Wings of Grace

October 2005

On a recent July evening off Belfast, Maine, Wings of Grace danced lightly in a faint breeze, seemingly aloof to the yacht photographers seeking the subject’s best angle and defining image. Against Islesboro on the far shore, the vessel evoked sailing in the early decades of the 20th century, when yachts designed by Herreshoff, Alden, Burgess and the brothers Stephens ventured along the coast and offshore in the early days of cruising by American yachts.

Image Credit: John Snyder
Modern hardware blends with traditional materials and styling on Wings of Grace.

Chuck Paine freely acknowledges the debt to John Alden’s work in this vessel, and that his very classic design for owners Michael and Leslie Rindler is “to a large extent aesthetically driven.” But despite the traditional profile and sail plan, the design has benefited from second-millennium computer modeling, performance prediction software and hydrodynamic science. French & Webb of Belfast built Paine’s design for the 44-foot cutter Gusto (see AYR ’02-’03), and used similar cold-molded construction methods and materials for Wings of Grace.

It was built bottom-side up using three epoxy-bonded wood laminations to achieve a 1-3/8-inch hull thickness. The lofted ribs were fabricated from full-size patterns furnished by the Paine office, then coated on the exterior with epoxied fiberglass. The hull stayed inverted during the installation of prefabricated interior joinerwork until being moved outside in December ’04 for deck and house installation. The boat was again moved outside the following March to receive its long keel ingot, several months of systems fitting and final finishing before launching and receiving the rig in June ’05.

Inspired by Alden

Looking at the hull profile for Wings of Grace, one sees the influence of early offshore voyaging yachts, in which Alden and others took inspiration from the capable and fast fishing schooners of the day. This black Awlgripped hull has a hint of the fisherman spoon bow, followed by a very gradual sheer topside, leading aft to a moderate overhang with a not-too-broad bright varnished teak wineglass transom.

The low, varnished teak deckhouse runs aft from before the mainmast to the cockpit and has fixed oval lights and a cabintop painted traditional beige. Wings’ longitudinal profile shows a full keel underbody with a cutaway forefoot reminiscent of earlier Paine designs, but is enhanced by a modern aerodynamic NACA foil keel leading aft to an oversized aperture enclosing the propeller, allowing ample water flow over the attached rudder. The hull sections and contours show full rounded bilges, and hull depth is shallow (6-foot draft), allowing access to places denied many yachts this size.

The rig on Wings of Grace also has a traditional look. The Dacron sails are dyed a cotton canvas color, and from a distance the white yacht-braid running rigging gives the illusion of laid cotton cordage. In keeping with the theme, the carbon-fiber masts and spars have been faux painted to mimic western spruce. The ketch rig is of moderate height, and the short booms on main and mizzen should allow easy handling of the slab reefing and sail furling by a crew couple. The mizzenmast is tall and appears to carry close to two-thirds the sail area of the main – greater proportionately than on most ketches of recent years, but indicating that the vessel should balance well under roller-reefing foresails and mizzen alone. The lightness of the rig and sensible sail area should make for ease of control with the manual sheet winches, vangs and running backstays, and a low-profile electric winch assisting in handling halyards. Wings of Grace likely will do well under this sail plan, approaching the hull design speed of 8.4 knots sailing large with easy motion in moderate to brisk conditions without undue strain on crew or gear.

Security in a seaway is provided by the small, yet sociable cockpit with high teak coamings, a secure companionway, a natural teak deck with continuous toe rails, and multiple cabintop handholds to assist the way forward. Rigid stainless-steel tubing guards/handholds protect the dorade vents. The aft pulpit has tubing on top and middle rails, and a stainless pulpit fabrication provides security to the extreme end of the plank bowsprit – comforting when deploying anchors and cruising spinnakers. The cockpit features a custom steering wheel and faceted traditional compass binnacle on the pulpit, which can also carry a demountable 15-inch navigation monitor tied to the onboard computer processor in the nav station below.

By Ocean Navigator