The first GRP Mirrors were produced in March 1986 for Bell Woodworking by Ferranti. At that time sail numbers were 68076 and above. They are easy to spot, they had hollow topsides (i.e. the hull sides above deck level) and very rounded corners inside the hull where the topsides meet the aft and the bow transoms, following in plan view, the profile of the normal bow shapes and quarter knees. Constructed using chopped strand mat. Similar deck layout to most wooden Mirrors (i.e. Mk2 interior) but no inner gunwales, no bow shapes or quarter knees.
Some of the buoyancy tanks may be connected via the hollow topsides (one boat had the bow tank connected to the stern tank !). The drip rail above the cuddies, and the lower part of the skeg are wood.
It seems there were two vesions of the deck moulding. With the "first" (? we are not really sure) version, the white deck mould stopped at deck level & a seperate moulding (normally grey) filled the gap above the deck, hiding the deck mould to hull joint and rolled over the gunwale. The small radius, and colour change on the join between inner topside panel and deck is distinctive. This topside/gunwale design & construction is quite weak. These boats appear to have GRP thwarts.
This version of the deck moulding features on page 3 this Bell Mirror publicity leaflet, thought to date to 1993.
The later (?) version of the deck moulding goes up to the gunwale (so is uniform in colour) and wraps over onto the hull mould. There is a lip along each side deck edge by the cockpit and strengthening knees around the rowlock locations. This is a much stronger construction, and tends to occur on newer boats, so seems logical for it to be the second design, fixing problems identified in the first. Not exactly sure when the change was made as identifying the correct sail number for these boats is difficult.
I am aware that Holt made 70 GRP composite Mirrors (GRP hull, wooden interior) around the same time. It's possible they also made an all-GRP Mirror, and that this 'second' version of the deck mould is actually a hull manufactured by Holt, however I've no evidence for this, so it is speculation at the moment. This would, however, explain a few things, for example:
- Why Bell were showing the "first" deck mould version, rather than the second, in their 1993 leaflet.
- Why the "second" version often has a coloured hull (dark blue, red, light blue,...), but the first version is always white hull & decks with grey gunwale moulding
- Why the second version hulls have a wooden skeg
- Why sail numbers for the two versions appear so mixed up (one might expect the 'first' version to always have a lower number)
- Why the "second" version have wooden thwarts
For the record, here is what information I have.
|68???||first version||This boat has 'Bell' branding as seen in the photo on the 1993 publicity leaflet, so could well be the same boat.|
|68162 - Nancy||Second version|
|68393 ? - Hippo||first version|
|68??? - Foxy||second version|
|68614||second version||We are pretty sure this is the correct number for this boat|
|68849||second version||See slideshow below for details of thwart|
|69033 - Rock-it!||second version|
|69056 - Squid||second version|
|69383 - Goosie||second version|
|70111||first version||Hull thought to date to 1986/87(?). It appears Bell Woodworking, and subsequently Widebeam were unable, or did not try, to sell this boat, so it was an asset of Widebeam when they went out of business in 2001. The sail number would have been allocated in 2001 when she was sold by Trident-UK.|
These boats were not very popular, so not very many were made. They can be very heavy (one recorded at 85Kg, by comparison, the minimum hull weight of a Mirror is 45.5Kg). As they are chopped strand mat they are not very stiff. The come up on sites like E-Bay from time to time for around £500 - £800, probably best avoided if you want to race seriously.
Above are some photos of a Bell/Ferranti, number 68??? (using a borrowed mainsail and a spinnaker from a wooden boat, 68491). Note that if the boat has a GRP thwart the sail number is not stamped or recorded anywhere on the boat. This can make it difficult or impossible to work out the correct sail number (but they always start 68, or 69, or low 70, so 68*** or 69*** or 70***). The highest sail numbers I have come across are 70088, purchased from Bell/Widebeam in January 2001 and 70111 purchased from Trident-UK later in 2001.
Later boats had wooden thwarts and some of these had the sail number engraved onto that, for example 68849 below. If you have one with a GRP thwart, you might be able to find the sail number from some paperwork that came with the boat, or the original mainsail (even if the numbers have come off, there may be traces of glue where they were or the sailcloth may be less faded), the original spinnaker, or it may have been written on a some of the equipment (e.g. the rudder). The original mainsail would be made by Holt, with a black oval sailmakers mark as seen on 68614 & 69383 - Goosie. Remember the sail number will start 68, i.e. 68xxx, or 69xxx, or maybe a low 70, i.e. 70xxx, so you only need to find a few digits.
Bell Ferranti Mirror number 68849 - thanks to Trevor Wilson for the photos.