Mylor’s historic dockyard heralding the return of the copper-bottomed beauty

At Mylor Yacht Harbour, there is more than 200 years of history dating back to the great days of sail so whilst nowadays it is a modern marine haven, there is a neat symmetry that Mylor’s Marine Team of expert shipwrights and technicians are increasingly using an excellent modern version of an ancient method of protecting the bottoms of the boats in their care.

In the 1800s Mylor was England’s smallest naval dockyard in one of the world’s most strategic ports. The expression “copper-bottomed” as a term for something completely trustworthy and reliable came straight out of that time – a literal reference to the copper plating which protected the planking of the ships of the Royal Navy.

Just as those wooden ships in bygone days were sheathed in copper to ward off barnacles, ship worms and other unwelcome growth, the Coppercoat hull protection system used today creates a long-lasting copper-based shell around a vessel’s hull – whatever it is made of – which will keep her bottom smooth and sleek for many years.

It works as beautifully for racing classics as for long-distance sailors who have made their yachts their homes. When the Thatcher’s set off for the Mediterranean aboard their Lagoon 42 catamaran 2B3 they did so with the reassurance that she had one of the best under-water protection finishes the marine industry can provide.

Hull having been sandblasted at Mylor Yacht Harbour    2B3's fill and fair hull treatment prior to coppercoat at Mylor Yacht Harbour 2B3 with her fresh coppercoat having been applied at Mylor Yacht Harbour    Coppercoat finish on a catamaran in Mylor yacht harbour, Falmouth

“Our main aim when we decided to go for Coppercoat was that we wouldn’t have to haul her out of the sea again for a long time,” Steve said. “She’s our home as well as our pride and joy and we wanted to maximise the amount of time we’re sailing her.”

Application of the modern day Coppercoat system is, however, an awful lot easier than the older sheathing process. Once a vessel is lifted into the yard, Mylor’s GRP technicians will prep her by sand-blasting the hull to remove all the old coatings, then “fill and fair” any imperfections found below the waterline using epoxy filler. Then in the workshop, the Coppercoating process can begin.
A high concentration of copper powder is stirred into an epoxy matrix which is then applied to the hull by spray gun. Four coats is the normal application and once dry it acts like a hard, smooth racing paint and helps to reduce drag, increase speed and is definitely a more environmentally friendly option to antifouling every year.

Sir Robin Knox Johnson and his Clipper Venture team were so impressed with the effects of Coppercoat during the 2017-2018 Clipper Round the World Yacht Race that they have selected it for the next two editions, 2019-2020 and 2020-2022. After the 2017-18 race, the fleet’s Coppercoating was reported as being in near perfect condition after the rigorous 40,000 nm, eleven-month circumnavigation.

Though the Thatcher’s are blue-water cruising, not racing, they reported that just one wipe around with a sponge during their first six months in the Med brought 2B3’s Coppercoated bottoms back to their original verdigris look.

“Coppercoat has very many advantages and professionally applied it can last for several seasons,” says Spike Riley, services manager at Mylor Yacht Harbour. “It’s effective, tough, easy to maintain and easy to repair. It might seem a more expensive option up-front – but over the longer haul it becomes increasingly cost-effective.”

Old antifoul removal from a hull ready for a new coppercoat    Antifoul removal before and after at Mylor yacht harbour

For a pristine view of how a copper bottom once looked, you can visit the clipper Cutty Sark the fastest ship of her time, “floating” in her beautiful visitors’ centre at Greenwich. In fact her copper bottom was itself an evolution of the original known as Muntz metal – an alloy of 60% copper 40% zinc with a trace of iron patented in 1832 by Birmingham metal-roller George Frederick Muntz. Many inventors through the centuries, including our very own Sir Humphrey Davy, had experimented to find the perfect copper-based protection for vessels at that time.


Cutty Sark Dry-Berth. Copyright National Maritime Museum London

So, whilst Mylor Yacht Harbour no longer offers copper sheathing for boat hulls anymore, you can definitely rely on a ‘copper bottomed’ service for everything else whether it be Coppercoating or any other repair or maintenance requirement.


Request a quote today or call to discuss in more detail: 01326 372121