Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Cape to Rio 2014

Four days after the start, this most recent Cape to Rio 2014 is already being talked about on the same terms as the Fastnet race of 1979, the Sydney Hobart of 1998 and the Vasco da Gama Race of 1984. To be fair, the weather wasn't quite as extreme, but conditions did result in sustained Force 8 Winds and 6m seas, resulting in a quarter of competitors (9/36) retiring in the first few days. Widespread damage was reported across the fleet. One crewman tragically died onboard SV Bille (Bavaria 54) during their dismasting. Rescues were mounted by naval frigate SA Islandwana, Tug Miriam Makeba, NSRI Station 3, and several fellow competitors.

Start of Cape to Rio 2014
Picture credited to my friend Louis Louw

Notable casualties included:

Black Cat: Suffered a major capsize in heavy seas, loss of rudder, followed by a subsequent complete roll in a giant wave that collapsed on them, and fair mayhem in the boat. Despite a remarkable recovery from the experienced crew they were unable to continue and started making their way to Saldanha slowly. NSRI 3 later assisted with a tow back to Cape Town. Besides sprains and bruises, they are all ok, and the boat is easily repairable. Watch this one in subsequent races as she was looking extremely quick until the crash. See Dudley Dix's account on his blog (skipper, designer, original builder of the vessel). The official race report said "BLACK CAT has reported a broken rudder and is proceeding back to Cape Town, one crew has a sprained ankle and all are well." Can't accuse them of being verbose I suppose!!

See Black cat tell their story courtesy of Steve Searle's video. This is a must see!

Bille:  Bille is a 54' Bavaria with Angolan Crew and flag (along with Mussulo III, she was one two Angolan Bavaria 54's in the race). Sadly she seems to have suffered the worst damage with a dismasting and loss of a crew member, plus a M.O.B. situation. All remaining crew (including the deceased) were evacuated by the Frigate SA Isandlwana, and are now safe.

Ava: A Miura 31 sailed by father and daughter team Colin and Belinda Horton, suffered damage and flooding (details unclear to me at this stage). They lost electrical power and all comms for a day or two, causing widespread concern, especially after an EPIRB signal was received from them. Their track log looked equally curious during this time and the worst was feared. Competitor yacht SV DODO (Fortuna 37) diverted to look for them. They were eventually spotted by the Frigate who found them in good shape, besides the lack of systems. AVA made it back into Saldanha Bay unassisted a day or so later, I was able to hear their comms and Channel 16 from the South of Cape Town 100 kms away, so I guess they managed to regain at least the main VHF. Well done Ava, and viva la Miura!

Peekay: A Beneteau 51, suffered a variety of sail problems (probably more detail we don't yet have) and limped back to Saldanha Bay. The skipper has decided to leave the boat and is looking for a replacement, according to some reports.

Isla: A large Wilderness Cat, lost both engines and had some flooding in one engine compartment. Container vessel "Bosun" standing by for them, followed by tug Smit Madura, which may tow them home to Cape Town. I am not clear what eventually transpired , but Isla tracker shows her back in Cape Town at time of writing. (Update: she was towed in, the last bit by NSRI). A PAN-PAN was issued by Isla at some stage and received by Peekay. I see two of my HBYC clubmates were aboard, Rian Turner and Dave Mills.

Avocet: A Beneteau 45, disappeared from the track log for a while, she appears to also have lost comms for a day or so. She did however make it back to Cape Town somehow without serious injury, as far as I can tell at this stage.

Indaba: Stadt 34, skippered by the very experienced John Levin, and with Angelo Lavranos aboard, has had to return to Saldanha bay with an injured crewman. They arrived safely last night sometime.

EXPLORA: An Open 60, reported engine flooding but were able to continue and are doing very well in the continuing race.

Dodo: Fortuna 37, despite standing by for AVA, also suffered loss of steering and engine. They have made it back to Saldanha Bay unassisted, and appear to be tied up at Club Mykonos according to the tracker, no doubt swopping tales with Indaba.

FTI Flyer: A Charger 33, well known campaigner in our local club races and veteran of the Rio Race, adopted a unique and very northerly route for reasons I am not clear on (possibly to avoid worst weather and be close to shore). They headed back after two days and made it safely into Cape Town unassisted. I hope to get the story from skipper Keith Mattison at some stage.

Avanti: A Vickers 41, also returned to Saldanha Bay, and is tied up at Club Mykonos, after apparently spending some time at Kraal Bay if the tracker is to be believed? Avanti's story still unknown to me at this stage, but bots like this don't give up this kind of race without extremely good reasons...

Anecdotally, services from the SA Navyand the NSRI have been very commendable, as has the seamanship of fellow competitors and even passing commercial traffic.

The satellite weather image of Sunday 6 Jan 2014


I would be grateful for all and any further info, or race accounts, or corrections for inclusion here. Please email me here. Contributions and accounts from competitors especially will be appreciated. Many thanks!

The outcome of this storm could have been significantly worse. It is a huge credit to the crews and vessels that nearly all boats survived or were able to get back unassisted, despite loss of sails, rudders, engines and electronics. It should be noted that these vessels are all very seaworthy and well scrutineered for a race of this nature. Many of these vessels are well accustomed to the very challenging conditions of the Cape waters. Many of the crew are veterans of ocean racing and several have done this race multiple times. Normally, the Cape to Rio race is thought of as a Trade Wind "milk run", but long races always bring suprises, and Cape Waters bring them all too frequently. These boats and crews have shown extreme seamanship, and there will not be need for any kind of review into "what went wrong". This was all well done. That's what ocean racing is all about.....

I will add detail and stories as they become available. 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Praise for Legacy Yacht Sales!

Malcolm McRobert of Legacy Yacht Sales

When I recently decided to sell my little Flamenca "Quest", I elected to use Legacy Yacht Sales. For no particular reason than I bought her from Carl Olivier who started this company, and he turned out to be a good guy. Subsequently, Carl sold the business to Malcolm McRobert, with whom I had had some email exchanges on boat details previously. Malcolm seemed like a very decent bloke although I had never met him personally. I was keen to use a broker because they serve a very useful role as intermediary in the transaction, which makes it objective, safe and efficient. And so it was....

Due to the market being very low, and despite a steady stream of nibbles via the website etc, it was clear we would have to drop the price somewhat. We did eventually sell her (Quest) at about 20% less than the asking price. On account of this, Malcolm was very conciliatory regarding the commission - I won't spell it out in case someone thinks its a precedent! - but on account of the great service I insisted we stick to the original terms at 10%. Now even at 10% on such a small boat, its a lot of work for a broker. Paperwork was efficiently handled thanks to email and scanners etc. It was a dead-easy experience for me.

The proceeds of the sale were transferred promptly and in fact Malcolm even arranged to skipper the delivery of the boat up to Saldanha himself. That's 120% service as I see it. I am sure the buyer would offer similar views.

I must add I have no reason to doubt the service of the other brokers in town, but in this case I just happened to use Legacy, and would gladly use them again. 

Malcolm's email.

Legacy Yacht Sales website.

Thursday, October 3, 2013


Thanks to Mossel Bay Yacht Club for all these pics,
and to Tracy London for bringing them to my attention!

Its often said that many of the greatest racing drivers started with Mini-Coopers, and the same is often said of sailors and Dabbies. The Dabchick turned out to be one of the best sail training boats ever. This is the purest sailing you can imagine, although it helps if you have warm water! They are very sensitive boats and equally rewarding. Anyone sailing a Dabby develops strong instincts for the key elements of sailing viz. boat balance, sail trim, concentrating on the helm, anticipating the waves, weight distribution aboard etc - and a sense of how these can make you go faster or not. I think the element of single-handing comes into it as well, which in turns brings a level of resourcefulness and self reliance that is natural to Dabbie sailors. People who learn sailing on keel-boats often don't get this experience easily.

Dabbies perform uniquely well, especially in fresh winds. Their flat scow shape makes them quite controllable when planing at speed, and their well-balanced rig - main and jib - is fairly predictable and orthodox. Off the wind, they go like blazes, easily planing, and bouncing over the back of the waves as you surf over them.  When beating, they can be heeled over to an extreme angle - ride on the vertical gunwales - although this isn't the right way to go fast it did seem like fun at the time! Dead downwind - they can bury their bows and submarine while lifting the rudder out of the water if one had a fair load on board.

Dabbies are about the simplest boats to build and were very cheap then ... made of three sheets of ply, a few bits of meranti, Aerolite epoxy glue, a strip of fibreglass on the keelson, decent paint, and brass screws. No power-tools used. By comparison they seem quite high-tech now. My first Dabby had no bought components besides the mainsheet blocks and the stay wires, excluding the chainplates. All other fittings were simply fabricated from stainless steel off-cuts. The mast was wooden, with a track routed into each of  the meranti halves. The sails were "K" sails - made in Dacron by Jack Koper (well I seem to think his wife made the sails). The whole effort cost less than R100 in 1967.

Besides the low cost - the simplicity of Dabbies made them so attractive. The flat topped hull was light and easy to move and lift - making them manageable for even quite young children. Lifting onto car tops, storing in garage etc was also easier. Not to mention that the hull can't hold water - they were also relatively safe in that respect. 

The hull-design of scow dinghies is another fascinating point. Every boat needs a fine bow to soften the waves it hits. The bow can be soft in plan view or in the side elevation - i.e. pointy when viewed from above, or flat and tapered when viewed from the side... They each have pros and cons. For keelboats and displacement vessels, the pointy (plumb) bows seem attractive because they offer a longer waterline length, and create smooth lines to deep wineglass hulls. They usually track well. If waterline length isn't the key factor as in planing boats - then broad bows are good because they create a smooth run for water under the hull plus no sharp bends near the bow. When a V-bottom scow dinghy heels slightly - it is running on a flat underside which offers maximum lift and minimum wetted area. 

Key measurements:

  • LOA 3.6m
  • Beam: 1.2m   
  • Dry Weight 38.6 Kgs
  • Sail Area 5.6 sq.m

Note the length is exactly 1.5x a standard sheet of ply, and the width exactly equal to one sheet. No wastage here!

It is fantastic to see how the class is thriving in at least Cape Town, Hermanus and Mossel Bay at least - though I understand there are active classes all over the country and in fact many Dabchicks around the world now. Total numbers over 5000.

There can't really be a better boat for kids to learn sailing on....

See also the Sonnet reviewed elsewhere in this blog - also from the pen of Jack Koper. The Tempo has not been covered yet however.

Dabchick Class Association
See also

Monday, September 23, 2013

Fast 42

SA Navy Entry "MTU Fascination of Power" under Chapman's Peak in Hout Bay.
Skipper was John Martin, Admirals Regatta about 2006.
Photograph by Brenton Geach.

Fast 42s have had a prominent place in the South African Racing circuit, both offshore and around the cans. In many ways they are quite remarkable boats - fast, nice to look at, and very well laid out for serious sailing...

Regrettably I don't have much technical data for these boats - but their principle dimensions show:
LOA: 41' 4" 
Beam: 12' 7"
Displacement: 6600 kilograms
Max Draft: 7' 10"
Ballast: 2400 kilograms

Designer Simonis-Voogd - they have done loads of work in SA and reside here quite a lot. Their stable is well known - including the famous "Broomstick", "Nicorette" and many others.

That's a pretty light boat at 42'. Note the ballast ratio is 36% - thanks to a very deep keel bulb. They are high-aspect boats in every sense - keel, rudder and huge rig. Yet they are as sensitive as dinghies as long as they keep moving. 

From the outside - the impression is thoroughbred racer. The sleek lines, neat cabin top, dual wheels, large racing cockpit, wide traveller etc all look the business, and one might be forgiven for expecting a bare-bones racing interior.

In fact its quite the opposite! The interior is functional quite plush, simple and well laid out. From inside you might forget you were in a racing boat. Nice galley, saloon, chart table, decent cabins, and even hot shower. This is a boat for the Cape-Rio! My friend James who owned one of these called it "Enigma" - I never asked him why... 

Well laid out and spacious cockpit. Not exactly sheltered but great for sailing!
Double-handing is easy, but single-handing is a bit tricky because the helmsman can't reach the traveller or mainsheet from behind the wheel, unless autopilot is engaged.

Fitting, quality and layout do vary somewhat from model to model. The very early ones were built by Robertson and Caine in Cape Town, before production rights were taken over by Fast Yachts in Durban, where the majority were subsequently built. I am aware of some controversy over one or two builds, but the majority are quite sound. Skebanga, in Hout Bay, was one of the the last off the line as I remember, and she is particularly well put together and in great condition.

How do they sail? These aren't called Fast boats for nothing. They move impressively well as long as there is some reasonable wind, say 10 kts plus. For some reason I don't really fathom they do seem a bit sluggish in lighter winds, but as the pressure picks up they really cook - on all points of sail. I had the pleasure of skippering one of these in a club race one Sunday - it was the first time I'd sailed one, and the expected crew didn't pitch. We went out double-handed and completely new to the boat. I must say it was setup as a sailing school boat and was amazingly easy to handle. Roller-reefed jib, main in a stack-pack, batcars on the mast, a simple autopilot, and nice engine controls - it was an absolute pleasure. I was very impressed with the setup of that boat - being so easy to handle made it possible to simply enjoy the sail, think about tactics and still push it quite hard. With just the two of us, we were able to tack fast and effectively in 15 knots or so, and no troubles to speak of. Only I wasn't used to helming on a wheel for racing round the cans, don't know if I'll ever get that worked out properly, I still like a tiller! But it is fantastic for long-distance sailing...

Can't imagine what this poor bloke on the bow was up to. 
Perhaps the heads were blocked...

One Wednesday evening the wind was too strong for racing in our bay - 35 kts +. We were just settled in the club bar when the hooligans went out - James and Rian - sorry chaps - the names just slipped out! - plus a few unsuspecting crew who should have known better. They fought their way up to Chappies, complete with wild katabatic twisters and plenty of spray, and then turned around. Next thing the bag went up! Crikey - the boat zig-zagged on its ear for about 30s before regaining some sort of composure, and then shot off towards the club at about 20 knots. As luck would have it, I had a camcorder with a decent zoom on hand - will see if I can dig it up soon and place it on youtube. What a spectacle. That's the kind of boat a Fast-42 is - wild as the wind and still quite manageable, but also a civilised boat when the occasion demands!

All in all - they are best suited for offshore racing. Certainly not what I would chose as a cruiser, but a good choice for Cape-Rio or Governors Cup! You can have a load of fun with one of these.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Proteus 106

First Proteus 106 off the beach in Thailand

I don't often write about boats I haven't seen in the flesh, or actually sailed. But this is one where the design strikes me as quite unique, has strong local connections, and really deserves to be known. It's attractive as a cruiser, a racer or a dayboat....and unique in the value it offers.

Certainly Angelo needs no introduction - he has drawn more good  boats than one can count, and I keep discovering new boats from his pen. They are all well thought out and very interesting.

Plan and side elevation.
Functional simplicity at its best...
(click to expand)

When I look at this design, it really strikes me as a modern "Wharram Cat" - in that its very functional, Corinthian, simple and seaworthy. Although that doesn't do it justice - its really quite a high-tech design using simple materials if you see what I mean. And very good looking. Without the low-profile cabin top, this is two very sound seaworthy hulls with not much windage.... It does boast an efficient modern rig with a full roach main, and a manageable genoa, with standard back-swept shrouds. Dagger boards are a nice option if you want to go to wind - cats need these things....  This is a boat that really can sail - it's light and is setup for real sailing. 8 kts round the course, and 15+ off the wind if you have the nerve! The daggerboards don't really impinge on space below.

Note the simple layout below. The cabin top is fully allocated to the saloon - this is the main reason for having a cat if you ask me - a nice saloon from which you can see things  - a feature not common on monohulls. One hull hosts the galley, the other the heads. This is a sensible arrangement as it allows decent facilities for these functions, while not crowding the bridge deck. And so you get 85% of what big cats offer in a far smaller package.

The rudders are transom-hung - making for easy maintenance and repair if necessary. By the drawing - these are controlled with tillers rather than a wheel - you could have both or either I suppose. I quite like the tiller option as it means you could attach a simple tiller pilot rather than an elaborate auto-helm thing, plus there's nothing wrong with steering by tiller and its quite a bit cheaper.

Daggerboards will give her good sailing, but for cruising the fixed "keels" may be attractive - for beaching, and simplicity, and to protect the saildrives, which may be the preferred option for cruisers. Along with kickup rudders, this is a boat you could take right up to the beach on occasion, and clean the hulls without lifting out. 
"Before the Mast!" 
Note the clean decks and flat tops to walk on.
Nice motorcat too....

Engine comes in two options - a 20Hp 4-stroke - e.g. Honda - mounted midships on a nacelle, or two small inboards. I think this offers the best of both worlds - cruising or racing. For cruising purposes I think inboards would be the way to go - long distance motoring with diesel, manouverabilty in marinas, fuel-economy and no petrol onboard. For racing, and sailing from a home port, the outboard would be ideal - very light, no prop to drag, very quiet and out of the boat, while still reliable and effective... your dinghy engine could be a backup I suppose. And good value of course.

Construction is from a plywood kit. Not very complicated, but it is a fair bit of work. The hull is sheathed in GRP - makes it scratch-resistant and strong. There are no expensive items here - everything is simple and can be achieved with low-tech kit and options. I would indulge in two nice self-tailers for the primaries, a stack pack for the main and a roller-furler for the headsail. Plus a traveller for the main. That's not a lot of money.

The boat is designed light and you should keep it that way. It will be an impressively fast boat if its kept light and a joy to sail - even upwind. Keeping it light will also make it safe and buoyant and responsive. However, you could load it if you need to, as long as you don't press too hard. Another rather nice thing about cats - most of 'em - is they don't sink - certainly this one won't...

I think its an ideal design for local and offshore racing - Cape-Rio, Governors Cup and Mykonos, or a cruiser for a small family. It won't break the bank, but it offers very safe and comfortable sailing with impressive performance. And a nice live-aboard option. Did I mention parties and day sails?

Also a dam nice motor-cat if you look at it like that.....

See Angelo's notes below:

This project has been “gestating” on a personal level  for the last 10 years.  My aim is the smallest  family ocean cruising cat, that is to say with sufficient load carrying capacity to do an ocean crossing with a family, of minimum cost, and capable of amateur construction with the minimum of labour and skill. She is also aimed at being a fast, practical & enjoyable boat for local use. She is small enough for easy shorthanded use.  The hull structure is “pre cut” by a CNC cutter as a kitset, or can be cut to plotted templates as a cheaper option if preferred. The Kitset is available from CKD Boats in Cape Town. Their quality is A1 and different ply type options are available. Since wastage is minimised (much less than hand cutting), and CKD buy much more cheaply than private buyers, one generally finds that the kit costs hardly more than buying the raw material, and then you save hundreds of hours in labour. The boat is set up on ply bulkheads and stringers and the skin is glass taped with epoxy resin along the chines, inside and out, there are no chine logs. The hull & deck is mostly 9mm ply with 12mm in the forward wingdeck and hull bottom forward. The outside is GRP/epoxy sheathed. She is simple, strong, fast, comfortable, cheap and “unsinkable”. 
The interior consists of four berths (two doubles + 2 singles), a saloon  settee,  a practical galley with icebox, and a toilet compartment,  all with standing headroom (1820 under deckstringers) . She is totally functional, and all that is needed for comfort at sea. She is configured with two machinery and keel variations:  A 4 stroke 20HP outboard on a hinging nacelle is fitted for economy, as is tiller steering, with “kick up” rudders. If the motor starts to make trouble it is easily replaced.  I haven’t worked out how many times you can relace it to equal the cost of diesels. Other “choices” in the “gilded lily” approach stretch to installed water tank versus fitted 20 lit container storage. However with the outboard and daggerboard combination, and simplest accommodation gear, we have the fastest boat AND the shallowest draught for the smallest outlay. People lose sight of the fact that comfort at sea revolves round some very simple “basics”, a dry bunk with good ventilation, a place to prepare hot food, a place to sit out of the sun & elements, a private toilet, standing headroom. The rest is “bells & whistles” which all come at a price of increased cost, maintanance, and degrading performance. 

The rig is the simplest possible, with a pair of cap shrouds and headstay triangulated, single diamond.  The sail inventory is essentially a mainsail, a roller furler jib, and a storm jib. Optional:  Genneker.
A  first class builder estimates 1600 hours, professional hours in a set up boatshop, to unfaired and unpainted hull, deck, joinery stage.  CNC cut kits from CKD Boats in Cape Town, a very experienced company, is available at a really competitive price. Email Roy Mc Bride ( ) . Most likely you will find the cost of the CNC kit ( including shipping) is less than a private person is likely to buy  the raw materials, so that the huge labour saving is more or less “free”!
Wing deck clearance to DWL (@ displ 3800 kg) is 680mm amidships and 1100mm under the cockpit. The windeck does not extend forward which is most important. Top speed broad reaching in flat water and high wind can be around 18 knots (depending more on one's nerve than anything.) and can average 8 knots on an olympic triangle, powered up in 16-18 knots breeze.  Payload of crew, fuel, water, provisions in addition to the vessel complete (with sailing and safety gear, normal loose outfit and sails) is nominally about 900 kg. This figure could be increased by another 400 or so kg at the beginning of a long voyage if the boat is
consciously not "overpressed" when so loaded. The length/beam ratio at datum flotation is 9.07. This offers a good compromise between reasonably slim hulls and good load carrying ability. This is augmented by the additional "flare" developed in the topsides, whereby beam (and waterplane area) increases considerably with increasing immersion.
The daggerboard version is more efficient in terms of L/D on the foils. In addition the drag of the daggerboards retracted is zero, whereas the mini keels (both!) continue to offer resistance.  The prod and spars are intended to be aluminium extrusions, whose inertias are specified.  
The design license costs   $4500 New Zealand Dollars per boat  to build.  Drawings are supplied in PDF format.  The templates consist of all frames with shell deduction, stringer cutouts, access cutouts etc shown for hull, deck and superstructure, bow and stern profile, daggerboard, (or alternative keel), kick up rudder.  The design consists of: 18 drawings:  Lines, hydrostatics, full scale templates (+ 12 x A0 sheets), general construction drawing, CNC parts assembly drawings,  CNC parts nesting drawings, arrangement plan and sections, deck arrangement, sail & rigging plan, dagger board & case construction, rudder construction, chain plate details, sundry joint details, doghouse & hatch details, outboard motor hinging nacelle detail, alternative keel detail. Study plans consist of arrangement drawing, deck arrangement, sail & rigging plan. Note: study plans  have all section information omitted (other than one "typical" section.)  The design has been developed to minimise labour hours and high skill requirements and high costs. The only "exotics" involve the external skins of the ply rudders and daggerboards, which are carbon, since the excessive amounts of GRP needed would make control of the shape and avoiding excess weight problematical. 

LENGTH OVERALL                  10.600           Meters
BEAM                                           6.360            Meters
DRAUGHT                                   0.370/1.75    Meters   (dagger up/down)
DISPLACEMENT                       2600/3200    Kilogr  (light conditon, lght/hvy inst)
MAINSAIL                                    48                  Sq Meters
ROLLER FURL JIB                     24                  Sq Meters

GENNEKER                                58                  Sq Meters

FRESH WATER                         140                litres  (installed or 20 lit containers)

Lavranos Marine Design, Ph:  09 4802232,  Email:
At time of writing, the second one is nearing completion in Cape Town.

See also for details of the kit.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Cape Cutter 19, Cape Henry 21, Cape May 25 (new)

 "Tiptoe", Ian Allens beautiful CC19 in Picton, NZ
Note the generous protected cockpit, small outboard in the well.

 CC19s are ideal for gunkholing and getting in shallow beaches.
Pretty as a picture....

Standard hull with lifting centreplate, she rides easily on a trailer behind a fair size car.
Note the beautiful and traditional lines on the lapstrake (clinker) hull.

I have decided to cover the Cape Cutter 19 (CC19) and the Cape Henry 21 (CH21) together as they cover a number of variations on a single theme. The prospective owner or builder will doubtlessly spend quite a while mulling over these before choosing one!

Boats, even leisure boats, exist for different reasons - racing, cruising, liveaboard, fishing, etc - and they all have their place in the sun. Day boats however, are the most special kind, because they exist purely for the fun of being on the water, for gunkholing, picnicking, camping, and simply going out to clear your head. They are generally smallish, traditional and good looking, and in my opinion maybe the purest design form available - pure art really! The CC19 and the CH21 are both brilliant examples of this.

The CC19 was conceived by one Nick Voorhoeve - from memory about 1998? They were intended to compete in the "Cornish Crabber" market, popular in the UK and Europe. At that time the SA Rand was very weak against foreign currencies, and it was intended it would be built locally and exported in a 20 foot container. Dudley was commissioned to do the design - it is one of his own favourites and certainly one to be very proud of. See for Dudley's own commentaries on this one.

The design is very traditional and practical at the same time. She was designed originally for GRP production (or wood) with a lifting centreboard. The hull has a lapstrake look, quite beamy with a traditional looking cabin top. The gaff rig is easily demountable, and easily handled from the cockpit.There is a very neat well for a small inboard (this is a great feature). Rudder hangs over the traditional transom. Below, the space is quite vast for a 19 footer, and nicely laid out. Very adequate for a few nights aboard.

CC19 Layout
CH21 Layout

Layouts are almost identical - the CH21 has slightly longer berths and a bit more elbow room. Note the option of fixed or bilge keels avoids the centreplate arrangement inside.

V-berth, looking for'ard

Cape Henry 21 hull section
CH21 Rig and Profile

The rig is a gaff with two headsails, both on roller-furlers, to be flown either/or - it is not actually a cutter rig - but offers great flexibility and offers a very traditional appearance.

How do they sail?

In nearly all conditions, astonishingly well. In light airs they fly like dinghies. In moderate winds they handle well, and in strong winds they manage much better than you'd expect.Lots of this is due to the very flexible sail plan, and the generous beam. 

While sailing a very large cat recently in Table bay, a CH21 crept up on us from a few miles behind. At first we couldn't see what it was, with many comments about how an old boat with a gaff rig could be moving that fast. Well in fact an old boat with a gaff rig simply can't go that fast - I then realised it must be a new boat and likely the new CH21 launched in Cape Town recently.  Well it was - I snapped a pic of it near Sunset Beach. This particular one was built by Peter Randle, and has bilge-keels. It was doing a steady 6 knots in about 10 knots of wind on the beam, and slowly it slipped past us!

It is in strong winds that I was most surprised however. I ran a cruising rally / race from Hout Bay to Cape Town a few years back - we left in very fresh winds (I departed under jib alone in fact), with about 30-35 knots and a fair chop. Some boats declined to leave. I was really quite surprised to see our resident CC19 joining the fleet - single-handed. Certainly it was quite well reefed, but managing without too much fuss in these wild conditions. It arrived in Cape Town quite safely, and not far behind the big boats. Going back to Hout Bay was also challenging that year, all upwind too, but again the CC19 arrived safely and in a respectable time. It is actually quite rare to be sailing in conditions such as those.... 

The Stability Curves for each of these boats show an A.V.S. slightly better than 120 degrees, which is really quite respectable, with plenty of reserve at 90 degrees. You can expect the bilge-keel version to be at least as good or better.

Stability curve of Cape Cutter 19 

Stability curve of Cape Henry 21
A number of interesting voyages have been undertaken by CC19s, not the least of which is a circumnavigation of England! Their ability in classic races is almost legendary, see news under

So which one to chose?!

The CC19
  • Built up GRP boat from Cape Cutter Yachts at
  • Plans from, for D.I.Y. construction (kits are not commercially available for the CC19)
  • Lifting Centreplate Keel
  • Light Displacement 870kgs
The CH21
  • Available for construction in lapstrake / marine-ply from CKD boats in South Africa, or many other suppliers worldwide - see
  • The CH21 can be built with lifting centreplate or fixed bilge-keels
  • Light Displacement 1160 kgs
CC19 has advantages where towing and trailer-cruising is the priority, or you want to buy a ready-made boat. Active association at

CH21 has advantages in larger accommodation, challenging waters, and availability of kits for D.I.Y. The bilge-keel option may also be an attraction for drying-out moorings. 

So now you can make up your mind. Q.E.D. 

But now there is word on the street a 25' version may be on the near horizon..... what can I say - you first heard it here!   NEWS: See the Cape May 25 on Dudley's Website here....

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Nexus 600 Adventure Cat

My good friend Alan Harrington from HBYC recently launched his new boat, the Nexus 600. Now Al and I have had a good few beers together over the past few years, and certainly I had heard quite a bit about this boat before seeing it, but nothing could have prepared me for the surprise on the day I first saw it - about two weeks ago....

I will have to be careful not to over-write this boat! It simply is about the nicest thing I have seen or contemplated as boats go. Its huge, beautiful, oozes quality, and it sails quite beautifully. Its nicer than a nice boat, and its nicer than a nice house..... Her name is "Ke Nako" - a Sesotho expression for "Now is the time". 

As interesting as the boat itself, is the way it came about, and the people involved. Al - the owner, is a newly retired very successful businessman, with a passion for boats, cars, technology and Windhoek Lager. This is not his first boat build either. He was involved in every little detail from the outset, and has given huge input to the way this all played out. In fact many people have added to the story - the Nexus crowd are very open to all and any good ideas. Find them at

The Paarman brothers (the surfing bunch) and team, are the originators of Nexus cats and the concept behind them. I think it was Mark Paarman who originally conceived the need for a large load-carrying cat for surfing charters etc. There simply wasn't anything available in this size and shape. Somehow Jonathan (pro boat builder) and Roger (MD and factory manager) were brought into the mix, and they setup shop in St Francis to make the first cat. John Henrick too. The designer was Anthony Key. Subsequently others have also become involved - a guy called Phil Berman, and du Toit naval architects. Its a project that has hit a sweet spot, and suddenly everyone knows this is a very useful platform.....the fourth one is now taking shape in the factory.

By nature, cats of this size and price are "low volume" production items. This means you get to work closely with the builders, and a fair bit of customisation is possible. And you couldn't find a nicer bunch to work with than the Paarmans - nice down to earth people. On the day I went sailing on this thing Roger was aboard, in fact he was living on board at Al's invitation, and clearly the relationships between client and builders was excellent, more like an extended family by then. Ditto for the others involved. If you want to build a boat, this is a critical element of it. If it was me, I would chose good builders first, after that the rest comes easy....not to mention the boats "karma"!

About a third of the world's cruising cats are built in South Africa, and certainly many of them have excellent reputations. We have great designers, great sailors and some excellent builders. Think Robertson and Caine and Southern Wind. But Nexus is right up there with them and they produce an excellent quality vessel....maybe the best to come out of SA, maybe the best of its kind anywhere?

The aft decks are huge, really well appointed and designed. In warm climes, this is really where you live. Think about the space on a 44 cruising cat and multiply by about six..... a lovely RIB tender hangs off the back, with dive compressor and a 20 KVA genset lurk under sound-proof hatches in the deck.
The bridge. This an uber-cool station with every lovely marine instrument you can imagine accessible through some Furuno multi-function screens. Great radio kit (ICOM M603 and M801E) plus a satphone. Most of it replicated on the helm position, and performance indicators in each of the four cabins, and above the aft-decks..... I like this place.....

The electrics on this boat are not trivial.... Power comes from either shore power, a 19 KVA Cummins-onan genset (unbelievably quiet), or a large battery bank with a 10 KVA inverter. Besides the instrumentation and lighting, you will find about 8 fridges or freezers, a few microwave ovens, TVs and music, a large watermaker, dive compressor, four large airconditioners, and a plethora of electric winches, windlasses etc. To bring this altogether, Alan took the plunge and installed a fantastic switching system made by Mastervolt. It saves loads of cabling, and allows amazing flexibility in configuration. Home automation on steroids. Al explains it best here.

The indoor saloon. Fine leather, great views!
 The galley. Like a nice house. Great views. It stays level! See the capuccino machine on the far side.
Home entertainment. Great systems with Bose speakers reaching every corner.

 View from the foredeck. That's Table Mountain slipping behind the stern...
 The helming position. from the other side. Sorry I didn't get this one close-up. Its comfortable and dead-easy to do it all from here. This boat can be steered, tacked and all things done easily by one person from the helm station. Electric winches help, but it really is a triumph of well organised sheets, winches and jammers. 
How does she sail, do I hear you say? Well, on the day I went out, we had 10-14 kts at  times, and a nice flat sea. We saw 7-10 knots mostly under main and genny only. 8 knots under power (slow cruising speed in first gear), with a fair reserve, she could run at 10+ under power if necessary. The following week, Al went out and found a patch with 20-30 knotsof wind. They saw 20 knots on the log.... I suspect that on a passage, using spinny and code-0, she could average 10-20 for extended periods. With no fuss at all. People below decks would not even know, except for the instruments! She seemed to tack through 100 degrees though I have to say we weren't even trying. And then there's 2 x 110 Hp Yanmars to use if you really want to press on.

Tacking the boat is dead easy. She shows no inclination to stall in the turn at all - you can take it easy and just rely on the momentum and her deepish keels to take her round. Mainsail looks after herself as one would expect, and the jib comes around easily by hand, amazingly. Then you add tension with the size 60 motorised winches.... one person can do this all quite easily from the helm station. Even the furler on the genny is electric, and single touch on that button can be used to angle the headsail foil optimally for the tack. Despite the monumental size of the sails, its astonishingly easy.....

See her vital-statistics here....

Overall, I loved this boat because she really is conceived by sailors and boats-people with nautical recreation in mind. Not by interior decorators and bling artists. She is very well thought out and well appointed, but no bling. For instance the ceilings are clean white stipple paint, but table surfaces are a nice bamboo finish. The spaces for the engines, the genset, the lazarettes, the chain stowage, the diving compressors etc etc etc are large, clean and open. No space for creepies and dirt that scares the hell out of one when looking at used boats! The sailing kit is all top notch and really looks the business. The sails are not for show. Sailing, reefing, furling and anchoring is all functional and top notch.

 I haven't even mentioned the cabins below. They are spacious, practical and the beds are extremely comfortable. Each cabin has a 16k BTU aircon. Al has sacrificed one set of heads for a laundrette with a Miele washing machine and tumble-dryer.

Overall, this is one boat you can live on with all home comforts and then some. I couldn't think of a nicer place to be. Plus she sails really well, and has the quality you expect for an investment of this nature. For chartering and excursions, I can't imagine better. 

Is there anything to criticise on this boat? Well not that I know of. I can't tell if she slams in a seaway because I haven't been there. The bridgedeck is higher than most. For her intended purpose, I can see no problems at all. Cold climes and/or the Southern Ocean may be different,  and certainly she is no river cruiser given her beam of 8.7m, and a mast that rises about 26m above the water! Draft though is a very acceptable 1.4m.

What does she cost? About the same as the latest Ferrari..... I know which I would rather have!

UPDATE: Nexus Cat (Balance 601) as a Passagemaker:

Earlier this week (1-3 October 2013) - I had the opportunity of joining the boat for the delivery trip from St Francis to Cape Town for the annual Cape Town Boat Show. This is a voyage of about 350 n.m. and takes 2-3 days if the weather is favourable. Essentially, this is the "Cape of Good Hope" passage and is one of the three "Great Capes" in the mind of seafarers - along with Cape Horn and Cape Leeuwin (S Australia). One needs a favourable weather window, a very sound boat, good sea-legs and a touch of madness for his trip. Very few bolt-holes en route. 

As it happened, the weather forecasts were very favourable for the period and then some. The boat I knew to be exceptionally capable, and luckily I had some free time. Plus my mate Nick was also available to join, and a day later we were on a small plane bound for Port Elizabeth, where Al collected us. After a pleasant meal with the Paarman-Harrington-Nexus ensemble at St Francis that evening, we slept aboard - very comfortably I might add. Next morning we did a quick tour of the Nexus factory - a neat and well run operation, where we were proudly shown the bare bones of Vessel-4 under construction. Impressive stuff - but I don't have space to cover this here.

By 10 a.m. the wind was quite fresh - about 25 knots - and the sea was already looking quite distressed - with a large chop across the swell and plenty of white caps. The sort of day that ski-boats stay in harbour, and commercial trawlers curse. Although the conditions were very much stronger than the forecast we did have a following wind, and of course the boat is large and dry. So off we went  - the four of us - skipper Matt, Al, myself and Nick.

We exited the harbour straight into the fresh wild chop in the bay. Cats do a remarkable job of cleaving their way through a big chop whilst keeping you dry and comfortable - especially 60' cats that weight 25T. We pushed along to Seal Point under motor before heading West, when we cut the motors and released the genoa. By now we had a North Easter pushing 30 knots on the stern quarter and so we took off at a decent 10-12 knots down the coast on jib alone. It made for a comfortable ride as the rather big following seas swept slowly past. Very pleasant for an hour or two. We had a pleasant lunch and sat on the aft deck admiring the view and the waves, plus the odd whale.
Al is monitoring a fishing boat.
Conditions were quite wild outside.

The seas continued to build, and the wind strengthened to about 35 knots. Al loaded a new set of Grib files via the sat-phone - they still reported about 9-12 knots of wind and low swell conditions! Cape Town Radio seemed to concur. Conditions to the East of us were reported quite strong however, whilst the weather to the west was reported to be far better. It seemed the weather system of the east had come quite a bit further West than anticipated....

By sunset, the seas were actually quite large, with steep waves of 2-3 m powered along with 35 knots of wind. Quite a lot of white water blowing off the tops, and the odd foamy trying to climb on the back. Even the passing ships were bouncing around. The big cat would rise on each following wave and surf down to the back of the next one, then slow down as a large green wall chased up behind us again. And so this went on until midnight as we trundled on at 8-12 knots, with a few faster surfs. I recall thinking how unbelievably horrible these conditions would be in a lesser boat...even a 45' monohull...

For some reason I didn't manage all my supper that evening, and put my head down at about 10 p.m. - in my large double cabin. And then the world went quiet and all was well - I slept soundly until morning. The big cat drove herself peacefully through the night with Matt and Al keeping watch on the AIS and Radar. At midnight the wind slacked off notably - and on went the Port engine, keeping our speed to eight knots. Al doesn't like anything less than eight knots.

All the while there was very little slamming - just a bit of a water rush between the hulls as waves came through. Nothing unsettling at all. At no stage was there anything scary - the platform is immensely stable - and very rigid. No flexing or groaning at all. Although it isn't fun being in a big sea - full stop - this boat gave no reason for concern. That's not to say I would have fancied going upwind that night, mind you, except for a man overboard situation or similar....

Some cellphone footage on youtube:


By morning the conditions had improved significantly although the sea was still quite confused and lumpy. Despite this we rumbled along at a steady eight knots with the two Yanmar 110s. Slowly the wind swung north and then West and soon it was straight on the nose at 18-20 knots, where it stayed most of the afternoon. We kept going at 7-8 knots boat speed, and a sizeable chop right on the nose. There was the occasional slam and bang, but nothing serious. My afternoon siesta was not disturbed fortunately.

Night-watch is a civilised affair, with excellent nav, 
soft music and espressos....

By nightfall conditions were very very mild - sea was completely flat and amost zero wind. Speed increased to 10 knots as the weather conditions settled - with the Yanmars idling along at 2000 r.p.m. The sky was unbelievably clear and I opted to join the night watch just for the fun of it. This is where I had the chance of experiencing the magnificent facilities at the indoor bridge and the semi-enclosed helm station. Now I am no stranger to the joys of chartplotters etc and decent comms, but in my previous experience (single-handing) this usually means a handheld plotter in one hand, a VHF handheld in the other, mainsheet in my teeth, a tiller-pilot, freezing wind on my face and some cold seawater in my jacket somewhere. Little chance of coffee... Observing and avoiding other vessels becomes a lesser priority mixed in with need to get to the heads or out of the cold... So the idea of sitting at the plush indoor bridge station, with two large nav-screens with radar, chartplotter and AIS overlays, whilst listening to soft music did make a fair impression on me. Did I mention the espresso machine? The ICOM M602 VHF - with its antenna in the clouds, was as clear as a bell. The Cape sea-route is increasingly busy - usually at least 10-12 large ships on the screen at any time - all doing significant speeds. Then there's the little matter of small craft like fishing boats and yachts that often don't show on the AIS and can be hard to sight visually at night. The large radar screen does a great job of finding these, and can track these targets individually showing course, closest approach etc etc. Its all very clear and easy to use. Slight adjustments to the auto-pilot are easy to make from below (or above), and the AIS will immediately reflect the revised closest point of approach. In this way other vessels see the same picture - and much chit-chat is eliminated. What a all the boats systems are accessible and controllable from this position - example battery states, water levels, nav lights and so on. 
Morning coffee as we passed Llandudno.

Cape point loomed up at 05:30 next morning, and with a sea like a milkpond we arrived at the V&A Waterfront just 3.h hours later! 3.5 hours from Cape Point to the harbour! 

So that's what the Nexus 60 (Balance 601) feels like as a passagemaker.....that was 350 n.m. in a real mix of weather, covered in 46 hours, that's about 180 n.m. per day, which I think is a realistic number for a long-term cruising average in mixed conditions.  Certainly one could push much harder, and with mainsail and decent conditions one could see daily runs of around 300 n.m. quite comfortably. My little bottle of vitamin pills sat calmly on the smooth bamboo galley counter for all of this, never moved once...

Ke Nako has now done a few months cruising the Mocambique cost around Pemba Bay and vicinity, and has done some honest service as a fishing and diving platform, seaside hotel and passagemaker. Besides some minor problems with the greywater pump, she has had no problems at all. Shee is still in boatshow condition - see her at the Cape Town Boat Show this weekend (4-6 October 2013).