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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Dear Jeff_H,

I've been following your comments on and off for a while. Being curious about shorthanded sailing, I still have a question for you - despite reading possibly the majority of your comments about it. After growing interest in this subject, I started to notice a few sailboats happily sailing in light breezes - while many, many others burning diesel.

These I understand and can decide on compromises according to the location and etc...:
Fin keel
Spade rudder
Tiller steered under 35 feet
Fractional sloop
Control lines and reefs back to the cockpit

Below I don't understand:
Displacement to Length below 170
Sail Area to Displacement around 22.
Ballast ratio larger than 32% (greater for a shoal draft)
Overall displacement below 12,000 lbs

Here is my question: how did you come up with the numbers above?

Of course, I do understand what Disp./Len., S.A./Disp., Bal./Disp., and such are, and how they work. What I don't understand is why '<170, 22, >32 and <12000' are making a good combination of specs for the purpose.

Note: Among the new sailboats in the market, I was able to find only one that was within the limits of these requirements - J/112E. Not that I am interested in that boat; it was the only cruising design that satisfied these numbers.

Thank you.
 

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Hmm lemme see how I faired against his specs.
Fin Keel - YEP
Spade Rudder - YEP
Tiller steered under 35 feet - NOPE, but I actually do agree that tiller would be fine for this boat, I actually went back and forth with him on that topic actually.
Fractional sloop - NOPE, I am a masthead guy right now, and my boat is very old-school with it. Makes for lots of headsail work especially in light air, but the boat moves out nicely with a furler 155. The roller furling makes it possible to shorten sail solo easy. That also means my sail shape stinks as I shorten, but then so would a reefed mainsail.

Displacement to Length - I am at 307, took 9680 / 31.5 feet SO NOPE no where near that. To get to the number needed would certainly be a racing boat.
Sail Area to Displacement - (think you mean displacement to sail area, which I am 20.95 so YEP
Ballast ratio larger than 32% - 3900 / 9680, I am at 40, so we're good there so YEP
Overall displacement below 12000lbs - I am at 9680.

Control lines and reefs back to cockpit - OK yep. Vang, mainsheet, traveler, genoa, and roller furling all led to the skipper station. I don't really reef the mainsail, as its a masthead, I would need a mainsail reef above say 25 knots, I've been out with full mainsail though in 30 knots without really being overly concerned.

I guess what I am saying. I think Jeff's guidelines are good, but even I didn't follow them. For the record I am on year 3 single handed racing my C&C 32 (and winning enough that they want to put me with the "fast" boats). There are things that are a challenge for me, like docking in a wind, but with good preparation, its still very doable.

In case you were wondering - 1983 C&C 32, and Jeff isn't big on the model (its not a popular model of the C&Cs, not like the 30, 33, or 35 are). I love all C&Cs, and this one has really grown on me.
Water Cloud Boat Sky Watercraft


Final words - I have talked through my last 3 boat purchases with Jeff, and deeply value his input. My last 4 boats were, Capri 22, Capri 25, S2 7.9 and Wavelength 24. The C&C was going to be my "boring cruiser boat," it has proven to me to be both racer and cruiser and pretty good at both. It is no J112 though.

I'd think that if I had the cash right now, I'd consider a C&C 99, which is a racier, smaller, and faster C&C (yeah they have the carbon masts). The laser 28 if one came up I'd consider it.
 

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Looking at the figures you've quoted, it seems that Jeff likes light boats with ballast ratios that will keep them upright while their large sail areas enable them to they keep moving in little wind. A fractional rig helps to keep sail sizes manageable and provides the opportunity to bend the mast for better performance. Fin keel and spade rudder also promote handling and performance capabilities. He is probably more race-oriented than you might be, and if he were sailing on SFO Bay the numbers might be different.
 

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Fin keel YES
Spade rudder Skeg hung
Tiller steered under 35 feet Wheel steered 36'
Fractional sloop YES
Control lines and reefs back to the cockpit YES

Below I don't understand:
Displacement to Length below 170 285
Sail Area to Displacement around 22. 21.8
Ballast ratio larger than 32% (greater for a shoal draft) 40%
Overall displacement below 12,000 lbs 16,000#

I find the boat a comfortable, easy to handle and reasonably fast boat (not light air)
 

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Dear Jeff_H,

I've been following your comments on and off for a while. Being curious about shorthanded sailing, I still have a question for you - despite reading possibly the majority of your comments about it. After growing interest in this subject, I started to notice a few sailboats happily sailing in light breezes - while many, many others burning diesel.

These I understand and can decide on compromises according to the location and etc...:
Fin keel
Spade rudder
Tiller steered under 35 feet
Fractional sloop
Control lines and reefs back to the cockpit

Below I don't understand:
Displacement to Length below 170
Sail Area to Displacement around 22.
Ballast ratio larger than 32% (greater for a shoal draft)
Overall displacement below 12,000 lbs

Here is my question: how did you come up with the numbers above?

Of course, I do understand what Disp./Len., S.A./Disp., Bal./Disp., and such are, and how they work. What I don't understand is why '<170, 22, >32 and <12000' are making a good combination of specs for the purpose.

Note: Among the new sailboats in the market, I was able to find only one that was within the limits of these requirements - J/112E. Not that I am interested in that boat; it was the only cruising design that satisfied these numbers.

Thank you.
I will start by saying that I see those numbers and characteristics as targets that to some extent reflect preferences based on my own six decades of sailing, to some extent they reflect my own personal style of short handed sailing, some to some extent from reading accounts by other shorthanded sailors, to some extent derive from sailing on a very large number of different types of boats looking for those 'Goldilocks' range of numbers, from attending high level yacht design seminars and listening to what the researchers are discovering, from designing boats and hanging out with yacht designers, and some from general yacht design rules of thumb (some admittedly dated). I will also note that improvements in rigs, hardware, boat building materials, and hull forms would alter those numbers some. In the your mileage may vary department, those numbers assume that the boat will largely do coastal cruising but be capable of seasonal distance passages perhaps that might include a Tran-Atlantic passage or a New England to the Caribbean trip. They are not exactly well suited if the goal was a true Trans-Pacific passage, or going into the high latitudes. But also, I am not a big person (5-9 and less than 160 lbs.), I am also in my 70's, So some of those numbers are chosen to make the boat easier for someone my size (and age) to handle, One of the challenges to short-handed sailing is minimizing exhausting the crew. A larger, younger, and more powerful person could probably handle a bigger, and perhaps heavier boat.

But to answer your question, I have posted very detailed explanations of where those numbers came from at various times, I apologize that I don't have the time to write that kind of detail now, and so will give you the short answers:

Fin keel:
One of the common themes in my answers will be ease of handling. The bigger the drag that a boat has, the more sail area it needs, Bigger sail area means more energy is needed to keep the sails adjusted or do gear shifting or reefing. Fin keels reduce drag. That the is easy part of the answer. But the benefits are broader than that. Generally they require lighter steering input and so can be more effectively be sailed by the a wind vane or autopilot. They are generally easier to balance out with the sails, so that the helm loads are further diminished. They are easier to maneuver making docking easier which is super critical for a short-hander . The reduced drag means that they generally sail better in light air, and are easier to handle in a stiff breeze since less sail area is needed to keep them moving. They generally point better and make less leeway, so for coastal work, there are fewer tacks.

Spade rudder:
Similar to the above: it reduces helm loads, and makes the boat more maneuverable. Counterbalancing of the rudder helps the boat steer itself by allowing the rudder to hunt a neutral position. They are also easier on windvanes and autopilots.

Skeg rudders are a distant second place. In most cases, the rudders are supporting the skeg rather than the other way around. The skeg does nothing good for the sailing or handling characteristics (that assumes that the hull and rig are properly designed to begin with. Skegs are often a band aid to make a poor handling design more manageable at the price of sailing ability and ease of handling.)

Tiller steered under 35 feet:
These days it is almost impossible to find a new boat that is around 35 feet that has a tiller. Between low friction binnacles, rack and pinon steering, and changes in taste, wheel steering has become the norm even on boats under 30 feet. But for a short-hander a tiller with a tiller extension allows the helmsman to move around the cockpit or even stand out on the deck and steer. That allows the single-hander to be two places at once. Being out on the deck while you are steering comes in handy when docking so you can closely watch the approach and respond. The same can be said for remote controlled autopilots but not as precisely. For more, extensive maneuvers you can often steer with the tiller between your knees while freeing your hands to make adjustments or drag down a spinnaker. Beyond that, tiller steering has fewer parts to maintain or to fail. Making repairs underway are much harder when single-hand.

This one may be dated and my be more about my physical size. I find that once a boat gets over around 38-39 feet they are much harder to manhandle. The forces on everything increase exponentially and the distances get longer between the various parts of the boat. But that length is a little arbitrary, and predates some of the advances in modern hardware, hull designs, and rigs. it also reflects my size. I don't need much headroom, but reaching the headboard to hook up a halyard gets much harder on a bigger boat for a smaller person.

Fractional sloop:
This is a back to the future thing. Before racing rules caused yacht designers to shift to masthead rigs to beat the rule, by and large cruising watercraft were fractional rigs. Some of that was keeping headsail sizes manageable. Some of that was about reducing rig loads while maintaining relatively efficient rigs. Wind tunnel tests done in the 1930's showed that fractionally rigged sloops offered he most efficient sail plans (most drive per square foot) for sail plans operating in the speed range of a sailboat. While there are some rigs that are more efficient reaching and running than a fractionally rigged sloop, it is the ability of the fractional rig to more easily adapt to changing conditions that remains one of its strongest features.

For a single-hander, the smaller headsails of a fractional rig allow much easier tacks and jibes, Sail trimming loads are considerably smaller as well. The fact that spinnakers may not go to the masthead, allows safer and easier drops because the chute remains in the lee of the mainsail during the drop..

When coupled with an easily adjustable backstay and a bendable mast, it is quick and easy to depower the rig, thereby adapt to changing conditions to reduce heel and weather helm without reducing sail.

Control lines and reefs led back to the cockpit:
A case could be made that with autopilots this is not necessary, but my theory is that what is easy to adjust gets adjusted and what is harder to adjust gets ignored. But I also think that there is a problem needing to be in two places at once. This weekend I was sailing in 20 knot winds gusting into the low to mid-30 know range. I had a single reef in my mainsail and my AP jib. The boat balanced well and was easy to handle. I was able to tie in the first reef from the cockpit and the whole process was probably less than a couple minutes. At some point clew reef line snapped and so I ended up rigging the second reef. Since the second reef tack line was not rigger that meant going the mast. I found that a much slower process than simply standing in the pit and getting the reef in from there,

But that gets the another point. I sometimes see people advocate boats with fewer sail shape controls for single-handing. The argument is that the fewer things to adjust the easier it is to sail shorthanded. But I see that the opposite way. The various control lines are tools that allow the sailor to extend the wind range of the boat's sail inventory, In doing so it increases the ability to sail safely without making sail changes in a wider range of conditions. In that regard, leaving the tools off the boat makes it harder to sail not easier. Learning to use those tools further simplifies a short-hander's life.

Its like my first car, a Renault Dauphine we bought for $25 with a seized engine. A friend of mine and I took it apart and freed it up and put it back together again all without metric tools. We used SAE socket sizes that we shimmed to fit the metric bolts by cutting up strips of tin cans and putting them inside the sockets. It can be done, but it was sure a lot easier once I bought metric tools.

Displacement to Length below 170:
Almost all of the research on seaworthiness, and especially those cases where they looked at disastrous storms impacting multiple boats, the research over many years concluded that the one single identifiable factor that improved seaworthiness and motion comfort (within reason) is waterline length. Within reason the longer the waterline length the more seaworthiness and motion comfort a boat tends to offer. Since in and of itself, weight does absolutely nothing good for a boat, but it does make the boat harder to sail since weight means more sail area, there is a cross over spot where a boat can carry enough gear and yet be easy to handle short-handed. That used to be considered around D/L around 200. But designers have increased water line lengths relative to the overall length of the boat on deck, that number has dropped down closer to 170 or so.

There are reasonable limits both ways. As boats start getting down to around D/L of 150, it gets very difficult to carry the necessary consumables, gear and spares. But as the L/D gets up around 200 it gets much more difficult to develop an efficient low drag hull form with decent motion comfort.

What a cruising boat with a fractional rig and an L/D of less than 170 and a SA/D over 20 would look like is something similar a Hallberg Rassy 340, which has a D/L around 160, and an SA/D around 21.
But it also might look something like a an Aerodyne 35, Arcona 270, Bavaria 36, C&C 110, Cape Fear 38, Dash 34, Dehler 32, Dehler 34, Dehler 34-2, Dehler 36, Diva 35, Elan 333, Express 34 or Express 37 (not a frac rig), Farr 1020, Farr 38, Finngulf 335, Grand Soleil 34.1, Hanse 342, IMX 38F, J-109 (not a frac rig), J110, J112, J37 (not a frac rig),, JPJ 1010, JPK 1030, JPK 110, Olsen 34 (not a frac rig), Quest 33, RM 1070, Maybe a Schock 35, Solaris 37, Sunfast 35, Thomas 35 (not a frac rig), X-99, X 105.

It is actually harder to find cruisable new boats in the D/L less than170 range in the current crop of smaller boats. The new boats try to add all of the comforts of home and a whole lot of big boat features to smaller boats, and that has pushed the weight of smaller boats up as compared to boats from 15-20 years ago.

Sail Area to Displacement around 22.
This one is a little counterintuitive. Most folks would think that a boat with more sail area would be harder to sail than a boat with less. But it doesn't quite work that way. So here is the basis for that. If a boat has a reasonably efficient sail plan, it takes roughly an SA/D around 22-23 to sail in moderate winds Normally that a boat with an SA/D around 20-23 will carry a minimally overlapping headsail (say 105-110%). which takes the boat into an SA/D around 23-26 range, That is enough sail area that a boat with an efficient keel and underbody to sail into very light winds. With modern high modulus sail construction that sail can be reinforced to have minimal stretch making it possible to use that same sail into winds into the low 30 knot range and still be light enough to fly well in light air. Part of that magic is being able to depower the sail plan easily which makes that SA/D particularly easy to handle when coupled with a fractional rig and when coupled with a modern hull, keel and rudder which maximize stability relative to drag,

Ballast ratio larger than 32% (greater for a shoal draft)
This number is a bare minimum and only works with a bulb keel. But the basis is that short-handed boats should be forgiving. Ideally, to be forgiving, they should have a lot of stability relative to their drag. While form stability can help a lot in moderate winds, ultimate stability becomes important in stronger winds, bigger waves or in gusty conditions. And nothing improves ultimate stability like high density ballast and deep draft.

But more than that, motion comfort is important to a short-hander since excessive motion takes a toll on the body, Deep draft keels help with damping and sufficient ballasting carried low increases roll moments of inertia slowing roll and decreasing roll angles.

Overall displacement below 12,000 lbs
Like length this one may be dated and my be more about my physical size. There used to be a design rule of thumb that a cruising boat needed roughly 2 long tons per person as a minimum and 4 long tons was seen as a maximum per person. That predates modern hardware, hull designs, and rigs. While I personally find that a boat gets much harder to single-hand over around 12,000 lbs without special gear (much bigger winches, power windlasses, and so on).that number is probably 3-5,000 lbs lighter that many people would prefer.

Regarding burning diesel in light air, to me the greatest luxury that a boat can offer is the ability to sail well in a broad range of conditions. But to borrow one of my wife's analogies, if you visualize putting up to a red light on at cross road of two country roads, and you can see in all directions for miles, and the light stays red. Eventually, sooner or later everyone would run that red light, but also every individual will wait a varying amount of time before deciding to go.

It is the same way with light to moderate air and individual personalities under varying circumstance. So for example, on weekend cruise I might have a 1 or 2 knot for 5 minutes rule, cranking up the engine when the speed dips before one or two knots for more than 5 minutes. Daysailing, I might have the knotmeter stops spinning for 10 minute rule. On a delivery, I might have a 5 knot rule. But here is where the boat comes in, a boat with the general characteristics that I outlined can generally sail at the speed of the true wind in winds under 4-5 knots. (except deep reaching or running). Boats with less sail area or more drag, depending on the extent that this is true, may not even be able to reliably sail in winds below 5-8 knots. So when it comes to light air, each person, each boat, each circumstance will dictate what the term 'light air' actually means..

That's about it. And yes, I know that this is my opinion, but that is why I am providing an explanation of my opinion so you can decide whether that makes sense to you.,

Respectfully,
Jeff
 

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I've noticed usually the Disp / L is over 250 when the sailboat is around 35 ft. That ratio tends to go down as the length reaches 38 something.
A heavy boat takes more energy to move. When a sailboat gets to about 35' long, it becomes often becomes large enough to stand up in the cabin so that people can carry stores and go places in it. The displacement increases from adding tankage, plumbing, engines, batteries, winches, and ballast to counterbalance the larger sails needed to push a heavier boat. There are many 35+ foot boats with disp/L less than 250. The J/112E mentioned above has a disp/L less than 160. It is equipped for light cruising: a 30hp engine, not a 150 hp turbodiesel. A 53 gallon water tank, not 200. A small fuel tank (18 gallons) not 100. A 2 burner stove, not three. Boats with disp/L ratios in the 250's are going to be quite heavy in comparison, and will be using their engines more in light air because they will have trouble moving otherwise. They therefore need bigger engines (beacause they're heavier) and bigger fuel tanks (because they use the engine more often). Boats are a series of compromises. Jeff's point him in one direction, but there are many points on the compass.
 

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Boats that meet Jeff's numbers are going to be well on the higher performance end of things. More racer than cruiser. Nothing wrong with that, but the vast majority of boats used for cruising are somewhat different beasts. When I was shopping for a boat a dozen years ago, decent performance in light(er) airs was important, but I didn't want a stripped out racer either. Rather than try to juggle all the criteria Jeff suggests, I just looked at the base PHRF number relative to similar sized boats. If a boat had most of the features I was looking for and had a base PHRF number lower than the average for the boats in the size range I was considering, it made the short list.
 

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I will note, that my comments were based on a question about an ideal boat for single-hand sailing (with an occasional guest). And as I said in my post, I also suggest that my recommendations be viewed as targets rather than seeing any one of them as being carved in stone.

I agree that some of these boats are pretty spartan, and that began life as race boats. Those boats would work well for coastal cruising for someone looking for a simple cruising boat. Those boats would need more comprehensive modifications if long distance passage making was the goal. Others have complete interiors and decent tankage.

For example, on the flip side, boats like the Hallberg-Rassy 340 are serious, robustly constructed, fully equipped, beautifully finished cruising boats capable of long distance. For a lot less, there are boats like the Farr 1020, Farr 11.6, J-34c and J-35c, were conceived as cruising boats, and which have nicely laid out and finished interiors and have decent carrying capacity and tankage.

Jeff
 

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I am not a fan of or interested in light air sailing. I am not racing but I am single handing and short handing the boat. When I need to get somewhere the engine goes on... rule... Boat speed below 4 kts, turn on the engine. In heavier air the 36s specs do pretty well and I prefer that sort of sailing. Comfort is more important to me than speed.
 

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I am not a fan of or interested in light air sailing. I am not racing but I am single handing and short handing the boat. When I need to get somewhere the engine goes on... rule... Boat speed below 4 kts, turn on the engine. In heavier air the 36s specs do pretty well and I prefer that sort of sailing. Comfort is more important to me than speed.
Choose the right tool for the job.
Here is the thing....this is not a binary choice. You don't necessarily have to choose between comfort and boats with the attributes that I am recommending. You don't have to choose between heavy weather capabilities and boats with those attributes. You don't have to choose between ease of handling and boats with those attributes. You don't need to choose between motion comfort and boats with those attributes.

In fact, if properly designed, a boat designed with intentional cruising capabilities, and with those characteristics that I outlined, and which was designed by a competent designer based on the knowledge gained in the last quarter century, could easily have all of these characteristics and be more seaworthy, comfortable, easier to handle, and offer a more comfortable motion, and better performance than boats lacking some or all of those characteristics.

And yes, there are some (maybe many) people like you, who don't care about performance, or sailing in light to moderate conditions For people like that, compromises in some of these characteristics, even some big compromises like those of the 36s, may be perfectly acceptable. As anyone who has read a fair number of your posts would know, the 36s was the perfect match for you, and/or you are a perfect match for the 36s. In other words, whatever any other specific person would consider to be a shortcoming. of the 36s, it works exceptionally well for your preferences. There is nothing wrong with that

In that regard, you and I are very similar in terms of our choice of boats. We each have selected boats that will only appeal to a very limited niche market. We each have either adapted to our boats, or adapted the boat to us, or have idiosyncratic preferences for items that would represent an unacceptable compromise to the majority of the sailing community at large.

The same can be said for those boats that fit the characteristics that I had suggested above and which was the original subject of this thread. If you look at the examples of boats that I suggested above, most of those which basically met the criteria I was suggesting were produced in production runs between 100 and 150 boats. Some of these models were produced in single and double digit production runs. Those production run numbers pale when compared to the 1,000 to 2,500 boat production runs of similar sized models that companies like Beneteau, Hunter, and Catalina produced. Whatever you or I would see as disqualifiers on any one of those higher production run models, clearly those higher production models were better targeted to a much wider swath of the boat buying public.

In the end, any particular person who buys any particular boat, does so for their own personal mix of reasons. Whatever any of us think is the best answer for our needs, may or may not have any bearing on what that other person needs or wants. To the extent that we can explain the basis for our decisions, anyone reading our comments can weigh the validity of our comments relative to their own set of tastes, goals, and capability. However that person's decision is made, for some, their choice will work out perfectly. For others, they will adapt to whatever shortcomings they discover once they own the boat, and/or adapt the boat to better suit their needs. But also, some people's purchases will turn out to be the wrong boat for them and they move on, one way or the other. Like choices of ice cream flavor, there is no one single universally right choice of vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, butter pecan that will always be the perfect correct answer for every possible individual.

Jeff
 

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Jeff's point about recent designs being better than earlier ones is borne out by the recent (2018) Golden Globe RTW race. Entries were limited to "classic" designs, similar to those used in the original Golden Globe races in 1968. https://goldengloberace.com The result was that many had problems (some life-threatening) because they could not outrun storm fronts or were caught by waves that better-designed boats might have been able to avoid.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
I will start by saying that I see those numbers and characteristics as targets that to some extent reflect preferences based on my own six decades of sailing, to some extent they reflect my own personal style of short handed sailing, some to some extent from reading accounts by other shorthanded sailors, to some extent derive from sailing on a very large number of different types of boats looking for those 'Goldilocks' range of numbers, from attending high level yacht design seminars and listening to what the researchers are discovering, from designing boats and hanging out with yacht designers, and some from general yacht design rules of thumb (some admittedly dated). I will also note that improvements in rigs, hardware, boat building materials, and hull forms would alter those numbers some. In the your mileage may vary department, those numbers assume that the boat will largely do coastal cruising but be capable of seasonal distance passages perhaps that might include a Tran-Atlantic passage or a New England to the Caribbean trip. They are not exactly well suited if the goal was a true Trans-Pacific passage, or going into the high latitudes. But also, I am not a big person (5-9 and less than 160 lbs.), I am also in my 70's, So some of those numbers are chosen to make the boat easier for someone my size (and age) to handle, One of the challenges to short-handed sailing is minimizing exhausting the crew. A larger, younger, and more powerful person could probably handle a bigger, and perhaps heavier boat.

But to answer your question, I have posted very detailed explanations of where those numbers came from at various times, I apologize that I don't have the time to write that kind of detail now, and so will give you the short answers:

Fin keel:
One of the common themes in my answers will be ease of handling. The bigger the drag that a boat has, the more sail area it needs, Bigger sail area means more energy is needed to keep the sails adjusted or do gear shifting or reefing. Fin keels reduce drag. That the is easy part of the answer. But the benefits are broader than that. Generally they require lighter steering input and so can be more effectively be sailed by the a wind vane or autopilot. They are generally easier to balance out with the sails, so that the helm loads are further diminished. They are easier to maneuver making docking easier which is super critical for a short-hander . The reduced drag means that they generally sail better in light air, and are easier to handle in a stiff breeze since less sail area is needed to keep them moving. They generally point better and make less leeway, so for coastal work, there are fewer tacks.

Spade rudder:
Similar to the above: it reduces helm loads, and makes the boat more maneuverable. Counterbalancing of the rudder helps the boat steer itself by allowing the rudder to hunt a neutral position. They are also easier on windvanes and autopilots.

Skeg rudders are a distant second place. In most cases, the rudders are supporting the skeg rather than the other way around. The skeg does nothing good for the sailing or handling characteristics (that assumes that the hull and rig are properly designed to begin with. Skegs are often a band aid to make a poor handling design more manageable at the price of sailing ability and ease of handling.)

Tiller steered under 35 feet:
These days it is almost impossible to find a new boat that is around 35 feet that has a tiller. Between low friction binnacles, rack and pinon steering, and changes in taste, wheel steering has become the norm even on boats under 30 feet. But for a short-hander a tiller with a tiller extension allows the helmsman to move around the cockpit or even stand out on the deck and steer. That allows the single-hander to be two places at once. Being out on the deck while you are steering comes in handy when docking so you can closely watch the approach and respond. The same can be said for remote controlled autopilots but not as precisely. For more, extensive maneuvers you can often steer with the tiller between your knees while freeing your hands to make adjustments or drag down a spinnaker. Beyond that, tiller steering has fewer parts to maintain or to fail. Making repairs underway are much harder when single-hand.

This one may be dated and my be more about my physical size. I find that once a boat gets over around 38-39 feet they are much harder to manhandle. The forces on everything increase exponentially and the distances get longer between the various parts of the boat. But that length is a little arbitrary, and predates some of the advances in modern hardware, hull designs, and rigs. it also reflects my size. I don't need much headroom, but reaching the headboard to hook up a halyard gets much harder on a bigger boat for a smaller person.

Fractional sloop:
This is a back to the future thing. Before racing rules caused yacht designers to shift to masthead rigs to beat the rule, by and large cruising watercraft were fractional rigs. Some of that was keeping headsail sizes manageable. Some of that was about reducing rig loads while maintaining relatively efficient rigs. Wind tunnel tests done in the 1930's showed that fractionally rigged sloops offered he most efficient sail plans (most drive per square foot) for sail plans operating in the speed range of a sailboat. While there are some rigs that are more efficient reaching and running than a fractionally rigged sloop, it is the ability of the fractional rig to more easily adapt to changing conditions that remains one of its strongest features.

For a single-hander, the smaller headsails of a fractional rig allow much easier tacks and jibes, Sail trimming loads are considerably smaller as well. The fact that spinnakers may not go to the masthead, allows safer and easier drops because the chute remains in the lee of the mainsail during the drop..

When coupled with an easily adjustable backstay and a bendable mast, it is quick and easy to depower the rig, thereby adapt to changing conditions to reduce heel and weather helm without reducing sail.

Control lines and reefs led back to the cockpit:
A case could be made that with autopilots this is not necessary, but my theory is that what is easy to adjust gets adjusted and what is harder to adjust gets ignored. But I also think that there is a problem needing to be in two places at once. This weekend I was sailing in 20 knot winds gusting into the low to mid-30 know range. I had a single reef in my mainsail and my AP jib. The boat balanced well and was easy to handle. I was able to tie in the first reef from the cockpit and the whole process was probably less than a couple minutes. At some point clew reef line snapped and so I ended up rigging the second reef. Since the second reef tack line was not rigger that meant going the mast. I found that a much slower process than simply standing in the pit and getting the reef in from there,

But that gets the another point. I sometimes see people advocate boats with fewer sail shape controls for single-handing. The argument is that the fewer things to adjust the easier it is to sail shorthanded. But I see that the opposite way. The various control lines are tools that allow the sailor to extend the wind range of the boat's sail inventory, In doing so it increases the ability to sail safely without making sail changes in a wider range of conditions. In that regard, leaving the tools off the boat makes it harder to sail not easier. Learning to use those tools further simplifies a short-hander's life.

Its like my first car, a Renault Dauphine we bought for $25 with a seized engine. A friend of mine and I took it apart and freed it up and put it back together again all without metric tools. We used SAE socket sizes that we shimmed to fit the metric bolts by cutting up strips of tin cans and putting them inside the sockets. It can be done, but it was sure a lot easier once I bought metric tools.

Displacement to Length below 170:
Almost all of the research on seaworthiness, and especially those cases where they looked at disastrous storms impacting multiple boats, the research over many years concluded that the one single identifiable factor that improved seaworthiness and motion comfort (within reason) is waterline length. Within reason the longer the waterline length the more seaworthiness and motion comfort a boat tends to offer. Since in and of itself, weight does absolutely nothing good for a boat, but it does make the boat harder to sail since weight means more sail area, there is a cross over spot where a boat can carry enough gear and yet be easy to handle short-handed. That used to be considered around D/L around 200. But designers have increased water line lengths relative to the overall length of the boat on deck, that number has dropped down closer to 170 or so.

There are reasonable limits both ways. As boats start getting down to around D/L of 150, it gets very difficult to carry the necessary consumables, gear and spares. But as the L/D gets up around 200 it gets much more difficult to develop an efficient low drag hull form with decent motion comfort.

What a cruising boat with a fractional rig and an L/D of less than 170 and a SA/D over 20 would look like is something similar a Hallberg Rassy 340, which has a D/L around 160, and an SA/D around 21.
But it also might look something like a an Aerodyne 35, Arcona 270, Bavaria 36, C&C 110, Cape Fear 38, Dash 34, Dehler 32, Dehler 34, Dehler 34-2, Dehler 36, Diva 35, Elan 333, Express 34 or Express 37 (not a frac rig), Farr 1020, Farr 38, Finngulf 335, Grand Soleil 34.1, Hanse 342, IMX 38F, J-109 (not a frac rig), J110, J112, J37 (not a frac rig),, JPJ 1010, JPK 1030, JPK 110, Olsen 34 (not a frac rig), Quest 33, RM 1070, Maybe a Schock 35, Solaris 37, Sunfast 35, Thomas 35 (not a frac rig), X-99, X 105.

It is actually harder to find cruisable new boats in the D/L less than170 range in the current crop of smaller boats. The new boats try to add all of the comforts of home and a whole lot of big boat features to smaller boats, and that has pushed the weight of smaller boats up as compared to boats from 15-20 years ago.

Sail Area to Displacement around 22.
This one is a little counterintuitive. Most folks would think that a boat with more sail area would be harder to sail than a boat with less. But it doesn't quite work that way. So here is the basis for that. If a boat has a reasonably efficient sail plan, it takes roughly an SA/D around 22-23 to sail in moderate winds Normally that a boat with an SA/D around 20-23 will carry a minimally overlapping headsail (say 105-110%). which takes the boat into an SA/D around 23-26 range, That is enough sail area that a boat with an efficient keel and underbody to sail into very light winds. With modern high modulus sail construction that sail can be reinforced to have minimal stretch making it possible to use that same sail into winds into the low 30 knot range and still be light enough to fly well in light air. Part of that magic is being able to depower the sail plan easily which makes that SA/D particularly easy to handle when coupled with a fractional rig and when coupled with a modern hull, keel and rudder which maximize stability relative to drag,

Ballast ratio larger than 32% (greater for a shoal draft)
This number is a bare minimum and only works with a bulb keel. But the basis is that short-handed boats should be forgiving. Ideally, to be forgiving, they should have a lot of stability relative to their drag. While form stability can help a lot in moderate winds, ultimate stability becomes important in stronger winds, bigger waves or in gusty conditions. And nothing improves ultimate stability like high density ballast and deep draft.

But more than that, motion comfort is important to a short-hander since excessive motion takes a toll on the body, Deep draft keels help with damping and sufficient ballasting carried low increases roll moments of inertia slowing roll and decreasing roll angles.

Overall displacement below 12,000 lbs
Like length this one may be dated and my be more about my physical size. There used to be a design rule of thumb that a cruising boat needed roughly 2 long tons per person as a minimum and 4 long tons was seen as a maximum per person. That predates modern hardware, hull designs, and rigs. While I personally find that a boat gets much harder to single-hand over around 12,000 lbs without special gear (much bigger winches, power windlasses, and so on).that number is probably 3-5,000 lbs lighter that many people would prefer.

Regarding burning diesel in light air, to me the greatest luxury that a boat can offer is the ability to sail well in a broad range of conditions. But to borrow one of my wife's analogies, if you visualize putting up to a red light on at cross road of two country roads, and you can see in all directions for miles, and the light stays red. Eventually, sooner or later everyone would run that red light, but also every individual will wait a varying amount of time before deciding to go.

It is the same way with light to moderate air and individual personalities under varying circumstance. So for example, on weekend cruise I might have a 1 or 2 knot for 5 minutes rule, cranking up the engine when the speed dips before one or two knots for more than 5 minutes. Daysailing, I might have the knotmeter stops spinning for 10 minute rule. On a delivery, I might have a 5 knot rule. But here is where the boat comes in, a boat with the general characteristics that I outlined can generally sail at the speed of the true wind in winds under 4-5 knots. (except deep reaching or running). Boats with less sail area or more drag, depending on the extent that this is true, may not even be able to reliably sail in winds below 5-8 knots. So when it comes to light air, each person, each boat, each circumstance will dictate what the term 'light air' actually means..

That's about it. And yes, I know that this is my opinion, but that is why I am providing an explanation of my opinion so you can decide whether that makes sense to you.,

Respectfully,
Jeff
Thank you. This answers all of my questions.
 

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Thank you. This answers all of my questions.
You are very welcome. i don't know where you are in the world, but single-handing has become increasingly popular. There are short-handed clubs popping up all over the place. For example here on the Chesapeake, CHESSS has been promoting short-handed sailing, with some of our more experienced members coaching some of the newer sailors trying it out for the first time.

It was also pointed out to me that my sailing style tends to be 'a little different than most folks". I tend to sail in harsher conditions than many and into lighter air as well.. I like ducking into remote places and I rarely go into marinas. I bought my boat planning to sail her to Europe when I was 65 and spend the next 5-10 years poking around the continent. That departure date passed 7 years ago. I rarely do overnight passages any more, .I race my boat single-hand (see picts below) and fly symmetrical spinnakers solo. And all of that shapes some of my thinking.

Feel free to ask more questions as they come up.
Jeff


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I am not a fan of or interested in light air sailing. I am not racing but I am single handing and short handing the boat. When I need to get somewhere the engine goes on... rule... Boat speed below 4 kts, turn on the engine. In heavier air the 36s specs do pretty well and I prefer that sort of sailing. Comfort is more important to me than speed.
Speed is important, particularly in light air. Below 4kt boat speed is also about our dignity level for turning on the engine. However, when that 4kts is reached is the differential between boats. Some might fall below that in 10kts of wind, while others keep sailing happily at or above that point.

Mark

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However that person's decision is made, for some, their choice will work out perfectly. For others, they will adapt to whatever shortcomings they discover once they own the boat, and/or adapt the boat to better suit their needs. But also, some people's purchases will turn out to be the wrong boat for them and they move on, one way or the other. Like choices of ice cream flavor, there is no one single universally right choice of vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, butter pecan that will always be the perfect correct answer for every possible individual.
Jeff,

I always enjoy your posts, your explanatory style is exceptional. But beyond that your broader view of sailing is refreshing. As you know our boat is VASTLY different from this particular ideal. In fact it is more Home than Boat, being liveaboards that is OK. And yet we are quite happy with it, to say the least.

This thought has crossed my mind. Did we domesticated cats and dogs or did they domesticated us? I mean really, who takes care of whom?

I sometimes think this may extend to certain boat owners. As you allude some of us change to better suit the boat we have. The boat domesticates us. I mean really, who takes came of whom? So long as we end up happy it is of no adverse consequence.

Thanks for you posts.
 
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