Tho PROPER YACHT - REFLECTIONS ON CRUISING YACHT


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mrsannelloyd
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Selecting a suitable yacht to undertake serious ocean voyaging or a circumnavigation requires" that a certain amount of informed thought should be given to the choice of this vessel." These wise words are a quote from Arthur Beiser, who is a long standing OCC member and the author of two editions of "The Proper Yacht", which were published respectively in the 1966 and 1978. Both editions provide a very comprehensive analysis of the factors, which need to be taken into consideration, for a yacht to qualify for the designation proper yacht together with descriptions of designs, which in Arthur's words, more or less qualified for the term - 38 in the first edition and 58 in the second. I have a cherished and very well thumbed copy of the first edition, which Arthur very kindly autographed for me, when I met him in the Isles des Embiez back in 1982.

A good starting point for anyone contemplating the acquisition of a yacht for the purpose of undertaking serious ocean voyaging is to first acquire a copy of one of these editions and then make a thorough study of the contents. By the end of this process I am sure that you will find that you will have a much clearer idea of the type of yacht that will suit your own requirements. It is also worth reading what Arthur has to say in his chapter on "The Proper Yacht", which is included in the OCC publication - "The First Fifty Years" by Tony Vasey. When Arthur was asked by Adlard Coles to produce a third edition in the early 1990s, he declined to do so because of the lack of suitable modern examples to include in it!

I would like to think that our Malo 42 - Sofia would qualify for the designation proper yacht. She is a good looking, solidly built heavy displacement ocean cruiser, which has served us well on our circumnavigation. However, were we to undertake a similar venture in future, we would almost certainly look for a larger and faster vessel particularly in light airs. During our circumnavigation we encountered a significant number of couples, who were successfully managing yachts in the 50 foot plus range and in some cases as large a 60 feet. Modern sailing handling equipment now makes handling this size of yacht a reality for couples, who constitute the majority of ocean cruisers. That said, my personal preference would be for a ketch rig, as this keeps each individual sail more manageable in size and provides for more options in the event of bad weather. However, while ketch rigs were once commonplace, they are now a rarity on modern cruising yachts. The exception being the French Amel range. We have encountered a considerable number of Amel ketches on our circumnavigation and I can see why they are so popular with their owners, as they are well put together and designed with serious ocean cruising in mind.

In my view performance is an important factor for two reasons. First it reduces the time spent on long ocean passages. A 3000 mile passage undertaken by a yacht that can average 200 mile days will be 6 days shorter at 15 days that a yacht which can only manage 140 mile days taking over 21 days. A yacht with the capacity for faster passage making is also better able to escape from or avoid unpleasant weather.

Another aspect of design, which in my view receives insufficient attention from most manufacturers is accessibility and ease of maintenance for items, which require regular maintenance such as engines, generators and water makers. On Sofia the Yanmar diesel is located behind the companionway under the cockpit. When we acquired her the only access to the engine was by removing the companionway steps and an access panel in the port side aft cabin. Unfortunately the oil and fuel filters are located on the starboard side of the engine and unless one had extremely long and agile arms changing the filters was far from easy. We solved this problem by fitting an another access panel in the starboard aft cabin, which now provides direct access to the filters. In my view Malo should have installed this at the outset. We also discovered that in order to change the salt water pump impeller for the engine cooling system one had to remove the forward port engine mount! We have now had to undertake this operation four times during our circumnavigation. Needless to say we feel that more careful and thoughtful design by Yanmar and Malo at the outset could have avoided this situation.

A related issue concerns access to important elements of the yacht's construction such as keel bolts and chain plates. In Sofia's case neither are readily accessible. In order to access the keel bolts one would have to dismantle a substantial amount of joinery in the saloon and then remove the forward water tank. Access to the chainplates would also entail dismantling a substantial amount of joinery. In the case of a grounding, collision or dismasting, which are not unknown risks on a circumnavigation, quick and straightforward access to either or both of these elements will be important; particularly as one could be many miles away from the nearest yard or repair facility. We did not address this issue when we were looking over Sofia with a view to purchasing her. We would certainly do so now. While access issues may not be at the forefront of one's mind when acquiring a yacht for ocean cruising experience on our circumnavigation indicates that they are worthy of careful consideration.

Another aspect to which we would pay more attention is the layout of the accommodation and the availability of stowage. We have been aboard many fine cruising yachts during our circumnavigation - Oysters, Hallberg-Rassys, Najads Rustlers and Bowman to name but a few. The common characteristic is that they all have too many berths and too little stowage space for the plethora of equipment and spares required for a circumnavigation given that for most of the time there will only be two people on board. Virtually all had at least one accommodation cabin taken over for stowage use. In our case on Sofia both the port aft cabin and the stand alone shower stall next to the forward owners cabin are used for this purpose.

If one is in the fortunate position of being able to afford a new build most quality yards may permit a degree of customisation in the accommodation layout. In which case my advice would be to trade berths for a proper work bench and purposely designed stowage bins. Few modern designs include a purpose built oilskin locker with adequate ventilation and heating close to the companionway, which I would certainly recommend. I would also focus on a galley designed with use on passage as its primary function and a suitable single sea berth for use by the off watch member of the crew while on passage. However, the likelihood is that one will be faced with or inherit, if purchasing second hand, a fixed layout and the question then is how easily can it be adapted to suit the requirements of a couple engaged in ocean cruising.

I appreciate fully that all designs are a compromise and each potential owner will have their own set of priorities and budgetary constraints. However, I am sure that following a careful perusal of Arthur Beiser's sage advice in "The Proper Yacht" one would make a more informed choice.

Jonathan Lloyd

SY Sofia
Bill Balme
Bill Balme
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Jonathan, thanks for your interesting post...

While I have not read the book you reference, I agree with much of what you say - and as you mention, most boats are a compromise in one way or another. One area of compromise is often (always?) cost - and of course, the larger the boat, the more expensive it is to purchase and maintain.

We have a similar sized boat to you - 44ft 35,000# vs. your 42ft 30,000# (or thereabouts) and with similar waterlines. Laurie and I have debated what boat we'll buy when we win the lottery... the same as we have - but new! We would not go to a bigger boat.

Ours is a modern design and encompasses many of the attributes you cite: only two berths, a workshop area, very easy to access all major systems (though I still find myself bent double on a routine basis) and storage space almost beyond imagination! She's also reasonably fast - we've recorded three or four 200 mile days, but plan based on 165 - 170 miles per day, making for intermediate passage times on your scale. Being able to get going in light air is extremely important to us - helped by the addition of 2 light air sails - Code Zero and Assymetrical, which recently allowed us to make passage from Antigua to the Azores at an average of 7 knots with winds most days between 10 and 15 knots from the rear quarters (and motored less than 5% of the passage). I think the addition of light air sails to any old tub is worthwhile!

I suspect most folk buy secondhand boats - in which case, what boat one ends up in is probably largely dependent upon what boats are on the market at the time. While one will search for favored models, that may not always be available and another compromise is entered into.

Bill Balme
s/v Toodle-oo!

mrsannelloyd
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Hi Bill

I agree entirely with your comment about light air performance. We have neither Code Zero nor an Asymetrical and would certainly add them to our inventory if undertaking another circumnavigation. I made this point in my post on lessons learnt from our circumnavigation.

I also accept that most cruisers looking for a suitable vessel for serious ocean passages are not in a financial position to afford a new build and will therefore be looking at the second hand market. Indeed this is why I believe that Arthur Beisers books are well worth careful perusal. In particular in his second edition 22 of the 58 yachts included as good examples of proper yacht design are production yachts, which become available on today’s second hand market from time to time and are well worth consideration in view of their build quality, which is often of a higher standard than modern versions from the same builder/yard.
neilm
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A thought on vessel size
While modern gear such as electric winches have made is easier for a couple to sail larger boats than was common in the past, there is a problem when things go wrong.
Problems as obvious as a winch motor burning out, or getting a large sail off the deck,​ become harder to deal with as vessel size increases.
The weight of each component increases too, which can make repair harder.
We have a 47 foot Passoa, (French aluminium centerboarder) and would probably not buy larger, even if money was not an issue.​

Average size of cruising boats has been increasing for 50 years or more,  so it clearly works for some folks. ​​​
​​
Dick
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neilm - 5/16/2019
A thought on vessel size
While modern gear such as electric winches have made is easier for a couple to sail larger boats than was common in the past, there is a problem when things go wrong.
Problems as obvious as a winch motor burning out, or getting a large sail off the deck, become harder to deal with as vessel size increases.
The weight of each component increases too, which can make repair harder.
We have a 47 foot Passoa, (French aluminium centerboarder) and would probably not buy larger, even if money was not an issue.

Average size of cruising boats has been increasing for 50 years or more,  so it clearly works for some folks.

Hi all,
I suspect that any endeavor to help guide prospective owners to the “Proper Yacht” is doomed to failure. I see this as likely because, as I see it, the first task of any prospective buyer is a forthright and honest examination of his/her goals and aspirations with the use of this boat. And this must include the partner, as there is usually a partner and many a voyage has gone aground because the partner was not included so the purchase and goals were not a “joint” effort. Then one can turn to the outside “experts” to start to fine tune your vision and to be realistic about choices.
Next, I would suggest that it is a rare team who can search successfully for an offshore sailing boat without a fair amount of experience under their belt. There are many ways to gain this experience, but without this experience their search will be riddled with dead ends, unrealistic expectations, and disappointments. For example, I would suggest that experience might have led to noticing the numerous engine maintenance problems among other worries (yikes, remove the engine mounts to replace the impellor! That is almost a deal breaker).
More specifically to Jonathan’s original posting, I loved Beiser’s book, if memory serves it is a feast for the eyes and has much information, and I spent time with them sailing with them in the Med. That said, I think there are a handful of other books that would lead off in my suggestion box: the first and foremost being the venerable and still definitive (to my mind) “Desirable and Undesirable Characteristics of Offshore Sailing Yachts”.
And again, as it was mentioned specifically, I would suggest not going with a ketch rig. Johnathan, you are correct in reporting that new gear is allowing crews to handle larger boats with fewer people. This goes for rigs also. A ketch just doubles the rig maintenance, inspection expense etc. without adding much. I believe in years past splitting the rig allowed easier control of the sail plan, but nowadays, a well-designed cutter or double headsail sloop can be handled easily (even in the larger boat sizes) with the more modern gear you mention and these rigs give great flexibility of sail plan without all the added weight and complexity.
I am also not convinced that larger vessels/boat speed are as important as touted in the press and elsewhere. The much heralded 200-mile days to be able to skirt weather fronts and stay in better weather patterns and out of gales is a relatively rare occurrence and takes a very, very skillful weather forecaster/navigator to make it work. Yes, in a round the world race with routers working the forecasts ashore, sure, but I think not for the average cruiser.
For most of us who ply the trade wind routes and are not venturing into the southern ocean, a few days extra on a passage rarely makes a whole lot of difference. I am with Neil on not wanting a larger boat and mine is significantly smaller (40 feet) than his. We have lived aboard most of the last 17 years and wandered widely and in very remote areas and our aft cabin and shower have always been free for use and never turned into a “garage” or “attic”. It is possible on a smaller boat.
Part of this harkens back to my suggestion to clarify what you want and, maybe more importantly, what you do not want, in your offshore cruising plans and aspirations. It is in that knowledge that will emerge the outline of the boat that will check most of the boxes that are important to you and your partner.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy


jmounter
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I am probably going to be hammered for this, knowing how, generally, blue water sailors tend to choose heavy or medium displacement boats to go ocean sailing. I would advocate light medium displacement or even light. When I say that, I am not talking about cheap production yachts that are built light to save money. I am talking about top quality boats built light to make them fast and, yes, safe.

Before you all rush to counter this opinion, please bear with me, I will explain why. My first serious cruising boat was a Nic 31. I could not fault it. I sailed it to the Med, on the ‘outside’ with the first stop at Cascais. The weather forecasts were poor in those days and GPS didn’t exist. On the way I got hit with a two day full gale while off the west coast of Portugal. She behaved beautifully and the Hydrovane did almost all the steering. But she was built like a tank, was slow and I was continually concerned about the possibility of being slammed with a heavy wave from astern.

After that I had a Contest 38 Ketch. Another nice and well built boat, but, again, slow in light airs and not entirely stable, in my view, in a real blow.

By then I was living in New Zealand, home of many of the world’s greatest racing and cruising yachtsmen. I was impressed with many of their lighter designs from Kiwis such as Bruce Farr. So when I changed boats I went looking for something light that would cruise fast in light airs and be quick downwind and yet that was well built. I settled on a Lightwave 48 built by Oyster. She was beautifully turned out to a very high standard but was extraordinarily quick on a reach or run. To be honest, a bit ‘slammy’ to windward in a short sea, but I was never, for a moment, concerned about her strength, durability or build quality. So fast was she that at the start of one of the ARC crossings that we did with her she led the fleet for almost half of the crossing, with 65 footers panting behind us. Once the wind changed, however, and we had days of close tacking, the big boys easily caught up and overtook us.

We had one West-East crossing, back across the Atlantic in her, that was awful. We had endless bad weather. On that trip, most nights, Herb, in his SSB evening weather schedules, would start with words we came to dread. They were: “Again we start with Julian. I am afraid you are again not in a good place”. We did break a baby stay, but throughout she felt secure and easy to manage in any of the conditions thrown at us. An Aries did the hard work. I will also mention, but it’s a story for another time, that we were hit by a whale four times, hundreds of miles from anywhere. The impacts lifted the boat out of the water and slammed her on her side. When we dived in the Azores there was just a large area of missing antifouling and a proper check in Gibraltar showed no structural damage at all. Not even a slight surface crack. Some of you will know Scarlet Oyster, a Lightwave 48 that must have crossed the Atlantic both ways more than almost any other sailboat design. I see her in the Solent, she still looks great, still wins races and must be coming up to being 30 years old.

Ten years of the LW came to an end when I had a major work bonus and decided to fulfil a lifetime ambition and build a Baltic. Many of you will know that when it comes to composites, Baltic are the guys. When it comes to quality, they are unrivalled. The company was started by people who worked for Swan and wanted to ‘do it better’.

Our Baltic 47 was one of the last of the ‘smaller’ boats they have built. They now build massive ones. We put everything we knew into the design exchanging several hundred emails with the yard. The hull is standard, but the rest is down to the customer. She had a walk in engine room, every possible requirement for long distance sailing, a Leisurefurl boom ( which was brilliant ), Aramid stays for an occasional cutter rig and for an extra forestay. Below was as beautiful a boat as one can be and no one would have known that all the woodwork was cored to keep her as light as possible.

Much of our sailing has been done in the Med and as we all know winds there can be ferocious or minimal. My view is that it seemed seldom to be in the middle. When you are used to sailing in the Med you will be used to seeing heavy and medium heavy cruisers motoring everywhere. In 6 knots of breeze, the Baltic easily did 7 knots, sometimes more, creating her own wind across the deck. But in heavy weather she would also fly and be as secure as any boat I have owned; and that now adds up to 17.

I recall standing in a yard with a friend who had a medium-heavy displacement 60 footer built by a very well respected production yard. We were talking to a famous designer who just happened to be there advising a client. “What do you think of Julian’s Baltic?” my friend asked, adding in a tease, how far behind us would he be in a race around the world?”

“Your boat will beat him in anything over 20 knots because of its waterline length,” he said, “but around the world, he would be back weeks, if not months, before you because he can keep speed on. On a classic round the world you will have far more light airs than blows!”

Still not convinced? I have been lucky in life to be able, from time to time, to combine my hobby with my work and through that spent a few years consulting to the Volvo Ocean Race. What one needs to know about such boats and those in the top single handed round-the-world races, is that the boats are super light. They are driven through the Southern Ocean deliberately seeking the strongest favourable winds. They take enormous punishment. Yes, there have been many breakages, but generally it is the appendages where the trouble has occurred: keels, rudders and rigs. Most of the hulls have proven bullet proof. Where there have been problems with these it has generally been due to advanced construction methods that are always at the very edge of experimental or developmental. Many of the sailors will tell you that the reason the boats survive enormous storms is that they can either run away from them, get out of them quickly or run before the worst of the waves. I had the experience of being aboard an 85 footer which won the Sydney-Hobart Race a while back. The Sydney Hobart can and did produce some heavy weather and we had it on the nose for a while. The boat was literally flying from wave to wave, sometimes landing from several feet high with bone, teeth and body shaking impact. The boat was fine.

Of course I am not advocating that if you are going to go ocean sailing with your family you should buy an ex Vendee Globe yacht or build something as extreme. But I would say that a composite built boat, like my Baltic ( which I greatly miss having downsized ), that can weigh a third or even half that of a Malo, Halberg or similar, foot for foot, will look after you just as well. The Baltic had a lead keel and a ballast ratio of 42%. One of the companies that produces Halberg type boats has a similar length boat that weighs 13,000 pounds more and has a ballast ratio that is 37%. Sail area is roughly similar. So just because they are light, it doesn’t mean they will be more tender.

So to close, it is a matter of taste. If you want to be able to sail well in light airs as well as heavy ones, but a light boat. Make sure it is well built and from a good designer. Please don’t listen to those who say it must be massively built. But if, like some, you feel more comfortable with traditional designs that are heavy or medium-heavy then you should buy that type. The most important thing, in my opinion, is that you MUST have confidence in your boat, whatever type it is. Sailing an ocean and worrying is not something anyone needs in their life.

Julian Mounter.

Dick
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jmounter - 8/22/2019
I am probably going to be hammered for this, knowing how, generally, blue water sailors tend to choose heavy or medium displacement boats to go ocean sailing. I would advocate light medium displacement or even light. When I say that, I am not talking about cheap production yachts that are built light to save money. I am talking about top quality boats built light to make them fast and, yes, safe. Before you all rush to counter this opinion, please bear with me, I will explain why. My first serious cruising boat was a Nic 31. I could not fault it. I sailed it to the Med, on the ‘outside’ with the first stop at Cascais. The weather forecasts were poor in those days and GPS didn’t exist. On the way I got hit with a two day full gale while off the west coast of Portugal. She behaved beautifully and the Hydrovane did almost all the steering. But she was built like a tank, was slow and I was continually concerned about the possibility of being slammed with a heavy wave from astern. After that I had a Contest 38 Ketch. Another nice and well built boat, but, again, slow in light airs and not entirely stable, in my view, in a real blow. By then I was living in New Zealand, home of many of the world’s greatest racing and cruising yachtsmen. I was impressed with many of their lighter designs from Kiwis such as Bruce Farr. So when I changed boats I went looking for something light that would cruise fast in light airs and be quick downwind and yet that was well built. I settled on a Lightwave 48 built by Oyster. She was beautifully turned out to a very high standard but was extraordinarily quick on a reach or run. To be honest, a bit ‘slammy’ to windward in a short sea, but I was never, for a moment, concerned about her strength, durability or build quality. So fast was she that at the start of one of the ARC crossings that we did with her she led the fleet for almost half of the crossing, with 65 footers panting behind us. Once the wind changed, however, and we had days of close tacking, the big boys easily caught up and overtook us. We had one West-East crossing, back across the Atlantic in her, that was awful. We had endless bad weather. On that trip, most nights, Herb, in his SSB evening weather schedules, would start with words we came to dread. They were: “Again we start with Julian. I am afraid you are again not in a good place”. We did break a baby stay, but throughout she felt secure and easy to manage in any of the conditions thrown at us. An Aries did the hard work. I will also mention, but it’s a story for another time, that we were hit by a whale four times, hundreds of miles from anywhere. The impacts lifted the boat out of the water and slammed her on her side. When we dived in the Azores there was just a large area of missing antifouling and a proper check in Gibraltar showed no structural damage at all. Not even a slight surface crack. Some of you will know Scarlet Oyster, a Lightwave 48 that must have crossed the Atlantic both ways more than almost any other sailboat design. I see her in the Solent, she still looks great, still wins races and must be coming up to being 30 years old.Ten years of the LW came to an end when I had a major work bonus and decided to fulfil a lifetime ambition and build a Baltic. Many of you will know that when it comes to composites, Baltic are the guys. When it comes to quality, they are unrivalled. The company was started by people who worked for Swan and wanted to ‘do it better’. Our Baltic 47 was one of the last of the ‘smaller’ boats they have built. They now build massive ones. We put everything we knew into the design exchanging several hundred emails with the yard. The hull is standard, but the rest is down to the customer. She had a walk in engine room, every possible requirement for long distance sailing, a Leisurefurl boom ( which was brilliant ), Aramid stays for an occasional cutter rig and for an extra forestay. Below was as beautiful a boat as one can be and no one would have known that all the woodwork was cored to keep her as light as possible. Much of our sailing has been done in the Med and as we all know winds there can be ferocious or minimal. My view is that it seemed seldom to be in the middle. When you are used to sailing in the Med you will be used to seeing heavy and medium heavy cruisers motoring everywhere. In 6 knots of breeze, the Baltic easily did 7 knots, sometimes more, creating her own wind across the deck. But in heavy weather she would also fly and be as secure as any boat I have owned; and that now adds up to 17. I recall standing in a yard with a friend who had a medium-heavy displacement 60 footer built by a very well respected production yard. We were talking to a famous designer who just happened to be there advising a client. “What do you think of Julian’s Baltic?” my friend asked, adding in a tease, how far behind us would he be in a race around the world?” “Your boat will beat him in anything over 20 knots because of its waterline length,” he said, “but around the world, he would be back weeks, if not months, before you because he can keep speed on. On a classic round the world you will have far more light airs than blows!”Still not convinced? I have been lucky in life to be able, from time to time, to combine my hobby with my work and through that spent a few years consulting to the Volvo Ocean Race. What one needs to know about such boats and those in the top single handed round-the-world races, is that the boats are super light. They are driven through the Southern Ocean deliberately seeking the strongest favourable winds. They take enormous punishment. Yes, there have been many breakages, but generally it is the appendages where the trouble has occurred: keels, rudders and rigs. Most of the hulls have proven bullet proof. Where there have been problems with these it has generally been due to advanced construction methods that are always at the very edge of experimental or developmental. Many of the sailors will tell you that the reason the boats survive enormous storms is that they can either run away from them, get out of them quickly or run before the worst of the waves. I had the experience of being aboard an 85 footer which won the Sydney-Hobart Race a while back. The Sydney Hobart can and did produce some heavy weather and we had it on the nose for a while. The boat was literally flying from wave to wave, sometimes landing from several feet high with bone, teeth and body shaking impact. The boat was fine. Of course I am not advocating that if you are going to go ocean sailing with your family you should buy an ex Vendee Globe yacht or build something as extreme. But I would say that a composite built boat, like my Baltic ( which I greatly miss having downsized ), that can weigh a third or even half that of a Malo, Halberg or similar, foot for foot, will look after you just as well. The Baltic had a lead keel and a ballast ratio of 42%. One of the companies that produces Halberg type boats has a similar length boat that weighs 13,000 pounds more and has a ballast ratio that is 37%. Sail area is roughly similar. So just because they are light, it doesn’t mean they will be more tender. So to close, it is a matter of taste. If you want to be able to sail well in light airs as well as heavy ones, but a light boat. Make sure it is well built and from a good designer. Please don’t listen to those who say it must be massively built. But if, like some, you feel more comfortable with traditional designs that are heavy or medium-heavy then you should buy that type. The most important thing, in my opinion, is that you MUST have confidence in your boat, whatever type it is. Sailing an ocean and worrying is not something anyone needs in their life. Julian Mounter.

jmounter - 8/22/2019
I am probably going to be hammered for this, knowing how, generally, blue water sailors tend to choose heavy or medium displacement boats to go ocean sailing. I would advocate light medium displacement or even light. When I say that, I am not talking about cheap production yachts that are built light to save money. I am talking about top quality boats built light to make them fast and, yes, safe. Before you all rush to counter this opinion, please bear with me, I will explain why. My first serious cruising boat was a Nic 31. I could not fault it. I sailed it to the Med, on the ‘outside’ with the first stop at Cascais. The weather forecasts were poor in those days and GPS didn’t exist. On the way I got hit with a two day full gale while off the west coast of Portugal. She behaved beautifully and the Hydrovane did almost all the steering. But she was built like a tank, was slow and I was continually concerned about the possibility of being slammed with a heavy wave from astern. After that I had a Contest 38 Ketch. Another nice and well built boat, but, again, slow in light airs and not entirely stable, in my view, in a real blow. By then I was living in New Zealand, home of many of the world’s greatest racing and cruising yachtsmen. I was impressed with many of their lighter designs from Kiwis such as Bruce Farr. So when I changed boats I went looking for something light that would cruise fast in light airs and be quick downwind and yet that was well built. I settled on a Lightwave 48 built by Oyster. She was beautifully turned out to a very high standard but was extraordinarily quick on a reach or run. To be honest, a bit ‘slammy’ to windward in a short sea, but I was never, for a moment, concerned about her strength, durability or build quality. So fast was she that at the start of one of the ARC crossings that we did with her she led the fleet for almost half of the crossing, with 65 footers panting behind us. Once the wind changed, however, and we had days of close tacking, the big boys easily caught up and overtook us. We had one West-East crossing, back across the Atlantic in her, that was awful. We had endless bad weather. On that trip, most nights, Herb, in his SSB evening weather schedules, would start with words we came to dread. They were: “Again we start with Julian. I am afraid you are again not in a good place”. We did break a baby stay, but throughout she felt secure and easy to manage in any of the conditions thrown at us. An Aries did the hard work. I will also mention, but it’s a story for another time, that we were hit by a whale four times, hundreds of miles from anywhere. The impacts lifted the boat out of the water and slammed her on her side. When we dived in the Azores there was just a large area of missing antifouling and a proper check in Gibraltar showed no structural damage at all. Not even a slight surface crack. Some of you will know Scarlet Oyster, a Lightwave 48 that must have crossed the Atlantic both ways more than almost any other sailboat design. I see her in the Solent, she still looks great, still wins races and must be coming up to being 30 years old.Ten years of the LW came to an end when I had a major work bonus and decided to fulfil a lifetime ambition and build a Baltic. Many of you will know that when it comes to composites, Baltic are the guys. When it comes to quality, they are unrivalled. The company was started by people who worked for Swan and wanted to ‘do it better’. Our Baltic 47 was one of the last of the ‘smaller’ boats they have built. They now build massive ones. We put everything we knew into the design exchanging several hundred emails with the yard. The hull is standard, but the rest is down to the customer. She had a walk in engine room, every possible requirement for long distance sailing, a Leisurefurl boom ( which was brilliant ), Aramid stays for an occasional cutter rig and for an extra forestay. Below was as beautiful a boat as one can be and no one would have known that all the woodwork was cored to keep her as light as possible. Much of our sailing has been done in the Med and as we all know winds there can be ferocious or minimal. My view is that it seemed seldom to be in the middle. When you are used to sailing in the Med you will be used to seeing heavy and medium heavy cruisers motoring everywhere. In 6 knots of breeze, the Baltic easily did 7 knots, sometimes more, creating her own wind across the deck. But in heavy weather she would also fly and be as secure as any boat I have owned; and that now adds up to 17. I recall standing in a yard with a friend who had a medium-heavy displacement 60 footer built by a very well respected production yard. We were talking to a famous designer who just happened to be there advising a client. “What do you think of Julian’s Baltic?” my friend asked, adding in a tease, how far behind us would he be in a race around the world?” “Your boat will beat him in anything over 20 knots because of its waterline length,” he said, “but around the world, he would be back weeks, if not months, before you because he can keep speed on. On a classic round the world you will have far more light airs than blows!”Still not convinced? I have been lucky in life to be able, from time to time, to combine my hobby with my work and through that spent a few years consulting to the Volvo Ocean Race. What one needs to know about such boats and those in the top single handed round-the-world races, is that the boats are super light. They are driven through the Southern Ocean deliberately seeking the strongest favourable winds. They take enormous punishment. Yes, there have been many breakages, but generally it is the appendages where the trouble has occurred: keels, rudders and rigs. Most of the hulls have proven bullet proof. Where there have been problems with these it has generally been due to advanced construction methods that are always at the very edge of experimental or developmental. Many of the sailors will tell you that the reason the boats survive enormous storms is that they can either run away from them, get out of them quickly or run before the worst of the waves. I had the experience of being aboard an 85 footer which won the Sydney-Hobart Race a while back. The Sydney Hobart can and did produce some heavy weather and we had it on the nose for a while. The boat was literally flying from wave to wave, sometimes landing from several feet high with bone, teeth and body shaking impact. The boat was fine. Of course I am not advocating that if you are going to go ocean sailing with your family you should buy an ex Vendee Globe yacht or build something as extreme. But I would say that a composite built boat, like my Baltic ( which I greatly miss having downsized ), that can weigh a third or even half that of a Malo, Halberg or similar, foot for foot, will look after you just as well. The Baltic had a lead keel and a ballast ratio of 42%. One of the companies that produces Halberg type boats has a similar length boat that weighs 13,000 pounds more and has a ballast ratio that is 37%. Sail area is roughly similar. So just because they are light, it doesn’t mean they will be more tender. So to close, it is a matter of taste. If you want to be able to sail well in light airs as well as heavy ones, but a light boat. Make sure it is well built and from a good designer. Please don’t listen to those who say it must be massively built. But if, like some, you feel more comfortable with traditional designs that are heavy or medium-heavy then you should buy that type. The most important thing, in my opinion, is that you MUST have confidence in your boat, whatever type it is. Sailing an ocean and worrying is not something anyone needs in their life. Julian Mounter.

Hi Julian,
Excellent thoughtful report. I am sure many will find it useful.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy
Simon Currin
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Julian
Thank you for this excellent article.
Simon

jmounter - 8/22/2019
I am probably going to be hammered for this, knowing how, generally, blue water sailors tend to choose heavy or medium displacement boats to go ocean sailing. I would advocate light medium displacement or even light. When I say that, I am not talking about cheap production yachts that are built light to save money. I am talking about top quality boats built light to make them fast and, yes, safe.

Before you all rush to counter this opinion, please bear with me, I will explain why. My first serious cruising boat was a Nic 31. I could not fault it. I sailed it to the Med, on the ‘outside’ with the first stop at Cascais. The weather forecasts were poor in those days and GPS didn’t exist. On the way I got hit with a two day full gale while off the west coast of Portugal. She behaved beautifully and the Hydrovane did almost all the steering. But she was built like a tank, was slow and I was continually concerned about the possibility of being slammed with a heavy wave from astern.

After that I had a Contest 38 Ketch. Another nice and well built boat, but, again, slow in light airs and not entirely stable, in my view, in a real blow.

By then I was living in New Zealand, home of many of the world’s greatest racing and cruising yachtsmen. I was impressed with many of their lighter designs from Kiwis such as Bruce Farr. So when I changed boats I went looking for something light that would cruise fast in light airs and be quick downwind and yet that was well built. I settled on a Lightwave 48 built by Oyster. She was beautifully turned out to a very high standard but was extraordinarily quick on a reach or run. To be honest, a bit ‘slammy’ to windward in a short sea, but I was never, for a moment, concerned about her strength, durability or build quality. So fast was she that at the start of one of the ARC crossings that we did with her she led the fleet for almost half of the crossing, with 65 footers panting behind us. Once the wind changed, however, and we had days of close tacking, the big boys easily caught up and overtook us.

We had one West-East crossing, back across the Atlantic in her, that was awful. We had endless bad weather. On that trip, most nights, Herb, in his SSB evening weather schedules, would start with words we came to dread. They were: “Again we start with Julian. I am afraid you are again not in a good place”. We did break a baby stay, but throughout she felt secure and easy to manage in any of the conditions thrown at us. An Aries did the hard work. I will also mention, but it’s a story for another time, that we were hit by a whale four times, hundreds of miles from anywhere. The impacts lifted the boat out of the water and slammed her on her side. When we dived in the Azores there was just a large area of missing antifouling and a proper check in Gibraltar showed no structural damage at all. Not even a slight surface crack. Some of you will know Scarlet Oyster, a Lightwave 48 that must have crossed the Atlantic both ways more than almost any other sailboat design. I see her in the Solent, she still looks great, still wins races and must be coming up to being 30 years old.

Ten years of the LW came to an end when I had a major work bonus and decided to fulfil a lifetime ambition and build a Baltic. Many of you will know that when it comes to composites, Baltic are the guys. When it comes to quality, they are unrivalled. The company was started by people who worked for Swan and wanted to ‘do it better’.

Our Baltic 47 was one of the last of the ‘smaller’ boats they have built. They now build massive ones. We put everything we knew into the design exchanging several hundred emails with the yard. The hull is standard, but the rest is down to the customer. She had a walk in engine room, every possible requirement for long distance sailing, a Leisurefurl boom ( which was brilliant ), Aramid stays for an occasional cutter rig and for an extra forestay. Below was as beautiful a boat as one can be and no one would have known that all the woodwork was cored to keep her as light as possible.

Much of our sailing has been done in the Med and as we all know winds there can be ferocious or minimal. My view is that it seemed seldom to be in the middle. When you are used to sailing in the Med you will be used to seeing heavy and medium heavy cruisers motoring everywhere. In 6 knots of breeze, the Baltic easily did 7 knots, sometimes more, creating her own wind across the deck. But in heavy weather she would also fly and be as secure as any boat I have owned; and that now adds up to 17.

I recall standing in a yard with a friend who had a medium-heavy displacement 60 footer built by a very well respected production yard. We were talking to a famous designer who just happened to be there advising a client. “What do you think of Julian’s Baltic?” my friend asked, adding in a tease, how far behind us would he be in a race around the world?”

“Your boat will beat him in anything over 20 knots because of its waterline length,” he said, “but around the world, he would be back weeks, if not months, before you because he can keep speed on. On a classic round the world you will have far more light airs than blows!”

Still not convinced? I have been lucky in life to be able, from time to time, to combine my hobby with my work and through that spent a few years consulting to the Volvo Ocean Race. What one needs to know about such boats and those in the top single handed round-the-world races, is that the boats are super light. They are driven through the Southern Ocean deliberately seeking the strongest favourable winds. They take enormous punishment. Yes, there have been many breakages, but generally it is the appendages where the trouble has occurred: keels, rudders and rigs. Most of the hulls have proven bullet proof. Where there have been problems with these it has generally been due to advanced construction methods that are always at the very edge of experimental or developmental. Many of the sailors will tell you that the reason the boats survive enormous storms is that they can either run away from them, get out of them quickly or run before the worst of the waves. I had the experience of being aboard an 85 footer which won the Sydney-Hobart Race a while back. The Sydney Hobart can and did produce some heavy weather and we had it on the nose for a while. The boat was literally flying from wave to wave, sometimes landing from several feet high with bone, teeth and body shaking impact. The boat was fine.

Of course I am not advocating that if you are going to go ocean sailing with your family you should buy an ex Vendee Globe yacht or build something as extreme. But I would say that a composite built boat, like my Baltic ( which I greatly miss having downsized ), that can weigh a third or even half that of a Malo, Halberg or similar, foot for foot, will look after you just as well. The Baltic had a lead keel and a ballast ratio of 42%. One of the companies that produces Halberg type boats has a similar length boat that weighs 13,000 pounds more and has a ballast ratio that is 37%. Sail area is roughly similar. So just because they are light, it doesn’t mean they will be more tender.

So to close, it is a matter of taste. If you want to be able to sail well in light airs as well as heavy ones, but a light boat. Make sure it is well built and from a good designer. Please don’t listen to those who say it must be massively built. But if, like some, you feel more comfortable with traditional designs that are heavy or medium-heavy then you should buy that type. The most important thing, in my opinion, is that you MUST have confidence in your boat, whatever type it is. Sailing an ocean and worrying is not something anyone needs in their life.

Julian Mounter.



dcaukill
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Julian's analysis is, I think, sound.  I recall 25 years ago,  at an OCC/Yachting monthly forum in Southampton, someone was saying to the effect that "It doesn't matter how heavy it is , it is how it performs,"  Basically the thesis was that you needed a boat that would reach hull speed on a beam reach in 10 kts true at the same time as having sails that a cruising couple fan deploy -  and strike - at will.  Nirvana....

We had a Hallberg Rassey 42 for our first Atlantic crossing  - very safe and sea kindly BUT very sound and very slow.  I have since sailed round the world in company with a number of them; they were perhaps 2-7 days behind the majority of the fleet  on every leg,

The Hallberg Rassey was followed by two Oysters (46, 575). My current 575 is a bit over canvassed and so is twitchy unless we reef early.   200 mile days are a realistic but not  regularly attained target. But,,, down wind in light airs she is not quick unless you keep the wind on the quarter.  Tacking down wind did not come easily to a monohull sailor but it works. We do use an asymmetric but we sleep better with the three white sail rig I have described here before - which costs us only about 0,7 knots at 7.0. 

Uphill is more problematic. We displace 30+tonnes, but to average 5 knots to windward  needs a fairly benign sea .... if the wind pipes up, my first instinct is to change the destination!

If you are planning cruising rather than racing the oceans, you need to think about passage making speeds. Most of the 'fleet' will be reasonably quick these days so you need to keep up. I don't mean Jen/Ben/Bav but there are plenty of quicker long distance cruisers. Oyster are good but expensive; we expended a lot off effort to keep up with a Hanse 54, Discovery 55 and a number of cruiser racers. These all have their own idiosyncrasies = particularly considerations of displacement  and seaworthiness = but that is who you will likely be cruising with!
jonall
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I was very interested to read the contributions to this topic from Dick, Julian and David. In particular I agree with Julian’s contention that there are other alternatives to a heavy displacement cruiser such as a Malo or Hallberg-Rassy for blue water cruising. That said hi tech composite hulls are very expensive and may be beyond the reach of many cruisers.

I also believe firmly that there is not a one size fits all approach to cruising yacht design when it comes to blue water cruising. This is why I recommended the Proper Yacht as it provides a range of designs for consideration by a potential purchaser with a careful analysis of the pros and cons of each design.

Jonathan
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