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What makes a good motorsailer? Jim Leishman

Jim Leishman, owner and vice president, Pacific Asian Enterprises (Nordhavn), Dana Point, Calif.

The idea began with a six-month circumnavigation aboard our Nordhavn 40 in late 2001. My brother Jeff, Nordhavn chief of design, and I often found ourselves in perfect trade wind conditions for days on end. The thought of keeping the same comfort we had on the N40 trawler while using the wind and enjoying the stability a rig and sails would provide proved to be the genesis of a new Nordhavn: our 56-foot motorsailer.

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The prospect of building a beautifully performing cruising sailboat was a natural fit, having built more than 250 Mason sailboats 20 years ago. And our success in building ocean-crossing powerboats is well-known to most people in the trawler segment of the market. Ta Shing, our factory in Taiwan, had produced all of our Mason sailboats as well as many of our Nordhavn trawlers, so the stage was set for an idea whose time had come.

Performance under power or sail, or a combination of both, was perhaps the biggest challenge we faced and possibly the reason this type of cruising boat has not been as popular in the past. Achieving success in all three areas is crucial. We knew it was possible to produce a really great motoring vessel, one that by virtue of its finer hull lines and sharper entry would motor faster and more efficiently than any of the trawlers within our existing Nordhavn fleet. We could achieve the same low noise and vibration levels and maintain most of the luxurious features of a well-found passagemaking Nordhavn, yet with a modern and powerful sailing rig, along with a controllable pitch propeller, the new motorsailer could offer more than reasonable sailing performance.

The Nordhavn 56 MS logged 15 knots downwind and 6 knots over ground on its shakedown sail.

First, let’s talk about power. This spring, we had two N56 motorsailers leave Southern California for Washington. Both powered north in a comfortable six days, which could not be done any better in a trawler design. Keep in mind that this was at times in 10- to 12-foot seas and 25 to 35 knots on the nose.

Second is sailing performance. All of the magazines that reviewed hull No. 1 were surprised at her light-air ability. While it’s unfortunate to have light air during a sailing performance evaluation, it did confirm that the motorsailer does well in a light blow. On the other side of the curve, we already posted better than 8.5 knots in 22 knots of breeze on a reach with the prop feathered, and she stood proud without much heel, proving she is not a tender boat. One of the writers during our test sail (with just a working headsail) reported apparent wind speed (AWS) 14, apparent wind angle (AWA) 65 and a boat speed of 6.1, as well as AWS 11, AWA 110 and a boat speed of 5.1. These published numbers stand well against most cruising sailboats in our size range.

The third element to consider is motorsailing performance, which is of high importance for a boat that will likely spend most of its time motorsailing. The most important point to understand here is that sailboats are rarely run at proper engine temperatures, which is very hard on a diesel. With our Hundested variable-pitch propeller, a control at the helm allows pitch adjustment, and a reading of exhaust gas temperature allows the skipper to safely reduce rpm and, at the same time, achieve the proper load on the engine, all of which works to maximize fuel efficiency and ensure maximum engine life.

We are very pleased with the new Nordhavn 56 MS, and her abilities have proven a successful blend of performance and cruising. Feel free to give me a call at (949) 496-4848 or visit our Web site for details.

See related articles:

- A modern motorsailer

- The best of both worlds

- What makes a good motorsailer? Ted Hood

- What makes a good motorsailer? Bob Johnson

- What makes a good motorsailer? Mark Bruckmann and Mark Ellis

- What makes a good motorsailer? Walt Schulz

The article originally appeared in the September 2009 issue.


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