After sailing aboard one in Annapolis, Maryland, on a sparkling morning last fall, Bill Lee labeled it a "bulletproof cruiser’s delight." Circumnavigator Mark Schrader called it a "bombproof boat built to take someone out to sea and bring him back intact." Strong sentiments, indeed, for a very capable sailboat. They were talking about the Valiant 39.
It shouldn’t be too much of a surprise to hear someone hail a Valiant as seaworthy. Designer Robert Perry’s canoe-stern staple has become a blue-water icon of sorts for long-distance sailors, from a generation of singlehanded around-the-world racers to oceangoing cruising families with a yen for far horizons.
The 39 is essentially an updated edition of the popular Valiant 37, with a hefty tubular stainless bowsprit that increases the size of the foretriangle and opens the door for a real working staysail in the boat’s cutter configuration. By modern standards she is a straightforward vessel characterized by a subtle sheer, considerable tumblehome, deep-V sections beneath the waterline forward, a fin keel and a skeg-hung rudder. In other words she’s a reliable, conservative platform for doing decidedly unconservative things -- like sailing across an ocean.
Construction details read like a primer on how to build a boat so it won’t fall apart. The hull is laid up in one piece of solid glass, hand laminated with alternate layers of mat and woven roving. Isophthalic resin is used throughout, from the gel coat right on into the laminate. Floor timbers are built up of heavy layers of mat and woven roving over PVC high-density closed-cell foam; these reinforce the underbody and extend into the sump, a sturdy element rendered with up to two inches of solid glass. The keel consists of 7,000 pounds of external lead bedded to the bottom of the sump with 3M 5200, and secured by no fewer than 11 3/4-inch stainless J bolts topped with 1/4-inch stainless backing plates and stainless nuts. The deck utilizes Baltek balsa core for stiffness and weight reduction, with structural foam in areas of major stress; it is affixed to the hull on an inturned flange with 5200 and stainless bolts on 4 1/2-inch centers. Whoa.
The rig is a keel-stepped, high-aspect masthead affair with two sets of spreaders, fore-and-aft lowers, and an inner forestay brought to the stem aft of the bowsprit for cutter work. Standing rigging port and starboard terminates at chain plates secured with stainless bolts and backing plates to hefty structural knees bonded into the hull. The 39’s SA/Disp ratio of 16.8 does not point at wicked light-air performance, but by augmenting the sail plan with the appropriate canvas you can offset that apparent disadvantage; in truth and in fairness, the versatility of the rig in moderate-to-heavy oceangoing conditions is of far more enduring significance.
In the realm of accommodations and amenity, this is a genuine passage maker, with emphasis on what’s functional, comfortable and safe at sea, not on how many showers you can fit into 37 feet of hull. To wit, there is one head, located on the port side aft, cleverly adjacent to but separate from a single shower stall. Smallish sleeping doubles are located in the starboard quarter and forepeak. A serious nav station with a chart table, electrical panel and electronics is tucked in to port, opposed on the starboard side by a very secure U-shaped galley. The saloon includes longitudinal settees, both of which with lee cloths make terrific sea berths, and a folding dinette admidship. For insulation and sound dampening, 1/2-inch foam is applied to the inside of the hull from the waterline up. Storage is addressed in lockers, cubbies, shelves and settee bins; long-range provisioning can spill into the vessel’s substantial bilge if necessary.
Mechanically, the boat is set up for uncomplicated maintenance, rugged use and long stints away from the dock. A freshwater-cooled Westerbeke 35B is located in an engine compartment behind the companionway steps; for a 37-foot hull, itÕs a veritable engine room. The Racor fuel filter, raw-water intake, engine oil dipstick, V-drive unit, starter and whatnot are all easy to get at when the needs arise. The electrical scenario includes a dual-bank 12-volt DC system and a 110-volt AC shore power hookup with a 30-amp charger and plenty of cabin outlets. The distribution panel is assembled by Valiant and provides a DC breaker with 28 individual toggles, an AC breaker with 12, the requisite voltage and amperage meters, and a reverse-polarity indicator. In terms of tankage, fuel lives in two removable marine alloy units aft of the engine, fresh water in stainless tanks beneath the settees.
Boat Of The Year sail testing put the Valiant through its paces in 10 to 12 knots of breeze amid a light chop. Perry’s very competent design tracks nicely in these conditions. The helm is responsive and the boat reacts positively to trim. Speed and acceleration are not strong suits, but maneuverability, settling into a groove and finding a satisfying angle upwind are. Above all, this boat is comfortable to sail, a comment uttered unanimously in judges’ deliberations after our sea trial.
Given the blue-water scenario for which all Valiants are conceived and built, this may be the highest compliment you could pay a boat such as the 39. The idea that you can go to sea in a vessel actually designed to take care of you is powerful. Few would doubt how well adapted both philosophically and practically this little voyager is to the big leagues offshore.
Valiant 39 Specifications:**
- LOA: 39’4" (12.0 m.)
- LOD: 37’0" (11.3 m.)
- LWL: 32’0" (9.8 m.)
- Beam: 11’6" (3.4 m.)
- Draft: 5’10" (1.8 m.)
- Ballast: 7,000 lbs. (3,175 kgs.)
- Disp: 18,500 lbs. (8,392 kgs.)
- Sail area: 735 sq.ft. (68.3 sq.m.)
- Mast above water: 54’0" (16.5 m.)
- Ballast/Disp: .38
- Disp/Length: 252
- SA/Disp: 16.8
- Fuel: 47 gal. (178 ltr.)
- Water: 128 gal. (485 ltr.)
- Holding: 36 gal. (136 ltr.)
- Auxiliary: Westerbeke 358 35-hp FWC diesel
- Cabin headroom: 6’5" (1.96 m.)
- Designer: Robert Perry
- Base price: $213,950 (total sailaway)
Route 1, Box 137
Gordonville, TX 76245
Phone: (903) 523-4899