I am not a fan of Vigors list of 20 boats to take you anywhere. While I respect John Vogor as a sailor, his recommendations trend to be very conservative in many ways and often out of date in terms of current thinking on what makes a safe or comfortable cruiser. Many of these boats are now 40-50 years old and built at a time when glass work was just not all that good. While they may have been decent cruising boats 15-20 years ago, mosty examples which can be bought cheaply are near the end of their useful lifespan at least without a major restoration requiring many times their worth.
Boats like the Sea Sprite 23 were half-way decent boats in thier day, but there were and are far better built and sailing boats out there for the dollar and purpose.
Anyway, to answer your question, I cribbed this from my response to a discussion that took place over this weekend and so does not strictly apply but it does cover the broad strokes.
This is a valid question but one which unfortunately lacks a succinct answer. To begin with I completely understand that when I like or dislike a boat, it is filtered through my own prejudice towards boats which sail well in a broad range of conditions, which are easy to handle, and which are thoughtfully designed, engineered and constructed.
As I am using the term sailing well is not about absolute speed; It is about sailing reliably in a broad range of conditions, and across the full spectrum of points of sail. It is about pointing, reaching and running, in light and heavy air as well as more moderate wind ranges. It is about being easy to adapt to changing conditions. It is about not excessively pitching or rolling. It is about being forgiving; not having a narrow performance window, and not prematurely knocking down, rounding up, or broaching. It is about not being excessively tender, wet or needing to sail at a large heel angle, or in any other very narrow range of heel in order to perform. It is also about a given boat’s suitability to its venue.
Easy to handle is only in part about hardware and deck layout. To me it’s more about the basics of the design. It is about how easy the boat is to sail in changing conditions or bad conditions with only a small crew rather than a large, skilled racing crew. It is about the ease with which a boat powers up or reliably deals with deteriorating conditions without having to make headsail changes or give up performance. It is about foothold and handholds as you move around the cabin while heeled or bashing into bad conditions. It is about how comfortable the interior is to use at sea, with comfort at anchor being less important.
To me being well designed and engineered is about designing a boat which is designed for the stresses the boat is likely to encounter in its service life, durable and maintainable. This last item 'maintainable' is not one that most folks think about. There are a range of boat building techniques which can produce a solid and durable boat, but any boat begins to wear out over time. Being able to get to fastenings, wire and plumbing chases, being able to easily pull out an engine or chain plates, really can make it much easier and cost effective to own an older boat.
While I do not believe that good engineering is about achieving the lightest possible weight, I also believe that in and of itself weight does nothing good for a boat. Weight does not automatically make a boat stronger, more seaworthy or more sea-kindly. But weight is more likely to have an inherently negative impact ease of handling, performance, shorthanded capability, initial costs and the cost of maintenance.
Quality Engineering has been a moving target throughout my entire 50 year sailing career, with materials and methods improving nearly linearly throughout this entire period. At this point, in my opinion the keys to good engineering requires well thought through framing and small panel size to distribute loadings and minimize flex, , robust rig and keel support and connections, solid, protected and maintainable hull to deck joints.
When I use the term ‘Mediocre’ I mean nothing exceptional, neither particularly good or particularly bad. Its not as much of a slam as it might sound. But if you are going to rescue a boat from a bygone era, I would suggest that it is cheaper and easier to rescusatate an above average build quality boat and in the end you will end up with something that is more reliable and worth something.
Well design is about the little details, a place to stand at a winch, having decent toerails, coamings and rubrails. It is about minimal liners so that you can repair and replace electrical and plumbing systems, deck and interior hardware.
Well designed is about the way the hull passes through the water. It is about controlling drag. It is about having a balanced and light helm without weather helm or creating a boat that requires constant attention. While tracking is an laudable attribute, I will take a light balanced helm and any day believing that this is easier on the crew and autopilot draw. (I know this is in conflict with historic cruising texts.
And in all that, it is not about gold platers, the Porsches and Mercedes of the sailing world.
And when someone asks me whether a particular boat is a good boat, or when I am trying to evaluate a boat for myself for that matter, I ask “Compared to what?” and my answer is shaped by questions like: Is this a good boat compared to:
- Boats for similar purpose which came before or after?
- Boats if its era?
- Boats of this length?
- Boats of weight?
- Boats of this price range?
- Boats which are available for this owner’s needs?
And so on….
And that gets closer to the question that you are asking. Anyone who has read many of my posts know that I believe that the boating industry tends to be faddish and that there have been design fads and a variety of racing rules that have resulted in compromises to rig design and hull design which has a negative impact on seaworthiness, seakindliness, ease of handling and long term durability.
But even within any given period there are boats, which are better designs and reflects better build quality. So, for example, if we look at the NY 35 in the original post, I would suggest that a J-36 would have been better choice for a project boat than the NY-35. Although of a similar era, similar rig and cabin layout, the J-36 is a better sailing boat over a wider wind range. They have remained competitive under PHRF and so still have a strong following. J-36’s were generally better built and better finished than the NY-36. J-36’s have had some hull delamination issues but the boat in question also required recoring. The J-36 is easier to handle in a breeze and offers better light air performance as well.
Similarly, if we talk about boats of the CCA era, boats like the Sailmaster 23, Grampian Classic 22 (C&C), Pacific Dolphin 24, Morgan 24/25, Tartan 27, Morgan 34, Seafarer Swiftshore 35, C&C 35, Cal 36, Tartan 34, Cal 40, were generally well built boats which sailed much better than their peers (although not necessarily faster).
If we talk about boats from the IOR era, boats like the Ranger 23 (which was actually a MORC boat), Farr 727, Morgan 27, Tartan 30 (which was also actually a MORC boat), Soverel 33 & 39, J-34, X ¾ ton, Dehler 34, Tartan 40, Beneteau First 375, and 42 come to mind as standouts. During the IOR era there are boats like the Peterson 34's which I have a hard time pidgeon holing. These were great designs compared to what came immediately before. At the time they were a revelation. Yet when viewed against some of the better boats which were not designed to a rule, they were hard boats to sail well and ideally were sailed by bigger crews. That said, SailNet member Catamount bought one very cheaply, has done a great job restoring one and has been very succesasful racing her in short handed racing and using her as family cruiser. From my perspective, as good as these boats were, they are very athletic boats to sail, and lack the kind of forgiveness that I prefer in a boat. All boats are a compromise, which may make these a great boat for some, but not one that I would recommend blindly. (I would have similar comments about the Tartan 41 and Beneteau 42 mentioned above.)
During the IOR era, I personally preferred what was happening on the MORC front during the IOR era. The MORC rule produced a crop of great 24-25 boats including the J-24, Kirby 25, Capri 25, Wavelength 24, Lindenberg 26 and 28 and so on as well as a herd of well rounded bigger boats J-30, J29, Kirby 30, Olsen 911, (Alsberg Bro) Express 30, S.2 9.1. These were really well rounded designs for their size and purpose although early efforts and hard racing have taken a toll on many of these. Sill they are all reasonably competitive under PHRF and good all around sailing boats.
If we talk about boats the general size of my boat, there were a whole rash of good boats out there; J-35, J-36, J-37c and J-40c, Frers 33 & 36, Tripp 36, Tripp 37, Farr 1020, Farr 37, Farr 11.6, Express 37. All remain moderately competitive PHRF boats and all are good sailing boats. While I chose the Farr 11.6 because it began life as a cruising design rather than a racing design.
Of this group I personally think that the Express 37 was the best in terms of a mix of performance and build quality. The Express 37’s were generally $20 k more than the Farrs and I could not afford that or else I probably would have bought an Express 37. The later J-35’s had a nicer interior in some ways than my Farr but again, they were more expensive, and lacked tankage. The J-40 is a better cruising boat than my Farr and there are a whole crop of newer boats (boats like the Aerodyne 38, Farr 395, IMX 38/40, or Beneteau 40.7’s are particular favorites) which are better performers than all of these.
I guess that is the basics of how I arrive at my comments. I am sure I have left out some of my own favorite older designs, boats worth messing with, but hopefully this should dispel the notion that I only think that Farrs of a certain era are worth messing with.
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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; 10-24-2011 at 05:45 PM.