Alerion Sport 30

The Alerion Sport 30 is the next logical step in the evolution of the daysailer genre, which its older sibling created.

alerion 30
The Sport 30 is the first in the Alerion line to come with a fixed carbon-fiber sprit for off-the-wind sails. Its ­ self-tacking jib makes simple work of singlehanding.Billy Black

A quarter-century ago, Garry Hoyt launched what would come to be known as the daysailer genre with the introduction of the Alerion Express 28, a boat designed by the late Carl Schumacher that featured a minimal interior and a large cockpit where an owner and guests could enjoy the simple joy of sailing. Traditional and lovely looking — but with a quite modern underbody and a powerful sail plan — Hoyt, ever the marketer, proclaimed the boat to be “the prettiest girl at the dance.”

Since then, a number of siblings ranging from 20 to 41 feet have been added to the Alerion family, which is now owned by USWatercraft in Warren, Rhode Island. This past fall, the company introduced its latest model, the Alerion Sport 30, which retains the graceful sheer line, oval ports and stylish overhangs of the original Schumacher design. Yet with collaboration between USW and naval architect Langan Design Partners, it also embraces the performance-­oriented DNA of the builder, a licensed J/Boats shop that also owns the C&C race-boat brand.

I got to sail the Sport 30 during CW’s Boat of the Year sea trials this past fall in Annapolis, Maryland. In breeze that barely rippled the surface of Chesapeake Bay, the boat’s generously roached mainsail and self-tending jib captured whatever wind there was to keep us moving. Unfurling the gennaker — set on a top-down furler attached to the optional fixed carbon-fiber sprit — increased the oomph factor and boosted the speedo to 3.1 knots, a little better than the wind speed, and hinted at the performance possibilities we might have enjoyed had a good solid puff come along. Construction of the Alerion appeared to be top-notch. The balsa-cored hull and foam-cored deck are both resin-infused. A carbon-fiber reinforced composite grid is glued into the hull for stiffness, and the interior, crafted in a single mold, is then installed.

Down below, the Alerion is simple but functional, offering sitting headroom that would be fine for a weekend away or as a shelter on a rainy afternoon. Cushioned settees line the sides of the saloon, and there’s an open V-berth ­forward, with a head beneath and a curtain for privacy. Just inside the companionway there’s a galley of sorts with a cooler and ­single-­burner cooktop.

The boat comes standard with a carbon-fiber spar and aluminum boom, tiller steering, a self-tacking jib set on a below-deck Harken roller furler, and a 12-horsepower Volvo diesel and saildrive with a two-blade Gori folding propeller. The boat we sailed had the optional Edson wheel steering, aforementioned sprit and an Ocean Volt electric motor with lithium-ion batteries, which together brought the sail-away price to $255,000, up from a base price of $229,500.

BOTY technical judge Ed Sherman noted, “We’ve got to give it some kudos for the electric motor and the batteries, because that whole piece of it works very well, and it seems like a reasonable package to me, for the intended buyer.” When it’s time to steam from or back to the dock, simply pull out the engine-control lever and move it either forward or aft to set things in motion. At half-throttle, the motor pushed us along at 3.5 knots (the builder said we could expect a range of five to six hours); wide open, we saw 6 knots (with a range of two to three hours).

The real focal point of the Alerion though is its roomy and comfortable cockpit. Forward of the large steering wheel there’s seating for three or four guests. Aft, the helmsman has his or her own space to work. The mainsheet and halyards are led to winches mounted on pedestals just forward and to either side of the wheel. I found the jib sheet, led from the cabin top, was fine for the crew to handle but a little awkward to control when I was at the wheel. The Boat of the Year judges also questioned whether the boom could have been raised a couple of inches to better accommodate a tall helmsman.

But those are minor points. Overall, the Sport 30 seems to be a well-thought-out and finely equipped addition to the Alerion line. It’s the first model to be conceived of and built from start to finish by USWatercraft, and to my eye, like its predecessors, it’s the belle of the ball.

Mark Pillsbury is CW’s editor.