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Thread: First impressions of the Solway Dory Shearwater (Evolution).

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    Default First impressions of the Solway Dory Shearwater (Evolution).

    Well a week last Friday I picked up my new Solway Dory Shearwater from Solway Dory in Cumbria. My decision to go for a dedicated decked sailing canoe really originated last August at the Tighnabruaich OCSG meet. Dave Stubbs asked me then if I'd be interested in a second hand Shearwater as he'd heard of one for sale. Having recently sold my motorbike I had the funds available and so I said to Dave that I'd definitely be interested however as I thought about things I decided that I'd rather give the money to someone I knew than an unknown person (which the owner of the second hand boat was). When I mentioned this to Dave he semi-jokingly replied that he'd rather I gave the money to someone I knew as well (i.e. him! ) He went on to say that they (SD) were planning to build a new evolution of the Shearwater incorporating all the small improvements that they'd learned after a few years building the original version (and a few new ideas besides). The first customer for the new boat was going to be Gavin (who was planning his round Britain trip at the time) however Dave had decided to build a prototype boat for himself to proof some of the new ideas and building techniques. I went to visit Solway Dory last October on my way to the "Last Chance Meet" at Coniston and Dave showed me his boat which was nearing completion at the time. I'd been watching Dave's progress reports about the new boat on Facebook but impressive as they were the photographs didn't prepare me for how nice the boat would be in the flesh. I asked Dave there and then if he'd build one for me, he said yes!
    Solway Dory started building my boat and one for Andy (Zollen) side by side in May after they'd finished Gavin's round Britain boat. Ours were to be slightly different from Gavin's with a slightly larger cockpit opening, less crowned forward deck and no self bailer. The differences on Gavin's boat were included for his trip and our boats were to be the same as the prototype that Dave built for himself and were designed to be more of an all-rounder than Gavin's more specialised boat. I've been watching progress on Facebook as the boats went from bare hull towards completion. One change that Dave has made to mine and Andy's boats is to build in a flooding ballast tank next to the leeboard, this is designed to flood in the event of a capsize and provide a counter balance to aid re-entry of the boat. Once upright the tank drains slowly through a small hole into the cockpit allowing the water to be bailed out. This feature is designed to be used when the boat is sailed without outriggers (re-entry when using outriggers is straightforward anyway).
    As I said I picked my canoe up just over a week ago so any impressions are just first impressions. The first difference I noticed with this boat compared to my Nova Craft Pal is the extra weight. The Evo Shearwater is lighter than the original version however at 44KGs it's a lot heavier than the 28Kilos that my Pal weighs. That said I can pick it up myself reasonably easily by lifting it on it's side by the seat rail (which is how I'll be getting it into my garden until I widen the gate). Getting it on the roof of my van is awkward and currently I can't manage it without a second person to steady the canoe for me. I've ordered a rear roller for my roof bars and combined with my kayak uprights I think this will allow solo loading (it's a system used by others in the OCSG). The boat came with one of SD's fantastic trolleys which make most other models look inadequate by comparison and once on this the canoe is a breeze to move about. It has four buoyancy tanks (one each side and one each front and rear) which are all accessible via hatches for use as storage space. The front tank is smaller than on the original Shearwater but the missing space is used for open storage under the front deck which will fit the trolley with wheels attached on one side of the mast tube with plenty of space on the other side for a day bag and anchor (this is one of the improvements based on experience that Dave mentioned). The decks are all constructed from marine ply treated with epoxy and varnish while the hull is glassfibre and identical to the original Shearwater. This combination offers a significantly lighter build than the all glass original version and is VERY pleasing on the eye into the bargain. The rig is the familiar 5m (just under 54sq ft) Solway Dory Bermudan rig which offers great performance combined with easy reefing. The leeboard and rudder are the familiar and excellent SD items as used on many Brit sailing canoes. Due to the crowned foredeck SD made me a new outrigger beam which places the amas higher than on my Pal allowing the canoe to heel further before the outriggers come into play. I use my existing amas as the attachment is identical.
    I've had the opportunity to spend three days sailing so far (a weekend trip on the Clyde and Loch Long with my friend Rambo in his sailing canoe and a pleasant day trip with my wife sailing two up on Loch Lomond). The Shearwater is 6" wider than my Pal and unsurprisingly it feels really stable in comparison and although the length is the same at 16' it feels much more roomy even with a passenger. The boat comes with two seats which slide on rails to allow adjustment of trim according to what load is being carried and these are both removable for transporting the canoe or using just one for solo sailing. It's entirely practical to lock the tiller and mainsheet off and make a brew and eat lunch while the canoe sails itself in calm conditions so that space under the front deck is great for storing a flask and sandwiches in your day bag! It's also easy to sail standing up for a spell if you start to get a little stiff from sitting. The side decks are super comfy for hiking out and the boat comes with excellent toe straps which are in just the right place. The foredeck has a coaming to deflect spray and water and further forward a smaller coaming that serves as a paddle park as well as shielding the forward hatch from spray and waves. The Shearwater feels a lot quicker than my Pal as well and this is not just due to the bigger sail area but also the more efficient and stiffer hull. I did wonder if the boat would be slow through the tack due to the lack of rocker in the hull when compared to my Pal but in fact it tacks at least as well (and probably better). I've sailed it briefly in a F4 with some chop and white horses and no water made it into the cockpit (in the same conditions I would have been bailing my open boat).
    It's still very early days yet but first impressions are that this canoe is in a different league for sailing than my open boat, it's so different that it almost feels like a different category of craft (which it is in reality) and yet from the evidence of my GPS I can say that as well as sailing like a dream it can be paddled easily at 3.5mph for a sustained period. I can't wait to explore it's capabilities further over the next few months and I'll post some more updates and pictures as I do so.

    Outside Solway Dory's workshop.

    Ready to go on her maiden voyage.

    Rear view.

    The front decking (inc paddle park).

    You really can make a cup of tea while sailing!!!!

  2. #2
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    Thats a grate canoe, love the brite work, Dave S makes a good boat! if thay wher avalabel down hear I think ther wold be a good folowing , espeshaly on the Gippsland Lakes

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    Yeah she's a beauty Mick, thanks. Here's some video I took on her maiden trip (mostly of Rambo as I was doing the filming).

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    Grace and style personified. Thank you for the video. Can you get Rambo to take some of you in action?

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    Thanks for your generous comment poolebay. Rambo did take a little footage of me but his camera is in a dive housing so a little awkward to hold while filming and sailing. My next sail will probably be at the OCSG meet at Tighnabruaich the weekend after next so hopefully some of the others will get some footage of my new boat in action there. I'll also take my GoPro with me which is better for filming myself due to it's fisheye lens. The next trip with Rambo is likely to be a mission to explore the Isle of Gigha over a long weekend in September (weather permitting), some of the other OCSG regulars will probably be involved as well so there may be more footage from that trip.

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    That's lovely Chris.
    What a diffence a bit of wood makes. I considered the Shearwater for a while but was a little put off by it's modern appearance. Not a bad thing in itself - just not what I fancied.
    That I like though. Very nice indeed.

    Might see you next week. Been meaning to make it to an OCSG meet for ages.
    Picture yourself in a boat on a river,

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    Quote Originally Posted by Grooveski View Post
    That's lovely Chris.
    What a diffence a bit of wood makes. I considered the Shearwater for a while but was a little put off by it's modern appearance. Not a bad thing in itself - just not what I fancied.
    That I like though. Very nice indeed.

    Might see you next week. Been meaning to make it to an OCSG meet for ages.
    Nice one Josh, maybe you can persuade Stephen to come along as well? It'd be great to see your McGregor in action, I've never seen one sailing in the flesh (wood?) I'm really pleased with the new boat but I've been so busy sorting out my infrastructure (system for loading onto the van, modified canoe rack for storage and widening the garden gate to allow me to trolley the boat in - still not done) and with work on top that I've not had time to sail her again. I had hoped to join Gavin on a leg of his epic journey round the country but I just haven't had time to do anything! Really looking forward to Tighnabruaich if only for a rest!!!!!!

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    Wow, Chris, really nice looking canoe! Not logged in for a while and only just realised that you now have it. Looking at the dates, I'm sure you must be sailing it at the Tighnabruaich meet right now as I type this. Look forward to hearing all about it sometime.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Steamerpoint View Post
    Wow, Chris, really nice looking canoe! Not logged in for a while and only just realised that you now have it. Looking at the dates, I'm sure you must be sailing it at the Tighnabruaich meet right now as I type this. Look forward to hearing all about it sometime.
    Yes Chris W is here at Tighnabruaich. A bit wet and windy today but nice trip out yesterday. He seems to be enjoying his new boat enormously! Can't believe how much more stable it feels than the open canoe.

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    I had a great few days round at Tighnabruaich. It was the usual OCSG fare of great company, great sailing and great laughs. The new canoe continues to be hugely impressive but I still feel I'm only scratching the surface of it's capabilities (especially after having heard some of Gavin's exploits in a very similar boat). Some of the concerns that I had about loading the boat onto the roof of my van have been allayed by using a different system (which is continuing to evolve and improve in use). One thing that I have discovered recently is how effective the decks and coamings are at keeping the water at bay. I sailed in some bigger swells at Tighnabruaich and was really impressed by how dry the cockpit stayed. The speed of the canoe is also a revelation, I've gone from one of the slower boats at the meet to one of the quicker ones (mostly due to the canoe and not my sailing prowess I should add). I managed to clock 9.3 mph with one reef left to shake out on Tuesday without much difficulty on a reach and 6-7mph is possible while beating even into a fairly large swell. I'm still experimenting with the sheet jammer, it's really handy in light to moderate winds (especially for taking pictures and video) but in stronger winds I tend not to use it as I prefer to have instant response to gusts and wind shifts. I've also been trying running the sheet straight from the boom to my hand in stronger winds (as favoured by Dave S and others). Speaking of Dave, he fitted some telltales to my sail last week (sneaking them on when I wasn't there!) Sunday was the first time I'd sailed using telltales and they were very useful, I need to buy another pair to fit further back on the sail for using when I've reefed down.

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    Chris, looking at your photo of the "Rear View" it might be an optical illusion, but the outriggers seem much higher out of the water than I am used to seeing! They look more like safety devices, which appeals to me much more.

    I mean I am uncomfortable with outriggers (As you know) being used to sail on, turning the canoe into a multi-hull vessel, but with them well out of the water, I am seeing them in a slightly different light.

    Do you find that they tend to be out of the water more often than not or are you relying on them a fair bit while you getting used to the greater sail area?

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    Here's some video footage I got on Sunday (when we sailed around Inchmarnock island).
    Last edited by Jurassic; 1st-September-2012 at 09:12 AM. Reason: Sorting wonky link.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Steamerpoint View Post
    Chris, looking at your photo of the "Rear View" it might be an optical illusion, but the outriggers seem much higher out of the water than I am used to seeing! They look more like safety devices, which appeals to me much more.

    I mean I am uncomfortable with outriggers (As you know) being used to sail on, turning the canoe into a multi-hull vessel, but with them well out of the water, I am seeing them in a slightly different light.

    Do you find that they tend to be out of the water more often than not or are you relying on them a fair bit while you getting used to the greater sail area?
    Yes the outriggers are set higher (as they were on Wayne and Gavin's boats). This is due to SD using a laminated spar instead of the one piece steamed beam used in the past. The old beams (such as I use on my plastic boat) tend to droop over time (although this shouldn't happen and Dave is at a bit of a loss as to why it happens). The other reason for laminating the beam is that the foredeck on the new Shearwaters (and Wayne's Fulmar) are crowned so the beam needs to have a more complex shape to clear this. In practice I don't notice much difference, sure the outriggers take longer to contact the water but you can heel the decked boat a lot more before you get water coming over the gunwale into the cockpit than in the open boat so it doesn't feel much different. I certainly don't think it affects the way you sail, it's best practice to keep the outriggers flying as long as possible anyway as the level hull is more efficient. I don't think the the small SD outriggers are designed to "sail on" to be honest as despite their impressive static buoyancy they are easily driven under the surface if you lean on them while sailing, they just provide a reactionary gap to allow you to recover from a mistake or an unexpected gust. .

    PS One additional benefit of having them set higher that I've just thought of is while sailing in a beam sea. The old type lower-set spar meant that the amas caught the water as the boat rolled leading to big splashes coming back over the gunwale into the canoe. This only happens in bigger swells with the higher set outriggers (and of course the side deck keeps much of it out of the Shearwater anyway).
    Last edited by Jurassic; 1st-September-2012 at 09:37 AM. Reason: Thought of another point, added as PS!

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    I prefer having the outriggers set higher as it allows you to heel the Shearwater further without leaning on them. Being able to heel the canoe is good as it helps when tacking to spin quickly without dragging the stern. Heeling brings the bow and stern up a bit so that they dont drag as you turn, so the canoe can turn much more easily.
    The outriggers are there really to support the canoe if you get caught out by a sudden gust or lull in the wind strength, and nearly all the time i sail i keep them clear of the water.
    The other big advantage of them is the extra stability that they give for re-entry into the canoe after a sudden capsize. Gavin , on his round Britain trip, actually managed to capsize with all his cruising gear on board, in force 6 winds and 5 foot swells when he surfed down the waves at 12 knots and lost control and flipped. He managed to quickly right the canoe and re-enter. He had several inches of water in the canoe but he managed to bail and continue. He later decided that he had too much sail up and from then on only sailed in similar conditions with a very small reefed sail that kept his speed to a more manageable 7 knots.
    I prefer sailing when i am in sheltered water without outriggers as i like the extra heeling and balancing that you can do, but on the sea where conditions can get extremely challenging i always use them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jurassic View Post
    PS One additional benefit of having them set higher that I've just thought of is while sailing in a beam sea. The old type lower-set spar meant that the amas caught the water as the boat rolled leading to big splashes coming back over the gunwale into the canoe. This only happens in bigger swells with the higher set outriggers (and of course the side deck keeps much of it out of the Shearwater anyway).
    Good point Chris, something I hadn't considered.

    Another question if I may, having never sailed with outriggers. Does the extra weight and the position of this weight (A meter out on both sides) act as a sort of counter balance which slows the rate at which the canoe heels over in a sudden gust? Does the canoe roll over slower and more progressively.
    I just imagine it would roll slower like a glider with a long wingspan over a fighter with little stubby wings, but it might not be that noticable.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Steamerpoint View Post
    Good point Chris, something I hadn't considered.

    Another question if I may, having never sailed with outriggers. Does the extra weight and the position of this weight (A meter out on both sides) act as a sort of counter balance which slows the rate at which the canoe heels over in a sudden gust? Does the canoe roll over slower and more progressively.
    I just imagine it would roll slower like a glider with a long wingspan over a fighter with little stubby wings, but it might not be that noticable.
    No, you're quite right it does slow down the speed at which the canoe rolls. Someone made the comparison of a tightrope walker with a pole to help him balance to me.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jurassic View Post
    No, you're quite right it does slow down the speed at which the canoe rolls. Someone made the comparison of a tightrope walker with a pole to help him balance to me.
    Perhaps I should try sailing a canoe with outriggers at one of the meets and see how I get on with them. The trouble is that other people's canoes tend to have this weird push/ pull rudder system and I just know I'm going to struggle badly. Ho hum.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveS View Post
    I prefer having the outriggers set higher as it allows you to heel the Shearwater further without leaning on them. Being able to heel the canoe is good as it helps when tacking to spin quickly without dragging the stern. Heeling brings the bow and stern up a bit so that they dont drag as you turn, so the canoe can turn much more easily.
    The outriggers are there really to support the canoe if you get caught out by a sudden gust or lull in the wind strength, and nearly all the time i sail i keep them clear of the water.
    The other big advantage of them is the extra stability that they give for re-entry into the canoe after a sudden capsize. Gavin , on his round Britain trip, actually managed to capsize with all his cruising gear on board, in force 6 winds and 5 foot swells when he surfed down the waves at 12 knots and lost control and flipped. He managed to quickly right the canoe and re-enter. He had several inches of water in the canoe but he managed to bail and continue. He later decided that he had too much sail up and from then on only sailed in similar conditions with a very small reefed sail that kept his speed to a more manageable 7 knots.
    I prefer sailing when i am in sheltered water without outriggers as i like the extra heeling and balancing that you can do, but on the sea where conditions can get extremely challenging i always use them.
    I've found that in a Shearwater sailing canoe anything much over 7 knots down large following waves runs too high a risk of a broach on the side of a wave and capsize. Allowance has to be made for the rapid acceleration when a big wave and strong gust coincide. Near Buckie in the North of Scotland, on a large wave, I momentarily hit 7 knots in F5 gusting F6 conditions with 6 reefs (rolls of sail round the mast), i.e. with a very small scrap of sail driving the boat. However in this context I should also say, IMO the Solway Dory Shearwater with outriggers is as seaworthy, or more seaworthy than most cruising dinghies.

    For the two reasons Dave states, I regard outriggers / amas * as essential for any sort of exposed sea voyage / trip in a sailing canoe. Mine are the same height as Chris's. This is good for most conditions but in big waves when running or broad reaching (when the extra stability would be very beneficial) they could do with being lower. I'm considering lowering mine by 2" as the best compromise for my mix of sailing conditions. However, in my view, Chris's current outrigger / ama height is best for the great majority of wind and wave conditions likely to be encountered in a sailing canoe.

    I discovered another advantage of SD outriggers during my recent long coastal expedition. Sailing close hauled and leaning slightly on the outrigger float meant I could lock off the tiller and with a bit of fine adjustment sail on a constant heading relative to the wind for 5 minutes or more, without touching the tiller. This was only possible in light to moderate steady winds without large waves but when it did work, meant I had both hands free for chartwork, adding or taking off layers of clothing, eating lunch and so on. Off the wind, I could usually manage up to 30 seconds 'hands free', providing the wind was not too strong or gusty.

    Paddling performance was good too but that's another post.

    Or, as another way of summing all this all up, my SD Shearwater with SD outriggers is a boat which looked after me very well for 1,000 miles.

    * I'm referring to small amas of around 25 litres buoyancy which are large enough to provide a large margin of extra stability but small enough to permit quick righting the boat after a capsize. Larger amas (which could make righting a capsized sailing canoe very difficult or impossible) need to be much larger to effectively rule out the possibility of a capsize.
    Last edited by GavinM; 5th-September-2012 at 10:54 AM.

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    Interesting to hear your thoughts on setting the amas lower Gavin. I would never pretend to have sailed in serious conditions similar to those you describe however on the last day I was at Tighnabruaich (Tuesday) when Graham and I were sailing backwards and forwards from the bay to the big buoy off Carry Point there was a good size swell. On the run back in on a reach I was really enjoying surfing this swell and noticed that I had to move about a lot to control the corkscrewing motion that occurred. In that scenario (coming down the face of the wave) by the time the ama touched the water the boat was over at an uncomfortable angle which felt very precarious. I ended up scampering about using my bodyweight to keep the canoe more upright and the outriggers weren't doing much. I think if I had relied on them the rolling motion would have driven the ama under water possibly leading to a capsize. Certainly on other points and in other conditions I like having the outriggers set higher though.

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    Yes, you describe the motion well, although it gets easier with practice. I have submerged the amas many times but I've never noticed any adverse effect on tracking when they are under. Rather the reverse, the boat feels like it's on rails. The way to retain good control in the conditions you describe is to reduce sail a lot (and likely by a chunk more than you'd need to according to the wind strength alone) so the waves overtake you and pass under the boat rather than the boat planing off down a wave face. 5 knots average (meaning possibly surging to 7 knots) in big following waves is a very respectable cruising speed and is usually a lot more stable. Not so exciting, but safe. I think the reduced stability you describe is caused by the comination of quatering waves and the canoe tending to ride on the bow and stern wave at greater than displacement speed. But I think most small boats can be a bit of a handful with large following waves.
    Last edited by GavinM; 5th-September-2012 at 02:50 PM.

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    Yeah, on this occasion it was just good fun, sporty sailing but the same conditions (or worse) on a trip while fully laden and on exposed water would be very intimidating I imagine.

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    It is fun and I still do enjoy flying down waves. The good thing is that it's very easy to calm it all down and I now reef sooner and deeper when sailing alone on the open sea, particulary with large following waves.

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    Here's the latest video footage from our trip to Tayvallich last weekend.

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    I've been meaning to ask Jurassic, does it feel any more restricted space wise sailing in a decked boat then in your open?
    I really like my open canoe as there is loads of space to roam around inside even with the side and end bags, I could see a decked boat being a little more restricted with its Well , although because of the fixed seat in my open sitting on the bottom has trim issues which don't exist with the slide-able seat design of a decked canoe.

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    Quote Originally Posted by unk tantor View Post
    I've been meaning to ask Jurassic, does it feel any more restricted space wise sailing in a decked boat then in your open?
    I really like my open canoe as there is loads of space to roam around inside even with the side and end bags, I could see a decked boat being a little more restricted with its Well , although because of the fixed seat in my open sitting on the bottom has trim issues which don't exist with the slide-able seat design of a decked canoe.
    I think it'd depend on the actual open boat Adam. I actually find there's a lot more space in the Shearwater than in my Pal but the plastic hull of the Pal relies on thwarts to make it stiffer. These thwarts restrict usable space significantly (as far as crew is concerned, there's still plenty of luggage space in the Pal). If I recall correctly your Curlew with it's stiff glassfibre hull doesn't have as many thwarts so maybe compared to your boat it would seem a bit restricted. One of the (many) joys of owning the Shearwater has been the comfort though, the side decks make hiking out sooooo comfy compared to balancing on the skinny gunwales of the Pal (even with my fat a**e for padding!) Are you coming up to Coniston this year? You can have a go in it and see for yourself if you are.

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    Hoping to get to Coniston, it'll be great to have a blast in a Shearwater!

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    Great stuff. You must be the most travelled member of the OCSG this year (is there a prize for that?)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jurassic View Post
    Great stuff. You must be the most travelled member of the OCSG this year (is there a prize for that?)

    There should be!

    I take cash, cheque or bankers draught....

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