The 1950s and ‘60s were a golden age for sailboat design. The introduction of fiberglass allowed for conceptual changes, creating a new fleet of racing sailboats, racer/cruisers and family boats. Many designs from that era are still around, coveted by owners and enthusiasts around the globe.
One example is the LeComte Northeast 38, a 50-plus-year-old design that has become a kind of cult boat with a large and devoted following. The builder was Adolf “Dolf” LeComte, who was turning out wooden boats in Holland for high-profile clients before he made the switch to fiberglass in 1961. The Northeast 38 was the second boat he produced in that material. It made its debut in 1962.
The designer was William Tripp Jr., one of America’s top naval architects who worked with builders such as Columbia Yachts and Henry Hinckley, the founder of today’s Hinckley Company in Maine. Tripp was best known for his racing sailboats, including Touché, a 48-foot, flush-deck sloop that won a ton of races on Long Island Sound.
Tripp drew the LeComte Northeast 38 in yawl and sloop versions with a modern (for that time), modified fin keel and masthead rig. Construction was done in an all-fiberglass hull with Airex-cored decks and classic, varnished interiors. Performance helped sell the boat. Owners touted its seakindly ride, large cockpit and warm interior, calling it a “perfect classic cruiser for the nostalgic mariner.” Down below, the layout was traditional: a V-berth was forward; in the main cabin was a drop-leaf table and benches on either side; the navigation table and galley were at the foot of the companionway.
LeComte-Holland built about 60 of the boats, with two upgraded designs—the MK II (1966) and MK III (1969)—created during the nine-year production run. There were minor changes in the hull and transom angle; the keel shape was altered, and different rudders were offered. In 1971, the ALC 40 sloop replaced the Northeast 38, but the original remains a headturner in any harbor today.
This article originally appeared in the May 2019 issue.