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Here you will find various publications featuring Sykes.

This article originally appeared in SAE Australasia - Issue 6: July 2015

To view the article as it appeared in SAE Australasia, click on the PDF version below.

SAE Australasia - Staying Competitive with Carbon Fibre

Staying Competitive with Carbon Fibre


Sykes, an Australian producer of Olympic quality rowing hulls, use carbon fibre in their boats to achieve weight reduction without compromising performance, to ensure competitiveness on the world stage.

Carbon fibre is widely regarded as one of the lightest and stiffest fibres available commercially in the composites field, both of which are desirable qualities in the design and performance of Olympic class racing boats. As more and more uses for the fibre took hold, costs were reduced making it viable for use in their industry.

Sykes is one of only a few Racing Boat Manufacturers worldwide who successfully transitioned from building the beautiful timber racing boats of the past to the modern day advanced composite hulls. Next time you watch the Olympic Games or ‘The Boat Race’, take note of the racing eight built to an all up minimum weight of 96kg, approximately the same weight as just one of the rowers on board! Maximising the properties of materials such as carbon fibre and honeycomb core, helps convert raw combined athletic power of over 800kg of athlete, into speed with minimal losses.

The combination of Honeycomb core and carbon fibre produces a very stiff and light hull. With the high forces created by the athletes during the rowing stroke, this stiffness helps minimise losses that could be absorbed into the hull through flexing and distortion with no return to the speed of the hull.

During the initial phase of the design process existing Sykes boats and other competitor boats are analysed for suitability and performance in the target market. Sykes do this to understand their strengths and weaknesses in terms of hydrodynamic drag, stability and structural stiffness. Using mathematical modelling techniques, the design team then virtually builds, tests and compares many different hull shape variations before committing to a shape for the first physical prototype. The aim is to achieve the lowest possible drag at racing speeds with a boat that is stable enough to row at maximum effort for an entire race.

The design team uses CAD and associated programs for hull design development, with additional theoretical testing using the unique Cyberiad Program developed in Australia. The Cyberiad program allows theoretical Hydrodynamic Testing of hulls by mathematical calculation of viscous and wave drag of existing and new designs.

Cyberiad and Sykes have been working have been working on the theoretical modelling of drag around rowing shells, developing a range of numerical methods for predicting drag, taking into account the specific physical, size, shape, technique and physiological capacity of individual rowers within the boat.

This approach typically means the first prototype becomes the production mould, resulting in a quicker turnaround time from initial concept to production, compared to past production timing before this extensive modelling.



The above images are a result from the theoretical hydrodynamic testing of hulls, using mathematical modelling and calculation of viscous and wave drag for existing and new designs.


Sykes uses a process of CNC machining and more traditional hands-on methods to create their racing hulls. Large blocks of poly foam form the starting point of a hull. From this block, a rough profile of the hull or component is cut to within a few millimetres of the finished size. The mould is then reinforced with a fibreglass skin, laminated with resin and allowed to cure to stabilise the plug, this allows high accuracy machining on a relatively flexible form. A resin paste is then applied. The final finishing and polishing is done by hand, ready for the final production mould to be made from the plug.




The increasing global market competition, the need to improve manufacturing efficiencies and diversify opportunities, led to the purchase and installation of a 5 Axis Milling machine, one of the largest operating in Australia.

This has led to a growing number of requests for the expertise of their Design Team and use of this highly specialised plant.






An athlete's connection to the boat is critical. Every point of contact must balance both comfort and efficiency, leading to endless variations for personal rigging.

One of the many other standout product innovations by Sykes was in the late 60’s, with the introduction of an aluminium extruded slide rail which the moving seats roll on. This product soon spread around the globe and gained the name ‘Aussie Rail’. Reduced weight, cost and longevity were its benefits.

It was in 1966 when Jeff Sykes first designed a racing scull that would assist him in his desire to win an Australian Sculling Championship.

2016 will see Sykes Racing celebrate a half-century of manufacturing. While the company has grown to be the largest rowing boat builder in Australia, Sykes have seen rowing grow and develop in leaps and bounds, during their 50 year history.

Since the company's first World Championship gold medal in 1974, Sykes has worked closely with the majority of Australian Rowing Teams sharing in multiple Gold medal performances at World and Olympic Competition.

For Sykes, construction isn't just about quality, it is about improving techniques so that their boats evolve in every way possible – including working stringently towards achieving the Australian Quality Standard ISO-9002. This standard requires an organisation to obtain certification by an outside body, basically submitting to an examination of its operation to work to an industry standard by establishing and maintaining a quality assurance system for manufacturing and service.

Today, there are approximately 350,000 ISO 9000-certified organizations in over 150 countries. The ISO 9000 standard is the most widely known and has perhaps had the most impact of the 13,000 standards published by the ISO. It serves many different industries and organisations as a guide to quality products, service, and management. With a highly competitive world market, standards like this are an important factor in gaining export business.

Sykes boats are Australian made in Geelong, Victoria and exported around the world.



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