Bristol Channel Cutter 28 - Soundings Online

Bristol Channel Cutter 28

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This 28-foot design won California’s Newport to Ensenada race in 1978 and also came in first in class in 1979.

Soon after, world sailor Roger Olson began his 50,000-mile round-the-world voyage in a boat of the same design.

Circumnavigators Larry and Lin Pardey sailed the world in an earlier 24-foot version, writing their now-famous cruising books, and encouraging others to pursue their own sailing adventures.

The boat is the Bristol Channel Cutter, the work of designer Lyle Hess, already well-known in the early 1970s for the Pardey’s 24-footer and later for their 29-footer. Hess drew on the pilot boat designs of the 19th and early 20th centuries, rugged sailboats of heavy displacement with a long waterline and a hard bilge. They “carried lots of canvas, they’d lug a lot of cargo and could sail fast on all points” was a contemporary description.

Hess’ 28-foot design debuted in 1975. It was just under 38 feet length overall and 28 feet on the waterline with a 10-foot beam. It carried 4,600 pounds of outside ballast to offset a large sail area of 673 square feet. The design included a 6-foot bowsprit and a boomkin, while the cutter rig allowed for a variety of sail sets to suit the myriad weather and sea conditions on the open ocean.

The Bristol Channel Cutter’s hull shape is traditional, with graceful wineglass sections and a full keel with a fine bow entry. The beam is kept well aft to help with on-wind performance while the flat stern sections add buoyancy and stability for heeling in heavy winds. Cabin layouts varied, but were simple and practical, often including a workbench.

Multiple builders produced more than 125 of the hardy 28-foot cruisers, before production ceased around 2011. Larger versions, including 32- and 34-foot Lyle Hess designs have also been built. Today, long-distance sailors looking for a boat with “a proven track record, a simple layout and plenty of stowage,” as one admirer put it, still covet the Bristol Channel Cutter.

This article originally appeared in the October 2018 issue.