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When is a racer a cruiser?

by John Curnow, Editor, 24 Aug 2018 22:00 UTC
Second boat across the RYS finish line: Tony Lawson's young team led by 23-year old Jack Trigger on Class40 Concise 8 after 8 days and 10 hours at sea © Paul Wyeth / RORC

It is an interesting question. Especially so in a time when the crossovers between the two have been well documented on this here website. Of course the latest was the recent editorial about the new Jeanneau Sun Odyssey range in Are we looking at the first? However, what about boats built as racers in the first place?

Importantly, we are not talking about old IRC gems from yesteryear, with pinched sterns, and bulbous topsides. No, these are current IRC/ORC items with immense hull form stability, deep fin keels with bulbs, prodders and plumb bows.

Let's face it. Old race boats are cheap, but they don't have a lot of things, and they can have the very thing that attracts sailors to them in the first place, namely pace, seriously dented when a lot of the items placed on board that makes a cruiser a cruiser, even if the Spartan interior remains intact.

Having delivered a lot of racing craft, one thing is for certain. They are uncomfortable. When the rocker gets removed to make them the planing machine they are, the slap and bang goes up geometrically. You cannot push them as hard without the full crew on board, and on that point alone, many are built with the crew ballast as part of the whole equation, so just where are you planning to get all that extra mass from? Then there is the tall rig, which looks great. All that power needs to be controlled, and is part of the reason the delivery main used to always be three quarter hoist. In other words, you'll be putting the slabs in early. Not a bad thing per se, but once again, the performance is dented.

Having the crew means you have sail changes, so when they go, so too does half the wardrobe. can help with re-homing your rags, but then the other thing to note is that headies on furlers never do as well as one going up the foil. Sure they are a lot better than before, and the Italia 12.98 I sailed on recently had a gorgeous one from North Sails, but it was no #1 Light. In short, your performance is dented before you even go looking for all that awesome passage making capability; say 200nm per day, which got you so inspired in the first place.

Next you have to add galley and water storage items, so that's making a dent in the weight, and cost stakes. You'll need a black tank or certainly the composting head. Nets/hammocks in voids, along with plastic crates will handle a lot of your other storage issues. Cooking freeze-dried 'food' off a single metho or camping gas burner is fun on day one, but wears thin henceforth. I can immediately think of one accomplished and decorated racer who lost more and more amenity as he went further and further up the pace and size scales, and the changes in the food emanating from the galley was always the one thing we laughed about during just about every interview.

Yes you can have a watermaker, manual operation if you like, but then that is one more chore to do, and one more thing to break. Pack spares. Ah huh. Weight again. Then there is the actual ergonomics, and you get to feel this when trying to sit, for there are no proper places in the cockpit. The coaming is usually completely in the wrong places, and is not the right height or shape. I often end up sitting on the cockpit sole and sort of braced in there, which is not super-ideal. So that's uncomfortable, which places the body under pressure, and then poor decision-making can follow.

Let's also remember that helming is great fun, but FRED, that truly remarkable electronic device that steers all day and night without so much as a request for coffee, is generally not found already installed on a racing boat.

The deck layout also favours multiple hands. All the myriad of strings run to nearly as many winches. The new generation of cruising boats have taken the marvels of short-handed racing and applied them really well. Changing the deck configuration can be costly, and if you have to move things, then remember that particular part of the structure may not have been built with that sort of load in mind. Just as a note, carbon works wonders, but leaks like a sieve when all the through-deck bolts move just that little bit.

Still on deck, and where is the dinghy going, even if partially deflated? Then there is its wee outboard, too. Is hanging off the pushpit really in your plans? At the other end, there is a good chance the prodder is there for the big A-bags and zero you're going to fly, but where's the anchor roller, and how is the pick itself housed, for that matter?

Heading down below and the iron ladies usually sit right below the companionway ladder. In a race boat they are just big enough for auxiliary use, but a cruiser typically deploys it more often, and sometimes this is into heavy seas. 20hp may move the race boat around nicely in the harbour, but when all the extra gear is added, and the seas are making it hard going, 30 to 40 may be more like it. There's more money, weight, fuel and so on...

The no-frills interior will be easier to clean, but as the beam goes wider, the space between places to be in a sea vaporise. I can still see the 'main saloon' of one racer, and the people sliding across it in a storm. At any rate, it is easy to clean and so forth, but not that homely, which may affect some, unless you are always on your own.

Please don't get me wrong. It is a cool plan, and racers need little fuel as they actually sail. Yes, they do really well when it comes to being self-propelled, but they are cheap in the first instance for a reason. Later on, you could argue that making it an express cruiser has added value and even the likelihood of retaining more of it percentage wise.

The thing may well be to sail her for a while as is, then make slow and incremental changes to understand more completely the changes you're making to her balance and speed. A huge set of davits off the transom solves the dinghy issue, but places the bum squarely in the drink, and then the prow becomes ineffective and you have reduced your waterline.

It also raises the spectre of the trimarans, for unless you go out to say Outreymer level, most cruising cats cannot do what a racing mono will do. Multihull Central has the Corsairs, and Multihull Solutions has those Neel tris, which look utterly brilliant. So depending on budget, and just how far you are going, these could well be the answer, and certainly need to be pondered.

Just on that, if you're in the Southern Hemisphere, I note that Multihull Central has their cat sailing school on soon. There is an information evening on August 28 at 6pm, and it is to be held at their Annandale marina in inner Western Sydney.

OK. Today you will find that we have information for you about competitions to see who can reduce the amount of plastic in the ocean, Keep Australia Beautiful Week, boat shows, sharks, museums, Antarctica, tall ships, Nordac from North Sails, the gathering at Shag Islet, the great Barrier Reef, the ARC, Raymarine and a new cordless VHF, attacking navigation marks, Jeanneau owners rendezvous in the Pacific Northwest, a baby born on a chopper, a video of sailing on the glorious Italia 12.98, as well as much more.

So you see, there are stories, lessons, inspirations and history to regale yourself with. Please do savour... We're really enjoying bringing you the best stories from all over the globe. If you want to add to that, then please make contact with us via email.

Remember too, if you want to see what is happening in the other hemisphere, go to the top and the drag down menu, select the other half of the globe and, voila, it's all there for you.

In the meantime, do you love being on the ocean? Well remember to love them back too. They need our help. Now more than ever! Until next time...

John Curnow, Editor,

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