Join Date: Feb 2000
Location: Annapolis, Md
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I am not sure what your point is with the Brewer quote regarding the plank-on-edge cutters. I have actually sailed on a replica plank-on-edge cutter at a wooden boat regatta. These 'lead-mines' were amazing boats to sail. They were extremely challanging in shifty or gusty winds. It was the mainsail trimmers full time job to keep from her from sinking as each gust would roll her decks into the water and the cockpits were not self bailing. The long deep keels and small rudders meant that they tracked well through a gust but the helmsman had no chance to feather up quickly enough in a gust. They were absolutely thrilling to sail though, offering the absolute best windward performance of any gaff rigger that I have ever sailed. They were not very fast reaching or dead downwind.
The plank-on-edge cutter were very successful as race boats under the rating rule of that era. They represent another example of racing rule beaters producing boats with compromized sailing ability and seaworthiness. They were replaced by the "compromize cutters" which were much more moderate designs that offered good performance on all points of sail and which were reasonable offshore boats as well.
Touching on the other points: to some extent I agree with Mr. Axtell's quote," Never blame the boat... It is typically the skipper that is slow". On the other hand I am not sure that his string of victories in the non-spinacker class really tells us much about the relative performance of the boat. Older designs like the Bristol 32 trend to get rated for the average performance of one in unenhansed condition. If you go through and upgrade the hardware and sails, and put a racing bottom on one, those ratings can be a real gift especially in a non-competative class like a non-spin class is like to be.
While I have sailed on Bristol 32's with inexperienced skippers, the skipper and most of the crew that I referred to above had sailed that particular Bristol 32 since it was a new boat in the 1960's and had successfully raced the boat during the CCA era, and less so throughout the 1970's and early 1980's as the boat was no longer competitive against well sailed and prepped modern boats under PHRF.
Mr. Axtell's strategy works very well in a short steep chop and steady winds, albeit taking a lot or water aboard. He had already peeled down to his 150 suggesting that he was descibing winds in the 12 to 18 knot range. At the upper end of that range a reef is necessary to maintain reasonable speed and control, as the weather helm becomes extreme. Without a reef the mainsail either needs to be flagged, which does not give enough drive to power through waves, or else there is a tendancy to pinch. I absolutely agree with Mr. Axtell that these boats do not want to be pinched into a short chop. In gusty conditions past the upper end of this wind range or in big seas where there is a lot less wind in the trough, these boats are a bear to sail as they really need a further reduction in headsail size in the higher wind speeds but then lack the drive to deal with the seaway in the lulls (or troughs).
With regards to the discussion on pitching, all I can say is that you obviously have very little experience sailing on boats of equal displacements and lengths, but with differing waterline lengths, and differing weight and bouyancy distributions. Yes, all boats pitch but the differences in motion comfort and seaworthiness can be dramatic between a wholesome design and something with an extremely short waterline and poor dampening qualities like the Bristol 32's in question.
Which brings me to my last point. You keep talking about 50 footers and I don't know where that is coming from. At the heart of it, over the years, I have consistently advocated the traditional 2 1/2 to 5 (long) tons of displacement per person for a distance cruiser. This means a boat of roughly 5,500 to 11,000 lbs per person or 11,000 to 22,000 lbs for a couple. I have also suggest that 30 feet is a very practical minimum waterline length of for a couple (with 32 to 35 feet offering a more comfortable motion, and a bit more preformance.) This translates to boats minimally in the roughly 35 foot range and more realistically in the 38 to 40 foot range. Since ease of handling, and purchase and maintenance costs are predominantly controlled by displacement and not length, these slighlty longer boats (or even equal length boats to the Bristol 32 but with more moderate overhang lengths) should be comparable to own and purchase and certainly be much more suitable for a circumnavation.
Last edited by Jeff_H; 05-09-2006 at 11:14 AM.