Registered: August 2002
Review Date: Mon March 15, 2004
||Would you recommend the product? Yes |
Price you paid?: None indicated
| Rating: 0
My Dehler Brighton DB-1 "Heat Wave" is now at Bay City Yacht Club in Saginaw Bay, Michigan. The DB-1, or its follow on DB-2, are also listed as a Dehler 3/4, named for the old 3/4 ton racing category. And these boats are certainly all-out racers. Built to IOR rules with some of the most sophisticated production techniques at the time, everything from the materials involved to the design lines evokes speed. I'll start from the bottom up, but first a list of basic stats:
Disp: 7275 lbs.
SA Main: 302 sq. ft.
SA 100% fore: 212 sq. ft.
SA/Disp (100% fore): 22
SA/Disp (downwind): 40.6
The deep fin keel is 3527 lbs. of lead, attached to a hand-laid GRP hull with a design displacement of 7275 lbs. This gives over a 48% ballast/displacement ratio. Coupled with the wide beam typical of IOR boats of the day, it produces an incredibly stiff initial character that becomes even stiffer as the boat heels. Also, this boat like many IOR designs detests excessive heeling - anything over 20 degrees slows the boat excessively, and beyond 30 degrees renders the normally responsive rudder useless.
The overly-large 4 foot long spade rudder has a 2:1 aspect ratio and provides incredibly nimble steering characteristics. This also makes it quite touchy and demands expert helming especially on strong downwind runs.
The hull itself is reinforced through the bottom from stem to stern with a series of large aluminum stringers, and is further reinforced higher up by a series of tubular aluminum stringers running fore-and-aft as well as athwartships. One highly experienced surveyor commented that this was very unusual and robust construction for a sailboat. Indeed, the entire yacht reminds me more of a scaled-down 50 footer than a scaled-up dinghy (such as an Evelyn 32), partly due to the construction and partly due to the 6' interior headroom.
Of course, considering the boat's normal operating waters and conditions this construction is no surprise. Built originally out of Germany (Dehler is now based in the Netherlands), this boat raced the major European events such as Fastnet, Cowes, Kiel, and the Europa Cup. These races were held on some of the most rough water around, including the Baltic and North Seas. And in its day, the DB-1 was an absolute "circuit killer", regularly racking up 4 of the top 5 places in a race. The DB-1 appears to thrive in heavy weather; some of the best and fastest sailing we've done was in 20+ knots of wind with a fully-flattened main and #3 jib as a storm cell passed nearby. The steep choppy 5-8+ foot waves in the shallow Saginaw Bay under these conditions are similar to the European seas, and the boat never felt so sure of itself, so fast, or so easy to helm as it did in these conditions.
Along with the aluminum stringers, the DB-1 has Nomex (aluminum honeycomb) core bulkheads for further strength and weight savings, and an end-grain balsa core deck. To continue on the overkill train, the engine is a 3 cylinder Universal M-25 inboard diesel putting out over 20 hp, mounted slightly aft of the keel under the companionway stairs. I still have not seen any other boats in this size and displacement category with such a large engine (many this size have 10 hp or less), but again consider the big waves and steep chop of its native waters that needed to be powered through. The added weight may be a detriment to racing, but it provides a margin of safety and comfort in heavy weather to have such a powerplant at the ready, and the weight is concentrated down low where you'd want it.
To sum up the rest of the hull features, it has a decent freeboard to accomodate the interior height, with a very streamlined cabin top. The transom is open and angled back to shed big waves efficiently on a downwind reach in breaking seas. The stern is narrowed somewhat, but is not as pinched as some of the most dramatic examples of IOR-designed boats. This somewhat reduces some of the negative tendancies of the "pinched-ends" designs to death-roll downwind. The bow has a fairly significant overhang (the stern does as well, but it is very low and quickly becomes no overhang under sail). As noted by the very short static waterline compared to LOA, the reason behind this is that IOR boats were measured and rated based on this static waterline. The designer's trick was to try to get this a short as possible, but then maximize the length while dynamically under sail for increased top speed. The bow overhang does make for a drier ride and offers some reserve buoyancy unlike the plumb bows often seen today which are an attempt to max out the waterline (and presumably top speed achievable) for a given LOA. However, just check out the latest America's Cup boats and see what their bows look like. Regardless, the DB-1's actual sailing length is more like around the 30 foot mark. The bow entry is fine, with somewhat hard-chined cheekbones, and quickly moves to a very flat surface that extends back and widens toward the stern. This is to promote planing, believe it or not. The yacht is designed to carry a chute in up to 40 kts true wind, which (if weight is kept minimized) will plane out the hull and achieve boatspeeds of 15+ kts, with an apparent wind of only 25 kts. I kid you not, this is in the factory literature. It was scary enough doing it in 20-25 kt winds and seeing the GPS hit 10 kts while surfing down a wave. I wouldn't recommend a chute up at 25+ knots unless you have a very competent helm and an experienced crew.
The interior is fairly spartan, as you can imagine. There is sail storage in the bow at dock (you store air up there and nothing else when racing). A head is forward of the bulkhead to port of the mast as well, with the bulkhead "door" consisting of a light shower curtain on rings hooked to one of the athwartship tubular stringers. The main saloon is very wide and consists of a large and uncluttered center floor space in order to do sail storage, changes, and repacking. There are fold down settee berths on each side, with pilot berths above those. Farther back is a forward facing Nav station / chart table to starboard with a rear window for cockpit access, and a 2 burner CNG stove and sink with manual foot pedal to port with some small galley cabinets. The engine is under the removable companionway stairs in the middle, with quarterberths port and starboard farther back on each side and nothing in the middle. This is to keep weight out of the ends for speed and to reduce hobby-horsing. The floorboards are teak & holly, and the bilges are only a couple of inches deep thanks to the very flat hull sections.
On deck the yacht is tiller steering, with end-boom sheeting. The cockpit is relatively large, and the foredeck is completely clear with no hatch. There is a molded-in recessed deck area from the bow straight back to the mast where the spinnaker pole is stored. There are large aluminum fold-down toerails, and quick disconnect lights (to reduce windage when day racing). All lines are led aft to rope clutches at the back of the cabintop, and there are 6 Lewmar 40 self-tailing winches onboard. The true racing purist would see no need for more than 4 winches... until we get to the rigging.
There are more control lines on this boat than most people would know what to do with. Every single aspect of sail or mast shape can be adjusted. To that end, the boat is equipped with a keel-stepped highly-tapered bendy aluminum mast and a fractional rig. There are 3 jib/spin halyards and a tuff-luff dual headsail extrusion to eliminate baldheaded sail changes and provide maximum flexibility. The rig is equipped with straight spreaders and runners, led to a set of dedicated winches (hence the extra 2) at the stern. There are also the standard assortment of cunningham, outhaul, dual reef lines, checkstays, backstay, topping lift for spin pole, downhaul, etc.
One peculiar feature is the elaborate headsail sheeting system. As most racers know, a windward-leeward style race presents one of the most interesting kinds as it offers the most opportunities for passing or making gains. Most races are also started going to weather (upwind), and - despite the course layouts - passing is still one of the most difficult things to do successfully in a race. Therefore, if you can win the first beat to windward, you stand an excellent chance of holding off the challengers and winning the entire race. The extemely flexible fractional rig with runners is the rig of choice for winning the weather leg successfully, and the DB-1 was built specifically for that purpose... it will generally not perform as well downwind against the myriad of masthead-rigged boats around today with their extremely large spinnakers and headsails.
Part of the key to successful upwind work is proper coordination of the sails. The main has a rigid vang, twin-sheet controls, and a long traveller. Of course ratcheting blocks are used throughout the boat.
The genoa system is more complex. It consists of an athwartships track (barber hauler) to change the inboard-outboard lead of the clew. Shackled to this is another line to a floating double block that controls the vertical height of the clew (double block so that a changing sheet can be rove into the free one). All of these controls are located over the barber hauler track several feet behind the clew of a 150% genoa. Additionally, there are two fore-aft tracks (outer for #1 genoa, inner for the #2, 3, or 4). In these tracks are the standard block on a slide, but the sheet is not led directly down to these as usual, it is always led aft to the floating barber hauler blocks. Instead, a twing line block is placed on the sheet and ran through these fore-aft track blocks and back to the cockpit.
In this manner, by simply balancing the load and sheeting angle adjustment between the forward twing line and the aft main floating block, coupled with the inboard-outboard adjustment of the barber hauler, nearly an infinite number of clew positions can be achieved on the fly without ever having to go forward and adjust the fore-aft track block... it only has to be set up to be close to a good position initially. This keeps the crew off the dangerous leeward deck in heavy weather, keeps more weight on the high side, and yet allows for the ultimate in flexibility of sail sheeting positions.
The biggest problem with all of this is that the boat is now raced in PHRF, and it can be difficult to sail to its rating. A large crew is needed (8 is likely ideal for spinnaker work, 6 for main & jib) to effectively handle all of these sail controls in a timely manner. The crew needs to be well-educated in what the controls do and know how to set them properly in different wind and sea states in order for the boat to sail "to its rating", which is usually derived by considering a boat which is in good condition, with a good hull and sails, and raced by a competent crew. By having to coordinate the timing of more crew and deal with more complexity on the boat, the potential to make mistakes and thus sail the boat below its rating increases. However, if you like to pull lines (as I do) and you really want a firsthand education in what makes a boat go and all of the different ways that be controlled, a DB-1 makes an excellent teacher and you will never have to worry about outgrowing the boat. Well, unless you're the type to get 2-foot-itis and simply crave a bigger size, but I can't help you with that!