by Jeff Gilbert

Cruising Design

A prominent European race designer, pointing out the extreme lightness of an open 60, recently said in an interview "Ideally, of course, one of these should race round the world, tie up at the dock and fall to bits".

Seems we can now divorce life-span from strength in some modern materials. Race boats seek material that is lighter but strong enough, even if it fades fast.

This sort of thinking leads me to believe that imitation of race boats for cruising is crazy and can only lead to ridiculous expense, irresponsible environmental builds and boats that only look fast.

Comparing the modern situation with The heyday of Laurent Giles, when boats like Dyarchy and Maid of Mallam performed well in both roles, I believe the term "Cruiser -Racer " should be deleted before more people lose their Superannuation funds to the love of shiny Gelcoat and a claimed extra knot upwind.

The unnecessary expense doesnt stop with building our cruisers from race materials that are unecessarly light anyway and impart an uncomfortable motion. We now must sacfrifice safety for comfort; and performance, so expensively won in the hull build, for the weight and bulk of a 4 star plastic motel interior.

I advocate a return to doable boats, and will continue to design them. Simple and beautiful homebuildable greyhounds in hard-chine marine ply and modern coatings, with camping interiors and non-critical rigs minus thusands of dollars in fittings.

You dont have to charter to pay for one of these, so out goes a few berths and in comes narrow beam, out goes the wheel and in with transom hung rudders with a tiller and wind vane, out goes the thru hull fittings and in goes the composting toilet (they dont smell anyway) and in comes the cockpit shower and out goes plumbing, in comes a book of charts and lighthouses and a hand held GPs and out goes 500metres of wiring. With less of everything your boat can be slimmer and pick up the speed shes lost over her second hand non-optimised rig. Out goes the companionway and incomes a sealing hatch and dry interior. A varnished ply interior is beautiful. When it rains would you rather be in a plastic box? Even with wipeable surfaces.

I am not preaching anything new, and Im definitely not suggesting carvel planking with miles of oakum.. I'm simply saying lets use what we now know to create attainable boats, resurrect and update (improved coatings, fixing and user feedback) the thinking that produced the Tanenui 28, the Black Skimmer and MacNaughtons Siver Gull series. I simply believe If cruisng thinking continues to hang onto the coattails of unreal sponsored racing, it will fall expensively on its arse.

Jeff Gilbert 2003.