Join Date: Feb 2000
Location: Annapolis, Md
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Re: 1972 Bristol 40
As someone who generally likes many of the models that Bristol made, but who would not be classified as a Bristol enthusist, I would say that the Bristol 40 makes a decent coastal cruiser if your sailing venue typically has moderate conditions (10-12 knots of wind with little chop) and is a reasonable choice of a boat for a person who cares more about how their boat looks rather than how well it actually sails.
And while some Bristol 40's have made very long passages, compared to other choices out there with a similar displacement and price, the Bristol 40 makes a pretty poor choice if your goal is to do distance voyaging.
The above is based on a number of factors. To explain those I will start by saying that the Bristol 40 began as a CCA racer/cruiser. The B-40 was designed with all of the CCA rule beating attributes, which included having an excessively short waterline, purposely designed to be tender and lacking stability relative to it's drag, a heavy dependence on very large headsails to have decent light to moderate air performance, and a comparatively narrow beam.
The short waterline and narrow beam results in a boat with a comparatively small interior volume and a limited carrying capacity relative to it's displacement. The short waterline, results in a boat that tends to pitch excessively in a chop. That tendency towards pitching limits the weight that can be carried near the bow and stern, i.e. such items as an all chain anchor rode or a dinghy in davits. The mix of narrow beam, and limited initial stability and damping results in a boat that tends to be very rolly, albeit at a comparatively slow roll rate.
The mix of the CCA sailplan and lack of stability relative to drag, means that these boats need to carry very large and more difficult to handle headsails, and so tend to need to be reefed earlier and need to make more frequent headsail changes than a more moderate design.
The comparatively short keel length relative to the length of the sailplan combined with the keel attached rudder, results in a boat that does not track well, which develops a lot of weather helm prematurely if the sailplan is not altered in a building breeze, and which makes them harder to manuever.
As noted these tend to be very high maintenance boats. In this era, Bristol used Dolphinite for bedding compound.Dolphinite was a reasonable choice for that era, but it breaks down over time. It may be sufficiently intact to prevent leaks on a lightly used boat, but all hardware and wooden components should be rebed if you are planning to go offshore. That is a massive job. (I am doing that on my boat right now)
Electrical systems on Bristols of this era were not very well done and also do not anticipate the electronic and electrical expectations of a modern distance cruiser.
While Bristols of this era, had very thick fiberglass, the glass work on these boats tend to be relatively poor quality in terms of being resin rich, using a higher proportion of non-directional reinforcement, and employing accelerators. So while misleadingly appearing to be a tank, the actual strength is not actually any better than a higher quality control boat with a thinner hull, and may be worse given that this mix typically accelerates fatigue which weakens the laminate more rapidly over time.
Bristols of this era were especially prone to deck core rot due to the way that hardware was installed, the choice of bedding compound, and the manner in which the decks were laid up.
I understand that prior owners may have addressed some or most of these items, but these boats are getting long in the tooth, and some of those deferred maintenance items are a bit like doing a heart transplant in a 90 year old person. It may help that person (boat) live longer with a better quality of life, but it won't provide the athletic prowess needed to sail across the Pacific.
So while I understand that there are people who love these boats, I would respectfully suggest that a B40 be low on your list if distance cruising is your goal.
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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; 01-05-2019 at 10:36 AM.