Join Date: Feb 2000
Location: Annapolis, Md
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Re: Pearson 39 Yawl or not?
Mr. Shaw, I did and do not intend to impugn your father's reputation. As some one who was trained by a designer at Sparkman and Stephens and who knew both Olin and your dad, I admired both and certainly admire their legacy. While your father was at S&S he designed some of my favorite boats of the 1960s and perhaps all time, the Tartan 27 and the Dolphin 24.
While we can debate the merits of their build quality; your dad's designs for the Pearson 26, 30 and 10M were amazingly advanced boats for their day and remain good boats to this day. The Flyer and the 1980's era Pearson 37 were also outstanding boats for their day.
But I still stand by my statement, the late 1960's and early 1970's was an era when designers were trying to to come to grips with a rapidly expanding understanding of their design options. While at that point fin keels, and spade and skeg hung rudders had existed for nearly a century, designers were figuring out how to use them and use them effectively. The shift in the rating rules resulted in a scramble from one extreme hull form to another. This resulted in some comparatively miserable boats to sail.
Structurally, fiberglass engineering and technology was evolving and companies like Pearson still had not yet begun effectively using internal framing, so these boats flexed more than later designs. Precision measuring techniques and the proper handling of reinforcing materials were still in their infancy so that resin rich laminate was the norm. The wide spread use of admixtures in resin resulted in a more brittle laminate as well documented in an insurance industry study of boats of that era.
While there were some lovely boats designed in this era, the Tartan 41 being one that I've always had a fondness for, by and large the boats of the late 1960's through 1970 era were not even close to stellar. Compared to what designers did shortly after this period (your dad included) and what designers are now able to do, boats of that era were truely mediocre designs.
And more specifically the Pearson 39 was an idiosyncratic design even for that idiosyncratic era. By 1970, most of the design world had given up on the yawl rig for good reasons. The backwards mounted atomic 4 was a PIA to maintain at a time when maintenance was required a lot more frequently than it is today. The wheel mounted between the offset companionway and the cockpit made it inconvenient to pass between one and the other.
With a PHRF rating typically in the 130's, these boats do not perform well compared to later coastal cruisers of their size. Heck, your dad's Pearson 37 design is 30 seconds a mile faster. The long overhangs and pinched ends robbed these boats of the speed that their comparatively modern foils should have allowed them.
When it comes to my comments about stability, are you going to try deny that in order to sail anywhere near thier potential, the 39's sail on their ear in even a moderate breeze?
While you may be cavalier about motion comfort, that still does not make me wrong to point out that relatively speaking these boats really had the kind of poor seakindliness that grind a crew down.
Which gets back to the heart of the matter, I can understand why you might want to defend your father's work, I would defend my father as well. But honestly, your dad was very capable of producing advanced designs, he understood what it took to make a forgiving boat like the Tartan 27's, or well rounded designs like the Pearson 26, 30, 10M, or even decent cruisers like the Pearson 323, but is particularly for that reason I respectfully suggest that it does not reflect well on him to try to hold this design out as one of his better designs. He could do much better and he usually did.
In the end, I am glad that you like your boat. That is a good thing. But these discussions are comparative. If you dispassionately compare the Pearson 39 to other boats of that era and of earlier and later eras, I think you would come to similar conclusions to my own.
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Curmudgeon at Large- and rhinestone in the rough, sailing my Farr 11.6 on the Chesapeake Bay
Last edited by Jeff_H; 05-15-2013 at 03:39 PM.
Reason: spelling and syntax