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Discussion Starter #1
We are the proud purchasers in 2014 of a 2007 Beneteau First 27.7 (8.3m hull length including at the waterline - vertical bow and transom) sailing in Sydney, Australia.

Ours is a fixed keel and fixed, transom hung rudder and draws 2.1m which is deepish for a boat of this length. A lifting keel/rudder version was also built.

I am generally pleased with the boat and there is a 2011 review at Yacht & Boat - Google it.

There are a number of videos of these boats on Youtube, just search Youtube for: Beneteau First 27.7

There are lots of images by searching Beneteau First 27.7 at Google using image search.

They are nicely fitted out but without shower, hot water, electric water pumps or fridge but do have toilet in separate head, icebox, nice (gas with external bottle locker) galley, and nav area with swing out stool and chart table with plotter and radio. There is a very nice saloon area with white leather (?) lounges, a V berth, and a double quarter berth that extends under the cockpit floor. It tends to get used for the spinnaker pole, boom tent, boat cover and other storage.

Raymarine Tri Data and wind speed/direction and a compass are mounted on the rear of the coachhouse.

The 14hp Yanmar is sufficient but only makes 4.8kts at 2700rpm with a folding prop for racing (with a quite clean hull).

A roller furling headsail makes life easy for short handed sailing, as do newly installed lazy jacks (pulled forward to mast when not in use).

The asymetrical spinnaker is great but presently not on a top down furler, but is in a sock. The usual care needs to be taken when rigged for outside gybing not to lose the lazy sheet under the boat.

The main has two reefing points, both led back to the rear of the coach house roof, at the expense of having the cunningham on a block/pulley system at the mast with the loose end thrown back to the companionway. There are horns at the gooseneck.

The diesel tank of 30 litres is adequate but not overly generous for coastal bay hopping under motor but is translucent so the level is easily seen when the locker is opened.

The boat has a fixed main topping lift, so it's either on (limiting the ability to take twist out of the sail) or has to be taken off and forward to the mast where we have installed shockcord with a clip to retain it.

The boat is like a big dinghy. It is designed to be sailed by a helm sitting aft in a specially designed area with adjustable footrests, playing the traveller (and the fine tune if needed) when on the breeze, with the main sheet not normally used in beating but accessible for easing/pulling on when rounding marks or off the breeze (or in a really major gust if the fine tune is fully eased and more is needed).

We are yet to race under spinnaker and only have an assy. Our pole seems oversized in diameter and when on the mast ring can't be dipped under the forestay but has to be gybed end to end. It would be premature to offer much commentary on the set up for the spinnaker, but there is a Selden extendable prodder/sprit with adjustable tack, topper and downhaul all led back to the winches on the coachhouse and turning blocks well aft on each side for the sheets, with jam cleats for the jib sheets near the front of the cockpit.

The things I am getting used to are:
1. The what would otherwise be a completely open transom (like a Young 88) has a full width traveller mounted above it with end of boom sheeting, effectively making access from a dinghy more difficult by blocking/closing the transom.
2. Extending aft of the traveller beam are two triangles that keep the double sided (but only for about 1.5 metres above the traveller) backstay out off the roachy main which has 2 full length battens up high. The triangle on the starboard side provides a place to sit before using the starboard transom mounted step to get into the dinghy.
3. While the mainsheet block and cleat (coarse tune) is on the traveller car, there is a double ended fine tune set forward of the tiller but otherwise towards the rear of the cockpit. The starboard side must be released from cleats to lift the locker lid section of seat.
4. The mainsheet is very heavy for a less strong sailor using only one hand in above about 10-12 knots, but the traveller remains quite light. The fine tune is much more manageable than the mainsheet above 10 knots because of the extra gearing, but wil only release a maximum of 1.2 metres of mainsheet from the "on fully block to block" position to "fully off jammed at the turning block on the boom" position.
5. Because the fine tune is mounted at a fixed point on the cockpit floor and about 1.5 metres forward of the end of the boom, when the traveller is released the mainsheet system tightens slightly as the traveller car and therefore the boom moves away from the centre line. As a result of the say 1.2 metres of mainsheet released by maximum possible release of the fine tune only about 0.9 metres is available to let the boom go out (and up depending on vang), the other 0.3 metres is offsetting the tightening of the mainsheet system that would otherwise occur as the boom moved away from the centreline as the traveller is eased.
6. Because there is a tiller for the transom hung rudder the mainsheet would spends half it's life on the leeward side of the tiller if you didn't bring it across too, or at least a portion of it every tack or gybe. This is a bit of a handful in heavy/very gusty winds as there are snag points on the tiller and traveller car and the fine tune base set up on the cockpit floor.
7. Mainsheet or spinnaker sheets (also used when poling out jib) tend to snag the gear/throttle lever on the starboard side but it is removable and also acts to loosen the diesel filler cap.

I have seen a Beneteau 30 where the traveller controls and the mainsheet block have been brought forward onto a raised console in front of the tiller with the fine tune to allow a mainsheet hand to use either the fine or coarse tune of the mainsheet and the traveller, taking some pressure of the person helming, especially in heavy gusts, and getting the mainsheet away from around the tiller. This might be a desirable modification on the 27.7 particularly for racing. The controls are still accessible to the person helming, just on the other hand to what they otherwise would be.

The boat is manageable even single handed in a steady 12 knots without a reef, but racing in 12 knots even without spinnaker is better with 3 or more, particularly if there are strong gusts.

I would be grateful for advice on how best to sail this boat and any changes people have made to the set up.
 

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Discussion Starter #2 (Edited)
Some tips I was given by another owner (who has been sailing a 27.7 for seven years on Sydney Harbour) for sailing in heavy gusts (above say 15):
1. Have helmsperson sit forward using tiller extension with mainsheet hand at very back of boat. Much easier for helm not having to worry about mainsheet and traveller,
2. Put an extra loop in the mainsheet system above the traveller so mainsheet hand can manage the mainsheet coarse tune more easily,
3. Lots of backstay on in heavy gusty weather,
4. Vang off or loose going to windward, the mainsheet will drag the boom down when working,
5. Outhaul on hard to black band in strong winds,
6. Use cunningham to flatten sail and bring draft forward (can't do when reefed so use main halyard tension then),
5. Count the gusts in,
6. Learn to distinguish between gusts that will lift and those that will knock and communicate this to helm,
7. Feather the boat into the gust to reduce initial heel when gust hits,
8. Get the mainsheet off early before the gust hits then draw it back on after the initial impact - the 27.7's are a bit tender and once they begin rounding up they are hard to stop,
9. First reef they do at 20 knots, but do it earlier until you get more control,
10. Weight on the rail helps,
11. An old blown out/stretched sail is generally very hard to get flat, so will be harder to sail efficiently in strong gusty weather than a newer sail that has been cut for higher windspeeds.

Thanks to Paul for his help.
 
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