I guess my experence and mistakes make me competent to answer this question.
My wife was the sailor in the family, just small stuff, sun fish etc., She convinced me to charter on Lake Erie with a husband and wife captain and crew team. The means behind her madness was that I may like it, give up on the new car and buy a sail boat. We sailed in late Oct., had snow, water spouts, gale winds, you name it. I loved it. By the end of the week we were sailing to different places looking at boats. Buy the end of the week we had purchased a 28 foot Newport., my wife wanted a self- righting boat so we thought 28 was not too big, yet not too small. after all were learning on a 41 footer that week,28 looked pretty small.
Now my sailing experience and training amounted to what I had learned that week, which was quite allot I might add, but not enough. The winterizing, spring launch, stepping and unstepping the mast is a story in itself which I won''t go into. Over the winter we took a Coast Guard boating safety course and read. One thing about reading, with out the experience most things just don''t make sense or the impact that real life does. You can''t feel the force of an uncontrolled jibe in a book. Any way the following spring we launched and went sailing. My wife and I were pleased at our forward motion, speeding along happy as clams when the folks we had sailed with in Oct. came along side and kept yelling at us "topping lift". Once we figured out what they were saying we looked at each other and said, "what''s a topping lift?". The boat was sailing just fine?? To make a long story short what we didn;t know was dangerous. We sailed that 28 footer for about three years did ok getting from one place to another in and out of the slip. Learned a heck of allot. Thought we knew how to sail, but were very lucky, we never incountered realy heavy weather.
Then for various reasons, none of them racing we purchased a S2 7.9 (25.6'')racing boat. I am here to tell you I didn''t know jack @@#$$@ about sailing. sail trim, boat balance, weather helm, lee helm, boat handeling etc. This boat was like a sports car, do things correctly and it flew, do something wrong and it was like dragging an anchor
. Racing forced us to sail in weather we had never experenced before and learn how to adjust.
We had this boat 15 years, didn''t race much. But since it was a class racer we did do a little. I was usually at the bottom of the results, even the pickle boat a few times in our very competative class asociation. Really did not believe I was getting any better, unlike the bigger boat though we knew what we were doing. During this time I also took a flying scott sailing class and sailed the sunfish so I was practicing on a smaller boat and experenceing at a much smaller scale the forces that are put on a sail boat and crew. Then I started racing in Wed. night club races outside of the 7.9 class. We took a few firsts, raced in a fall classic and were first until the rudder broke in 35 knots of wind and we made it home safely under sail. I had learned something after all and it may have saved my boat and crew.
We now have a Morgan 384, some days I work very hard to make the boat go fast, other days I set the sails and forget about it. However I now know what to do to safley affect boat trim and handling. Which means I know what to do as the wind pipes up, a storm blows through, I am short of fuel
and need to sail on a windless day etc.
The biggest thing I have noticed between the 28 , S2 and the Morgan, on the Morgan things happen with one hell of allot more force. I don''t mean faster, many things happen much slower, but the force is amazing.
I can''t man handle my Morgan if I get into trouble. I could my smaller S2 to a point and even more so my 28 Newport because the sail area was smaller than both the Morgan and S2 I think sail area is as big a decision as overall length. My 28 footer was much easier to handle under sail then the S2. Much harder under power. With the Morgan I need to understand both to sail safely.
I guess my point is you can learn on a bigger boat if you take the time and effort.but it is likely more dangerous. It is much easier to learn on a bit smaller boat that when you make changes you see and feel the results much quicker, right or wrong. You can do something wrong and end up with a sore finger, or a bump on the head instead of loosing the finger or suffering a concussion.
I believe the learning on a smaller boat happens much faster and usually under safer conditions. And when you step up to a much bigger and powerful boat you''ll understand what makes it tick. Believe me you and your crew will be safer for the knowledge you gained on the smaller craft.
My 2 cents.
Buy the way a 25 footer after a 17 footer is no small increase.
John _/) _/) _/)
SV Valdaree , Morgan 384
CV Better than Popcorn USVI