Boats & Gear

VALIANT 40 DELIVERY: Small Gale and a Bird En Route to the Chesapeake

Valiant 40 under sail

Just back from helping from helping me mate Jeff Bolster sail his Valiant 40 Chanticleer down to Norfolk, VA, from Newport, RI. This being phase two of his four-step campaign to take the boat down to the West Indies for the winter (phase one having been a short jaunt from here in Portsmouth, NH, down to Newport, accomplished by he and his bride Molly). Jeff, you may recall, bought this iconic fiberglass cruising machine--the boat that in many ways made Bob Perry as a yacht designer--just last summer. Immediately afterward he managed to do a pissload of work on it, including repowering it, before taking it down to the W'Indies and back last season.

We left Newport Friday morning, after a cold front barreled through, and carried the post-front northwesterly, which had much more west than north in it, out Narragansett Bay, past Block Island across the mouth of Long Island Sound, and out past Montauk into the ocean proper before sunset. Friday night was a real shitfight. The wind at least cranked a bit more northerly, so we had it almost on the beam, but it blew hard--30 knots with gusts to 35--and the sea was ungodly.

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DEHLER 38: A German Cruiser/Racer Reborn

Dehler 38 sailplan profile

Dehler was one of a few venerable European sailboat brands that ran out of oxygen during the Great Recession. You may recall that many of their quick, durable, well-built cruiser-racers got sold on this side of the Pond over the years. Hanse Group, which evidently aspires to be the General Motors of European boatbuilding, bought the remains of the business a while back and this Dehler 38, which just debuted in Annapolis, is the first all Hanse-built model they've put out. It was the very first boat I test-sailed after the show, and I have to say I was impressed by its performance.

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ATLANTIC 47: MastFoil Rig In Action (Sort Of)

Atlantic 47 under sail

Ever since I first talked to designer Chris White earlier this year about his new MastFoil rig I've been anxious to try it out. I've always been very interested in unconventional rigs, and this one seems particularly promising, so of course my outing aboard his new MastFoil-rigged Atlantic 47 apres-show in Annapolis last month was perhaps the one test sail I was most looking forward to. Unfortunately, the wind was much lighter than I would have liked, blowing only about 5-7 knots, so I still can't say anything terribly definitive about how the rig performs.

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GUNBOAT 60: The Future Is Now

Gunboat 60 under sail

My post-Annapolis test-sailing dance card had a great mix of boats on it this year. At the total opposite end of the spectrum from the simple and diminutive Paine 14, I found this high-end sweetheart. Like many of you, I've been reading about Gunboats for years and have walked through a few tied to docks, but I've never actually sailed one, so I was looking very forward to this test. It is, however, an ineluctable law of sailing journalism that the more you look forward to test-sailing a boat, the less wind there will be during the test. Case in point: when Peter Johnstone plucked me off a dinghy dock in Eastport in one of his fancy Pure tenders and swooped me out to the Gunboat 60 way out in the middle of Chesapeake Bay, the true wind was only blowing about 5 knots.

I studied the bay's glassy surface, and my heart sank, but Peter didn't seem particularly concerned. Sure enough, as soon as we boarded the boat and unrolled its big black carbon screecher, we were trundling easily upwind at speeds in excess of 6 knots. A little later, when the true wind piped up to 7 knots, we were running off under an A-sail at 8 knots.

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PAINE 14: An Updated Herreshoff 12-1/2

Chuck Paine

Pardon the void in my personal blogosphere here, but I'm just back from Annapolis, where I was test-sailing boats for the comic after the big show closed down. By far the most relaxing test I did was with designer Chuck Paine (see photo up top) aboard his new Paine 14, a sweet little daysailer based on the old Herreshoff 12-1/2. We had a great time ogling moored boats and chatting up a storm as we ghosted up and down Spa Creek in the few cat's paws of wind that presented themselves--exactly the sort of thing a boat like this is designed for.

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HANS KLAAR: Ontong Java II Video

Speaking of Gambia, here's a very cool time-lapse viddy documenting the construction there during 2012 of Han Klaar's new crab-claw-rigged double-canoe Ontong Java II (a.k.a, OJ II). Hans is out and about cruising the planet aboard this intriguing vessel and is looking for pay-to-play crew to join the adventure. Check here for info on how to do that.

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CRUISING SAILBOAT EVOLUTION: Early Trends in Yacht Design

Early yacht race

We'll recall that the advent in the early 19th century of what might be called the first purpose-built cruising boat, Cleopatra's Barge, was nurtured by the vast personal wealth of one individual, George Crowninshield. And as the 19th century progressed, yachting, not surprisingly, continued to be the domain of the wealthy. The vessels and the egos behind them only grew larger and more extravagant.

Yachting was very much about social status, and this led to the formation of exclusive clubs. The two most prominent were the Royal Yacht Squadron (RYS), formed in England in 1815, and the New York Yacht Club (NYYC), founded in 1844. Neither, however, was the first of its kind in its respective continent. The Water Club, formed in Cork, Ireland, circa 1720, is believed to have been the first yacht club in Europe, while the Boston Boat Club, circa 1830, was the first in North America. The activities of these clubs centered on racing and wagering, and the racing could be quite vicious. Competitors in early RYS events, for example, would effectively wage combat against each other, wielding weapons of various sorts in efforts to cut away their opponents' rigs. Like their Dutch predecessors, RYS members also staged mock naval reviews in which large groups of yachts sailed in formation.

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WOMEN IN SAILING: Have They Ruined or Improved Cruising Boat Design?

Natalie Wood on boat

Women have long complained about how the world is dominated by men. To most men, meanwhile, it is perfectly obvious that modern civilization is little more than a plot to make women comfortable.

The truth, of course, lies somewhere in the middle. If it were true, as men aver, that it is women who rule the world, such things as pornography and the Three Stooges would probably be outlawed. On the other hand, if men really ruled the world, as women insist, society no doubt would be organized very differently. The men most likely would live in nomad biker gangs, and all the women and children would live in villages. The men would ride from village to village, impregnating women and fixing anything that was broken before moving on.

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