|From Ocean Navigator #131
I read with interest the recent article from Sven Donaldson on how racing sailboats are producing possibilities for fast voyaging (Fast passages? Issue 128, March/April 2003). I agree completely with the conclusion that speed is not only safer but a lot more fun. Improvements in weather-routing capabilities have permitted the sailors of faster boats literally to run away from danger and make many shorter passages within the weather windows.
I sail the low-tech solution Donaldson only mentioned in passing, the MacGregor 65 pilothouse cutter. Two-hundred-mile days are the norm with this sailboat. The sail plan is simply and easy to control short-handed. At any significant wind speed (more than 10 knots), fast, comfortable passages are the norm and not the exception. The narrow hull and large rudder provide exceptional control and stability downwind, and the self-tending staysail makes light work for the crew upwind. I have personally sailed Braveheart at more than 14 knots continuous off the coast of Oregon with a crew of two and a short sail-plan set. Others report speeds of 20 knots off the wind.
The aft-cockpit version of the Mac 65 was built first (years 1984 to 1987). These were lightly built and gave the boat a bad reputation. The pilothouse version was redesigned in 1988 with 10,000 lbs more fiberglass and a shorter mast. Some 80 of these are sailing the world with excellent reports, many surviving hurricanes, tornadoes, Atlantic and Pacific gales, and rounding all of the world’s great capes, all the while sailing at exceptional speeds with safety and ease.
Believe me, I know the difference. I sailed a Praetorian 35 for more than 15 years. I also made a 1,000-mile (99 hours dock to dock) coastal passage on a Sundeer 64. I prefer a long waterline and a simple sail plan. Heavy and slow does not equal safe. Short and ugly does not equal bluewater capable. Fast, comfortable and simple is the only way to sail. Well-equipped cruising MacGregor 65s are for sale on both coasts for less than $200,000.
Tom Sadler, is a Coast Guard-licensed mariner who lives in Gig Harbor, Wash.