Learn From The Designers

Over the years I have written (some might say ranted) a lot against the evils of poor yacht design. And with justification, since there are few things sadder than a boat that doesn't sail or motor very well, no matter how much power (engine or sails) we throw at it.

After all, we do this for fun, so surely we all want the pleasure of knowing that our boat operates in an efficient way in the medium she was designed for. And even if we don't care, a good hull design is both more fun to sail or motor and safer—slow increases our exposure to bad weather, reduces manoeuvrability, and increases the load on the gear and crew.

But the sad fact is that many, perhaps most, boats out there have poor hull designs. I have already dealt with how that happens (see Further Reading), so this article is about what we can do to avoid ending up with one of those woofers. As so often happens, I was inspired by a comment from a member:

I am struggling to apply this information into selecting a hull that is appropriate out of the universe of boats available on the used market (within my budget). For a newbie, what advice would you provide to help identify a good hull from bad. I am unable to find prismatic coefficient for the boats I am considering. Is there anything else I can use as a proxy? Max hull speed is sometimes available. I want to make the right decision…but I don’t know how.

So let's start by answering his question: There's no single number, shortcut, or even group of numbers that will tell us whether or not the designer did their job properly or, as so often happens, was persuaded to do bad stuff by others (almost always in an effort to cram too much interior into a boat).

And to make things even more complicated, good design is a moving target depending on how each of us intend to use the boat.

Given that, there are only two ways to avoid buying a bad boat:

  1. The Right Way to Buy a Boat…And The Wrong Way
  2. Is It a Need or a Want?
  3. Buying a Boat—A Different Way To Think About Price
  4. Buying a Cruising Boat—Five Tips for The Half-Assed Option
  5. Are Refits Worth It?
  6. Buying a Boat—Never Say Never
  7. Five Ways That Bad Boats Happen
  8. The Two Biggest Lies Yacht Brokers Tell
  9. Learn From The Designers
  10. You May Need a Bigger Boat Than You Think
  11. Sail Area: Overlap, Multihulls, And Racing Rules
  12. 8 Tips For a Great Cruising Boat Interior Arrangement
  13. Of Cockpits, Wheelhouses And Engine Rooms
  14. Cockpits—Part 1, Safe and Seamanlike
  15. Cockpits—Part 2, Visibility and Ergonomics
  16. Offshore Sailboat Winches, Selection and Positioning
  17. Choosing a Cruising Boat—Shelter
  18. Choosing A Cruising Boat—Shade and Ventilation
  19. Pitfalls to Avoid When Buying a New Voyaging Boat
  20. Cyclical Loading: Why Offshore Sailing Is So Hard On A Boat
  21. Cycle Loading—8 Tips for Boat and Gear Purchases
  22. Characteristics of Boat Building Materials
  23. Impact Resistance—How Hull Materials Respond to Impacts
  24. Impact Resistance—Two Collision Scenarios
  25. Hull Materials, Which Is Best?
  26. The Five Things We Need to Check When Buying a Boat
  27. Six Warnings About Buying Fibreglass Boats
  28. Buying a Fibreglass Boat—Hiring a Surveyor and Managing the Survey
  29. What We Need to Know About Moisture Meters and Wet Fibreglass Laminate
  30. Offshore Sailboat Keel Types
  31. US$30,000 Starter Cruiser—Part 1, How We Shopped For Our First Cruising Sailboat
  32. US$30,000 Starter Cruiser—Part 2, The Boat We Bought
  33. US$30,000 Starter Cruiser—How It’s Working Out
  34. Q&A, What’s the Maximum Sailboat Size For a Couple?
  35. At What Age should You Stop Sailing And Buy a Motorboat?
  36. A Motorsailer For Offshore Voyaging?

John was born and brought up in Bermuda and started sailing as a child, racing locally and offshore before turning to cruising. He has sailed over 100,000 miles, most of it on his McCurdy & Rhodes 56, Morgan's Cloud, including eight ocean races to Bermuda, culminating in winning his class twice in the Newport Bermuda Race. He has skippered a series of voyages in the North Atlantic, the majority of which have been to the high latitudes. John has been helping others go voyaging by sharing his experience for 25 years, first in yachting magazines and, for the last 20 years, as co-editor/publisher of AAC.

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