The Garcia Exploration 45 Compared to the Boréal 47—Part 1, Introduction and Rig

Pete and Tracy Goss's Garcia Exploration 45 at the Annapolis boat show.

While at the boat show in Annapolis, Maryland, I was able to spend an hour or so on Pete and Tracy Goss's Garcia Expedition 45. Obviously I can't write a full review based on such a short time on the boat, but there are a bunch of things that jumped out at me. And since then I have done a lot of internet research on the boat to fill in the gaps to at least some extent.


The early-build Boréal 44 that Phyllis and I inspected and sailed on.

To make this as relevant as possible I have compared the Garcia to the Boréal 44/47—the only difference between the two Boréals is the addition of a sugar scoop stern on the 47—since that boat is the obvious competitor and, more importantly, the Boréals have a 10-year track record of successful cruises to some of the most remote and stormy places on earth (list below), the target purpose for both boats.

  • Ten have rounded Cape Horn.
  • Five have visited South Georgia and Antartica.
  • Five have visited Greenland.
  • One has transited the North West Passage.

Relevant For All

Even if you are not interested in buying either boat, this series of four articles will give you some good ideas of what to look for in a boat to go to out-of-the-way hazardous places, particularly the high latitudes—or even just offshore—in comfort and safety.

Or, to put it another way, this is also a series of articles on how John evaluates offshore boats.


Before I get going and in the interests of transparency I need to make some things clear:

  • Phyllis and I spent three days evaluating the Boréal 44/47, including sailing on her, so I'm a lot more familiar with them than the Garcia.
  • We really liked the Boréal 47, and came very close to buying one. And from time to time we still think about it.
  • While we have not spent a lot of time with them, Phyllis and I look on the partners at Boréal as personal friends.
  • Colin Speedie, European Correspondent here at AAC, and a close friend, has acted as owner's representative on the build of many Boréals.

Relevant Experience

Our Morgan's Cloud on the east coast of Greenland, the kind of relatively high-risk cruising I will evaluate these boats for.

I have spent much of the last 25 years cruising remote places, exactly what these two boats are designed for, so my observations are much more well informed than those of the average observer.

Getting The Most From This

My suggestion is that, in order to get the best out of these articles, you focus on the facts that I bring to light as a starting point for further investigation of each boat's suitability for your own needs, rather than reading this article looking for a recommendation for or against either boat.

To that end, throughout the articles, I have included note boxes like this one, with suggestions for things a buyer should investigate and carefully compare between the two boats prior to making a decision.

That said, at the end of each section I will give my opinion as to which boat builder executed that area in the best way, particularly for offshore and expedition sailing. It's up to you whether or not you take that into account in your own deliberations. I have highlighted these summary opinions in grey.

One final note. Whenever I have called out a feature as desirable or undesirable I have included a link to an article that explains why in the Further Reading section at the end—less disruptive than adding links throughout the text.

Let's start from the top:

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Mark Wilson

I expanded your photograph as I was interested by what was going on at the bowsprit; lovely high resolution, by the way. Anchor stowage looks clumsy. And what’s that line doing descending vertically into the water ? It’s always interesting to see what owners have to do to get round what the designers haven’t got quite right.

From what one can see from your main photo they have set out to build the anti-Boréal. I’m very much looking forward to seeing if they have redeemed themselves withe the cockpit and the interior.

I don’t mean to sound like I’m carping. She looks like a great boat and I’d bite off anyone’s arm to have her.



Terence Thatcher

I cannot afford either boat, but …. What is it with swept spreaders? I consider that a disqualifying attribute of any sailboat used for cruising. Why has it become popular? I can see NO advantages. There must be something I don’t understand.

Ernest E Vogelsinger

Possibly “fashion”.
Swept back spreaders are often used to spare the back stay(s), at least this is what I notice on a lot of European built charter vessels and most modern cats. AFAIK they come from racing rigs, so the builders might give the impression of a really fast boat – which it might not be, as John points out, at least in a cruising setup.

Dick Stevenson

Hi Terence,
My take has always been, for cruising sailboats, that the primary reason for swept back spreaders, is that it saves a good deal of $$$ in the manufacture: consolidation of chainplates often more easily situated on the hull side. Both of which make for easier engineering and fabrication. Then the really creative part is to sell it to the public and obfuscate the whole issue to hide the fact they are just saving money.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Jean-François Eeman

Hi Dick,
Hi Terence,
To be totally fair to our competition, there is more to say about the subject.
Yes having swept back spreaders means two shrouds with corresponding structure less (on an aluminium boat like we build them it is not just a chain plate, it is a complete reinfroced frame with a T-structure).
So yes, it has an impact on manufacturing.
BUT there can also be other reasons :
– Having less strucure inside, means you have more room inside and even more important more latitude to arrange your interior with less constraints… The total volum inside a hull is relatively small, the more structure, the more imbrications you have to live with. The impact on designing the interior is very important… The smaller the boat, the bigger the impact…
– On a Boréal we have a self tacking staysail. If we would want to have more powerfull, not self-tacking staysail, the size of it would be limited by the spreaders. Having swept back spreaders means you can have a bigger (not self-tacking staysail)…
(That is why a few number of Boréal 55 have mast with slightly pushing spreaders and a bigger staysail…)

Some other architects or boatbuilders might have other views or complementary insides, also linked to the way they build/design other boats.

Jean-François EEMAN,
Managing Director Boréal

Dick Stevenson

Hi Jean-Francois,
Thanks for weighing in on this question. I am usually clear that I have “my story” but I am always clear it is likely not the whole story. Your fleshing out other considerations is appreciated.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

George L

There is a very long section about swept spreaders in the Dashews’ Offshore Cruising Encyclopedia. Can be downloaded for free now.

P D Squire

Did either builder consider a carbon mast? Does either offer it as an option? If not did they give reasons? Your arguments seem compelling and the incremental cost on a new boat may not be excessive. After reading your book I’m wondering why anyone builds new boats with alloy rigs.

Jean-François Eeman

Hi Mr. Squire,
Yes we did consider but ni we do not offer it as an option.
A few years ago Dominique Wavre who raced ten times around the world (4 Whitebread/Volvo Ocean Race, 4 Vendée Globe and 2 Barcelona World Race with his wife) gave us the chance to build his Boréal 55.
His wife Michèle who is a professionla rigger and him considered a carbon mast. Together we investigated the subject and made a thourough analysis (with the mast builder and the sailmaker). At the end we decided togehter that the positive impacts was not worth the extra budget (and complications). Moreover the impact of a change to carbon mast on the stab curve was very limited…
One could also reverse the question: for an offshore cruising boat why would you go to a carbon mast if the alloy mast does the/a satisfy job job ?

Neil McCubbin

We have a carbon mast on our Garcia Passoa 47 (an older design comparable to the Boreal and the Expedition)
It allowed us to have 3.5 metres higher mast than standard with same overturning moment as alloy
Result is that we sail MUCH better in light airs. We have comparison against a Boreal 47 and another Passoa 47
Of course we reef often. Our first reef is same as a standard Passoa main.
I am surprised Boreal does not offer carbon. Whether it is worth the cost is for the buyer to decide

Neil McCubbin

We have sailed our Garcia Passoa 47 (predecessor to the Expedition )about 50,000 miles.
We installed a carbon mast which is 3 metres taller than standard but mast and rig present about equal overturning moments.
The big rig is GREAT in light winds, as evidenced by performance when sailing with other boats. If I bought either of these boats, I would want the taller carbon masts
BTW the only time we have sailed with a Boreal 47 we had a reef in and sailed nearly a knot faster, pointing slightly higher. I was surprised but have no explanation. Perhaps he was badly trimmed. We saw him only on AIS due to the Hebridean mist

Neil McCubbin

Hi John,
The Passoa 47 is really a Nouanni 44 witch a stretched stern to 47. The designer, Philippe Harle told me that he added the length because the Nouanni dragged a stern wave when going fast.
On that thought, I do not know why anyone would buy a Boreal 44 when the Boreal 47 costs so little more

Charles Ambrose

I have a long running interest in both these boats, initially I was in the boreal camp, but slowly getting won over by the garcia. Regarding the swept back spreaders; i met Jimmy Cornell and asked him about why , he said he had to compromise with some design features on the boat and the spreaders was one, to allow a target price slot. I do believe there is a garcia 45 out there with in line spreaders, which sounds ideal. The talk with Jimmy was very informative , he really put a lot of great ideas into the boat.

Henry Rech

Steve Dashew’s take on swept back spreaders is that, if there is no permanent backstay, a highly efficient maximum roachy main can be flown for all points of sailing. Dead running is difficult – he prefers gybing downwind and hopefully making a better VMG. He also does not like the idea of dead running with a conventional rig because of the rolling, which can be unsettling and dangerous, particularly in waves. If dead running is required, douse the mainsail and run with dual headsails on furlers and poles. Reefing is easy with the furlers. (A running backstay could also be set.) Rolling is also possible with dual headsails but less risky and more manageable.

Any contrary thoughts anybody?

Dick Stevenson

Hi Henry and all,
For years, I read the sailing slicks and tried to make my cruising boats make faster VMG gybing downwind over going dead-down-wind. I failed miserably and made myself a bit crazy trying to keep the jib full at deep angles.
I now have many miles of open-ocean DDW sailing, mostly wing and wing with a poled-out jib, and have never found rolling a problem. I have a couple of thoughts: one is that rolling can be diminished by loading one side or the other just a bit and perhaps joining this adjustment with a very slight adjustment of a couple of degrees off a DDW course.
The second is my observation that most cruising boats going DDW in this configuration are over canvassed. It takes surprisingly little sail area to get a decent cruising sailboat close enough to hull speed going DDW. Being over-canvassed is easy to fall into as there is little overt indication, but, when over-canvassed, the boat is more susceptible to small variations in wind speed which torque the boat around and exacerbate the roll: especially if there is some sort of “harmonic” occurring.
I am also not a fan of being without a main in open water passage making. That said, I like nothing better coastal cruising than just rolling out the jib (popping out the asym) for an easy downwind day hop from anchorage to anchorage.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Richard Elder

Hi Dick
A glance at Randal Reeves DDW rig puts him in your camp! Lots of 160 mile days with a full keel boat that is probably a bit slower than your Valiant.

Henry Rech

Would you say that running dead down wind requires more helm attention and can be stressful?

Is this a factor on short handed boats?

Henry Rech

I can remember in a Sydney Hobart hard running down by the east coast of Tasmania. Of course we had everything up, #1 spinnaker, blooper (remember those). The main boom was held with a preventer. An experienced hand was at the helm. The wind was square on but gusting and swinging around in the gusts. The waves nudging us about a little. A nudge the wrong way with a gust angling downwind a bit more and we were over on our ear. (I was the one that scrambled across the deck to break the preventer.)

I guess you have to choose the conditions you run carefully.

Henry Rech


What do you think of running with twin headsails?

I imagine you have written this up somewhere?

Henry Rech


“…that tells me you were on an IOR type race boat…”

Not quite – it was a late 1960s early 1970s S&S style of design – not the extreme IOR hulls that began to emerge in the mid 1970s. (It was the 1979 SH, however.) Our yacht was a great sea boat.

The broach/unintentional gybe was more to do with the situation. Early morning, flukey conditions, helmsman grooving in to a surfing rhythm and then quickly unsettled by a sudden coincidence of wave and wind conditions. Luckily the preventer was released as quickly as it was otherwise rig and hull might have parted company.

Henry Rech

BTW John, it was Steve who raised the issue of rolling, in answer to a question from me on his blog, about downwind gybing.

Steve Wrye

My wife and I found little rolling down wind with our Boreal. Nothing like the previous boat a Mason 44. Three keys to the Boreal not rolling, one; don’t over canvas, the proper amount of sail in our opinion is a key. Maybe a little slower than powering up but we went in a more strait line and usually equaled the distance sailed in 24 hours than if we over canvased. Two; Adjustment to your centerboard, down wind most all Boreal owners bring the centerboard all the way up. We learned that by making slight adjustments, ( board a little way down maybe a foot) was just another way of steadying boat from rolling. Three; going down wind with the Boreal Drop both dagger boards. We usually did that from 155 apparent all the way to 180. This in our opinion helps prevent the stern wobble so common on traditional boats in moderate following seas. Stern wobble creates a rolling motion starting at the stern and moves forward throughout the boat. On the Mason 44 I often sat by the stern and watched it wobble and slide sideways every time a wave went under us. Often wondered how many miles we lost over 24 hours. I figured maybe about 6 miles. On the Boreal that problem does not exist if you sail her right.
Steve and Tracy.

Neil McCubbin

We have a traditional rig with normal backstay sland a big roach main. I got the idea from an article by Steve Dashew. Our roach is about 18” past the backstay
Works fine, even when tacking. Our first mainsail lasted 35,000 miles and 12 years, with no visible damage from hitting the backstay when tacking
We usually run near DDW with a main and poled out jib. We roll less than with two headsails alone. We sailed Cape Verdes to Barbados, mostly in 15-25 knots, but cooked normally, could leave coffee or a beer on the table etc
This is boat specific. Milvina is a Passoa 47, centreboard with no deep ballast

Robert Withers

We’ve recently sailed form the UK to New Zealand in our Boreal 47, Tintin. That’s lots of miles, almost all of it downwind. A couple of observations:
– Tacking the sail between the 2 forestays is not an issue. We competed in the Tahiti Pearl regatta this year, and the final race was a circuit of the island of Taha’a inside the reef. Short-tacking amongst other boats between the reef and the island concentrated the mind but was great fun – I would guess that we were 2-4 seconds slower getting the genoa pulled in on the new side compared to a boat without an inner a forestay.
– The staysail is pretty small. It’s only really useful when reaching or beating in F6 or greater. We’ve used it half a dozen times in 20,000Nm. With hindsight, I would have the staysail as hanked-on, so that most of the time it’s out of the sun, and also it means that we could used a storm-jib more easily.
– The bulk of our miles were done using a ‘Blue-water runner’ sail. This is a double, generously-cut genoa on a loose-footed furler tacked to the bowsprit. Poled out on one side and flying loose on the other with the mainsail down we could leave it for days. We could furl it from the cockpit and reef it in squalls. It was great when the apparent wind was aft of about 110 degrees – anything less and we had to do ‘real’ sailing!

Jeff Sowell

On the topic of runners, you mention: “Both boats are fitted with them, as is proper on any boat that goes offshore, including sloops.”

Why would one feel the need for runners on a mast-head or double mast-head (i.e., Solent – like ours) rigged sloop? I suppose extra support is never a bad thing?

James Peto

I know that you are comparing aluminium boats, but the Garcia has a deck/ saloon made of grp composite and has twin rudders to dry out on which are easily fouled and potentially damaged.
You mentioned the Outbound 46 the other day which is a composite vessel with substantial layup with watertight bulkheads, cutter rig and an external hard dodger, so no possibility of water ingress if the glazing is damaged – unlike the Boreal or Garcia – Perhaps you might care to make the comparison between the 3.

Christopher Barnes

Now after 40,000 nm without issue and through some tough weather moments, still no doubts or hesitation about the integrity and durability of the double-paned curved glass in the doghouse.

Christopher Barnes


I think the reality would be a rather complex jerry-rig. We do carry a variety of marine ply bits, stiff closed-cell foam, and a variety of tarps/canvas that would maybe suffice for cracked and leaking. If truly gone/shattered, one would be in survival mode for sure. If we were faced with leaving the vessel at anchor for a major event (hurricane) I certainly would be thinking about padding and protection from flying debris.

My understanding (one would have to confirm recent history w Boreal directly) is that they had one cracked/fogged curved pane replaced under warranty many years ago on one boat. I am not an engineer, but suspect the forces involved to break the double-paned curved glass (esp once installed without incident, cracking etc) would also stove in the hatches and portals on any boat – a storm I hope to never experience… all to say, a legitimate consideration but given that the doghouse allows watchstanding with great visibility forward the net risks make sense to me (e.g. more likely to suffer a catastrophic loss from a navigation error or collision than sinking due to water ingress due to broken doghouse glass) – every boat is full of compromises etc and as I said in my review, if one can’t wrap your head around this then not the boat for you.

Richard Elder

When I designed my Sunchaser 58 catamaran I wanted a “glass house” ultramodern feel in the main salon for sales reasons. In order to accomplish that I designed every window panel with a heat formed compound curvature. The window subcontractor’s main business was building canopies for 250 mph airplanes where the design criteria was an unplanned meeting with a Canada goose. (I actually came within a twitch of the control stick of testing one of his canopies against a thermaling hawk!) Prior to that project I was PM on a megayacht where the pilothouse design spec called for resisting wave impact during a 175 knot hurricane. The owner, being a “trust but verify” type, commissioned me to design a test fixture and procedure to verify the designer’s calculations. So I can state with confidence that it is possible to design pilothouse windows and attachment methods that I am comfortable with!

Ann Bainbridge

A commenter asked, in Part 4 of this series, what thickness the glass is in the window spec for the doghouse and salon of the Garcia/Boreal. I’m also curious if anybody knows as we recently went through the exercise of replacing our salon windows and had a hard time getting any information. I went to see the Garcia at a boat show as they were advertising it had double-glazed windows. That’s something I was trying to get in our boat to reduce condensation problems in cold climates. The Garcia windows were double-glazed, but, looked rather flimsy to me, just two ‘thin’ panes with an air space in-between. We ended up going with a solid window, an 8mm tempered (tinted) exterior glass pane laminated to a 5mm tempered (clear) interior glass pane, 14mm thick in total which will hopefully be adequate.

Charles Doane

Hello all! Great conversation going on here. I own a Boreal 47 and have also sailed some distance on the first Garcia 45 with Jimmy Cornell, so thought I’d share some thoughts.

1. I agree with John wholeheartedly about flat spreaders versus sweptback spreaders and to my mind this one of the big advantages of the Boreal over the Garcia. Most importantly for me, it is much harder to reef the main sailing off the wind–something I think you must be able to do–with sweptback spreaders.

2. I have had a few conversations with sailmakers about whether it might be possible to run the Boreal as a true cutter with a high-cut yankee jib instead of the standard genoa. Some said yes, some shrugged and said they didn’t know. Only way to find out, I fear, would be to spend the money to build the jib and hope for the best. I imagine if it worked on the Boreal it would also work on the Garcia.

3. Tacking the genoa around the staysail: I have found it very cumbersome in anything less than 20 knots of breeze, especially when sailing alone. After toying with the idea of building a yankee jib, that would tack around the staysail more easily and hopefully fly with it too (see above), I instead had a new staysail built that furls on its own torque-rope luff with a continuous-line furler. This can be easily rolled up and taken down, or just brought to the mast, when you need to tack the genoa a lot. It does mean you can’t roller-reef the staysail, but the sail is so small I don’t see wanting to do that very often, if at all. You could set up a similar rig on the Garcia, of course.

4. One thing we did on Jimmy’s boat was fly a Code Zero type sail tacked to the sprit with the staysail, which worked great and would also work on the Boreal, of course.

5. The staysail on the Boreal is not truly self-tacking. You need to ease the sheet for the sail to slide down the track to leeward during the tack, then retension after the tack. Or go forward and kick the car across. At least on my boat, but it’s not a huge bother. Interestingly, the new torque-rope staysail tacks a bit more easily. Not sure why.

6. There is a tremendous amount of friction in the mainsheet run aft on the Garcia. I found it very bothersome and given the line run (all under-deck, with three turns) could see no easy way to substantially reduce it. I also found more friction than I liked in the Boreal’s mainsheet run, but it was very easy to fix this. I just took out some blocks and reduced the parts in the run. It works very well now.

7. It is possible, if you like, to run some lines aft from the mast to the cockpit on the Boreal. Like John, I prefer to keep things at the mast.

8. Both the Boreal and the Garcia do have short rigs, which is standard on these French centerboard boats. The lower rig compensates for the ballast being higher up in the bilges. I have one friend who sails an older Garcia who did put a substantially taller carbon rig on his boat (a Passoa). To make it work stability-wise he has to use hank-on headsails instead of carrying the extra weight of furling rods. He swears by this, and revels in the extra sail area, but it’s not something I’d want to do myself. I like roller furling!

9. I’ve gone back and forth on the two-part halyard on the Boreal. I started with the two-part, switched to one part, then switched back to two-part with a better halyard block. There is a bit of friction on the Boreal’s mainsail hoist. It’s not a particularly easy sail to get up, or to reef. If you have solid track cars (like me), instead of ball-bearing cars (a complication I do not relish), you need to keep the track on the mast well lubricated. I’m considering other ways to reduce the friction, including eventually trying a mainsail with just two top full battens. Raising and reefing the main on the Garcia is not really easier, however, due to the added friction in bringing the halyard and reef lines aft.

10. As to rolling generally, both the Garcia and the Boreal have a very smooth motion. This has been true of all the centerboard boats like these that I have sailed on. My theory is it is because you are much closer to the ballast. The ballast is the fulcrum of the lever. The closer you are to it, the less motion you experience.

Jean-François Eeman

Hi Charlie,
If you do allow me : on your point 5 and tacking with the self-tacking staysail.
If you put a lot of tension on the sheet there is indeed not enough play between the different blocks and the cars do not go easily from one side to the other…
So either you release about 10-15 cm before tacking and haul it in again after the tack, either if you have to tack a lot you sail with the sail a little bit eased (and yes, you point slightly less high)…
This Saturday an AAC reader and I tacked our way out of the river of Tréguier on Milonga, our personal Boréal 47, with the staysail. We did like 30 tacks and not once, one of us had to go to the bow to help the car (and not once I eased the sheet). I hope this helps…

Charles Doane

You can leave both running backs on when the main is double-reefed. Frankly, I don’t normally think of setting up running backs unless the wind is blowing hard enough to warrant that. In light to moderate breezes I think it’s OK to fly the staysail without the running backs.

Jean-François Eeman

Hi John,
Once again Charlie’s answer is spot on…
Maybe for some of the readers it is important to insist on the fact that unlike on some racing boats you will NOT get the mast on your head if you don’t use the running backstays. As you pointed out correctly the running backstays are to avoid the mast pumping. In heavy winds and heavy seas although the mast is (slightly) prebend on a Boréal, only the running backstays will create a triangular structure you need to hold the mast in position at the height of the fixation point of the staysail and put tension on the stay of the staysail… (I hope my explanation is clear. Please tell me if it is not)

Charles Doane

Hi JF! I seem to recall test-sailing a Boreal with you, short-tacking up the river to town under full main and staysail, and you having to go forward each time to kick the staysail over. But that was in very light wind! My current theory now on why tacking is easier with the new staysail is that I replaced the staysail sheet with a line of smaller diameter. This seems to have reduced friction significantly.

Jean-François Eeman

Hi Charlie,
You are absolutely correct. In light airs sometimes easing the sheet is not enough…
I should have mentionned in my comment that last weekend we had at least 20kn (mosty between 25 and 30 kn) of apparent wind…
Good idea of having a smaller diameter for the sheet. To be honnest: we have never tried

Phil Balderson

Love this article so much. I’ve given up reading yachting magazines after joining AAC.

Charles Doane

Hi John! I appreciate being able to participate here.

Responding to your points about true cutters: it is a great rig! My previous boat, a Tanton 39, also aluminum, was designed as a cutter, with the mast back and a large foretriangle, and it sailed very well with a yankee jib and staysail. Tacked easily and pointed higher as a cutter than when sailed as a sloop. For light-air sailing I got a Code Zero type sail to fly on the sprit (I called it the screecher) and this worked very well.

I was very tempted to try this same configuration on the Boreal, but it would involve building two sails with a reasonable chance of the result not working very well. So I decided to change the staysail instead. Not a terribly expensive experiment. I will say also that for my purposes the Boreal sails well enough in light wind with the standard genoa that it doesn’t make sense to supplant it with something a lot more expensive.

On backing staysails to help jibs around when tacking: I had the honor to crew once on Dorade, which has a double-headsail rig with the stays too close to each other to work as a cutter. We were racing around Penobscot Bay. The regular crew before each tack would raise the staysail, just to prevent the jib from blowing into the gap in the foretriangle behind the staysail stay, then lower it again after the tack. With hanked-on sails, of course. It was very impressive!

Neil McCubbin

On our Passoa 47 we have the centre board all the way up and our single dagger board (aft, like your pair) down. VERY easy to steer and stable
I think both the Boreal and the Garcia centreboarders roll less than keelboats because the ballast is so high EricHiscock recommended a lot of inside ballast to achieve comfortable motion. To me this is a key advantage of a centreboard design for cruising

Neil McCubbin

I am the guy Charlie mentions with the tall carbon mast. We latterly changed to a roller furling job and are pleased with it
Our job clew is about 9 ft above deck, overlaps the mast about 6 ft
It tracks fairly easily (we never have to go forward)
We normally fly the piston hank staysail too and leave it aback until the jib is across
This helps tacking, and is one reason we would not have a self-tacking staysail
BTW we fly a big roach main and let it hit the back stay. First main (Hood) lasted 12 years and 35,000 miles with no visible damage

Scott Grometer

First, a huge thank you for an amazing site. I have been totally immersed since joining a few weeks ago.
Really enjoying ALL the discourse here on the Boreal and the Garcia. Very timely, as I have started to look at these very boats. For economic reasons, I am leaning towards an Ovni, but much of what has been written here seems directly transferable/applicable. I would love to hear some direct comparisons between these two boats and the Ovni. Perhaps Colin could chime in with some observations? I have read his entire online book regarding his Ovni 435 (excellent!), but would like to learn more about what is similar /different about these competing designs.

Scott Grometer

Thank you, John, for the suggestion of hiring Colin. I have been thinking of doing exactly that.

Really looking forward to installments three thru four on the Boreal and Garcia!

Charles Doane

Hi Scott: I studied Ovnis a bit before buying a Boreal. Also talked to Jimmy Cornell at some length about his experience with his Ovni, which he sailed great distances prior to his Garcia 45. The most significant difference, comparing the Ovnis to both Boreals and Garcia, IMHO, is that the centerboard is simply a flat plate, not a shaped foil. My assumption was/is an Ovni will therefore generally not point as well, and Jimmy confirmed this to me. Perhaps Colin could speak to this. I have also heard that if you are a super-sharp sailor you can get an Ovni to point better than it should.

Note too: newer Ovnis have fallen in for the modern trend of sweptback spreaders. Older boats have flat spreaders. I asked about getting a new boat built with flat spreaders and was told it is not possible.

If you are looking for these sort of aluminum centerboard boats used on the brokerage market, you will find the Ovnis are very dominant. If you are patient other sorts do come up. Several different European builders (mostly French) have built boats like this over the years.

Maxime Gérardin

Regarding the sad trend at Ovni: they now have an “Ovni 400”, with more-swept-than-ever-before spreaders, ultra-high freeboard, and plenty of other equally frightenning features… I wonder where it will lead them, commercially.

Scott Grometer

Hi Charles,
Thank you much for chiming-in with your observations regarding the Ovni as compared to the Boreal. I was unaware of the flat-plate vs. foil aspect, which helps to explain some of what I have been hearing.

Also, I was disappointed to learn that Ovni has gone with the swept-back spreaders on newer boats. The 395 I am interested in, alas, has the swept-back version. I am guessing that it would not be an easy conversion to parallel given the welded (and presumably reinforced) existing chainplates.

Not sure I can consider myself a super-sharp sailor, but might have to aspire to that, as there does not seem to be many second-hand Boreals in my price range (or many second-hand Boreals period!). I am all ears regarding other designs/manufacturers of similar concept!

Have enjoyed your musings over on Wavetrain also. Again, thank you for your valued input here.

Rob Gill

Hi John,
I am a little surprised at your comment “Neither of these boats is going to be that fast (to sail hotter angles in VMG mode downwind) particularly when loaded with cruising gear and sailed by a cruising crew”. With a modern A sail I would expect both these modern beamy yachts to be faster sailing on a broad reach ( measured in -ve VMG), even in cruising mode.
In fact I would go further and say that both would get a “x” from me if they couldn’t. Perhaps Jean-Francois might comment here?
We have a 15 year old Beneteau with a short masthead rig and production swept back spreaders. She will sit on 12->15 knots in trade-wind sailing with the code zero up, in full cruising trim and two up. Not only that, but the moment we start surfing, everything goes light, the helm becomes a two finger exercise and the boat comes almost bolt upright with almost no rolling.
Complete flow across the twisted-off main and well-eased code zero (love that sail), down to 160 apparent – main just lightly touching the stays. We have a carbon fibre spinnaker pole, but it is almost redundant and I am thinking of selling it.

Running square feels like flying potato sacks compared with broad reaching with a modern “A” sail. Swept back spreaders becomes a non-issue (IMHO) and even a benefit because they are so easy to tune and achieve nice pre-bend even with a masthead rig. No need for runners – storm jib hoists on a stowable (against the mast) masthead inner-forestay. No genoa – swap between the Code zero and 100% jib. Small baby stay solves any potential mast inversion issues.
Great article by the way – really interesting. Thanks.

Maxime Gérardin

you say “for zero downside”, and I thought that straight spreaders come with a slightly heavier mast profile. Is this false?

Charles Doane

Hi Rob:

That Beneteau sounds very impressive! If you can get a Beneteau going that well on a broad reach, perhaps you can do the same with a Boreal or Garcia. Either one should surf more readily than a Beneteau with their boards up.

Some clarifications, if you don’t mind:

1. The boat is averaging 12-15 knots? Or are you tapping these speeds while surfing? Can an autopilot steer when this is going on?

2. Are you doing this with a so-called Code Zero or an A-sail? They are different animals.


Rob Gill

Hi Charles,
A1. Yes, averaging 12->15 knots for hours on end (trade-wind conditions), bearing in mind our hull speed is just under 9 knots. At about 25 knots true, off the wind we light up around 150, then as the apparent shifts forward you can bear away down to 160 or even 165 without the A sail collapsing. Once surfing in this mode she will continue, unless the wind drops or shifts with cloud interference, but that’s why you sail trade-winds right? We do set the auto-pilot on wind vane mode (high sensitivity setting for smallest helm corrections) and she steers beautifully. Problem would be getting the crew off the helm long enough – it is such a blast and on our boat – effortless helming. I have a friend who sailed his B473 from Alaska down to New Zealand via Hawaii and Fiji. He reports a similar experience, but sitting comfortably on 15-18 knots in 40 knots of breeze under rolled jib and a blade of mainsail (his was in-mast furling), with the boat bolt-upright, surfing in complete control with two-finger steering. I wouldn’t be that adventurous without a full, experienced crew on board. But one thing to remember is as your speed increases, once on a broad reach and surfing steadily, the apparent wind doesn’t increase, but actually drops and the strain on the gear reduces somewhat. We have an impressive rooster tail out the back.

A2. Yes, they certainly are very different – as I’m sure you suspected we have a code zero from Doyle, in their light hi-mod Stratis fabric. This sail has been a real game changer for us Charles. Purchased to go offshore – best investment ever. It of course points much higher than our old nylon asymmetric. In fact we use it upwind in less than 12 knots of true breeze, eliminating the need for a genoa, which (IMHO) is a poor sail choice offshore. But here is my point, we can sail much lower too, lower than I would ever have believed possible until WE experienced it. The old asymmetric would collapse around 130 – 140 apparent and all of John’s concerns above would apply. But the code 0 remains incredibly stable at low wind angles and we don’t have it poled out or even use a really long sprit (certainly our bow attachment is significantly shorter than that pictured on the Garcia, hence my initial surprise).

The other brilliant trait with this sail is it furls beautifully 100% of the time (tested in 30 knots our limit so far). Come down to 170 or 180 degrees and the code zero finally inverts, then collapses behind the main and can be rolled away in about 20 seconds, with no one needing to go forward. It furls nicely going upwind too as you would expect. Keep good sheet pressure on and the sail is very tightly rolled for minimum windage. We are adding a small anchor capstan winch outboard of the cockpit, dedicated to controlling the endless furling line and achieving a good tight roll.
One point to note is our mainsail is also a Doyle Stratis, full batten main and we have fine sail-shape control of twist downwind to match the slot between main and code 0. Twist is important to keep the flow across the whole sail as you start to surf. My view is achieving a nice open, but even slot plays a big part in the sail stability, and ability to sail low angles.
I understand most traditional offshore boats will not enjoy this advantage, but my instinct is both the Garcia and Boreal with modern French lines and broad sterns like ours, would similarly light up with a code zero and be a blast to sail.
Question for you Charles is whether you would consider raising the keel half-way or even fully, to promote earlier surfing in perhaps 20 knots?
Br. Rob

Charles Doane

I would raise the centerboard up all the way and put both daggerboards down. Then you are, literally(!), a surfboard.

I’m still confused about your sails! When I say A-sail I mean an asymmetric spinnaker. I can’t imagine you can carry one to windward.

And there’s always confusion about what people mean when they say “Code Zero.” The term originally applied to a flat-cut sail you could carry to windward that would rate as a spinnaker under racing rules because it had positive area in the luff. A rule-beater. But for beating the rule you wouldn’t build a sail like that. People now use the term “Code Zero” to describe all kinds of sails that are flat cut and furl on their own luffs.

Rob Gill

Very cool to be able to do that, you really could be surfing in 20 knots, certainly should be better than on our fixed keeler, although our hull was based on a scaled down Groupe Finot Whitbread 60 design I was told, so she’s slippery off the wind.
I referred to A-sails because a friend of mine who was a founder of North Sails NZ uses a nylon based asymmetric (no pole) of his own design and reports similar VMG sailing ability on his B473.
I refer to our sail as a “code 0”, simply because this is what Doyle NZ called it when I ordered the sail and that’s what is written on the sail bag. The sail shape we have, the lamination and reinforcing can be clearly seen in the picture here (not our boat):
The boat in the picture is a Beneteau Oceanis 50, which the previous MD of Doyle Sails owned. Our sails were modelled exactly on this boat’s sail design.
Doyle categorise their code 0 sail as a reaching sail for up to 15 knots. Not sure why Doyles don’t advertise their capability to sail higher (in light winds) and lower wind angles in stronger winds. Probably because they want to sell more sails!
To carry our code 0 to windward ( < 12 knots ) the 16 mm Dyneema spinnaker halyard is cranked on as hard as possible by handle on the winch. The hydraulic backstay is then cranked on max. The sheets are lead right aft. We run twin sheets and when sailing two up, we ALWAYS roll-away the sail to tack or gybe, so it's not really ideal for short tacking. Hope this clarifies things.

Rob Gill

Hi John, we are over trimmed on the main downwind, but not as much as you might think (we have woolies over the main), and we roll when running between 160 and 180 and not surfing, so we don’t. And it is certainly exacerbated by the main as you say. Like you, I expect the Garcia will roll similarly downwind, but also I suspect that both the Garcia and the Boreal would have a VMG option which was the point of my comment. I am not advocating for swept spreaders, just “chipping in” with how we work with them.
Perpendicular spreaders would indeed give us a nice option for sailing directly down wind offshore, but there is no way to make that change, and for us we already own our “dream yacht” – there won’t be a Bonnie Lass II.
When we run directly downwind the laminar airflow stalls, usually on both sails because of turbulence off the main and the sails become glorified handkerchiefs held out in the breeze. In the few times we need to sail downwind on the coast, we will alternate between a broad reach and running by the lee with a poled out headsail or even a poled out code 0, in lighter winds. This way the wind flow remains attached to the sail on both boards (evidenced by the woolies) with the wind running forward to aft when broad reaching, and aft to forward when by the lee.
br. Rob

Jean-François Eeman

Hi Rob,
You ask me to comment. So I’ll try to do so although I cannot answer your question in a few lines. This is especially true considering that some readers will need more elements of answer than you do.

This is only my humble opinion on what I know or have personal experience with.
(Please note I have raced in a former live amongst others with – and for Bénéteau – on the First Series 31.7, 40.7 and 47.7 and the Figaro II)

To start with : I’m afraid John is right (except maby on a Boréal in light airs, raising the centerboard – see below ) and IN YOUR OPINION Morgans’ Cloud, Boréal, Garcia, Ovni and some many other boats will get an x …
No worries, I’m used not being able to seduce all beautifull girsl I meet…

Some elements:

Generally speaking :
– Each boat has her own polar diagram and her optimum downwind VMG. This downwind VMG is depending on the windspeed. With more wind, your optimal VMG moves closer to 180° dead downwind.
– If your goal is straight downwind and a boat sails at 12kn downwind at 150° degrees from the wind, the same boats only needs an average speed of 9.4 knots to reach the same goal at the same time…
This means that before comparing two different boats you need to look at the optimal VMG of the boat itself.
If I look at the Performance Prediction made by Farr Yacht design for the Bénéteau First 47.7 Racing Version :
With 30 knots of True wind the performance curve hits the 12Kn of speed at about 155° from the wind. At 180 ° the theoretical boat speed is around 10.5 kn. So in those conditions you are better off to go straight downwind even with a cruiser racer with prebend mast and pushing spreaders…
To anticipate all “yes but…” the above is for the sake of the argument

I believe most readers will be more interested in the following :
– We build offshore live aboard aluminium boats. Most of our boats are sailed by their owners shorthanded. They want to (be able to) go in a safe, comfortable, reliable way to the most remote place on earth (or not). So, performance is only one (important or non-important) criteria amongst others. Criteria such as “easy to handle” and comfort at sea are at least as important. I believe most of our owners will feel far more comfortable and will feel it less tiring to sail in the trades for days in a row wing to wing…
Even our most experienced owners (Hervé on Sir Ernst sailed the Whitebread and won the first Québec-Saint-Malo, Dominique raced 10 times around the world 4 of which single handed, some of other owners which write often here have now sailed many many miles with their Boréal…) lower above 20 kn their symmetrical, assymmetrical or gennakers to sail wing to wing straight downwind…

– Having practised both : on a offshore passage as soon as you have a good breeze, the most comfortable and (in my eyes) most efficient way to sail to a downwind target is to sail wing-to-wing, centreboard (partially) raised, two aft daggerboards down… the boat is on rails…

Most of our owners will hardly ever feel you can steer the boat with two fingers at the helm because their autopilot is… Although I do love steering and I do so every single watch for at least a short while this is the reality of the way we sail for most of the time…

– Granted : In the lighter airs, having an angle allows indeed to create apparent wind. If you then raise (partially) your centerboard, you slide laterally and win a few degrees… With a gennaker or assymetrical spi you indeed then reach a higher VMG.

– Having a prebend mast with pushing spreaders does not necessarily mean your running backstays are useless. I believe the Garcia has them… On the few Boréal we build with a taller mast and pushing spreaders we have rigged them as well…

Please apologize if I don’t always use the correct terms and make errors, English is my 3rd language, and be aware it took me two hours to write this comment.

Jean-François EEMAN
Managing Director Boréal

Rob Gill

Thanks Jean-Francois,
What a great post and well reasoned too – it adds greatly to the value of discussions when an experienced vendor is willing to contribute their thoughts in a clear and logical way, English or French.
May I ask though, have you tried VMG sailing a Boreal with the latest hi-modulus code 0 sails – in trade wind conditions? My question is because the old polars for the B473 would agree with your summary of the downwind vectors involved. But add a modern code 0 and these polars are plain wrong for our boat, but they were published by Groupe Finot nearly 18 years ago before an affordable code 0 for a cruising boat.
I am a massive fan of centreboard yachts having raced a small centreboard fractional sloop (7.5m) in my younger days which would surf in 18 knots – I never dreamt I could surf our 14.5m 13 tonne keeler.
I would love to have a sail on the Boreal, and if I were ever tempted by the Southern Oceans, I would be looking for an adventure cruiser for sure. I really like the concept of the aft dagger boards – and please see my summary to Charles above. Thanks so much for your on-going contribution to this site.
Br. Rob

Rob Gill

Jean-Francois, I should have added that the “X” comment in my original comment would be in a “VMG downwind” box in MY evaluation criteria. There would be many more “ticks” I am sure in the Boreal boxes, such as the ability to dry out, which is a super-cool benefit. If this implied a general criticism of Boreal or expedition style offshore yachts, I apologise unreservedly.

Stefan Smith

Really interesting comparison so far — both boats clearly have a lot in common (anchor chain brought to the mast, collision bulkheads etc etc etc) but it’s also surprising to see some of the very big differences too.

From very cursory glances and online looking at both, it seems to me that the Garcia will have the edge on on-board comfort, with the Boreal having the edge on practicality. Kind of like the difference between a new Land Cruiser and an old Land Rover. I’m therefore really looking forward to reading your thoughts on internal layout and any subjective views on finish and quality.

Thanks for writing this up!

Paulo Reisdorfer

+1 here. I’m on my second pass on these Boreal vs Garcia articles already and my stock of popcorns is almost empty! So much knowledge here!