The story of the P8 hybrid folding boat
(which is also a piece of our history)
Hi, I’m Marco Oliveto, founder of ZenTime. I am 58 years old and I am a computer scientist, designer, navigator and expert sailor (examiner in nautical license exams). I’m about to tell you the story of how and why we invented Paper8, a name that evolved into its short term P8.
It all started when in 1999 I launched the sailing yacht “Pinocchio”, a foiling trimaran that I built to sail with the family. Great boat, companion of many adventures. She sails light, fast and balanced. Kept in perfect working order thanks to the care given to it by its young owners Stefano and Francesca, it rocks happily at its mooring at the Bari naval league. The Pinocchio project started in 1994 together with some authentic sailing gurus:
- Gabriele D’Alì, architect from Milan (author of the “designed sailing” column published for decades in the historic sailing magazine Bolina);
- Giorgio Bergamini, engineer, from Bari like me, internationally renowned designer of sailing multihulls. Just think that in 1999 Giorgio became the FIV member within the “Multyhall Committee” of the ISAF, now renamed World Sailing, or the international sailing federation.
- Michele Vino, from Bari, my best man and expert designer, refined shipwright, navigator and with that magical gift of being able to build any object starting from nothing.
Initially the tender (service boat) of the Pinocchio was an anonymous dinghy with an outboard engine. Not that it was the best, but it honestly fulfilled its task. To shake the balance in 2009, however, came the 4-legged Commander Benjie, who with his brisk manner (on the dock they called him “the Breton” due to his rough character) immediately explained to us, already during his first cruise, that the era of the unlucky dinghy was now over. Therefore, dutifully, we immediately started the project for the new tender, more rigid, habitable, practical and lighter.
To be honest, however, I must now confess that the idea of a hybrid tender that could also sail and row has been toyed with for some time. So the tender of our dreams had to be not only a better service boat, worthy of Commander Benjie, but also a dinghy suitable for exploring the coasts under sail during cruise stops.
But first of all the tender must be safe and reliable, a guarantee when you have to get out of the way of uncomfortable situations. How to bring a spare anchor to windward to reinforce the mooring or go ashore for supplies when the wind is blowing strongly at anchor in the bay.
During the brainstorming we remembered the chance encounter we had had years earlier at sea with a Dinghy Mirror, a glorious and tough dinghy, designed for sailing in the dark North Sea in 1962, in England, by the prolific pencil of Jack Holt ,
The Dinghy Mirror in particular had impressed us with its elegance and seainess. Furthermore, as on all boats equipped with a mirror on the bow (such as the timeless Optimist), the hull rather than being flat showed a good sheer… this detail was of great importance for the project that was starting to take root in our minds. …
And then the spark went off: why not think about re-engineering this fantastic boat in a foldable way? After all, what better references, considering that 70,000 Mirror Dinghys sail around the world? In fact, starting from New Zealand and Australia, up to the United States and Canada, it is the oceanic gym of entire generations of great champions.
Thus the first P8 was born from the love for Benjie, which, thanks to the precious DNA of its noble ancestor, has faithfully inherited its surprising marine qualities. The development of the project, conducted together with the Paper8 Sailing Team, a joblab of passionate sailors, continued with the construction of dozens of models, tested in the open sea in all wind conditions, even in stormy seas.