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Hydraulic stability of antifer block armour layers

Physical model study

Paulo Freitas

Department of Civil Engineering, IST, Technical University of Lisbon

The primary aim of the study is to experimentally investigate the stability performance of antifer block armour layers on a
1:1.5 slope, under the effect of irregular waves, for different placement methods. A literature review on the armour layer
stability, as well as 2 different stability formulas for different armour units, is firstly presented. The rubble mound structure
scaling requirements, scale effects in these models and the material used in rubble mound construction are discussed. The
results demonstrate that the best performing placement method corresponds to the regular placement method. However, in
this method, the reflected significant wave heights are higher than in the semi-irregular placement method.

Key words: Rubble Mound Breakwater; Antifer Block; Hydraulic Stability; Placement Method; Damage Assessment.

1. INTRODUCTION type of structure is dissipated by absorption and part

of it is reflected.
Several evidences of the influence of placement
method on the stability of antifer block armour layers A rubble mound breakwater is usually constituted by a
are well known and studied. The problem of rubble core of quarry run and an under layer of random
mound breakwaters stability involves a large number shaped and random-placed stones, protected with an
of parameters. As a consequence, the studies of armour layer of selected armour units.
hydraulic armour layer are very complex due to the
interaction between these parameters. 2.1. Antifer block

This extended abstract is divided into six chapters. In The antifer cube is a massive armour unit that was
the second chapter the armour layer stability is created as a result of laboratory research conducted for
discussed, such as the stability formulas for different the breakwaters of Antifer Harbour in France. So,
armour units. their first use was on the Antifer breakwaters and later
they have been used in the repair works of the west
On the third chapter, the required theory to design and
breakwater of Sines harbour (Fig. 1).
operate a scaled physical model of a rubble mound
breakwater is presented, as well as the materials used
in rubble mound construction.
In chapter four the model construction is discussed
together with the different placement methods.
On the fifth chapter, the results and the values
downscaled to the prototype are presented.
The last chapter contains the conclusion remarks and
suggestions for future work. Fig. 1: Use of antifer blocks in repair works of the west breakwater
in Sines harbour (Portugal)

The blocks have a geometric shape close to a cube, but

2. RUBBLE MOUND BREAKWATER they present four grooves and a slightly tapered shape
Rubble mound breakwaters can be found along the (Fig. 2) [1].
coastline, to either protect the coastal area against
wave action or create sheltered areas where vessels
can navigate and berth safely. The wave energy in this

Nowadays the most widely used equations in the
design of some concrete armour units are the Hudson
equation and Van der Meer equations.

2.3. Hudson equation

Hudson formula can be described by equation (3) for
concrete armour units [2]. Here the first term
corresponds to the stability parameter and the second
represents the slope angle and the KD factor.

( ) (3)

where Dn is the nominal diameter of the armour unit

Fig. 2: Geometrical characteristics of Antifer Cubes (m), KD is the Hudson stability parameter (-) and is
the slope angle ().
2.2. Hydraulic stability
The value of KD depends mainly on the type of armour
The hydraulic stability of the armour layer on the front
layer adopted. However, this value also depends on
slope has been widely investigated for many years. To
the wave steepness, ratio of depth to wavelength, ratio
understand the breakwaters performance against wave
of wave height to depth, thickness and porosity of
action, it is necessary to describe some physical
cover layer, armour unit surface roughness, incident
wave angle, shape of armour unit, slope of bottom
seaward of structure, crest width, method of placing
Generally, the common failure mode of the armour
the breakwater materials, and damage level. In Table
layer is failure of singles units when the wave
1, suggested KD values are presented.
dislocating force is greater than the stabilizing force.

This formula has, however, limitations:

The instability of these units is caused by wave forces,
which tend to move the blocks once a critical value is - the use of regular waves only;
exceeded. Those wave-generated forces are known as - no description of the damage level;
drag and lift forces that are withstood by the
interlocking effect and/or block weight. - the use of non-overtopped and permeable structures

( ) ( ) Table 1: Suggested KD values

where m is the density of armour units (kg/m3), w is Structure trunk

the density of water (kg/m3), D is the nominal
KD Manual
diameter (m), g is the gravitational acceleration (m/s2), Armour
unit H
v is the flow velocity (m/s), FD is the drag force, FL is Breaking Nonbreaking
wave wave
the lift force and FG is the gravitational force.
Tetrapod 7.2 8.3
Assuming that the velocity of a wave on the slope is SPM
Modified 1.5 1975 [3]
proportional to the celerity in shallow water, equation 6.8 7.8
(1) can be shortened, and the stability parameter is to

obtained. Tetrapod 7.0 8.0 5 H1/3

Modified 1984 [4]
6.5 7.5
(2) Rock
( ) Antifer
7.0 8.0 2 Manual
2007 [2]
where H is the characteristic wave height (m), is the
relative densiy (-) and Ns is the stability parameter.

2.4. Van der Meer equations In Table 2, the damage levels associated to the
structure damage classification are presented.
To overcome the limitations of Hudson formula, Van
der Meer conducted an extended research on the Table 2: Damage level by Nod and S for double layer armour
stability of breakwater. For armour layers composed Armour unit
Initial Intermediate
by cubes in a double layer on a 1:1.5 slope with / Damage Slope Failure Manual
damage damage
3m6 (m surf similarity parameter), based on non-
depth-limited wave conditions, Van der Meer Rock / S 1:1.5 2 3-5 8
2011 [6]
proposed the equations (4) and (5) [5].
0 - 2
2011 [6]
( ) (4) cube / Nod
0.2-0.5 1 2 et al.,
2007 [2]

0 - 1.5
( ) (5) Tetrapod/
2011 [6]
0.2-0.5 1 1-5 et al.,
where Hs is the significant wave height (m), Nod is the 2007 [2]
number of displaced units related to a width of one
nominal diameter, for displacements higher than 2Dn
(-), No,mov is the number of displaced units related to a
width of one nominal diameter, for all type of
displacements (-), sm is the mean wave steepness (-) This chapter presents the theory to design and operate
and Nz is the number of waves (-). scaled physical models of a rubble mound breakwater,
as well as the materials used in the rubble mound
2.5. Damage construction.

The damage in armour layers is related to the specific 3.1. Scaling requirements and scale effects
conditions and duration of a sea state. It can be
Physical modelling is based on the idea that the model
characterized by counting the number of displaced
behaves in a similar way to the prototype that intends
units or measuring the eroded surface profile of the
to represent. Thus, a validated physical model can be
armour slope.
used to predict the prototype's behaviour under a
specified set of conditions. However, there is a
The damage can be expressed in terms of a relative
possibility that the physical model may not represent
displacement D, which is defined as the ratio between
the prototype behaviour due to scale effects and
the number of displaced units and the total number of
laboratory effects [7].
units within a specific zone (usually the area between
Hs around Still Water Level is used) [4]. Gravity forces predominate in free surface flows and
thus most hydraulic models can be designed using the
(6) Froude criterion [8].

The KD values suggested for Hudson formula are
obtained for a level of damage smaller than 5%, (9)
measured between Hs around Still Water Level.
where Nt is the time scale (-), Nl is the length scale (-)
Broderick defined the damage (S) as the relation and NM is the mass scale (-).
between the eroded surface profile and the square of
the nominal stone diameter [6]. In equation (9) it is assumed that relative density
relationship is the same for model and prototype.

(7) The linear geometric scaling of material diameters that

follows from Froude scaling may lead to viscous
where Ae is the eroded area. forces, corresponding to small Reynolds numbers.

This means that the flow regime in the breakwater least, 3Hs (318cm=54cm) to avoid breaking
armour units of the model is laminar, instead of conditions before the structure. However, due to issues
turbulent, to avoid viscous scale effects. related with glasses safety, a value of 45cm was
chosen [2].
However, this scale effect can be neglected if the
Reynolds number is greater than 30000, obtained by
3.3. Materials used in the construction and
equation (10) [7].
structural parameters

(10) 3.3.1. Armour Layer

About 600 antifer cubes were used in the construction

where Re is the Reynolds number (-), is the
of the breakwater armour layer. The antifer blocks are
kinematic coefficient of viscosity (m2/s) and Hs,i is the
made available by LNEC (National Laboratory for
incident significant wave height (m).
Civil Engineering) (Fig. 4). The blocks are made of
concrete, filled up with small spheres of metal and
The results obtained in this study were downscaled
were painted to avoid friction scale effects and to
according to Froude similitude criterion using a length
observe more easily their eventual displacement.
scale of 1:60.
The proprieties and dimensions of the block are
3.2. Facilities
presented in Table 3 and Table 4.
The experimental research was performed in the wave
Table 3: Block proprieties of used antifer cubes
flume of the hydraulic and environment laboratory of
Instituto Superior Tcnico. After building the model, c Dn15 Dn50 Dn85 M15 M50 M85
the placed antifer layers were tested for a peak wave (kg/m3) (cm) (cm) (cm) (g) (g) (g)
period of 1.4s with different significant wave heights, 2450 4.30 4.33 4.36 195.25 199 203.3
i.e. 10cm, 12cm, 14cm, 16cm and 18cm.
The channel has a length of 22m, a width of 0.7m and
Table 4: Block dimensions of used antifer cubes
a height of 1m and has a system of wave generation
with dynamic wave absorption (Fig. 3). H V A B C D r
(cm) (cm3) (cm) (cm) (cm) (cm) (cm)
In this work, the irregular waves were produced by the
4.30 81.47 4.67 4.32 0.41 0.10 0.52
HR WaveMaker wave generation software, adjusted to
JONSWAP spectral shape.
The waves were measured with four probes and the
data was recorded and analysed by HR Data
Acquisition and Analysis software.
One camera was used to capture video of every tests
and take pictures before and after each test. Fig. 4: Example of used antifer blocks

The gradation Dn85/Dn15 is 1.014 and the gradation

M85/M15 is 1.041.

3.3.2. Under Layer

Graded rock was used in the construction of the

breakwater under layer (granite stones) (Fig. 5). The
standard Froude scaling method for the under layer is
based on the relation between the armour layer weight
ant the under layer weight. The typical value
Fig. 3: Wave flume recommended to the weight ratio is around 10 [6].
The duration for each test was defined for 2000
waves. The water depth in the flume should be, at
The proprieties of the graded rock are presented in 4. MODEL CONSTRUTION AND
Table 5: Graded rock proprieties of used stones
Knowing the elevation of the crest and the slope, the
r Dn15 Dn50 Dn85 M15 M50 M85 model dimensions were drawn on the glass of the
(kg/m3) (cm) (cm) (cm) (g) (g) (g)
flume. The material of the core was placed in stages to
2600 1.63 1.78 1.97 11.29 14.6 20 allow the settlement of the core (Fig. 6). During the
construction of the core, irrigations were made in
order to facilitate the settlement.

Fig. 5: Graded rock used in under layer

The gradation Dn85/Dn15 is 1.209 and the gradation

M85/M15 is 1.772. The nominal diameter of the rocks
should be around 19.9g, however the value obtained Fig. 6: Core of the model
after the sieve selection was smaller, corresponding to
After placing the core, the graded rock of the under
layer was placed one by one. Firstly, the first layer of
3.3.3. Core under layer was placed and then the second layer (Fig.
Quarry run is used as core material. Generally the top
weight pretended in rubble mound breakwaters core is
1000kg and the bottom weight is 1kg. The lowest
value is recommended to avoid geotechnical
instability [9]. Therefore, the material of the core was
constructed using 5 types of gravel with different
gradations. The proprieties of the quarry run are
presented in Table 6.
Table 6: Quarry run proprieties

r Dn15 Dn50 Dn85 M15 M50 M85

(kg/m3) (cm) (cm) (cm) (g) (g) (g)
2600 0.23 0.68 0.89 0.029 0.807 1.902

The gradation Dn85/Dn15 is 3.925 and the gradation Fig. 7: Under layer of the model under construction
M85/M15 is 65.586. The porosity of the core is around
30%. After placing the core, the under layer and the
concrete blocks of the toe in a stable way, the antifer
3.3.4. Toe and superstructure blocks were placed one by one, for each test.

Rectangular concrete blocks with an edge of 10cm has In Fig. 8, the sketch of the breakwater cross section, as
been applied in the construction of the breakwater toe well as, material characteristics used in the model, are
protection, as well as in the superstructure. In this presented.
way, the instability of the armour layer induced by the
possible movements of the toe is avoided.

different for some placement methods, leading to
different thickness of armour layer.

Fig. 8: Breakwater cross section

In this study 3 different placement methods of armour Fig. 9: Configuration of the first layer of armour layer (regular
layer were analysed. Each placement method was pattern)
designed to have porosity of around 50%. For values The techniques of the placement are defined as row by
above 50% the stability may be insufficient and for row or layer by layer, see Fig. 10 and Fig. 11,
values below occurs a paving action (consequently respectively.
grater overtopping) [10].
The geometry of the placed antifer for each placement
method, was calculated using the formulas described
in Table 7 [9].
Table 7: Basic geometric design formulae and parameters for placed
armour units
Fig. 10: Row by Row Fig. 11: Layer by Layer
Based on the armour layer
First thickness (t), the Layer The assessment of the damage was measured between
step coefficient (K) was Hs around Still Water Level for each test.
Classification of the movements of the armour units is
Based on the
required in the counting method. Such classification
dimensionless upslope
Second distance (y=1,08), the
was based on the displacement of each block,
step dimensionless horizontal measured in units of nominal diameter. In this work
distance (x) was distances lower than 1Dn were not considered as
calculated damage.
The horizontal and
Third upslope centre to centre 5. RESULTS
step distance between blocks
was calculated In the reflection analysis, reflection coefficients for
The packing density fast Fourier transform (NFFT) with 256, 512 and 1024
Fourth coefficient (n of blocks / points obtained in the reflection routine were analysed
( )
step n of possible blocks) was and the incident significant wave heights were
calculated calculated. To check the accuracy of the results, the
The numbers of antifer reflection coefficients were determined using the
blocks per unit area was incident and reflected wave spectral energy in order to
calculated obtain the incident significant wave heights and
The value of packing compare the results.
density coefficient was
5.1. Semi-irregular placement method
The value y=1.08, means that the spacing between For this experiment the antifer blocks of the first layer
blocks along the upslope does not exist. are placed by the regular pattern (Fig. 9). After every
The configuration of the first layer of the armour layer 4-5 rows of the first layer, the second layer is placed
is the same for all placement methods (Fig. 9). by dropping the blocks above the holes (Fig. 12). The
However, the horizontal centre to centre distance is

thickness of armour layer is defined as the nominal In the Fig. 13, damage ratios for the displacements are
diameter plus the height of the antifer cube. presented, for 2 different references areas.

Fig. 12: Semi-irregular placement method

Fig. 13: Damage for semi-irregular placement method
The properties of the armour layer and the wave series
are presented in Table 8 and Table 9. The reflection The Hudson stability parameter was calculated for a
coefficients and Reynolds number are presented in damage of 5%, for the first wave series were the first
Table 10. displacements were observed. From this follows
KD=2.1. This value is similar to the value found by
Table 8: Layer properties for semi-irregular placement method
Frens [11] (KD,Frens=2.3).
x (-) 1.86 tmeasured (cm) 8.60
y (-) 1.08 P (%) 49.8 5.2. Regular placement method 1
X (cm) 8.06 K (-) 0.993
The antifer blocks are placed row by row (Fig. 10).
Y (cm) 4.67 (%) 49.8
The blocks in the first layer are placed with their
tcalculated (cm) 8.63 Nc (blocks/m2) 531.3
grooves perpendicular to the slope (Fig. 14). The
blocks of the second layer are placed diagonal for the
Table 9: Wave series for semi-irregular placement method first row directing to the left and for the second row to
Hs,input the right and so on (Fig. 15).
Hm0,i (m) Tp (s) Tm (s) sm (-) Ns (-)
0.10 0.081 1.38 1.18 0.037 1.28
0.12 0.102 1.41 1.25 0.042 1.63
0.14 0.115 1.41 1.32 0.043 1.84
0.16 0.128 1.41 1.38 0.043 2.04
0.18 0.139 1.38 1.41 0.045 2.22

Table 10: Reflection and Reynolds number for semi-irregular

placement method
Fig. 14: Regular placement method 1 (X=8.1cm)
Hs,input Reflection Re (-)
(m) Cr (-) NFFT (points) eq. 9
0.10 0.335 512 38084
0.12 0.319 512 42936
0.14 0.300 512 45588
0.16 0.306 256 48063
0.18 0.294 256 50055
Analysing the video, is visible that in the first wave
Fig. 15: Thickness of armour layer (t=H+Dn)
series, the blocks are displaced around SWL. In this
placement method the effect of interlocking is low. The properties of the armour layer and the wave series
Consequently the hydraulic stability is mostly are presented in Table 11 and Table 12. The reflection
guaranteed by the weight of the block. coefficients and Reynolds number are presented in
Table 13.
Table 11: Layer properties for regular placement method 1 for the last test (Ns=2.06) where the displacements
x (-) 1.86 tmeasured (cm) 8.60 observed was low, almost null. From this follows
KD=5.8. This value when associated with the value
y (-) 1.08 P (%) 49.8
found by Frens is almost equal, KD,Frens=6.4 [11].
X (cm) 8.06 K (-) 0.993
Y (cm) 4.67 (%) 49.8 5.3. Regular placement method 2
tcalculated (cm) 8.63 Nc (blocks/m2) 531.3
The placement of the antifer blocks is similar to the
Table 12: Wave series for regular placement method 1 regular placement method 1 (Fig. 17). However the
packing density is lower, and the horizontal centre to
Hm0,i (m) Tp (s) Tm (s) sm (-) Ns (-) centre distance is higher (Fig. 18).
0.12 0.095 1.41 1.26 0.038 1.52
The antifer blocks are placed row by row (Fig. 10).
0.14 0.114 1.43 1.33 0.041 1.82
The blocks in the first layer are placed with their
0.16 0.122 1.43 1.38 0.041 1.94 grooves perpendicular to the slope (Fig. 17). The
0.18 0.131 1.41 1.41 0.042 2.08 blocks of the second layer are placed diagonal for the
0.18 0.129 1.43 1.41 0.041 2.06 first row directing to the left and for the second row to
1000 waves
the right and so on (Fig. 18).

Table 13: Reflection and Reynolds number for regular placement

method 1

Hs,input Reflection Re (-)

(m) Cr (-) NFFT (points) eq. 9
0.12 0.388 512 41466
0.14 0.355 256 45392
0.16 0.373 256 46876
0.18 0.379 256 48488
0.18 Fig. 17: Regular placement method 2 (X=8.8cm)
0.370 512 48238
1000 waves

The first blocks were displaced only in the last test for
Hm0,i=0.129m. In this test, the blocks were not
replaced. As a result, the displacement occurs for a
total of 2000 waves plus 1000 waves. In this
placement method, the effect of interlocking is
efficient, providing a high hydraulic stability.
In Fig. 16, damage ratios for the displacements are
presented for references area 18cm. Fig. 18: Thickness of armour layer (t1.85H, increase of 20% in the
distance between blocks when compared with regular placement
method 1)

The properties of the armour layer and the wave series

are presented in Table 14 and Table 15. The reflection
coefficients and Reynolds number are presented in
Table 16.

Table 14: Layer properties for regular placement method 2

x (-) 2.02 tmeasured (cm) 7.94

y (-) 1.08 P (%) 49.9
X (cm) 8.75 K (-) 0.917
Fig. 16: Damage for regular placement method 1
Y (cm) 4.67 (%) 45.9
The Hudson stability parameter was calculated for a
tcalculated (cm) 7.96 Nc (blocks/m2) 489.7
damage of 0.8%. Therefore that value was determined

The scaling of the design units and time series was
Table 15: Wave series for regular placement method 2 adjusted using the equations (8) and (9) (Froude
Hs,input similitude criterion). A length scale of 1:60 has been
Hm0,i (m) Tp (s) Tm (s) sm (-) Ns (-)
(m) applied for the breakwater model, and the unit sizes
0.12 0.097 1.41 1.27 0.039 1.55 and design storm were determined for the prototype
0.14 0.114 1.41 1.34 0.041 1.82 (see Table 17, Table 18, Table 19 and Table 20).
0.16 0.125 1.43 1.38 0.042 1.99 Table 17: Armour Unit specifications for the prototype
0.18 0.128 1.41 1.42 0.041 2.04 Antifer cubes Dn,50 M50
Prototype 2.50m 42.98ton
Table 16: Reflection and Reynolds number for regular placement Model 4.33cm 199g
method 2

Hs,input Reflection Re (-) Table 18: Graded rock specifications for the under layer
(m) Cr (-) NFFT (points) eq. 9 Grades Rock Dn,50 M50
0.12 0.390 512 41825 Prototype 1.07m 3.15ton
0.14 0.356 256 45375 Model 1.78cm 14.60g
0.16 0.359 256 47467
0.18 0.386 512 48028 Table 19: Quarry run specifications for the core

The first blocks were displaced in the third wave Quarry Run Dn,50 M50
series for Hm0,i=0.125m. In the last test (Hm0,i=0.128m) Prototype 0.41m 174.31kg
the blocks were not displaced. Consequently, the Model 0.68cm 0.81g
reflection visualized in the basin was higher and
therefore greater reflected significant wave height was Table 20: Design Storm for the prototype (Semi-irregular placement
obtained, around 5cm (wave breaking along the basin method)

was higher). The effect of interlocking is efficient, but Prototype

lower when compared with regular placement method Hs,input (m) Hm0,i (m) Tp (s) Tm (s)
1. 6.0 4.9 10.7 9.1
In Fig. 19, damage ratios for the displacements are 7.2 6.1 10.9 9.7
presented, for 2 different references areas. 8.4 6.9 10.9 10.2
9.6 7.7 10.9 10.7
10.8 8.3 10.7 10.9
Analysing Table 9 and Table 20, the incident
significant wave height of 0.139m and the peak period
of 1.38s obtained in the model corresponds to a
Hm0,i=8.3m and a Tp=10.7s in the prototype.


Fig. 19: Damage for regular placement method 2 Among the various conclusions drawn from this study,
The Hudson stability parameter was calculated for a the following ones deserve to be specially mentioned:
damage of 0.6%. Therefore, that value was determined In the semi-irregular placement method, the
for Ns=1.99, which is associated to the lowest reflection coefficients are smaller than the
displacements, almost null. From this follows KD=4.0. coefficients obtained in regular placement
This value when compared with the value obtained by methods. This value tends to decrease when
Frens is almost equal, KD,Frens=4.1 [11]. increasing incident significant wave heights,
since the damage and porosity are greater for
5.4. Study values Froude-scaled for a prototype higher Hm0,i.
with a geometrical scale of 1:60

The regular placement methods are more 7. BIBLIOGRAPHY
stable and the reflection coefficients are
higher. However in the regular placement
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are greater when compared with the regular Hidrulico do Manto de Quebra-mares de
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repeated in order to check the accuracy of the [3] Coastal Engineering Research Center, "Shore
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verify that the values are similar. Protection Manual", 4th ed., Vol. 2, Ch. 7, U.S.
For the semi-irregular placement method Government Printing Office, Washington, DC,
KD=2.1 is suggested for a damage of 5%, 1984.
since in this placement method is easy to
[5] Van der Meer, J.; Heydra, G., Journal of Coastal
repair the armour layer by placing a new
Engineering - "Rocking armour units: Number,
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location and impact velocity", Elsevier Science
For regular placement methods 1 and 2, the
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values KD=5.8 and KD=4.0 are suggested,
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damage almost null, due to the fact that the Engineering Manual", Part VI, Ch.5,
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slide down (chain reaction). [7] Hughes, S., "Physical Models and Laboratory
In conclusion, the regular placement method 1 appears Techniques in Coastal Engineering", World
to have the best stability performance. However this Scientific, Singapore, 1993.
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[8] Quintela, A., "Hidrulica", 10 ed., Fundao
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Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisboa, 2007.
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smaller horizontal centre to centre distance.