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  Topic Review (Newest First)
11-17-2015 07:26 AM
Re: Contest Yachts

Hey Jeff, I was looking at a Contest 31. I remembered seeing your post on them over the summer, and just went and found it. Not a lot of good things to say about them I see, and things that can really matter in a seaway as well! Can you tell me what make and year the one your Father owned was, and if you know what year Contest/Conyplex may have addressed these issues?

The soft wood for the transverse framing is a particularly disturbing issue!!! The Contest 31 has an encapsulated lead ballast with in integral keel. Are we talking about the same boat here?

You also said in your reply to the original post that they were a fin keel/spade hung rudder, but the 31 is a fin keel/skeg hung rudder. Again I'm wondering if we're talking about the same boat?

Thanks Jeff, hope you're doing well!

07-29-2015 04:35 PM
Re: Contest Yachts

Hey Jeff, Thanks for all the info! It's a pleasure to be able to be able to talk with someone who really knows sailing. I hung out with a guy named Greg Forbes for a few years in St. Augustine Fl. He taught me a lot about setting up/what a good cruising boat was. He was in the "Queens Birthday Storm" in a Westsail 32. He now is sailing a Roberts 36 flush raised deck.. though I have no idea where he is. Did you know him?

The Galaxy has quiet the Bridge deck no? Very interesting boats for sure. I'll add them to my list of the contenders,.. which at this point is really only the Ericson 31. Not the cruising 31. I like the galley better, and the port holes rather than the lights in the first 23 models. I think it's a more well rounded boat, with the ability to do shorter passages, but be a great coastal cruiser. I still like the Choy Lee Offshore 32 too, but not as much. I think the two second choices for me would be the Seafarer 34... or the Nic 31, even though it's a slower boat, I know what they're made of, and may be able to get one for a good price that's actually here in the states.

There's a few other boats that intrigued me some time ago, but one in particular was interesting because of the controversy surrounding it. The Carter 33. Every one was talking about the Bal/Disp ratio being low, coupled with the beamy flatter hull. Not great numbers either, and looks like what would be a poor righting ability. But they have some really nice qualities too, including a really well set up interior with lots of space/storage, huge side decks, and nice tight cockpit. Heard of them? I see now the problems with the IOR boats you have been mentioning... but they're always intriguing/appealing to the eye.

Thanks for all the help Jeff, I"ll keep you posted. There happens to be a E31 in Norfolk for a decent price. Needs some interior work, but after 25 years of woodworking, I think I can handle it if the price is right.

~ C
07-28-2015 11:49 AM
Re: Contest Yachts

The Nicholson 31 is a serious "and I am not joking" offshore cruising boat. They are reportedly great boats for that purpose. But that comes with a lot of compromises. They have absurdly heavy displacement for their length, and a absurdly small sail area for their displacement. this means that they will not be great light air boats. While larger headsails can help with light air, using large headsails means making more sail changes, and are not as easy handling as a boat that starts with a larger sail plan, more stability relative to drag, and a more easily driven hull. While they should be much better sea boats than the Chesapeake, in practice they would not be all that much faster.

If your primary use is distance cruising, then the Nicholson 31 is a slow but a very good option. But if your goal is coastal cruising with eventual offshore passages mixed in, then you might want a boat with better performance across a broader range of conditions. Bill Tripp Jr. (vs his son, Bill Tripp III) was a very talented designer and designed some of the best and most progressive designs of the CCA era. His Galaxy 32 was decades ahead of its time, and remains one of the best designs that came out of that era. But Tripp was an experimenter and did a broad range of projects, so while he produced some really wonderful designs, he also produced some pretty crumby designs, that were not all that well engineered or constructed, like the series he did for Columbia.

Phil Rhodes was one of the greats of the old school. He certainly was one the preeminent designers in the years before fiberglass and did some nice early glass boats as well. I have always been disappointed that some of his better cruising designs (rather than the CCA era racer cruisers like the Vanguard and Chesapeake never made it into production.) Phillip Rhodes son was responsible for some of the later glass boat designs of the firm, and ultimately became a partner in McCurdy and Rhodes. McCurdy and Rhodes was a bit like Tripp. They produced some very high quality designs, and some not so great designs, and/or designs which perhaps were compromised in design or build quality at the request of the company building their boats.

That was not all that atypical for that era. Another example of that was Ray Hunt, who was a very creative and skilled designer, but the execution of his designs produced boats were often compromised to meet a certain market portion.

07-26-2015 06:17 PM
Re: Contest Yachts

Hey Jeff,

I did find a E 31 with a tiller, and was able to get a good look at it, so no worries on that ?.

I am still curious as to what you think about the Nic 31 however.

Thanks again,

~ C
07-25-2015 07:42 PM
Re: Contest Yachts

Oh I forgot about the Seafarer 34. The other of my faves. Beautiful boats!! I was very familiar with the 31-1 and 31-2. The Tripp and Rhodes designs. What do you think about those?

~ Curtis
07-25-2015 07:37 PM
Re: Contest Yachts

Hey Jeff!

Well I just wrote a long email back to you, and my session timed out and I lost it! So I'm gonna keep this one short... sort of.

First of all, Super thanks for all the recommendations, I greatly appreciate them, and don't expect you to answer all these Qs either, you've given me plenty of your time already

The boats I liked the most and knew about some of them quite a bit were the Choy Lee 32, the Gladiateur which I didn't know of but really liked! It's a bit deep for the islands, and the Chesapeake where I will be sailing it during the outfit, but I am going to strongly consider it anyway. I was familiar with the Wauquiez Centurion 31 however.

* The boat I liked the most, and didn't know about, was the Ericson Independence. My Q is, can this boat be safely/practically out fitted with a tiller? A tiller is a very strong consideration for me. I am a highly skilled woodworker and have worked on many boats, so I'm capable of the work. Have you seen one with a tiller? Do you think it's a possibility?

* The other boat I am thinking about, and would like to ask your opinion of, is the NIcholson 31. Obviously a very well thought of boat. I'm assuming faster than the Chesapeake as it's sail area is considerably larger, and the boat is beamier. It does have a longer keel however. What do you think of the ballast to Disp. ratio of this design. About 36%. What do you think of this era/style of boat design in general?

I am very picky, but won't go into the explanations about why I didn't consider some of the others. I should probably just build my own boat. I like wide side decks, a bridge deck is imperative! I like the nav station to face forward or aft, not a beam, and I like the galley to be well arranged with a solid stand and a place to clip in. All these boats share these qualities, and I will be looking for them specifically in my search for my next boat.

Thanks again for your time Jeff,

Best ~ Curtis
07-23-2015 06:38 PM
Re: Contest Yachts

I know the Chesapeake 32 very well. Phil Rhodes and George Walton (from here in Annapolis) at their best, built very nicely in Denmark or Sweden. I worked for Charlie Wittholz and he worked on the drawings for that boat when he was at Rhodes. The Chesapeake was also very close relative to the Pearson Vanguard that I grew up with, but the Chesapeake was more cramped but much better built and finished.

Both were these Rhodes were CCA era boats, and at least by the terminology of their day, neither were full keels, frankly having less keel area (relative to their length) than many fin keel boats of their day, but that is another story.

I would also disagree that these boats had pinched sterns. These boats had pretty powerful sections for their day, and did not have pinched sterns. They had long overhangs, but compared to the RORC derived designs they had a straighter run, more level counter, and fuller buttock sections.

As to other options, I would suggest something like a Tartan 30, or perhaps that golden oldie, the Tripp Galaxy 32. Inthe general design type that appeals to you, might look at some of the McCurdy and Rhodes designs like the Seafarer 34. Although I am not a big fan of the IOR era boats, Holman and Pye did some very nice designs during that era such as their Pretorien and Gadiatuer. There are some rare designs like the Mull Chico that would work well for you. In some ways, Raymond Richard's mid-70's designs, such as the Cheoy Lee Offshore 32 would be almost ideal for you if you could find one with a conventional interior layout, which has had its teak decks removed and finished in fiberglass, and the iron tanks replaced. Some other options might include boats like the Ericson Independence 31, Pearson 323, or perhaps at Tartan 34, or one of the late production Morgan 34's with the skeg hung rudder.

07-23-2015 12:25 PM
Re: Contest Yachts

Thanks Jeff,

I am sailing a Rhodes Chesapeake 32. Narrow beam, pinched in ends, but not a fuller bow above the water line. Full keel modified forefoot. I have had the boat, which is beautiful and a good sailor, for years, but painfully slow. I am looking to jump ship to a more modern, faster, roomier/beamier design, but still comfortable and seakindly in a seaway. Preferably with a draft less than 5'. I am planning a trip through the Antiles and down to S.A. Possibly down the east coast of S.A. as well. Mostly "coastal cruising" as I would call it. No crossings, no real long passages.

I was looking at the Contest 31 because I have heard good things about their sea keeping ability, but your comments have caused me to reconsider. I originally asked you what you were sailing to make sure you weren't someone full of book knowledge sailing a Hunter I am not big on the more modern hull designs. I like a bigger fin keel and a skeg hung rudder if I can't have a full keel boat. Would you have suggestions to this kind of cruiser?

Thanks ~ Curtis
07-23-2015 10:16 AM
Re: Contest Yachts

Personally, I am not a big fan of the rigs and hull forms that are generally associated with IOR era boats. The rigs had tiny mainsails, and relied on very large headsails in light to moderate breezes which were had to tack and hard to depower. Given that IOR boats tend to be quite tender, that also means these sail plans were quickly overpowered and so required that the boats be reefed earlier than I would consider ideal for a cruising boat, and ultimately require more sail changes and a larger sail inventory than I would consider ideal.

My specific concerns with IOR hull forms changes with each design period of the IOR but derive from the same problem. The IOR tried to predict the performance of a boat based on a limited number of measurements taken in very prescribed ways at very narrowly defined points on the boat. That caused designers to wildly distort the shape of the hull to beat the rule, in ways that made these boats much harder to handle, way less seaworthy, less stable and more significantly, have less predictable stability, uncomfortable in a seaway, and slower than they should be. As a cruiser, these boats also tend to have less carrying capacity relative to their displacement and are less tolerant of the kinds of weight distribution associated with cruising gear. They tend to track poorly and generally make a far less than ideal cruising platform, and are pretty much obsolete for racing. Structurally this was not particularly a great period in yacht construction, as the boats were getting lighter, but designers did not have the tools to properly engineer these boats to produce durable boats, and building techniques were still evolving in not all that great ways.

Before someone objects, I know that people have done amazing things with old IOR boats, but to me that is more about the skill of those people who did those things and perhaps their luck as sailors, rather than any inherent virtues that old IOR boats may have.

As far as the specific boats that you mention, the Contessa 32 design was begun as a very late RORC boat just at the very beginning of the transition to the IOR. The two rules were very similar but the Contessa 32 has some of the residual virtues of the late RORC boats (vs. IOR) but also some of the liabilities as well. The Contessa 32's earned a reputation as being better boats than I would suggest that they are due to their glowing comparison as a yardstick held up to the later of IOR boats of the Fastnet Disaster era IOR boats. In that comparison, there is no doubt that the Contessa 32's really did shine and represented a much more seaworthy choice than the boats they were compared to. But the reality is that they were being compared to one of the low points in yacht design history, and not to more traditional designs, or to more modern designs which have greatly benefited from knowledge available from the post- Fastnet research, and the better design tools, and materials that are available after that period.

As compared to more modern post Fastnet performance cruisers, the Contessa 32's tend to be tender,pitch badly in a chop, are not very good light air boats, are harder to sail in a stiff breeze, and do not offer a lot of accommodations or performance for their length. That said, they do sail well on most points of sail meaning that they have no extreme flaws.

The She 31 was a pure RORC boat rather than being an IOR boat at all. In that regard, it exhibits the worst excesses of the late RORC, short waterline length, pinched ends, fullness in the bow above the waterline, excessively narrow beam and tiny mainsails. To me, boats like these make attractive daysailors, but are way less than ideal for almost any other use I can think of.

I really do not know anything about the Sea Cracker/Tufglass 33.

07-23-2015 08:47 AM
Re: Contest Yachts

Thanks for your replay Jeff,
All very nice boats! I'm curious as to what you think about some of the better IOR designs. ie, the Contessa 32, the She 31, or the Sea Cracker/Tufglass 33, and the numbers associate with these boats?

~ Curtis
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