There are significant differences between Whitby 42, Brewer 12.8, Brewer 42, and the Brewer44. The Whitby 42 is a mid-1970ís, Brewer designed full-keeled, ketch. They were originally built by Whitby in Canada. Later, they were also simultaneously built by Fort Meyer Yacht and Shipbuilding in Ft. Meyers, Florida. These were good boats for their say. They were intended as dedicated cruisers, and while they were not the fastest boats in the world, and did not go to weather all that well, they were pretty good boats. The Ft Meyers built boats were generally thought to be a little better built than the Canada built boats.
In the early 1980ís, a group of 10 or so very knowledgeable yachtsmen went back to Ted Brewer and had the boat redesigned. The design changes included substituted a cutter rig instead of the Whitbyís ketch rig, adding a Brewer bite to the keel resulting in a long fin keel with a skeg-hung rudder, adding a very well designed centerboard. In addition to the visible changes, the boats were re-engineered. The hulls are lighter and stronger, and the weight savings was used to increase ballast and stability.
In addition to the general changes the first boats were equipped with the best hardware that was available at the time. They had robust electric winches, and first class ground tackle-handling gear. They had wonderful details like the system that retracts the jibstay and its furler. Similarly the interior was full of really neat details that really work. Ventilation was increased as well.
The resultant 12.8 is a really great boat to sail. When my father was looking for an offshore cruiser, we looked at dozens of models of boats. It came down to the Bristol 41 and the Brewer 12.8 and he ultimately selected the Brewer 12.8. After 14 years I have been extremely impressed with his boat. It sails very well. It is a great heavy air boat, and not too bad a light air boat. It is reasonably fast and easy to handle. The centerboard allows precise adjustment of the lateral plane producing great tracking and a very balanced helm. These are very comfortable boats in all ways.
Brewer 42ís are either custom 42 footers designed by Brewer or else some kind of strange mix of a Brewer 12.8 and a Whitby 42. They typically lack some combination of either the cutter rig, or the Brewer bite, or the higher ballast ratio, or the beefed up engineering, or the centerboard, or the high quality equipment that makes a Brewer 12.8 a Brewer12.8. Collectively this made the Brewer 12.8ís more expensive boats than the Whitby 42 or real Brewer 12.8ís.
Then there is the issue of unscrupulous or unknowing brokers listing Whitbyís and Brewer 42ís as Brewer 12.8ís. If the boat lacks the cutter rig, Brewer bite, higher ballast ratio, beefed up engineering, centerboard, or high quality equipment, it is not a Brewer 12.8.
The Brewer 44ís are a stretch version of the 12.8ís. They had an elongated transom which give them a swim platform of sorts. Some people say they sail better than the 12.8ís and others say the 12.8ís are better seaboats. I donít really know. The 44ís are significantly more expensive when they are built and equipped to the specifications for the 12.8ís.
Whether the 44 or the 12.8ís are a better boat, is hard to say. Both are much better boats than the Whitby 42, Brewer 42ís, or boats mislabled Brewer 12.8ís. After 14 years I can say that the Brewer 12.8ís, while not my style of boat, are great all around boats.