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What I Would Change on a Cruising Boat

Georges Auzepy-Brenneur, architect of a number of successful boats including Kriter for the first Whitbred, was quoted at the age of 72 in the May 2007 Classique Yachting as saying – if he were to design a boat now for his pleasure it would be a 8m J1 or a Wally. The 8m J1 was one of the International Metric Rule Class of 1907 used for the 1920 Olympic Games in Anvers Belgium and dominated as many of the post First World War regattas by the neutral Norway. The Wally yachts, full of Italian style and sophistication, are probably amongst today’s most interesting performance yachts.

Auzepy-Brenneur in the same article complained that many modern plastic boats lacked character. But, if I were to buy a boat to cruise comfortably it would probably ‘lack character’ too—as with most of us, I do not have the means to buy even a small Wally.

During the Palma Super Yacht Regatta in June, with a record 52 competitors, we were birthed with Peter Harrison’s’ Sojana amongst the numerous Wally yachts.  After the regatta, as I sat in the cockpit  with a beer admiring the boats around me, my thoughts went to the idea—if I were to buy a 35 to 40 footer, five to ten year-old  fibreglass  cruising boat, what would I do to it if I had a little extra budget?  The changes might add character but most certainly would make for faster, more easy sailing.

First of all, having stubbed more toes on deck fittings than most (as a sailmaker trying to fold sails on unknown boats), I would, as a priority, clear the decks. All unnecessary cleats, turning blocks, tracks would go. I would redesign the sail plan with a maximum girth roached blade and eliminate the unused gear. The track stops would be simple pistons no lines. The blade would have to be flush with the spreaders and might well have inflatable battens to improve the Genoa/Mainsail slot to maximise the performance of a relatively small sail.

The winches for such a sail, if the deck heights allowed, could be on the cabin roof and double for halyard winches to free up the cockpit, reduce and centralise weight. With a couple of good winches, even electric, you can do a whole lot. I saw on Dark Shadow, the Wally 100 Harken, winches with a free turning low drum set beneath the winch drum to enable leads to be run from the port to the starboard Cockpit winch.

The mainsail would be fullbatten, with a reasonable roach if the back stay allowed and with a ball bearing car/track system on the luff. I would probably limit to two reefs to save leech wear from the weight in the sail but have the second reef fairly high. The boat would have a trysail that could be set with the head car over the main. The main would simply have rounded cringles for the reefs that allow spectra lines to run freely. The tack would be reefed via a webbing strap that sits at gooseneck height on the mast allowing space for the sail when reefed…the tacks maybe associated with a car to maintain the correct luff alignment. The halyard would be marked for each reef so that the sail would be lowered the right amount each time to enable the tack to be strapped and no more. A rigid boom vang, if powerful, can eliminate the need for a mainsheet traveller and even the topping lift that would be kept basically as a light spare main halyard and crew halyard.

In the mast I would pay for needle bearing sheaves to reduce friction. The halyards would need to be in a spectra type material with a doubled cover on any chafe areas and a simple tail maybe just the cover to hoist the sail. For the jib I would be tempted to have a mast track to eliminate the Halyard tail and mast winch. All mast lights where possible would be LEDs to reduce energy usage and cable diameter. When sailing, unused Halyards would be hoisted to the top of the mast with a mouse to avoid mast noise, weight aloft,  wind age and UV degradation.

Two other sails I’d have aboard, excluding the vital storm jib. Firstly, an asymmetric runner— this could be flown from the bow or a short fixed pole and used with a snuffer. No pole would be used to reduce clutter. The sail would have a gybulator at the tack to reduce the chance of running over the lazy sheet. A 160 to 175% code O even in Nylon to reach from 65 to 110° apparent and up to 16 to 20 Kts.  This would partly make up for the missing Genoa. To ease sheeting the pulpit would be opened rather than closed. The code O would have a double rope luff and mounted on a continuous line furling system. The clews and tacks of all the sails aboard would have soft eyes no rings or eyes and the sheets lashed with 6mm spectra line.

The sheeting blocks, barbers, etc. would all be Equiplite type blocks that are strong and do not require a shackle and when they hit the deck do not damage. Generally I think a zero shackle policy is reasonable. Shackles whether on furling gear or booms tend to eat at the aluminium around them. Often blocks mounted on shackles do not pull straight or twist, all mechanically weak. The boom would require few fittings. The reefs mainsheet blocks, etc. can all be tied or webbed around the boom.

This may sound like I’m racing rather than cruising with this boat I’m thinking of. These ideas are only personal. But when cruising it is a pleasure to catch the boat ahead of you. To sail through the waves without pitching is  necessarily a positive thing. Spraying the antifouling would be a logical extension. Finding a way to run the anchor chain and anchor easily back in the boat would be worth a few hours thought. Seeing on the Super Yachts the movement away from stainless steel to PBO rigging , Future Fibres being the most popular to date, I can only think that soon this will be the standard, as will moulded 3DL sails.

Now just think of all the ropes cleats, tracks, wires, sail cloth, etc. we would have removed. One by one they weigh little. But if you had to carry everything at once to your car you would quickly realise the weight gain.  Then the use of spectra lashings and webbings reduces oxidation and breakage whilst the removed deck gear gives greater space to live and, importantly, would save my toes!

Andrew Dove is Area Manager for North Sails Caraibes, based in Guadeloupe http://www.caribbean.northsails.com

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