Lancers are often underrated
I know this is an old post to reply to, but these posts stay up indefinitely, and people continue to read them as a source of information.
As the past owner of many sailboats, crew on many others, ex-racer, dinghy, catamaran & 49er sailor, and current Lancer 36 owner, I’d like to clear up some misconceptions about these boats.
First of all, they are well-built, or the majority of them were. The marine surveyor who checked mine out at the time of purchase has been in the business for over 30 years. He lived near the Lancer factory, and has surveyed several dozen of these boats. He regularly surveys boats worth hundreds of thousands, and not infrequently, millions of dollars. He assured me that most Lancers are very well built, and that mine was a well-above average example in terms of its current condition. He winked and congratulated my on my judicious purchase – a bargain.
As a case in point, my boat was moored at Semiahmoo Marina in the spring storm of 2006 that decimated Vancouver’s Stanley park, with windspeeds exceeding 90 mph. Several boats in my marina had their hulls stove in – serious, BIG holes in the beam that I could literally have crawled through. My boat (I hadn’t bought it yet) had its 135% Genoa unfurl and power up. The rocking action (waves on the beam) had kicked the fenders up onto the dock, and decent sized waves bashed the hull against the dock’s wooden rub rail and a heavy horn cleat on the edge of the dock. Meanwhile, the Genoa heeled the boat against the dock even harder, until the sail finally shredded. Total damage? 1 headsail written off, minor cosmetic scratching to gelcoat – ZERO structural damage.
Upon telling the marine surveyor this story, he highlighted that when he goes to survey hurricane damage for insurance companies, he almost never sees boats of this vintage on the scrap-heap. It’s almost exclusively new, high-performance, modern construction boats that are holed in these storms. Make your own conclusions. The surveyor informed me that when Dick Valdez (Lancer's founder, previous founder of Columbia Yachts; a Plastics Engineer) sold Lancer to Bally, a NYSE, publicly traded company, they started a separate production facility that knocked out inexpensive small motor-sailors – McGregor competitors that didn’t employ a lot of hand-laid roving, but did employ a lot of gun-blown chopped strand. These boats had a tendency to separate at the hull-deck joint under heavy loads, such as heavy air races. Different company, different boat, different production line and methods.
But the upshot was this: Lancer’s name was absolutely destroyed. The boating community at large reviled the brand, and this is reflected to this day across the brand lineup’s resale value.
My Lancer 36’ is similar in build quality to its contemporary C&C or Catalina. There are some things I like better about either of these boats, and things I like better about the Lancer. It does indeed sail just fine to windward, contrary to popular belief. Tracks like an arrow, in fact, with very little leeway. That 4000 lb keel is also 6'2 feet underwater. This makes for a very stiff boat – if it had a foot less depth, for instance, it would take a lot more weight to give it as much stiffness, or righting moment. I often sail with more canvas up than newer cruising yachts, with a similar amount of heel and a lot more speed.
I’ve spent time in high winds on a friend’s 44’ C&C; a 6x Vic-Maui veteran, and class winner.
My boat performs much like a 36 foot version of his much larger vessel. Stiff, fast, easy to sail, confidence inspiring. Contrary to popular mythology, this boat points high for its vintage and has a well-balanced rig. I regularly single-hand my boat in 35 knots or more of wind. I’m as confidant on board my Lancer as I’ve been on the best boats of this vintage; very. Yes, it has lively fore and aft movement in short, steep waves. But I also regularly exceed hull speed. I often see +8.5 kts without a spinnaker up and very little fanfare. I have frequently seen 7.5 kts close-hauled, while towing a hard dinghy. Does this sound like a slug? Not to me. Close-hauled, I can apply a small amount of friction to the wheel, and nip below to grab something while the boat tracks as straight as an arrow. The traveler is well out of the cockpit, ahead of the companionway hatch and dodger. I love this.
I just don’t understand where all of the criticism of these boats comes from, to be honest. I suppose, of course, if one wants to justify spending double the money for a similar boat…
My guests come aboard and marvel at the spacious cabin and liberal use of high-quality teak. They instantly 'ooh and ahhh'. My fiancee loves the large head with shower and separate vanity, and walk-through access to the aft stateroom. I’ve had a family of 6 aboard (plus myself) on a multi-day trip with as much room for all as you’ll find on any boat of this era and size – we were able to sit around the table and play board games in the evenings. I regularly take out 4 students for a week at a time, some of them experienced sailors and current boat owners -and you know what? They love the boat, and want one just like it.
Yes, the layout is unconventional – oh my! But it works… Are there things I would change? Of course – boats are an exercise in compromise, and for every 5 things you like, you’ll find one or two you don’t. But just because it’s different, doesn’t mean it’s not functional.
Other notes: yes, it is a deck-stepped mast with a compression post. Deck integrity has to be there – any boat that leaks can wind up rotting out – this is important on every fibreglass boat out there. Don’t buy a boat with soft decks unless you just absolutely love DIY projects. And make sure you pull out that compression post every 25 or 30 years or as needed to have it professionally acid etched and repainted to protect against corrosion.
Yes, these boats need to be maintained, just like all of them, and the rigging kept ship-shape. Is there a sailboat where you wouldn't want to do that? I saw a lot of keel-stepped boats dis-masted this year at the Southern Straits race - too much canvas for the conditions (operator error). Don't use more canvas than your rig can handle. Want to race in storms? Buy a storm trysail and a storm jib. Deploy them before you need to. Don't run under a full main and Spinnaker in 40+ knots of wind while the Barometer is plummetting and windspeed is increasing, and you'll blow past the entire fleet with your hankerchiefs up, while they blow out their sails and find the top section of the masts sticking through their decks. Get it? While you're at it, if you want to race in serious conditions, buy proper harnesses and jacklines, and use them. Put large stainless steel backings on your hard points. Close your hatches companionway washboards when the going gets rough so you won't be swamped if you broach or get pooped by a following wave breaking into your cockpit. Be safe and be smart.
But I digress. I brought aboard a friend who’s all but stopped counting his global circumnavigations – he spent 9 years teaching offshore sailing while crossing the world’s oceans with novice students aboard his custom-built, full-keeled boat. I commented that I wasn’t sure my boat would be that great offshore. He didn’t hesitate to reply that with the right preparation, he would sail my boat anywhere in the world; he’s sailed from Vancouver, BC, to the North Sea via the Panama Canal in a boat nowhere near as capable or well-built. He reminded me not to listen to the opinions of boaters who haven’t owned and seriously sailed the same boat. Hmmmm. Food for thought, indeed. No offence intended.
So in summary; of course it isn’t a year 2000+ design. It has to be measured against its contemporaries to come up with a fair evaluation of the boat’s capabilities. Well-maintained examples compare favorably with other brands currently valued at double the price or more. So if you are a value-seeker, and are willing to do a little of your own homework to dig up some facts, and take a very deep look at the vessel you are considering purchasing, you may just find that a Lancer gives you great value for your dollar, in a package that is safe, fun, and raises more than a few eyebrows as you gracefully slide past more expensive boats of the same vintage (oh - and high-volume modern cruising boats that I wouldn't take out in serious weather). I have yet to bump into a Lancer owner (of one of their bigger boats) who wasn’t delighted with his or her vessel. Good sailing to all of you!
Last edited by SeaLifeSailing; 04-24-2010 at 10:33 PM.
Reason: Missed a bit