Rhodes 27

Illustration by Jim Ewing
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Back in the day, as yachtsmen in northern waters sat out the long winters, they thought about boats to race and cruise. Many a new design has come from such leather-chair-and-fireside musings.

The Rhodes 27 was one of them.

Inspired by members of the Fishers Island Yacht Club in New York, the sloop came off designer Phil Rhodes’ drawing board, onto the lofting floor at Henry Nevins’ yard on City Island, New York, and out into the waters of eastern Long Island Sound in 1939.

A quarter-century later, the racer/cruiser was still in production in the United States while German builder Abeking and Rasmussen was turning Rhodes 27s out for an appreciative European audience.

The original design was 27 feet on the waterline and almost 40 feet length overall. The slim hull was designed with a full keel and a draft of close to 6 feet. Sail area was just over 600 square feet, including a fractional foretriangle.

Accommodations included a pair of berths forward and an adjacent, enclosed head. The main cabin had seats on either side, convertible to berths, and a galley at the foot of the companionway.

Modifications were made occasionally; the cabin trunk was enlarged and a bigger jib added (in the 1944 R27 model), and the boom was shortened to decrease the mainsail’s sail area while the fore- triangle was raised to the masthead (early in the 1960s).

Rhodes was no stranger to the field. At age 40, he was the lead designer at the firm of Cox & Stevens. Over the years, his company, Phillip L. Rhodes, Naval Architects and Marine Engineers, would produce boats as far-ranging as the 14-foot Rhodes Bantam sailing dinghy, the Cheoy Lee 40 Offshore and the America’s Cup winner Weatherly.

More than 40 of the Rhodes 27s were built, a testament to his design ability. Rhodes’ biographer, Richard Henderson, wrote: “Whatever kind of vessel he produced, it invariably had the look of rightness about it. Not only are Rhodes’ designs handsome, they somehow appear to be uniquely suited to their purpose.”

This article originally appeared in the July 2018 issue.

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