Join Date: Jul 2002
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fast displacement hull?
James, let me try to restate your question in order to help clarify my answer: I think you are essentially asking if, despite or perhaps because of the current, predominant ''go-fast'' designs you see among smaller sailboats, is it reasonable to assume one can find a smaller boat that is a different, newer kind of compromise? You mention characteristics that might blend the ''old'' with the ''new'' e.g. the contemporary trend of a fine entry, abundant beam (and I''d add, a semi-balanced rudder) with perhaps the deep keel and higher B/D ratio found in older designs like the Virtue.
Conceptually, the answer is of course ''Yes'' since yacht design, manufacturing techniques and construction materials all evolve over time, as do our expectations and requirements as potential customers. On a less theoretical level, I think what''s happening here (in the UK) right now with the introduction of the Sadler 29 is an interesting example of exactly what you are asking about. A bit of history: the designer produced a 38'' design three years ago that Hunter Boats (not the U.S. Hunter) introduced as the Mystery 38 roughly 18 months ago. It embodied many of the ''old'' characteristics - longish overhangs, narrow beam, and even a tiller - and in fact that was Hunter''s intention: to revisit older design characteristics that produced nice sailing boats, but to add in modern construction techniques (nothing radical nor costly) that would improve even further on the results. It''s getting huge praise for its sailing qualities (not just speed but also handling and ''feel'') but gets disappointing comments - surprise, surprise - about its smaller cabins and unHunteresque interior appointments. (I like that term...).
Meanwhile, the tradename ''Sadler'' is being reintroduced here - it has a very positive connotation due to its many ''good sailing'', affordable sloops built in the 70''s & 80''s, which are sought after actively here. The new builder went to the designer of the Mystery 38, in part because of the results from his Hunter design, and the result is about what you described: a Sadler 29 that is full of beam, with a quite fine entry, and with a emphasis placed on both a large B/D ratio AND locating the ballast relatively deeply (off composite ''spacers''). Especially noteworthy was the part of the design brief that said the boat would be offered as either a fin keel or bilge keel hull BUT it needed to be fast to weather with little leeway regardless of which keel was chosen (altho'' obviously the fin will be more effective). The boat (with bilge keels) does up to 7 kts on a beat (as independently tested on multiple occasions in varying wind strengths on the Solent), is every bit as impressive in cabins, space and finish as any Scandinavian or French product, and - one of the things I like best - comes with a tiller, only too appropriate on a boat of this size & displacement with a design brief to be sailed fast.
Here''s the punch line: the boat has some of the same design parameters as the larger Mystery 38: LWL, beam, SA/D and B/D ratios. Or put somewhat differently, the designer took too different design briefs that shared some common goals (nice sailing ''feel'', fast, stable and with excellent ultimate stability) and applied some of the same design techniques & approaches to them while producing boats that, in other respects would seem to be quite different (''traditional'' vs. modern; larger vs. smaller). Neither design relied on particularly high-tech (or expensive) production methods. In fact, Hunter is known for its Hunteresque prices while Sadler, a start-up, couldn''t afford those initial production costs.
Perhaps I''m guilty of a wee bit of hyperbole, but one of the ways I''d sum up these unfolding events is that the the importance of a skilled designer - when designing both a sailboat that sails and a comfortable cabin - is being re-emphasized in these boats despite the high-tech emphasis of other new (racing) boats and the high-volume production cost efficiencies of the huge manufacturers. To the extent this is a fair observation, I quite like this development...