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Daysailors rejoice!

The hard part is the choosing

How many of us learned to sail on a daysailer? I associate the term with the 17-foot O’Day DaySailer and with my family’s O’Day Mariner 2+2. These versatile centerboard trailer-sailers are just right for exploring rivers, bays, estuaries and the shoals of sandy barrier island environments such as North Carolina’s Outer Banks or Chatham, Massachusetts.

C.W. Hood 32

In fact, the DaySailer is now built by Cape Cod Shipbuilding in Wareham, Massachusetts, and the Mariner 2+2 is Maine builder Stuart Marine’s Mariner 19.

I tasted a different sailing experience when I was invited aboard a Wianno Senior, a 25-foot Manley Crosby design built by E.M. Crosby Boatworks. The keel-centerboard Wianno is a bigger, more powerful boat than the Mariner. Departing Osterville, Massachusetts, with a full complement on the weather rail in a stiff, steady southeast sea breeze, the Wianno was in her element. Rail-down across West Bay and into Nantucket Sound, we passed another sailboat like a train passes a walking horse. I took the tiller and fought a powerful weather helm, sailing straight and fast despite the rudder angle. The Wianno has a big rig and the stability to carry it. It was an electrifying afternoon — no wonder the Kennedys enjoyed sailing these boats.

Today’s daysailers come in all sizes, from the Paine 14 to a Frers 74 under construction at the Brooklin (Maine) Boat Yard. The category encompasses ultramodern European offerings, such as the Sensei 9.0, B30 and Dinamica 940, and boats that marry modern styling with traditional virtues, such as the Harbor 20, Sonar, Colgate 26, Biehl 8.8 and J/100. There are classic and unabashedly retro boats, including Nathanael Herreshoff’s Alerion, Ralph Monroe’s Egret, the Sakonnet 23, Stuart Knockabout, Tadorne, Artisan A-30, C.W. Hood 32, Spirit 37 and Hinckley DS42, and boats that preserve historic influence in an updated package, such as the Alerion Express 20, 28 and 33, Tartan Fantail, Morris M29, Sparkman & Stephens 30, e33 and Friendship 36.

In the 1960s and ’70s, yacht designers crammed increasing amounts of cabin space into small packages at the expense of other virtues. In 1977 the J/24, which emphasized performance and usability over standing headroom, defined the emerging sportboat category. In 1980, Bruce Kirby’s Sonar offered buyers a sportboat with the large, comfortable cockpit the J/24 lacked. Still, there were those who longed for the practical and aesthetic qualities of the Herreshoffs, Wiannos and early O’Days.

The seeds of a backlash had been planted. In 1990, Carl Schumacher hit a home run with the Alerion Express 28. Large enough to be comfortable and accommodate a diesel saildrive auxiliary, this deceptively simple design brilliantly blended classic lines with a modern underbody. Although Schumacher is no longer with us, his boat — built by US Watercraft in Rhode Island — remains both a standout and an inspiration to other designers and builders.

As “spirit of tradition” yachting gained favor in Europe, Leonardo Yachts, Spirit Yachts and Latitude 46 debuted classically styled daysailers. In 1996, Schumacher designed the Alerion Express 20 and 33, Jim Taylor the Colgate 26, and S&S the 77 ultralight Sleighride, pushing the upper size limit of what one might consider a daysailer. Joel White started work that year on the W-76.

Another signal year in the development of today’s daysailers was 2004. That year, Hinckley entered the market with the Bruce King-designed electric auxiliary DS42, Morris Yachts launched its M-Series, and J/Boats debuted the J/100. 2006 brought the introduction of the Etchells-inspired e33, 2007 the launch of the custom Stephens Waring 50 Ginger, and 2012 the debut of the C.W. Hood 32 and the Friendship 36.

Even setting aside larger models better described as weekenders, today’s market is replete with daysailers. Here’s a look at four boats, all of which respect the 8-foot, 6-inch maximum beam for trailering without a special permit.

BayRaider 20

BayRaider 20

From Swallow Boats on the coast of Wales comes the BayRaider 20, a trailerable centerboarder that leverages its workboat heritage yet impresses with its implementation of subtle and convenient modern features. The cuddy-cabin Expedition version reminds me of the O’Day Mariner of my childhood, but it’s more.

Like Phil Bolger’s Dovekie, the BayRaider can be rowed, and designer Matt Newland apparently shares Bolger’s appreciation of the yawl rig. Its outboard engine well and sump are forward of the mizzen and rudder post. This placement not only keeps the outboard from detracting from the boat’s profile, but also is practical for its reduced vulnerability to prop venting in waves and improved engine access.

The cockpit is self-bailing, and the boat has plenty of reserve flotation under the gunwales. The BayRaider is water-ballasted, so its towing and rowing weight are substantially reduced. You activate the ballast when you need it — a major advantage in a boat this size if your goal is versatility.

Swallow Boats has continued to improve on its design, lowering the center of gravity last year with lightweight carbon fiber masts. Stainless steel skid and keel protection prevents damage when beaching or drying out. Although it’s hard to imagine further refinements, the company will doubtless continue to tweak the details as it works hand in glove with the boat’s enthusiastic community of owners.

Base price is $38,000, including a trailer, outboard, sails and dodger. The Expedition version is $43,000. Swallow Boats, Ceredigion, Wales. ,

Harbor 20

Harbor 20

A one-design keelboat, the Harbor 20 is another daysailer with an enthusiastic cadre of owners. The racing community — with fleets in Southern California, South Carolina and Maryland — includes successful skippers, families and those who bring along the dog. It’s a stable boat, combining a low sheer and a deep, comfortable cockpit with a large fin keel and a 50 percent ballast-to-displacement ratio. The Harbor 20 features the Hoyt Jib Boom at the foot of its self-tacking jib, an ideal setup for those who wish to combine the simplicity of sailing wing-on-wing downwind with effortless tacking to windward.

Most fleets race the Harbor 20 non-spinnaker, Santa Barbara being the exception. The Annapolis fleet dry-sails its boats; others leave them in the water. The Harbor 20 is trailerable, but because of its keel, launching is easier with a davit. One way or another, this is a boat ideally suited to jumping aboard and going sailing without fuss.

One thing the Harbor 20 does not feature is a cockpit that drains by gravity. For the daysailer designer who wants to combine a deep cockpit with a low sheer, making a scuppered cockpit work can be challenging. One can compromise the cockpit depth and still wind up with a boat that, when fully loaded, forms a puddle in the cockpit as it heels, or seek another solution in pursuit of the comfort and low center of gravity that comes with locating the cockpit sole below the waterline.

Designer Steve Schock took the latter path. With an intelligently designed sump, electric bilge pump and battery (perhaps topped up with a solar panel or wind turbine), you’re fine for use in protected bays. Being mistrustful of electronics, I’d want to back the system up with a manual gusher pump installed in the cockpit. Those who want to sail far from shore might want to consider W.D. Schock’s Andrews 21, Santana 20 or one of the larger Harbor models. Either way, you’ll be dealing with a builder dedicated to serving its small keelboat clients.

Base price is $25,750. W.D. Schock, Corona, California, (951) 277-3377.

Tartan Fantail

Tartan Fantail

Tim Jackett was a prominent and successful in-house sailboat designer when he decided to leave Tartan’s employ and become an independent naval architect. The 26-foot Fantail is the first product of Jackett’s redefined relationship with the company that brought him to prominence.

Jackett sought to create a lightweight, performance-oriented maxi-trailerable daysailer that’s just large enough to be a true keel yacht and blending modern characteristics with a classic aft-raked transom in an attractive, balanced package. Features of the much larger Hinckley DS42 — the carbon fiber pocket boom and quiet electric auxiliary power — clearly impressed Jackett. A Torqeedo electric outboard and lithium ion battery with charger are standard equipment. Either the electric or an optional gasoline outboard can be situated in the motor well behind the inboard spade rudder, getting it out of the way when under sail yet off the transom so as not to be unsightly.

There are two versions of the Fantail: the DS (“Day Sailor”) and the WE (“Weekender”). A third, the ST (“Sail Trainer”), is a variant of the DS that eliminates the self-tacking jib and some of the wood trim. Integrating features that improve functionality into a small package can challenge a designer’s skill. The Tartan Fantail exhibits its designer’s ideas writ large.

Base price is $86,500. Tartan Yachts, Fairport Harbor, Ohio, (440) 510-3042.


The Artisan A-30 is based on this Buzzards Bay 18 designed by Nat Herreshoff.

There is a plethora of beautiful, well thought out daysailers in the 28- to 34-foot range, but the A-30 promises to be distinctive because of the team involved. The design firm Stephens Waring and builder Artisan Boatworks are the here and now of “spirit of tradition yachting” in the United States and have teamed to add the fiberglass A-30 to the growing list of their classic builds.

Topside, the A-30 is based on Nat Herreshoff’s Buzzards Bay 18, two of which Artisan has built in wood. It can also be seen as the slightly smaller sibling of Stephens Waring’s 34-foot Tendress design, although the hull sections are shallower and less vee-shaped.

She shows long ends, like the M29 and C.W. Hood 32, but with less freeboard. The coaming, which wraps to become the trunk cabin, looks a bit tall to my eye but allows the cockpit to be deep and comfortable. As with the Harbor 20, the A-30 has no self-bailing cockpit. Artisan intends to close the cockpit fore and aft, making it watertight and separate from the cabin, and to isolate the forepeak and lazarette with watertight bulkheads.

A goal of the A-30 is to stay close to the design and aesthetics of the Buzzards Bay 18 (29 feet on deck) that inspired it, but with greater sensitivity to human proportions and providing for inboard or saildrive auxiliary power. The 8-foot, 6-inch beam is consistent with scaling the Herreshoff design up just slightly and, in combination with the A-30’s modern deep-fin keel, will yield the kind of power I experienced sailing the Wianno Senior. The balanced spade rudder and shorter boom, on the other hand, will make for a lighter, more sensitive helm.

The straightforward rig is a single swept spreader fractional arrangement, with backstay. The jib is self-tacking with a boom. With a rig sized to sail to windward without an overlapping jib, the chain plates can be located at the gunwale for a wide shroud base, putting less stress on the mast. Selden Aluminum spars, painted buff, are standard. Although the arrangement of deck and cockpit has already been considered, there’s an opportunity for the first clients to add their thoughts concerning the final placement of leads, winches and rope clutches.

According to historian Howard Chapelle, it is aesthetically preferable for the mast to be forward of the trunk cabin. The A-30 follows this practice, as do its nearest competitors, the M29 and S&S 30, giving them spacious foredecks. This one small design detail separates these three boats from others.

Price is $180,000. Artisan Boatworks, Rockport, Maine (207) 236-4231.

The daysailer for you

The prospective buyer comparing today’s daysailers will be treated to the offerings of some of the best designers and builders in the business. Know thyself. Where will you be sailing, and with whom? Will you have access to a crane, lift or davit, or will you launch at a ramp? Should your boat have a head? You might want to know the limitations on draft, dockage, electrical hookup or mooring availability in your area, and perhaps the towing capacity of your vehicle.

If you’ll want to occasionally stretch out or overnight in the cockpit, you might want to consider a boom tent or dodger/bimini combination. Most owners leave their boats in the water for quick getaways, but some prefer to dry-sail. Some want to sit low in a deep cockpit, but others want the option of sitting on a broad coaming and steering with a tiller extension. Some large daysailers offer the option of wheel steering.

Having considered these factors, decide what size boat is right for you and your aesthetic preferences. If you want to race, of course, there is yet another category of questions. Whether you’re new to sailing or trading in a boat that tries to be too many things, ask yourself: When I go sailing with my family and friends on my favorite waters, what boat will make for the best experience with the least effort? That’s the daysailer for you.

August 2014 issue