Leadership 44: Sturdy and Progressive
From Morris Yachts comes a U.S. Coast Guard Academy cadet trainer that might just tempt sailors to return to school. Boat Review from our September 2011 issue.
If I were a third my age, I’d sure consider applying to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, if for no other reason than to sail as much as possible on its new 44-foot training boats. Unlike many designs that are inching ever closer to becoming full-blown aquatic condos, luxurious on the dock but untenable offshore, the new Leadership 44—designed by David Pedrick and built by Morris Yachts—blends real advances in naval architecture and boatbuilding over the last few decades with practical features proven by centuries of seafaring (see the Leadership 44 photo gallery). These boats will replace the four 45-year-old Luders yawls that the academy previously employed, meaning that now every cadet will experience an up-close-and-personal taste of tides, fog, heavy weather, and boathandling while also receiving a dose of leadership training.
Despite providing near-Grand Prix performance, the design team was also asked to incorporate a forgiving nature. By most modern standards, the Leadership 44 isn’t radical. At 26,000 pounds, the boat isn’t an ultralight, although it’s a couple of tons lighter than the U.S. Naval Academy’s 44-foot trainers and features an updated yet nicely balanced hull form with a wider transom and stiffer quarters. The Leadership 44 also carries enough sail, and is light and spry enough, to feel fully powered up in 10 knots of breeze, accelerating quickly and tacking effortlessly under fingertip control, thanks to the big wheel and high-lift appendages. It can reel off 8 knots under power at very modest rpm. At the same time, although far from a heavyweight, the boat still feels very surefooted, with enough mass to bully through seas or carry forth when a novice helmsman waggles in and out of the slot.
Allen Kruger, who’s been managing the project for the Coast Guard, notes that when the 44 is in the hands of Coast Guard cadets—many of whom have no prior experience with yachts—the sails are unlikely to be properly trimmed all the time and that the hull will likely knock a few docks. Pedrick’s design office specified a robust foam-cored glass layup, and it even considered the possibility that the boat might run very hard aground, supplying the aft upper section of the keel with a crash box that should absorb excessive loads rather than fracturing the hull, a common issue with boats with deep fin keels. This boat will forgive mistakes, but its very lively nature will also provide immediate feedback, helping to tune the crew into the oceanic world. For those who may someday require Coast Guard assistance, it’s reassuring to know that those in command will be familiar with the nuances of handling a boat under sail.
Details of the boat are highly pragmatic. Designed for a crew of eight, it features a quartet of straightforward amidships single bunks, a quarter berth, and four folding pipe cots forward. For racing, the crew will likely fold the pipe cots to provide sailhandling space; offshore, the watches can hot-bunk amidships, where motion is minimized. The head also is nestled usefully next to the companionway, so the crew on duty can duck below without foul-weather gear dripping everywhere or otherwise disturbing the off watch. A large oilskin locker in the head, and the dampened motion there, will both be appreciated.