If London wins the 2012 Olympics Weymouth will host the sailing events. Bernadette Redfern visited the new Sailing Academy.
Temperatures on the Dorset coast are below zero, the wind is freezing and it is raining.
But 'it's actually pretty warm today', insists Danny Hawkins, project manager for contractor Dean & Dyball. He has been involved since September last year in construction of what is hoped will be one of the key venues for the 2012 Olympic Games - Weymouth & Portland Sailing Academy. In the four months since work started he has got used to the chilling effects of wind-whipped spray.
With clean nautical lines standing out from a bristling forest of dinghy masts, it is hoped the two-storey sailing academy building will become a local landmark and tourist attraction, as well as serving the needs of the world's best skippers and crew. Steelwork is advancing quickly (see box).
Dean & Dyball's mission has involved demolishing existing marine structures and buildings abandoned by the Navy in 1999 to make way for a world class sailing facility. The project has also required reclaiming approximately 7,500m 2 of land from the sea, construction of a new slipway and jetty, and erection of the new steel framed sailing academy building itself. Alongside these works the contractor is providing roads and drainage.
Dean & Dyball has all hands on deck to deliver the £5.9M project within a 65 week construction schedule.
As an island you might expect the UK to have a multitude of sites ideal for hosting Olympic sailing events. But for small boat sailing Weymouth has the best waters in Northern Europe, reckons Weymouth & Portland Sailing Academy's director of development John Tweed. 'We have good winds across the Chesil Bank (a spit of shingle that protects Weymouth Harbour from the open sea), 10km 2 of enclosed water in the harbour, weak tidal systems and a low tidal range. They're ideal conditions for speed sailing.'
There are clearly some yachting afficionados in the civil service and government, as last week it was confirmed that, should the UK win the 2012 Olympic bid, all sailing events will be held here. Although construction of the new academy has been in the pipeline for some time, the announcement has been a huge fillip.
Tweed fills in the background: 'For the last 30 years the Royal Yachting Association has wanted to establish a national sailing centre in Weymouth or Portland but there was never been enough flat land available.
When the naval base closed in 1996 and the remaining airsea helicopters left in 1999 this suitable area became available.'
At the moment the sailing academy is housed in one of the old navy buildings. A significant challenge facing Dean & Dyball is that boat storage, changing and boat launch facilities must remain accessible during the entire construction period. This constraint means the project is really being undertaken in two phases.
First, Dean & Dyball is erecting the new building and has already provided a new slipway and jetty.
The slipway was built using precast concrete mats, dropped into position on the 1:10 graded shore by crane. Elements measure 2.4m by 6.95m and weigh 3.2t. They are strung together on steel cables. 'If we had poured the concrete slipway insitu we would have had to build a three sided cofferdam to hold the water back, ' says Dean & Dyball site agent Nigel Habershon.
Alongside the slipway is a new timber jetty supporting a permanent crane lift for hoisting boats into and out of the water.
When the new club house is complete the Academy will move in, leaving Dean & Dyball free to demolish the old building.
A road can then be built behind the centre to the slipway.
Land reclamation approximately 200m along the shoreline is well advanced.
'First we had to move the existing rock armour out 20m40m and sit it on a geotextile layer, ' says Habershon. A 3m strip behind the rock armour has been filled with 150mm diameter Portland stone to provide a habitat for an indigenous plant known as Portland sea lavender. Behind this ecological strip the reclaimed area has been backfilled with a 2m depth of dredged ballast. Another layer of geotextile has been placed, ready for a 1m topping of cut and crushed demolition material. Most of the reclaimed land will be covered with block paving for vehicular access to the shore and dinghy parking.
The two storey, steel framed academy building has been designed by Newcastle-based architect Faulkner Browns with structural engineer Gifford. It will contain four main changing areas on the ground floor and recreational facilities, office space and a restaurant on the first floor.
A £67,500 Department of Trade & Industry grant means the centre will supplement its power supply with photovoltaic cells mounted on the roof. 'We will have a large display in the foyer of the building to show the generation statistics, ' says Tweed.
Existing naval buildings sitting within the footprint of the centre were demolished in September 2003 and the site levelled off, but for a hangar building that will be kept and refurbished to provide additional storage space.
The new building will sit alongside the hangar and mimic its portal frame structure. 'We are connecting the two buildings with what we call a fin wall, ' says Faulkner Browns' project architect David Bailey. Jutting out above and beyond the roofs and facades of the two buildings, it will be composed of steel columns and beams clad in a blue acrylic render. Four other fin walls slicing through the building will separate the main areas inside. From east to west these are the entrance hall, office area, social facilities, and kitchen/restaurant.
Construction of the building began in October with a blinding layer of concrete poured over the 850m 2floor area. Foundations for the building consist of a 450mm deep concrete raft reinforced with 20t of steel rebar and 2,500m 2of heavy steel mesh.
'We poured the slab in November and managed to do a 350m3 concrete pour in one operation. We started at 7am and were finished by 3pm, ' says Dean & Dyball project manager Danny Hawkins.
Holding bolts for the steel frame were cast into the slab so that 70 sets of four bolts rose vertically out of the flat slab. These allow the base of the steel stanchions to simply be bolted to the ground.
Erection of the steel frame is under way using a mobile crane and a team of four steel fixers from structural steelwork specialist Snashall Fabrications. Starting at the eastern end of the building the team affixes two rows of four steel columns up to the roof height of 9m. Lateral steel beams are then placed between the columns to support the first floor and the roof cladding. All beam and column connections are bolted. The structure is cross-braced.
On completion of the frame, scheduled for February, a Kalzip aluminium roof cladding will be fixed.
A 2m high Portland stone wall is being run across the south facades of both the old and new buildings to unite them.
Exterior finishes will also include coloured rendered block, split faced concrete block, glass block and glazing.
Off the starting block
Getting on site and starting work on the project was delayed for several months due to the late arrival of funding from Sport England - the national sports council. This left only two months for Dean & Dyball to complete piling along the coastline. 'We weren't allowed to pile from November to April because it would disturb the wintering birds, ' says project manager Danny Hawkins.
They managed to get all the work done for the jetty construction and will be driving a further 10 tubular piles in April to support the floating pontoons used for public access to boats.
Total cost of the scheme stands at £7.85M and funding has come from a wide variety of sources. Main investors are the South West England Regional Development Agency and Sport England. However, donations and grants have also been received from Weymouth & Portland Borough Council, West Dorset District Council and local contributors.
Client: Weymouth & Portland Sailing Academy
Major sponsor: South West England Regional Development Agency
Project co-ordinator: Denley King Project Management
Architect: Faulkner Browns
Consultants: Gifford and Partners, Posford Haskoning, Denley King Partnership, White Young Green, Stride Treglow Contractor: Dean & Dyball
Subcontractors: Snashall Fabrications, ADS, TA Colbourne, ABS, Bison, Schindler