Monday, March 31, 2014


As most already know our contributor Eric owns and sails a Pogo 12.50. That boat is one of the more innovative 40ft fast cruisers on the market and a relative new type of boat based directly on a 40class solo racer. It uses the same hull as the Pogo racer but with a swing keel that allows a very small draft when up and a huge one when down. Eric excellent comments and impressions about his boat and the discussion that followed helped us to have a good idea of that type of boat whose type of hull is one of the major tendencies on modern cruising boat design.
Even if not so light or fast, several cruising designs went that way in what regards hull shape, for instance the Oceanis 38, the Oceanis 41 (both designed by the Pogo 12.50 designer) but also the Hanse 415, all the Azuree sailboats, the JPK 38 and many more. Not mentioning the Opium 39 because it was a predecessor of the Pogo, on its first version and the first true cruiser to have adopted that hull shape.

That's a very interesting subject and I want to recover it here. I will post some of Eric's more relevant comments about his boat (comments that can be complemented by Eric, if he feels the need) and some of the more relevant points regarding that discussion. That will constitute valuable information for each one to chose the right, the one more adapted to his or her cruising style.

After almost 3.000 NM, the boat lived up to our expectations. We wanted it to be safe, fast in most circumstances, easy to handle, simple to maintain and sufficiently comfortable for longer cruises.

Nothing wrong in that perspective, at least with a good sense of anticipation. For example if strong winds are expected, the staysail should be rigged ready to hoist before leaving port. The solent is not meant to be roll-reefed, so after the second reef in the main the next step in reducing sail is rolling in the solent completely and setting the staysail, which is a hell of a job on a dancing foredeck. 

Although both form and weight stability are quite enormous and the boat is designed to be sailed “under the mast”, it gets quite heeled from time to time and then the after-most, open area behind the mainsail track is unsafe. But the sheltered cockpit itself works very well in all circumstances and with easy circulation as a bonus.

What I like most about the 12.50 is the excellent behavior under sail. It is indeed a cruiser and behaves just like that. When overpowered, you will slowly loose rudder control, giving you plenty of time to react and get the boat back in the rails. We never had a real round-up and the single broach we suffered was when we kept the spinnaker up while the wind was increasing to 25 knots. Also quite easy to recover from, although it was a hard job to get the 155 m2 back into the snuffer. Now we keep a much closer look at the true wind speed. 

The stiffness of the sandwich construction is impressive. This is essential because with back swept spreaders but no backstay, the very rigid carbon mast is only kept upright and correctly bent by highly tensioned caps and shrouds. Nothing in this rig ever gives the slightest way and the only method to bend the mast a little more is to put full tension on the inner forestay, which is not countered by backstays.

Also not giving the slightest kick is the swinging keel. .. I personally feel very secure about the swinging keel... It will certainly much better absorb the loads when running aground than any fixed construction. The hydraulic overpressure valve will let it cant, instead of having the hull take the full impact. Be it on sand or on rocks, at speed you will need to repair the outer damage to the GRP (in fact it is GR vinylester) shell anyway. I have also no worry about lateral loads, since the keel is designed to sustain a quite huge righting moment. It is designed to bend, which it even does in normal sailing mode. 

An unsinkable boat means that a lot of space below the berths is filled with foam, but I find it reassuring to know never having to leave the boat unless it’s on fire. And I hate removing all those cushions to be able to get to the ship’s stores anyway.

Excellent antislip everywhere you may need it plus well dimensioned, thought out and top quality gear, including remote controlled stoppers on the foredeck for the bowsprit and inner forestay. I keep telling myself all this cannot be cheap .

Once set up correctly, the NKE gyropilot with remote control is very efficient. But when sailing with crew, we like to disengage the piston from the steering mechanism to get a little more feedback from the rudders. In this prospect the 12.50 is very disappointing compared to the 10.50, which has twin helms fitted directly on the rudderstocks, resulting in sensitive steering even with the twin rudders. The more forward and protected helming position of the 12.50 comes with the price of a (very solid) transmission that takes away most of the rudder feeling.

Given the light weight, at least on paper the 30HP engine is sufficient. But the boat being upright when motoring, the flat and beamy hull drags over an enormous surface of water. No problem on flat and windless waters, 8 knots can be reached.

But because light weight equals little inertia, the boat doesn't like at all being motored into steep waves. I feel we have insufficient propulsion to eventually get ourselves quickly out of a difficult situation, which I consider unsafe.

With the keel up, low weight and double rudders away from the propeller wash, maneuvering requires a learning curve, even with the retractable bow thruster. Sufficient speed is the key issue and if possible we prefer to dock backwards.

Fast in most circumstances: 
The boat is fast, no doubt about that. But carefully calibrating the log resulted in a correction factor of 0.85. This means our fastest surf on the long Atlantic waves when delivering the boat in April was in fact around 18 knots instead of over 21. This has not been beaten since, but speeds of 13 knots and more are quite easy to achieve in a breeze, even without big following seas and/or the spinnaker.

“Gentlemen do not sail upwind”. We don’t like it either but of course sometimes we have to. Let me be clear: sailing the 12.50 close hauled is not rewarding. Certainly not in choppy seas, as we frequently encounter in strong wind against tide conditions in these shallow waters. With a good sail trim, the boat will point up to 33° of the apparent wind while maintaining a correct speed. You will not need 10 knots of wind to reach 6 knots. But you don’t want to try that in choppy seas, because the lack of inertia and the flat bow sections will make the boat slam. Slow and very uncomfortable.

So bearing down and easing the sheets a little is the way to generate sufficient power to get through. This gives very frustrating tacking angles on the chart plotter track, but the much better speed finally results in a quite satisfying VMG. So you end up in port together with most other performance cruisers of the same size, but after having sailed some more distance. The common statement that this kind of boats cannot perform upwind is therefore very relative. What is lost in pointing will be made good in speed.
 One time we gave up, against 2 meter but very steep waves and 30 knots of wind. Not because of the boat’s performance, it was just the crew that decided this was no fun at all. So we turned our back and took a broad reach at an average of 15 knots, even without taking out the two reefs or replacing the staysail with the solent. Big smiles returned on all faces and if it weren't for the trip back, we would probably have gone all the way up to Scandinavia.

So the main reason why you start really disliking sailing upwind with this boat, is because you know how fast any reaching course would be in the same conditions .. anything from a close to a broad reach is very rewarding. With as little as 12 knots of true wind you can start playing the game: pointing a little to build up apparent wind speed, and then bearing down the minimum to hold on to a good apparent wind angle and keep on planing. With following 3m seas it was quite easy to surf above 20 knots. But the next weekend we were again in full planing mode, in comparable wind conditions and at a top speed of 18 knots. Without waves to surf on, since this time the swell was only 1m and coming ahead.

We never sail dead downwind. The mainsail looks horrible against the back swept spreaders, the battens don’t like this at all, the asymmetric spinnaker is completely useless even on the 2 meter bowsprit and gibing on broad reaches is not only a lot faster but also much more fun.

Easy to handle:

All Pogo’s are conceived with shorthanded, if not single handed sailing in mind. It works, I do not hesitate to sail solo. Of course you need a reliable autopilot, which the NKE gyropilot is. The helm is situated forward, which brings the helmsman within the cockpit, protected by the sprayhood and with all lines and winches within reach. No backbreaking efforts leaning over the leeward coamings and trying not end up in the guardrails, but straight up and looking forward in the most sheltered part of the cockpit. Only no code zero or spinnaker in solo for me, because this means maneuvering on the foredeck without the backup of a cockpit crew.

What I do not look forward to, is hoisting the main on my own. The doubled halyard already gives you a good physical work-out at the mast, but without a crew taking up the slack it has to be done from the cockpit which is quite hard work. Not because of the track cars, these are almost frictionless and will let the main crash down on the boom in seconds if the halyard is not under control, but solely because of the weight of the big, fat headed sail.

I can assure you that a deep keel and a big beam do give you tremendous power. When we hit 18 knots without surfing but against a light swell, we had about 25 knots of TWS on a broad reach and only the (full) main + solent up. I don’t think we will ever try the asymmetric spi or even the code 0 in these conditions, after all the 12.50 is only a cruiser.

I agree with Paulo that this kind of sailing demands some feeling, both at the helm and at the traveller. Especially the big fat-headed mainsail is very sensible, but also very rewarding to trim. With a well-designed deck lay-out and high-spec hardware this is quite an easy job.

Although we are basically dinghy sailors, we don’t think the 12.50 demands anything but good basic sailing skills. Even pushed, the boat never felt out of control and even in 40+ gusts everything always kept perfectly manageable. So I don’t think she could not also be easily sailed short- or even single handed, although I prefer a little more training before trying this myself. But I certainly will do, knowing this is what Pogo’s are basically designed for. What I do not look forward to, is docking the Pogo solo. As said, even with a crew this can be a challenge. But the learning curve is flattening .

                                                     Easy to maintain:

Both NA and builder of the Pogo’s are very experienced sailors. When it comes to practical and efficient solutions, these guys definitely know what they’re talking about. This is also very obvious on the 12.50, where everything is thought and laid out with efficiency, accessibility and ease of maintenance in mind.  Although this might be somewhat easier in a boat without inner moulds, let it be clear that this particular aspect has been given much care. From visible and thus accessible deck fittings to the technical starboard aft “cabin”, you don’t have to be a contortionist to maintain the boat and there are much less places where moisture and mould can hide. Dyneema lashings instead of shackles are not only lighter (and cheaper) but also much safer (just cut them in an emergency, even under load) and easy to replace. The removable and transparent fuel tank, the easy to clean interior surfaces, the list of practicalities is too long to fit in this already oversized post.

Sufficiently comfortable:

“De gustibus et coloribus non est disputandum ». The loft style interior of the Pogo is, if not shocking, at least repelling for many. We like it, especially for its brightness and simplicity, but this is a of course only a personal feeling.With 4.50 meters max. beam there is no lack of space, for living or for storing, even with all this foam underneath the berths. And again, lockers without doors but with plastic boxes instead look quite shocking at first, but are in fact an uncomplicated, very practical and seaworthy solution.

The space is big for a 40 footer, inside and outside..all the classic (and my opinion impractical) storage space beneath the bunks is taken up by water tanks or by foam to make the boat unsinkable, but this leaves sufficient stowage to completely overload the boat. The capacity of both the starboard technical/stowage/spare sleeping cabin and the cockpit locker is simply huge. Apart from headroom, the volume was the main reason why we chose for the 12.50 instead of the 10.50.
With 4.50 meters max. beam there is no lack of space, for living or for storing, even with all this foam underneath the berths. And again, lockers without doors but with plastic boxes instead look quite shocking at first, but are in fact an uncomplicated, very practical and seaworthy solution.
Otherwise it has everything a cruiser needs, including a hot shower and a large refrigerator. We even have heating, not really a luxury in this northern sailing area. ..

Given the fact that weight is a major issue everywhere on any Pogo, the finish is far away from e.g. Hallberg-Rassy but otherwise quite decent. At least once you’ve accepted boats don’t necessarily have to look like a Swiss chalet and that the absence of counter mouldings is in fact very handy for both cleaning and maintenance. So once again, it is all about compromises and making the right choices.

                          Bottom line:

Every boat is the result of more or less distinct choices and this always implies compromises one way or the other. If you will be sailing mostly in light winds and calm seas, no need for any concern about flat bottoms, light displacements and/or large sails. On the contrary, you have the ideal conditions to fully enjoy this kind of boat design. We don’t, because our sailing area is the English Channel and the North Sea, where choppy seas and very variable wind conditions prevail. Nevertheless given our personal cruising program and tastes, we are very happy with the 12.50.


The problem of those designs has to do with going fast upwind with waves. The bigger the waves the worse is the performance. That has to do with wave drag that is increasing exponentially in that type of boat when crashing through waves, making it lose more power than the one the boat can generate over other type of boats. Of course the big power needed to go on those conditions and the big wave drag makes also the boat very uncomfortable in that particular case.

The problems going upwind with waves has to do with this:

When the boat passes a wave, the wet area increases as the wave passes through the hull, the bigger the wave more the hull boat will be "surrounded" by the wave and in this case the drag is not only that little footprint, but most of the hull surface and here that big beam and big overall hull surface represents a huge disadvantage regarding a narrow boat. The narrow one will also be "surrounded" by the wave but because its hull surface is a lot smaller the wave drag will be a lot smaller.

Narrow boats, even with a big draft and lots of ballast will not manage to have the RM (Power) of an open type boat. What happens is that till a certain size of wave and sea condition the Open type of boat is capable of compensate its bigger wave drag with sheer power at the cost of a bigger pounding. After a given sea condition and size and type of wave even all that extra power will not be able to compensate the increased wave drag and the narrow boat will go away with a much more softer ride, wasting less energy in its movement because the sea and waves offers much less resistance to it.
Of course that narrow boat will be much worse downwind because downwind you don't get wave drag and the flat and bigger hull makes less pressure over the water (not so deep in the water for the same weight) and helps the boat to surf sooner. The control of the boat is also better with less roll motion due to the large transom.
Racing boats or fast boats chose different types of compromises between those two contradictory requirements in what regards hull shape and the required ballast for each type of hull. Since narrower boats need more ballast for a same draft, that has implications on the final weight of the boat and that has also influence in what regards boat performance.

Our very first experiences in strong wind-against-tide conditions tend to confirm this. It needs quite hard work at the helm to keep the boat comfortable. But we think we still have a lot to learn, about trimming as well as about steering, especially upwind.

Finer entries are linked to better or at least more comfortable upwind performance. Although David Raison .. surprised almost everybody with his “scow” bowed mini TeamWork Evolution, which only dislikes oncoming waves but otherwise outperforms every other 6.50, even upwind..
Anyway, the bigger the boat, the easier it seems for the architect to give it a fine entry. This certainly has to do with internal volume, but I am sure there are many more good reasons why smaller boats have more bulky lines in the forward sections.

I ‘ve seen VPP and VMG figures that suggest the Pogo 12.50 should even be able to keep up with a racer such as the X41 upwind. When I look at our actual upwind GPS tracks on the screen, I find this very hard to believe. But as we learn, especially about trimming, we definitely make progress. 
But as Paulo stated, even apart from handicap considerations (horrible for any Pogo, designed without any consideration for any handicap rule), racing results indicate we will very probably never be able to stand out in an upwind course.

In what regards speed weight is indeed a major issue on this kind of boats. That’s why our son and most fanatic sailor Jim has been appointed as our “weight watcher”. Being the youngest, he has the best chances to resist Mum’s urge to fill up the boat with stuff we don’t even use at home. And to persuade Dad to drag the dehumidifier and the folding bike back to the car bunk before we go out sailing. Or to keep a sharp look at the water tanks, since they must not be filled up as long as we can take a shower ashore. Kids…


 Finot had showed with some drawings that the "footprint" of a beamy boat with a large transom (the wet area) is not bigger than the one of on a narrow boat when the boat is sailing. It has even advantages because as it is a diagonal asymmetrical shape it has a bigger LWL. The wet area has also to do with weight and surface of keel and rudder and the Pogo is very well designed in what concerns that and not only that.

 Those comparative charts may well proven right in flat water but I am sure it will not be the case with waves and the bigger the waves the better for the X41 and the worst for the Pogo.

The hull shape that performs better is not a fixed equation and it changes with length, becoming proportionality less beamy when the length increases. Even considering boats with the same length and an optimal mixed upwinf/downwindI performance, the hull shape that performs better is not a constant and it will differ with wind intensity and optimal hull ballast.

 A narrower hull will require for a competitive power a bigger ballast ratio or a bigger draft and that was influence on the weight of the boat. Very interesting and difficult subject with plenty of variables. I have saw several times different boast playing with different "cards" having in the end similar overall   performances with different strong and weak points.

Anyway the Pogo "way" offers several advantages regarding a boat with similar overall performances : A less expensive boat and a boat easier to sail solo, two very important points to a cruiser

A last point in what regards the Pogo 12.50. Eric uses his boat to coastal cruise including crossing the British channel but many use the Pogo 12.50 as a long range cruiser (it was conceived for that). The boat is specially adapted to sail on the trade winds and to circumnavigate. Below a video of one crossing the Atlantic to cruise in the Caribbean: Average speed 7.3K, many times over two digit speeds to compensate the days without wind or with headwinds.


  1. I love this boat, thanks for this post.

  2. Thanks for posting my transat video.

    1. Nick, It's me that should tank you! Crossing the Atlantic in 15 days is just great...and the 7000nm that you have done in your boat contradicts all of those that think this kind of boats are just for coastal cruising. Quite the contrary, they are downwind maximized boats that are specially at ease on a Transat or even in a circumnavigation, I mean, a "normal" one, made following the prevalent winds.

  3. Very interesting discussion. I have the narrowest hull for a thirty footer (Admiralty 30). It is 30 feet long, but only 3 feet wide at waterline. I have raced my Admiralty 30 against all kinds of boats. XP44, Melges 24, GP42, Beneteau 40 and 40.7, all kinds of J boats, etc. The result is exactly opposite of what is discussed above. Contrary to my initial expectations, the narrower the hull, the less it points to windward. The narrower the hull, the faster it is downwind. Even fat and beamy boats like J/24 and Beneteau 40.7 can sail much closer to wind (by 5 to 10%) than my Admiralty 30. But I clobber them downwind. I have raced in more than a hundred regattas in many parts of the world for the past 11 years, so I am speaking with a certain amount of experience. Narrower the hull, the less it points.

    If you look at the very long and narrow hull of Wild Oats in Sydney to Hobart races, it always excels over the modern flat bottom and wide ass maxis downwind. Thus, I do not prescribe to the theory that "flat and wide hulled sportboats plane earlier so that they are faster than their narrow hulled counterparts." The only times those boats are faster are when their wide hulls are heeled over significantly and sailing between close reach and broad reach.

    1. You don't need to be fat to be fast. You need just a canting keel.

    2. You don't need a canting keel to have a narrow fast boat, just to have it designed the right way, with lots of Ballast and light.

      The problem is that a canting keel will make any boat very expensive as well as a really big B/D ratio on a light boat, not mentioning that to have the same interior volume you will need a much larger boat.

      The Pogo are not fat (they have very fine entries) they are beamy boats with large transoms. It would make no sense calling fat to Cheyenne, the fastest monohull and a boat with a huge beam.

      What makes the Pogo interesting in what regards cruising is that it is not an expensive boat (for the performance it offers), it has a swing keel (shallow draft) and it is an easy boat to sail fast, a thing that most narrow fast boats are not (sailed solo).

  4. Hi Paulo. Laser sailor here. The POGO 12.50 seems like my dream boat. Light, a little bit HOT to sail but not too much. Flexible enough to be able to run an ARC, a Transpac and a Coconut Milk Run and cruise among Caribbean islands and South Pacific atolls. A known British laser sailor said once you steer with sails and butt not with rudder...which other boat would you suggest will be similarly "butt sailed" ? I mean light so that weight position is important and very reactive to things like trimming and heel without being a pure racer ? Personally wide beam and the capability to somewhat plane and hard chines are appealing to me together with modern but somewhat spartan euro interior. I can think at Azuree 40 as a good compromise, a fun boat, albeit surely a few notches down the POGO. What other ~40' racer/cruisers do you think fall into this category without costing a fortune? Has anyone ever tried to retrofit a true racer back into a cruiser adding more comfort like proper head/shower if missing and galley? Thanks Alex

  5. Hi Alex,

    Yes, many old Class 40 an even Open 40 have been retrofitted for cruising, some have even circumnavigated but if on the Pogo the interior, even if functional, is a bit on the spartan side, on a Class 40 adapted for cruising it will be really spartan.

    Yes the Pogo 12.50 is able to do all you mention and if that is your program it will be the boat for you. It can do all that successfully but on the med conditions it will be easily beaten for other performance boats. Just look at the results of the Middle sea race and you will see 40class racers, that are substantially faster than the Pogo 12.50, being beaten by more conventional but fast cruiser racers.

    Regarding sailing the boat with the body, I believe that the weight of one or two sailors will not have great influence in the way the Pogo sails.

    The Pogo 12.50 in cruising condition will displace at least 6.5T, has a substantial ballast on the end of a big keel and a huge hull form stability. When some compare the Pogo sailing with racing dinghy sailing it has to do with the sail power, the way it responds to it and the readiness of accelerations as well as the way it responds to sails and tiller, not with sailing the boat with body weight position.

    On a powerful boat the sail trim is very important for "driving" the boat. If the sails are not tuned correctly you will be fighting with the tiller or Wheel and the autopilot will not be able to steer the boat.

    Yes, you are right, the problem here is not costing a fortune and I assume that you are talking about new boats. Other boats that are faster than the Azuree 40, are not hugely expensive and play on the Pogo 12.50 register are the Django 12.70 and the JPK 38 and 45. The Malango 10.88 will probably join the group, even if a bit smaller and therefore not as fast.

  6. Ah...all French builders ! they are damn good at those fast racers! said by an Italian ;-)

    1. I believe I have a surprise for you. There is a cruising Italian boat based on a class 40, the Este 40. I did not have mentioned it because it is substantially more expensive than the Pogo. On that boat I don't like the layout, particularly the idea of a saloon on the bow. The Este 40 is lighter than the Pogo 12.50 and probably as fast or faster.

      The reason that this type of boats is not very popular in Italy is because Italian sail mostly on the med and this type of hulls is not adapted to the med waters. You have very fast Italian boats more fast on the med and more adapted to the type of conditions that you will find there. One of them is the Sly 43 but there are more being the fastest of them all the Neo 400.

      That one the 2014 edition of the the Middle Sea race gained many hours over the first class 40...and the Neo 400 is a cruiser racer, not a racer like a have a bit more pride on the Italian sailing boats ;-)

      Some links and videos for you (you have to copy and past them). Note as the Este 40 is fast downwind but sluggish and slow upwind in light wind and short waves.