On the cruising forum where I post as "Polux" I have posted something about hull shapes and performance that may be interesting to this blog. The post is here (post 258):http://www.cruisersforum.com/forums/f47/true-blue-water-boat-extinction-a-fait-accompli-141354-18.html#post1754758
From here comes the basic question: The qualities that make a good racing solo sailboat are relevant to a cruising boat? Or putting it another way, the type of hulls and rigs used for solo racing are relevant for cruising, as a benefic global influence that can allow better cruising boats? The type of hull that allows a solo sailor to push and sail fast (many times under autopilot) a racer through ocean has advantages for an inexperienced, solo or short crew cruiser while sailing offshore on a cruising boat?
As a way to answer let's have first a look at the differences between the type of hulls used for solo racing and the type of hulls used for crew racing: Many think that the very beamy Open 60 are the fastest type of boat downwind (for the size) or on a circumnavigation but they are wrong. Certainly they are the type of boat faster sailing solo on a circumnavigation but not if a crew is used. On that case a boat like the VOR65 (with 60ft) will be faster, provided it has a full crew to handle it.
Let’s have a look at both hulls, a VOR 65 and a Open 60 (both sailboats designed for a circumnavigation on the trade winds, meaning mostly beam reach and downwind sailing):
The difference is evident, both have all beam pulled back but the Open 60 is a much more beamier boat. So why not make an Open 60 less beamier and theoretically faster? It has been made…and did not work out, they have been developing these boats for 30 years, and the actual configuration it is the one that at the moment allows for a faster boat…sailed solo. Why?Let’s look at some videos of 11/12m racing boats, solo racing boats and crew racing boats to understand why. First a Beneteau Figaro II versus a J111. Both boats can go damn fast downwind, the J111 even faster but look at the guy on the Figaro that can leave the boat on autopilot to adjust sails or even to go ahead to set the Spinnaker. He has to leave it on autopilot on many occasions inclusive to sleep.
Now compare with a same sized solo racer, a 40class boat sailed by a lonely sailor and will be on a completely different ball game. One guy is enough to drive the boat fast downwind, not as fast as a ker 40 or Soto 40, but certainly much faster than a Soto 40 or Ker 40 solo sailed. On a solo racer the boat has to be handled many times on autopilot since it is the same guy that is the trimmer, the bow man, the navigator the helmsman….and it has also to work on the winches and to sleep since most of the races on those boats are Transats or circumnavigations.
Bob Perry said once that those boats had training wheels and that he didn't need any training wheels on his boats. So the question is, do cruising boats need training wheels, meaning they can be sailed faster and safely with them …or maybe not?
My friend Eric, that is not much younger than me, said it has not taken him much time to sail his Pogo 12.50 to 13/14K and that is a speed that he reaches with some ease on the right conditions. I may be wrong but I seem to remember that he said that he had done once or twice 16/18K with his boat, with the help of the family crew, that includes not only a wife but a son also.
Me and Eric are the kind of cruisers that like to go fast, most cruisers will sail more calmly but the point is, would not this difference in easiness (that has to do with the hull of the Pogo to be derived from solo racers, while the one of the Comet is derived from IRC racers) will not suit even more less demanding sailors? I think that the answer is a clear yes and that’s why most contemporary NA use hulls influenced by solo racers in almost all main market production sailboats and in voyage boats too. The ability they have to go with more easiness, with more directional stability from a beam reach to downwind makes more efficient on autopilot that’s what most cruisers use while sailing. That type of hulls makes also for a more forgiving boat that can take more abuse without broaching.
|Beneteau Figaro II|
So what about upwind sailing? will more narrow boats, or IRC derived hulls, like the ones of the Salona or Dehler, Comet or J122 perform better? The difference will be not much on flat seas, just a bit better pointing ability but on nasty seas or even on the typical med short period steep waves there will be a big difference due to wave drag.
While sailing on flat water the waterplane (and wet surface) of the boat like the Pogo will be a very narrow one, having to do more with its weight than with its beam but while passing waves all change: The wave envelopes the boat that passes through it and increases hugely the wet surface associated to wave drag that is much bigger on a solo racer beamy type of hull than on a much narrower IRC derived one. The beamy hull will suffer much more drag for each wave it crosses than the IRC type. Sure it can fly more sail due to its much bigger hull form stability but that will not even the match. The boat will have to open more the course (to gain power), probably it will go a little faster, storming through the waves (and that is less comfortable) and in the end it will be slower, or at least is what I have taken from the observation of race results even with more powerful 40class racers (on the Sydney Hobart and Med races).
Heavier boats with this type of hull, like the Oceanis 38, 41 or 45, Dufour 410, 500 (among others) will have about the same comparable characteristics regarding cruisers with about the same weight and hulls influenced by IRC hulls, like the Jeanneau 409.
Is this less good performance upwind on some particular conditions a big disadvantage? Not for voyage boats that mostly will follow the trade winds, not for main market mass production boats because even if most sail on the med where these conditions can be met, most sailors just don’t go upwind on those conditions (over F4) or just motor most of the time when sailing directly upwind.
That explains why the open solo race type of hull is the main influence on cruisers today: it just offers the best compromise for most sailors, not forgetting the big advantage that a bigger interior represents for cruising, in living space and storage.
Of course that does not mean that even in what regards cruising that would be the best compromise to all. There are many variables here and one can just prefer a narrower boat because it just likes more the way a boat sails on a seaway, because it is more nervous and fun to sail, because it values more upwind sailing or just because he finds narrower boats more beautiful. All good reasons. ;-)