My last article on looking for a new boat after selling our much loved Ovni 435, Pèlerin, was written almost two years ago to this day.
Two years of searching and hoping, two years of fleeting highs and subsequent crashing lows.
It was beginning to look like it would be three years if nothing turned up soon. But at last, it’s over. We have found our new boat.
We started out with a clear vision of what we did and (more to the point) didn’t want in our new craft, but as time went by we began to re-evaluate some of our decisions, which is only natural, every boat is a compromise.
And any forty-year-old boat in immaculate condition should likely be named Unicorn. Anyway, stubborn unwillingness in the face of reality to change your mind is not evidence of genius.
It soon became clear we were going to face a major challenge to get anywhere near to a ‘perfect ten’ in terms of construction, comfort and beauty. In fact, we rarely seemed to find anything above a three.
We considered quite a range of models, mostly from the 1970s, a period when designers and builders were still turning out robust cruiser/racers.
This was an age when you could thrash around the cans in a boat that sailed like a champ in a breeze and stood up to its canvas well, with a comfortable, if basic, seagoing interior at the end of the day.
All ideal attributes for our new home waters of the west coast of Scotland.
By the 1980’s, designers were moving towards lighter boats with lower ballast ratios and more volume, in the worst cases necessitating that the crew double as mobile ballast, perched on the weather rail like a row of sodden sparrows. Which was definitely not for us...
So, as John and I agreed, the best of those earlier boats could make good and affordable cruisers, albeit often with some modification, but at the time Louise and I felt they were on the large side for our ambitions, physically and financially. So we dialled the scale down a few feet and set about finding the right (smaller) boat.
The Short List
What boat models did we consider?
Congratulations! Dick & Ginger
Thanks, Dick – we think she will suit the western isles well.
Hi Phil – thank you – it will be good to be out on the water again!
Very nice, Colin.
It’s rather interesting to see you end up, after all this, with a boat very similar to the C&C 35-2 that we chose — same length, beam, draught, displacement, and hull shape, to within a rounding error, and a general arrangement that’s not too different either. Those basic parameters seem to be a winning recipe for an all-around cruising boat.
Yours would be severely underpowered for the Great Lakes (SA/D of 12.9 against our 17.6) just as ours would have to be reefed down all the time in your waters; while your rig would be frustrating to use here, I suspect you’ll be able to fly your sails in more efficient trim for longer than we can in the kinds of breezes you get around Britain. Horses for courses, and all that.
I’m looking forward to seeing more of her, and to hearing more from you and Louise as you get back out on the water!
I’m unsurprised that we ended up at the same destination. Both boats were designed and built in an era when when you raced at the weekend and cruised in the summer. Layouts were simple and seaworthy and these boats sailed well and were tough enough to put up with a lot of abuse. For the money, you can get an awful lot of boat.
By today’s standards they’re maybe a little cramped, lack tankage and a few other factors, but I’m of the opinion that where there’s a will, there’s a way and most things can be worked around – we’ll see, anyway.
Incidentally, when young I raced regularly in our local IOR fleet against a C & C 35 called ‘Cheyenne’ and while she needed your rig for light airs, in a breeze she took some catching!
Very pretty boat, altho her lines seem to reflect the IOR quite a bit. Also, she is a jib driven boat, it appears. That can be taxing. I know; I have one. SailboiatData has her SA/D ratio under 13. Is that really correct? I guess if you sail around Scotland, you don’t want too much sail area?
The lines are early IOR, and the SHE was modified from S&S’s original design no. 2166 with the skeg and rudder moved further aft to give better control and more waterline.
The sail area should be fine for us at our age – were are sued to bigger sail plans and the winches are decently sized. And where we’ll spend most of our time, there’s usually no problem with finding a breeze!
Choosing suitable sails is key – see what we end up with in the coming months!
I have not run the calc but looking at the boat I would guess that’s an error. While it is true these early IOR boats in the UK where short rigged and relied a lot on a big foretriangle and overlapping genoa I doubt the SA/D is that low. When I get a moment (on the road at the moment) I will check.
John – correct as usual. I just checked it out and due to some bizarre shenanigans with the then iteration of the IOR, the sail area was quoted as mainsail + 100% foretriangle = c. 550 sq ft.
One look at the boat tells you that it has a large overlapping genoa. So even with the roller furling genoa (not a No 10 the working sail area is gong to be 700 sq ft +
Sounds right, although to be complete for others, as you know, I’m sure, SA/D on this side of the pond is always 100% foretriangle and no overlap counted. That said, I’m guessing the SHE36 will be >14 and probably closer to 15, even on that measurement method. After all this is an S&S race boat that took names on the race course.
My references (possibly incorrect) list the SHE 36 at I=41.1, J=14.3, P=37.1, E=10.0 ft. That yields SA_100%fore = 293.9 sqft and SA_main = 185.5 sqft, for SA_tot = 479.4.
That does indeed give SA/D = 12.9 at her 14,580 lb displacement.
There are a couple of references that list her at 550 sqft (i.e. SA/D = 14.7) without providing dimensions or details; this figure appears to include the overlap of a 125% genoa.
So, on raw ratios, she looks severely underpowered. How can she possibly be competitive?
Part of it is that big overlapping genoa. Small mains and big overlaps were a classic way to game the IOR rating a bit.
But that’s not all of it; a comically large 140% IOR genoa only brings her up to 600 sqft total, for an SA/D of 16, still on the low side by the usual keyboard-racer guidelines.
No, it’s about the conditions she’s built for, and how efficiently she uses that power. This boat’s 5400 lb lump of lead hangs down 6’3″ and she carries her waterline beam out nicely amidships. Combine that with a relatively short mast (i.e. less weight high aloft) and you can bring a lot of stability to bear when the wind picks up. Her mainsail may be small, but it’s an efficient high-aspect shape. She has a fine bow, well shaped for slicing through waves to windward without shedding speed. And she has nice symmetries end-for-end, so she’ll be able to translate wind and heeling into thrust and speed without fighting the helm or becoming unbalanced.
Sure, she’ll be a bit lethargic in a Force 2, but that’s not what you design for in a boat meant to circle Great Britain. Put her in the wind and wave conditions she was born to enjoy, and she’ll probably be happy to fly efficiently-trimmed full sails at 50° off the true wind at about the same time as my C&C 35 on the same point of sail is easing the traveller and taking in its first reef, and John’s J/109, already reefed, is getting bumpy enough to fall off by ten degrees.
Numbers aren’t everything. Raw power isn’t everything. The SHE 36 is fast for the same reason that the Mazda Miata is the most popular amateur racecar for 30 years running, while Dodge Hellcats keep spinning out into lamp posts — making smart use of limited power is a much better recipe than making stupid use of tons of power.
Thanks for doing the numbers. I had not got around to it (on the road).
Your analysis makes sense to me, although it certainly comes as a surprise that the number is that low.
Hi John and Matt
I shall be picking up the sails some time soon, and will confirm. I believe you’re correct on the main and I suspect (hope?) that the furling Genoa will be at most 135%.
Excellent analysis of the ‘real world’ out there and boats like ours (and yours), Matt. This was still an era when a good race boat could make a great fast cruiser, even though they were designed to the much-maligned latterly IOR rules and you hit the nail on the head.
Sadly, just the mention of the ‘The IOR’ causes a lot of people to remember only some of the most egregious rule cheaters, that looked pretty awful and were absolute pigs to sail in difficult conditions (and yes, I sailed on some like that, so I do know). But some designers, especially in the early days drew pretty boats that could fly….
Sorry, despite the great discussion it generated, I did not intend to start a debate about the IOR. I do admit, however, that when my boat gets a little squirrelly going down-wind, I do curse the tendency of some cruising designers to allow their products to be influenced by racing rules. ( Well, not the old CCA rule.) I also carry a 135 genoa, because my boat is jib-driven. Offshore, the solent jib is always ready to hoist, but inside, it takes time and effort to get ready to deploy. My last single-handed effort to short-tack up a narrow channel has convinced me to buy an E-Wincher. Colin, you may want one too.
I know what you mean.
We’re working on the sail plan to make it as user friendly for us as possible. As you’ve found out, it isn’t impossible but it will take some planning. Fortunately we have some 19 sails to choose from (!) some of which should be real assets in cruising mode. There is a beautiful Kevlar laminate N0 3, for example, in excellent condition that should add a knot of boatspeed even when alongside!
And yes, we’ve been looking at the E-Wincher with interest since we read about it here on AAC. Might be ideal – we’ll see.
That should be a great sail for short handed cruising. We got a #3 aramid blade with the 109 that looked like it had never been out of the bag that has turned out to be a very good cruising sail, even in quite light air, and is very easy to tack.
I think pretty much all rules have undesirable type forming, even the CCA: inefficient too shallow keel / centreboard hulls, engines as low as possible in the bilge, and the yawl rig are three that come to mind.
Congratulations Colin. S&S, say no more.
Thanks, Mark, they knew their stuff!
Congrats on the new boat! enjoying her lines
Such a handsome boat is easy to live with. We’re going to keep her simple an elegant….
Lovely lovely boat 🙂
May I ask you please why there are no Nicholsons in your list?
that’s a fair question. I guess a lot of has to do with the fact that I know this type of birth well, and we wanted (for what may well be our final boat) something that was lovely to sail> Every boat I have owned (some with Lou, too) has been perfect for our plans then. Fact is, good looks and sailing performance were high on our list for this choice.
Nothing against the Nicholson’s – tough, safe, fine boats – but just didn’t fit the bill for us now.
Congratulations Colin I guess this will be my next boat, having followed you on the Ovni route. I still enjoy the details you helped me choose, I am hoping to head to the pacific next year. Best of luck richard
when we bought our Ovni, she was just about as far from our previous boat (Dufour Frers 39 custom) as could be imagined. The Frers was just perfectly balanced and an utter blast in strong winds, but with 7ft draft and her fast lines, you had to sail her all the time. She was perfect for what we wanted then – and with 7 human autopilots all keen to sail her, no-one ever got tired out. But relaxing?
The Ovni for two of us was magnificent – wonderful soft motion, easy to handle, never got away from us, and shoal draft to allow us to get right up rivers etc.
But if there were ever two more different boats?
Sherpa will be different again – and what we believe is the right boat for us now.
Your Ovni 395 is a peach and you’ll have a wonderful time in the Pacific – good luck and keep us posted.
Very exciting, Colin, congratulations. I always enjoy your articles and will be looking forward to the progress reports as you prepare for and make your voyage home.
Thank you, Alan. I’ll looks forward to sharing our progress with you.
Owned a SHE 36. An English man crossed the pond with her and she sat in Stonington Connecticut on the hard. Strong safe boat that went to weather well. Other than the Outbound 46 I had built the best sailor I’ve ever cruised or raced. For a fin tracked very well even surfing. Excellent choice. Keel wet/stick dry and best of fortunes
I have never met anyone who had sailed one didn’t love the SHE 36. Simple as that. Their reputation precedes them.
Funnily enough, when I think of GRP contemporaries to compare with the SHE, I think of the likes of Rustler and Outbound, and some of Chuck Paine’s fine boats.
These boats, then and now, come with something extra – the determination to build a fine boat that will last.
You can’t beat a boat built right in there first place.
Do I sense a bit of a pattern? Pete Goss sold his Garcia 45 recently. You sold your OVNI 45. Are the French go-anywhere swing keels taking a hit recently? Anything about your OVNI that didn’t sit right by you? Or is it just the transition to a different kind of sailing that compelled you and Lou to move on?
Congratulation on the SHE. “She” has fine looking lines and very well cared for. Can’t beat that when the price is right, even if above your original budget.
I can’t speak for Pete, as I don’t know him. But I think his latest boat is just great and a real leap of imagination. I think she will be tremendous fun.
I don’t think you should read too much into either of us opting for smaller, simpler boats. I guess there’s an element of ‘been there, done that’ that comes to us all after our dream voyage is over. It’s maybe just time to move on.
In our case, we want to get back to a simpler form of sailing without colossal bills and the endless curse of dealing with over complex systems all the time. I think that in many ways the simple sailing I enjoyed in the old days was far more fun than it is today. And I’d love to get back to that.
Maybe Pete feels the same. His new boat certainly suggest that to me. Perhaps we’re looking for the same thing but via different directions.
Congratulations Colin. I’m happy that you will be back on the water the the boat looks beautiful. I’m looking forward to hearing about your new adventures.
Thanks, Prentiss. We’re looking for some new adventures, too, while we still can – looking forward to writing about it, too.
Congratulations Colin, I hope to read more articles from you again
Thanks, Alex – I’ll be glad to oblige.
Congratulations to you both. She looks fast and powerful and, having owned a C&C racer design as my first boat (like learning to drive in a Porsche), I predict many lively passages. She’s quite IOR-influenced to my eye, with the pinched stern, tumblehome and the long J on the foredeck, but that suggests better form to windward than a lot of newer cruisers. Well done.
these boats have a well-earned reputation for their manners all round, thankfully. Moving the rudder aft in this iteration of the design certainly helped control downwind and they are (indeed) excellent upwind. The stern isn’t as pinched as many contemporary boats (e.g my old UFO34), so as long as we’re not hammering hard downwind with the kite up (as if at our age!) all should be good. Better sailors than I rate them as a great all-rounder, so any errors should be put down to the operators and any great features put down to S & S.
And as most passages will be far shorter than in the past, lively is fine with us!
I think S&S design, for those who know it, is the reason for the used boat price premium and the likelihood that that premium will persist into the future. They look fast and fit for purpose in the yard on the stands.
Good point, Marc. You can’t beat quality….
Hi Colin and all,
As someone who is largely clueless about yacht design history and as someone who knows 3 boats pretty well and most others hardly at all, I really enjoy the elaboration and asides on design, history, performance, etc. directed at the boats being discussed.
Thanks, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy
Hi Dick and all
with the massive knowledge bank across us all, that’s a formidable resource to be able to call upon. And fun – who doesn’t like talking about boats, I ask you?
Wonderful news Colin.
From a purely selfish view, having read your accounts of transiting the Irish Sea with interest and nostalgia, if the forecast is ambivalent, I would so enjoy reading your account of a North Sea delivery trip, with perhaps a stop in the Shetlands for good measure?
only a fool would decide this far out from departure. I don’t know the east coast at all, so there’s a part of me that thinks that exploration would be fun, but then I see all those shallow entrances and remember that we now have 6ft draft….
There’s also the thought that a trip down west seeing old friends would be rewarding and the idea that we might do the west of Ireland, too.
But Orkney and Shetland would be nice, too….
Watch this space.
Haha, of course to early. West of Ireland could be an acceptable alternative, providing whisky tasting notes included….?!
Very interesting development from an Ovni to such an IOR design. Congratulation for the beauty and always good winds.
For me those old, specifically French, design have a problem with the hight. With 1,90 m it hurts to hit the head to often ….
Actually, not so much. My UFO27 was a 1/4 tonne, the UFO34 was a 3/4 tonner and the Frers 39 was derived from a 1 tonne. The Ovni was, in effect, the aberration!
I’m OK (just) with the headroom, but in any case, look at the lovely lines of the coachroof? The odd bump keeps you awake….
I agree, headroom is way overrated and putting full headroom throughout, as so often demanded these days, in a boat under about 45 feet results in ugly boats with poor deck layouts and sight lines. In fact if you gave me a magic wand I would wave it and take the headroom down 3″ on my J/109 as that would improve sight lines when sitting on the cockpit seats, even though the current headroom is already less than 6′ in most places—sight lines are already great when steering sitting on the side deck.
I agree with the lines, usually short but high boarded boat don’t look nice. But I used to live on my Ovni and I appreciated the headroom. But in fact it was a 445.
Today I am looking of something smaller and she will have its compromises.
When living on board, things like full headroom really matter a lot. What is e I don’t think we would have gone for an Ovni 435 if there was not standing headroom for me. And it was only possible with those Ovni’s with added freeboard due to the internal ballast which raised the floors. You can get away with a lot more when you scale a boat up 10ft LOA.
But for shorter distances and life aboard for a few weeks at a time? It’s not such a big deal, for me, and when put up against easier handling etc with a smaller boat, it’s an acceptable compromise.
Do let us know what boat you decide to go for – I’m sure we’d all like to know.
I agree that standing headroom, at least in the galley and possibly salon is good to have on a live aboard boat, but I would argue that this is more a function of boat size than how much time we spend on the boat.
For example, if I decided to live on a small boat, say 35 feet LOA, I would not insist on standing headroom for the reasons I detailed in my earlier comment. In my view smaller boats have intrinsic trade offs, some are advantages (cost, ease of handling, maintenance etc.), and some not (volume, headroom, storage) but if we try and make a small boat big, as we see so often today, we end up with a poor design.
What a wonderful boat, congratulations on finding her, and buying her! But, for me it’s great to see my boat preferences vindicated by a far more experienced and knowledgeable sailer than I.
We went through all this in 2020 when we started looking for our “escape the world” boat to disappear with, and boats with a skeg hung rudder and some boat under water that didn’t need 15 knots to get moving seemed a pipedream. And were laughed at by all and sundry, pointing us at the more modern floating condos with huge beam all the way aft, plumb bows, zero forefoot and zero prospect of heaving to in a blow and even less of not pounding itself to bits in anything other than a zephyr upwind.
We found a Holman & Pye designed, Australian built Bowman 47. Likewise designed in the 1970’s and very similar to a Bowman Corsair 46 but with 6” more freeboard to give the extra LOA. 13 or 14 were built downunder, most without the mizzen. We’ve added an extra metre to the boom and a 135% headsail instead of the 110 and she reaches hull speed (7 knots) happily in 8 knots of breeze upwind (13 apparent). The first reef is not until approaching 25 apparent and she just charges along. She tracks beautifully dead downwind wing on wing with the windvane steering and no thought of unintentional gybes or broaches. And is such a pretty boat. A boat designed for a sailor to relax aboard.
At a mere 10,500kg I just love it when we pass the 25 ton 50’ floating condo’s stuffed full of heavy “essentials” we can somehow do without. And at a third of the cost.
They are out there and you and I have both proved it! Enjoy.
I know the UK version well and they’re very much admired.
I would also suspect that I’d remove the mizzen, largely as I don’t think two masts work well until 60ft LOA. There’s also the windage and windvanes to consider.
Surprisingly light, too.
And there’s nothing like a pretty boat – we felt the same. This boat had to rate well under the RAF – the Row Away Factor. So when you row away in the dinghy and you’re looking back, you think ‘wow – that’s a pretty boat…..
Congrats Colin. She has a sweet line.
Thank you – let’s home she lives up to it.
Congrats on the new boat. I was not familiar with the design previously but it seems like it should be a lot of fun. Our boat is also 36′ (CS36T) and I really like the size for the type of sailing we do.
thanks for that – 36 is the new 40!
This is a good, affordable size for this type of boat, manual and fun. And as we have no need of lots of domestic gizmos or storage for every tool under the sun, she will do just fine.
36-36 feet seems to be a theme with AAC writers these days.
As you say, a very functional size, as long as we keep them fairly simple and don’t overload, again, as you say.
Congratulations on making it through the ups and downs to the new boat. She looks rather lovely.
Funnily enough, we have just done the reverse of your journey having gone from an S&S designed Tartan 37 to an Ovni 365. Such different boats! But just as the Tartan fitted our previous sailing, the Ovni matches our current activities and plans. The Ovni is a lovely boat to sail, smooth and solid, and the extra couple of feet and her layout make her a pleasure to get about in.
Perhaps it is a function of my lack of artistic sensibilities but I reckon the Ovni’s Row Away Factor is up there with the Tartan’s. Or maybe that is just the power of ownership coming to the fore.
‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ – and Lou and I loved the look of our Ovni, for her purposeful and robust charm -‘Fit for purpose’ springs to mind. Sherpa is a lovely boat and her fine lines will please us each time we see her.
Every boat could (and should be lovely), although when I look at some of the very latest offerings on the market I begin to wonder whether designers have forgotten that!
Good luck with the 365 – a fine boat.
I always think of Ovnis, at least the older ones like yours as “she looks the business”. There are few higher compliments.
First of all congratulations on your very pretty new boat. Though I have to wonder why you didn’t opt for a smaller aluminum boat. Someone mentioned Peter Goss’s new boat which prompted me to do a quick search. He opted for a much smaller but very interesting custom “ugly duckling” kind of boat. I have to admit, as I advance in years the idea of moving to a smaller simpler boat has more and more appeal.
the reasons for choosing a GRP boat were simple. Cost and availability. There were so few aluminium boats built long enough ago to be affordable that we didn’t even bother looking.
Pete’s boat is different alright, but very cleverly planned for what he wants to do now – good for him for innovating as he sees fit.