in use. Both had to be hosed down and waxed regularly for the same reason: deterioration of the lacquer-finish on the wooden one, and deterioration of the gelcoat on the GRP one by UV-light. There goes maintenance-free.

And last, repair. Even when a GRP hull looks only slightly damaged by a bump, the laminate can very well have been delaminated which weakens the structure. So the whole affected area has to be sanded out in the shape of a shallow bowl, dried for a couple of days under IR-light and then filled up very carefully with fibre and polyester. Injection with a shot of plastic is certainly not the right way.

In my opinion the repair of wood is easier.

Nov 26, 2009
One more thing...
by: Han

And for Nakchura: I sailed in a Dutch class of roundbottoms, 4.80 meters long with a beam of 2.40 m, and it sailed a well-measured speed in a beam-reach of 6,4 knots. So narrow is not always better! Wait for my article on the Tjotter, and for now you could also look at the video in Racing Dutch Barges: great fun!
Sorry Alex, a bit off-topic, but I HAD to answer this one.

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