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Down East: Daysailers with New England charm

In the search for new markets, sailboat builders in Maine and greater New England have either started building powerboats or they’ve gone “neo-retro” with daysailers that offer classic looks, present-day agility and only the most important amenities.

In the search for new markets, sailboat builders in Maine and greater New England have either started building powerboats or they’ve gone “neo-retro” with daysailers that offer classic looks, present-day agility and only the most important amenities.

Read the other stories in this package:  A growing fleet of Down Easters   Down East Goes Global

Dayboats for joyous, simple sailing have been around for a century, and their concept still holds true, although slightly modified. Now they are lifestyle accessories, elegant “time machines” that allow skippers to steal a few precious moments from a busy schedule for a quick spin or a leisurely weekend cruise, with or without company. “They are sailing picnic boats,” as one builder jokingly remarked in reference to the success of The Hinckley Co.’s trend-setting powerboat.

“Aesthetics are important, but so are simplicity, performance and ease of handling,” says Garry Hoyt of Newport R&D in Portsmouth, R.I., which markets the Alerion Express line of sailboats. “The typical client is a drop-back racer or cruiser who still loves the sport but has grown tired of calling up crew just to go sailing.”

The answer to what the ideal daysailer looks like depends on the user’s dream — and checkbook. The concept can stretch from a simple two-person dinghy rigged with a boom tent to a modern marvel with bow thruster, hydraulics and power winches to an exact replica of a historic design. Different looks and sizes notwithstanding, these boats are designed to put the fun back in the sport, with minimum concessions to interior volume or number of berths. Efficient appendages, high aspect ratio rigs, full-batten mains, roller furling jibs, and carbon spars provide speed that’s expected at the beginning of the 21st century. If you concur that good looks, simple operation and lively performance are in vogue, this sampling should provide some motivation to leave your worries behind and go (day)sailing again.

Friendship 40

When designer Ted Fontaine struck out on his own, his success in the megayacht market was already established, but there was a missing link for owners who wanted to go smaller without losing that big-boat feel or giving up sailing altogether. Fontaine’s answer to this conundrum was the Friendship 40, which the literature calls the quintessential “mini-megayacht.” Evoking the Friendship sloop, a traditional Maine workboat, this boat sticks to traditional looks but features a centerboard instead of a fin keel and a modern carbon rig with electrical and hydraulic sail-handling systems that are commonly found on larger yachts. The accommodations appeal to a refined taste, as long as the crowd doesn’t exceed two. The semicustom boat is built by Austral Yachts in Whangarei, New Zealand.

LOA: 40 feet, 9 inches LWL: 30 feet, 3 inches BEAM: 12 feet, 10 inches DRAFT: (board up/down) 3 feet, 11 inches/9 feet, 2 inches SAIL AREA: 920 square feet DISPLACEMENT: 22,500 pounds ENGINE: 40-hp Yanmar Saildrive PRICE: $900,000 CONTACT: Friendship Yacht Company, Portsmouth, R.I. Phone: (401) 682-9102.

Bruckmann 42

A collaboration between designer Doug Zurn and Bruckmann Yachts of Mississauga, Ontario, resulted in an elegant, semicustom 42-foot daysailer. Bruckmann says it delivers fine craftsmanship, lively sailing, and comfortable accommodations that include convertible settees, enclosed head/shower and a galley for overnighting or weekending with two couples. The fixed lead-cast keel draws only 4 feet, 9 inches but still makes up 45 percent of the vessel’s gross weight, which provides decent righting moment and the added benefit of access to relatively shallow water. Electric winches and hydraulic vang and backstay are standard aids for short- or single-handed sailing.

LOA: 42 feet, 4 inches LWL: 32 feet, 9 inches BEAM: 11 feet DRAFT: 4 feet, 9 inches DISPLACEMENT: 17,503 pounds SAIL AREA: 898 square feet ENGINE: 30-hp Yanmar Saildrive PRICE: $490,000 CONTACT: Bruckmann Yachts, Mississauga, Ontario. Phone: (905) 855-1117.

Alerion 26

Rumery’s Boatyard in Biddeford, Maine, insists that theirs is not just another Alerion but a faithful reincarnation of the daysailer Nat Herreshoff designed for his own sailing pleasure in Bermuda and on Narragansett Bay. That means the boat has a classic underwater shape with glassed-in internal lead ballast and a centerboard that drops through the keel, which is key for access to shallow water. The fiberglass hull is offset by a mahogany cabin top, and customers can choose between two interiors: one rather basic, the other appointed with galley, double bunk, reading chair and nav station.

LOA: 26 feet LWL: 21 feet, 9 inches BEAM: 7 feet, 7 inches DRAFT (board up/down): 2 feet, 5 inches/5 feet, 2 inches DISPLACEMENT: 6,000 poundsSAIL AREA: 386 square feet ENGINE: 10-hp Yanmar diesel PRICE: $92,500 CONTACT: Rumery’s Boatyard, Biddeford, Maine. Phone: 207-282-0408.

Alerion Express 20, 28, 38

As the smallest of the daysailers featured here, the recently reintroduced Alerion Express 20 combines the late Carl Schumacher’s signature lines above the water with a modern underbody, including efficient foils. Full-batten main with lazyjacks, a roller furling headsail on a Hoyt jib boom and sail control lines led back to the cockpit make this boat easy to single-hand. The large cockpit has room for family and friends, and at 2,000 pounds the Alerion Express 20 also fits the trailer boat bill, a benefit the bigger models can’t claim.

Designed by Schumacher in the 1980s for a client who no longer wanted to race, the Alerion Express 28 rekindled the idea of classic-looking daysailers. With more than 350 sold, it’s the genre’s de facto standard. Schumacher, who had an expert’s eye for balanced proportions and a feel for fast ultralight displacement racers, fused vestiges of Nathanael Herreshoff’s 1912 Alerion with a modern underbody, efficient appendages and a simple yet powerful rig. The concept — large cockpit, easy handling and basic amenities below — has gone upmarket with the Alerion Express 38. To boost light-air performance, the 38 has a large, efficient main with full battens and extreme roach, carried on a carbon mast. The cockpit has grown proportionally and accommodates guests, crew and wheel steering. There’s more room for stowage and amenities, but it’s still a squeeze below for four adults, with 5 feet, 7 inches of headroom. That is dictated by “external beauty requirements” and in line with Herreshoff’s advice: “When you go below you should plan to sit down or lie down.”

An Alerion Express 33 is in the pipeline, tentatively priced at $195,200 with aluminum mast and no sails. A fall/winter launch is expected this year.

Alerion Express 20

LOA: 20 feet LWL: 17 feet BEAM: 6 feet, 10 inches DRAFT: 3 feet, 6 inches DISPLACEMENT: 1,900 pounds SAIL AREA: 220 square feet PRICE: $30,000

Alerion Express 28

LOA: 28 feet, 3 inches LWL: 22 feet, 10 inches BEAM: 8 feet, 2 inches DRAFT (standard/shoal): 4 feet, 6 inches/3 feet, 8 inches DISPLACEMENT: 5,700 pounds SAIL AREA: 352 square feet ENGINE: 14-hp Yanmar Saildrive PRICE: $95,000

Alerion Express 38

LOA: 38 feet, 3 inches LWL: 30 feet, 3 inchesBEAM: 10 feet, 8 inchesDRAFT: 5 feet, 11 inches DISPLACEMENT: 13,000 pounds SAIL AREA: 810 square feet ENGINE: 40-hp Yanmar Saildrive PRICE: $335,000 CONTACT: Newport R&D Inc., Portsmouth, R.I. Phone: (401) 683-5890.

Sakonnet 23

If compact size, good light-air performance and a clean deck are near the top of the list of requirements for a daysailer, the Sakonnet 23 deserves consideration. Built by Edey & Duff on a semicustom basis, this Joel White-designed double-ender with centerboard appeals to sporty sailors who won’t venture far from shore but need a boat they can take on a solo spin, a leisure sail or to the starting line of the weekly beer can race. Hitting the road is another option, which expands the Sakonnet’s sailing horizons dramatically.

LOA: 23 feet, 2 inches LWL: 18 feet, 8 inches BEAM: 6 feet, 1 inch DRAFT (board up/down): 1 foot, 10 inches/5 feet, 2 inches DISPLACEMENT: 2,000 pounds SAIL AREA: 193 square feet PRICE: $32,000 CONTACT: Edey & Duff Ltd., Mattapoisett, Mass. Phone: (508) 758-2743.

Bridges Point 24

Built by the Bridges Point yard in Brooklin, Maine, this stout 24-footer exemplifies the traditional Down East daysailer. Designed for “downsizers” and retirees who still succumb to the sailing bug and like to do so in style, it’s available in two versions: the cruiser with a larger cabin and the handy daysailer with a cuddy abaft the mast. Like the Sakonnet 23, this boat comes from Joel White’s drawing board. It has been in production for more than 20 years and is offered with a laundry list of options. Unlike most of the other boats in this lineup, the Bridges Point 24 has a traditional long keel. The increased wetted surface affects light-air performance, but the long keel also makes the boat track well, not to mention that it shouldn’t snag lobster pots.

LOA: 24 feet LWL: 18 feet, 8 inchesBEAM: 7 feet, 9 inches DRAFT: 3 feet, 5 inches DISPLACEMENT: 3,944 poundsSAIL AREA: 278 square feetENGINE: 10-hp Yanmar diesel (optional) PRICE: $70,000CONTACT: Bridges Point Boatyard Inc., Brooklin, Maine. Phone: (207) 359-2713

Hinckley DS42

Hinckley has endowed the DS42 with sizeable overhangs and construction technology that includes Kevlar, carbon fiber, balsa core and resin infusion in the hull laminate. The spars might look like they come from an old-growth forest, but they, too, are carbon fiber, disguised by a faux wood finish. In true daysailer fashion, the large cockpit accommodates a gaggle of guests while giving the skipper enough space to tend to the boat single-handed. If the breeze quits there might be no more than a whisper coming from the engine room if the DS42 is equipped with the optional battery-powered Solomon Technologies ST37 electric motor. A forward V-berth, two small settees, a minimal galley and a head, all appointed in customary Hinckley elegance, are just enough for a couple to overnight or weekend.

LOA: 42 feet, 3 inches LWL: 29 feet, 3 inches BEAM: 10 feet, 6 inches DRAFT (standard/keel up/down): 6 feet, 10 inches/4 feet/7 feet, 3 inches SAIL AREA: 730 square feet DISPLACEMENT: 14,700 pounds ENGINE: 27-hp Yanmar Saildrive PRICE: $750,000 (depending on options) CONTACT: The Hinckley Company, Southwest Harbor, Maine. Phone: (207) 244-5531.