When considering boat comparisons, is it important to think about the numbers, especially when considering monohulls, where this is a time-honored practice. Recently, I was talking to a customer, new to sailing. He was trying to get a handle on comparing the different boats he had seen and asked me for some thoughts.
I explained that the landscape has definitely changed and that there were many new design criteria being employed so that it makes it difficult to use the same old formulas in any meaningful way. Some of this is discussed in this article.
Here’s a good article from Cruising World explaining some of the difficulties of comparing today’s modern designs to those of a few years ago.
There are so many links out there for comparisons, but most all are now outdated by the new generation of modern, efficient, single-handed cruisers like the Jeanneau 440 and 490.
This attempt to compare attributes in monohulls is complicated even further as modern designs depart still further from the previous designs. It’s like comparing your Dad’s 53 Chevy to a self-driving, modern Mercedes! How do you begin to compare features that just didn’t exist in the past?
For years, things didn’t change much, but now, all of a sudden, like in the automotive industry, they have!
- The Jeanneau 440 & 490 represent the epitome of the revolution.
- The newest generation of modern cruising boats incorporates a relatively narrower waterline with very fine entry, especially compared to previous designs. While this could be a huge positive performance attribute, this could also be a negative stability attribute, unless you change the rules by adding a chine —a sharp crease that at some point on the hull, dramatically increases the waterline beam. As the boat heels to its designed, comfortable angle of heel, it picks up the chine and becomes enormously stable. You still have the great light air performance associated with narrower waterlines, but also the increased form stability added by the chines.
- Displacement length ratios are now confronted with numerous challenges to their meaningfulness without taking other factors into account. Jeanneau incorporates a pronounced chine that extends much further forward than previous generation models. So, what? Now you have the performance advantages of the narrower waterline, below the chine for lighter air (Low angles of heel – a less wet surface resulting in less drag), but as you get into moderate to heavier winds, the heeled waterline reverts to the much greater waterline beam at the chine. Instead of increasing weather helm, as in older continuous curved shaped hulls, the boat heels less once the chine is encountered and converts the wind’s energy from a wasted heeling moment, to an increased forward speed moment. In other words, you get increased power and speed while the helm remains light and balanced. This results in less exertion by the helmsman and less energy consumed by the autopilot. Contributing further to the balanced helm is the dual rudders design, that causes the rudders to stay completely immersed when heeled, without sucking air down the surface disrupting flow as often happens with centerline rudders at higher heeling angles. Now, you really get ultimate cruising comfort. Better light air performance, less heeling, less reefing, more power in upper wind ranges.
- The Rig. The old formulas for Sail area/displacement ratios no longer effectively compare the differences in sailing performance. The trend for easier to single hand rigs has been to incorporate bigger mains and smaller, easier to handle headsails for normal sailing conditions, with dedicated light air and downwind sail configuration alternatives that better optimize this end of the spectrum. In part, this has become practical because of easier to handle large headsail systems, like top-down furling, and specialized, easy to handle sails. We can make it all as simple or efficient as you want, but the bottom line is that there is no comparison to older designs for ease of (single) handling, and total performance efficiency.
- Stability. Bulb keels lower the center of gravity, injection molding which keeps the center of gravity of the fiberglass components themselves very low and chined hulls increase the form stability enormously, so the old formulas for ballast displacement ratios comparisons are all but meaningless.
- Easy, safe sailing. Jeanneau has partnered with Harken, one of the worlds leading hardware and winch developers, to offer Assisted Sail Trim (AST). Now everything from auto taking to heeling control can be programmed into your boat for the ultimate in safe, comfortable cruising. Imagine your spouse says, “No heeling over 12 degrees while we have lunch.” You reply, “Sure, Hon,” as you sit down and join the group for lunch as the boat stays comfortably on its feet for the entire time! That’s AST in action. Read more!
- Cockpit comfort. As they say, the cockpit is where you will spend most of your time enjoying your boat. New inclined decks lead you down directly to the cockpit floor level so there’s no crawling over coamings. The seat backs are higher and the cushions wrap over the top of the coaming for true seating comfort. Extended Coamings? But that’s not all–pop the backrests back and create a large extended lounge on each side of the cockpit. A removable 12-V cockpit refrigerator (Take it to your refrigerator at home, load it with beverages, carry it to the boat using the included shoulder carry strap, drop it in the table compartment, plug in the 12-V plug, and enjoy cool beverages for the rest of your cruise! The video will show it all together. Not so obvious, but a complimentary feature is the 3-part Bimini. When you unzip the center section, you can lay on the lounges and enjoy the overhead constellations while sipping your favorite Chardonnay pulled out of the cockpit refrigerator).
- Interior. A galley located in the center of the boat where motion is least and storage can be maximized. A social area that brings everyone together opposite; berths that are rectangular and take standard bedding. Light colors and lots of glass area, supplemented with tropical A/C units to handle the heat, but also overhead shades to allow sleeping in!
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