Saturday, July 2, 2011

Simonis 35

Megafreight, our local Simonis 35, enjoying the sun rather than the wind in Hout Bay!

Video clip of Megafreight finishing in 2006 Admiral's Regatta

The Simonis 35 is another amazing boat. Unlike many of the others, I can't find much detail on it, and I don't know too much about the designer, Alex Simonis either. If anyone, Alex included, would like to add to this or correct things please do!

The South african connection is of course Simonis - who has worked here for many years and runs an office from Milnerton - although the Simonis-Voogd head office is now in the Netherlands. Simonis, or Simonis-Voogd, has designed a lot of very successful boats for the SA market over the years.

I have sailed with and against this boat for many years at HBYC. It wins 60% of all club races, in a small but actually quite competitive fleet. Admittedly it is crewed consistently well and is well maintained - but this seems to be the norm for these boats. This one competes well in most local regattas and recently won the FBYC Spring Regatta on Club Handicap. "Our Diane" has won the Governors Cup three times (if memory serves), and Wallbanger is another good example. They are all very competitive and stand out in the local racing scene - even though the design is now about 20 years old (I would guess - I am not sure).

Simonis is known for competitive yachts. Even his "cruisers" are really racers with nice upholstery if you ask me. Think of the Pacers/Leisure 42s/Fast 42s. Nicorette and Broomstick came from his pen. I seem to think Simonis was asked to draw the next SA Americas Cup boat (if we get there), and now Simonis-Voogd also design the Dehler Range. There are many others. They are all fast!

By nature, performance yachts are extreme. They have deep bulb keels (or canting keels), they have tall tapering multi-spreader (carbon) masts, spectra lines, fancy sails, light hulls and light materials. They cost a fair bit. And the designers job is to "sail as close to the wind" as he can with these materials without stuff breaking too often and placing the lives of the crew at risk. In fairness, a lot of responsibility lies with the skipper and boatbuilder too. Margins for error are quite slim - specifically the risk of breaking the mast or losing the keel. And then there is the challenge of achieving a good IRC rating.

The Simonis 35 does this all rather well in a conventional way. Its a fine looking boat, but also quite a good sea boat. Don't get me wrong I would not think of cruising on one of these - but she is pretty safe on the sea - and Hout Bay is a good place to prove it. I know of many ocean crossings made by these boats - around SA, but also to St Helena and Rio - and back! - all without incident, and all at great speed.

See the flattish underbody, high-aspect bulb keel, fine bow and long waterline.

As far as I know, all Simonis 35s were factory built - actually very well built - though I don't know who built them. The smallish engine is mounted midships just aft of the keel, great for dynamics and not too intrusive inside as it happens. Whilst great performers - in fact they aren't too expensive or high-tech. They are great and fairly affordable racers - at just the right size. I havent seen anything much faster in this configuration - except out and out sports boats  . . . the Mount Gay 30 (Simonis or Dix), or Pacer 37 comes to mind, also from Simonis.

Simonis 35s operate off a RCYC PHRF Club Handicap of around 1.08 - 1.10 depending on sail configuration. Compare with a refernce boat such as the L34 - at 1.015 - itself a great performance boat - it indicates the performance nature of the Simonis 35. Having sailed against several of them - my impression is that their real strength is to windward, and with a good few pounds on the weather rail. Downwind they move as a 35' should - but upwind and round the cans they really come into their own. They seem to make their own wind in light airs, and are comfortable in windpseeds of up to about 22 knots - after that they can be quite a handful and need to be properly reefed if going upwind. Megafreight does 8 knots on jib alone when it really blows. . . .

Megafreight showing her mettle on a blustery Hout Bay day.

On a moderate budget, the Simonis 35 should be on your list of good club racers in South Africa - others might include a Farr38/40, the DiDi 34 or 38 (or 40 now), Mount Gay 30, Mumm-36, L-34, depending which class you want to be in.