Through a slew of events, from maxicat racing to the America’s Cup, Polish sailors have been in the headlines lately, and a quick tour of the Internet will uncover a large number of Polish builders of pleasure boats. Prominent among them is Delphia Yachts, which has its origins in a company that was formed in 1990. Even then, that nation’s boatbuilding industry didn’t spring up out of a vacuum: As far back as 1970, when the Soviets were in charge, Dick Carter was having state-of-the-art sailboats built in Poland for his phenomenally, albeit briefly, successful Carter Offshore.
So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Delphia 40, introduced in North America last year, bears all the signs of having been developed in a venerable sailing culture. It’s also evident that some considerable experience with cruising sailboats has gone into its construction. Cruising World’s Boat of the Year 2006 panel concurred during its deliberations that the boat made an impressive debut.
That the Delphia line is, according to its builder, “designed with the tempestuous nature of the Baltic Sea in mind” is evident from the moment you step into the cockpit. Its coamings sweep up forward to create a deep shelter in each forward corner where you can take cozy refuge from wind and spray under the dodger. On clement days, those coamings offer a high, secure perch from which to take in the view. The helmsman, meanwhile, can move between a variety of positions within comfortable reach of the wheel and is never far from the jib-sheet winch.
The seats aren’t long enough to sleep on, but the cockpit can easily accommodate half a dozen people. Beneath the seats, four lockers hold deck gear. Exploring those located under the helm station reveals good access to the steering, a nifty stowage area for the companionway drop board, and insight into how the builder rates the importance of finish in obscure recesses. The answer is “highly”–all the glasswork is tidy, and all surfaces are gelcoated for protection and ease of maintenance.
The companionway ladder is easy to negotiate, and the treads turn up at their outboard ends so feet won’t slide off even at steep angles of heel. It’s a bit of a reach to the nearest support on the port side, but that comes in the form of a solid pillar at the nav desk.
In the saloon, furniture is pushed well outboard to put the emphasis on space, no doubt so that the three-couple complement catered to by the three-stateroom arrangement will have room to mingle without feeling crowded. In this respect, it follows the European fashion, and the quid for that quo is often a shortage of storage low down and behind and under settees. The athwartships seat along the main bulkhead takes up some of that slack, and a smaller crew planning longer cruises could create all the stowage it needs by requisitioning one of the twin aft cabins for a storage room.
A great influx of light pouring through deadlights, three forward and two each side, in the “bubble”–which is slightly elevated above the coachroof proper and which gives the boat its distinctive appearance–contributes to the feeling of spaciousness in the saloon. In latitudes lower than those of the Delphia’s native Poland, that light will be accompanied by heat, but a little canvaswork can greatly reduce its intensity. Opening hatches in the deck allow adequate airflow in fair weather. An absence of dorades or similar devices, however, suggests ventilation will be lacking on days when the air is full of rain or spray.
The galley is alongside the starboard side of the saloon and illustrates the conundrum the designer faces when choosing between satisfying the priorities of shorthanded, long-distance voyaging or those of large-party, short-range cruising. Eye-level locker doors outboard hinge along their lower edges. When open, they’re supported in the horizontal position with struts to provide handy backup to the counter area for a cook at work when the boat’s at rest. Deep fiddles inside the lockers hold crockery secure against even radical movements of the boat under way, but the cook isn’t so adequately supported when trying to perform on starboard tack in a seaway. A safety strap with a single attachment point might suffice in this in-line arrangement, which places everything close to hand. The single stainless-steel sink is right next to the range and has an integral draining board, which could also serve as a trivet for hot dishes coming out of the oven. A foot pump satisfies the paranoid conserver of fresh water.
Delphia offers three versions of the interior, which differ largely in the layout forward of the main bulkhead. In the boat we tested, that section is devoted to a master suite with a large, traditional V-berth, a couple of hanging lockers, and a loveseat. The private head is on the port side. It doesn’t have a separate stall for the shower, but a neat fold-down seat over the toilet effectively makes the whole compartment a low-maintenance shower room.
In two of the layouts, a pair of double-berth cabins flanks the cockpit. Each has a large berth, a hanging locker, and, for light and air, an overhead hatch and a port that opens to the cockpit. The nav desk occupies the port side opposite the head, its small size apparently dictated by the dining arrangement in the alternate layout, which has to seat a couple of extra bodies.
One of the first things I noticed, and duly noted, as we motored toward Chesapeake Bay was that the noise level under power was pleasantly low, both on deck and below. BOTY judge Ed Sherman’s decibel readings placed the Delphia 40 in the middle of the range for the 2006 fleet (see “Crunching the Numbers,” January 2006), but his mechanical ear doesn’t distinguish between the higher frequencies that irritate–what I call vacuum-cleaner noise–and the less offensive, even if equally loud numerically, rumbling of a diesel engine working in the low-2,000s rpm range. Nobody wants to motor all day long on a sailboat, but if you had to aboard the Delphia 40, thanks to its combination of Volvo’s new slower-turning engine (the test boat had the optional 55-horsepower model), saildrive propulsion, and well-chosen soundproofing materials, any discomfort felt will be aesthetic, not aural.
I boarded the Dephia 40 in almost the same weather conditions that, the day before, had seen a couple of boats prove unsteerable until their sail plans had been deeply reefed. Because the Delphia is of essentially similar configuration–sloop rig, spade rudder, and shoal-draft, bulb-tipped, fin keel–I half expected it to behave equally badly. It didn’t. With too much sail up, it did want to round up into the wind, but the helm didn’t load up, the rudder didn’t stall, and I was always able to steer the boat out of the luff. If anything, the helm was so light as to be disconcerting, but once I became used to not having to fight it, I found it positive and responsive.
From the drawings, it appears that this boat-even the shoal-draft version we were sailing–has a little more lateral area to its keel in proportion to that of the canoe body than others in its class. This would certainly help in balancing the keel forces against the sail forces and reduce the load on the rudder. As for the spade rudder itself, perhaps a slight adjustment of its balance ratio would give the helmsman a little more positive, and more reassuring, feel.
Once reefed and trimmed to the wind of the day, the Delphia 40 was a pleasure to sail and revealed its origins in a day-racing community in boisterous waters. The shrouds supporting the keel-stepped mast are attached well inboard. This, in concert with long deck tracks close to the coachroof, permits tight sheeting angles and a generous range of adjustment for the lead, which is important if you want to get the most out of the roller-reefing jib. By running the sheet to a snatch block attached to the perforated toerail, you can give the sail more breathing room on a reach. Another detail that will appeal to the cruiser who’s also a Wednesday-night racer is the anchor windlass fitted inside the foredeck locker, where it won’t foul sheets and guys or put the bowman’s ankles and shins in jeopardy.
The cruiser who’s more into spending nights at anchor might view the stainless-steel fabrication that supports the anchor roller as light-duty, but when offshore, he or she will appreciate the pushpit that bucks the current trend on boats with transom platforms for boarding: It wraps round the stern from well forward and is broken only by a short, wire-gated span on the centerline, providing real security at the back of the cockpit.
If it’s the expectation that the stern platform will be used when boarding the boat from a dinghy, it needs to be better provided with handholds for that purpose. Even that, in my view, wouldn’t justify the absence of lifeline gates, which would facilitate boarding from a low pontoon.
As presented, the Delphia 40 meets many of the criteria sought after by today’s cruising sailor. With the shoal-draft keel, which measures 5 feet 6 inches, it showed its potential for Chesapeake Bay and other draft-restricted cruising areas. Where draft isn’t an issue, the deep keel, at 7 feet 2 inches, should offer even sharper performance.
To get a feeling for the work of designer Andrzej Skrzat, I took a look at his firm’s website. He has a considerable portfolio of built designs, both power and sail, and his sailboats are largely racing boats and smaller cruisers. The Delphia 40 is the largest of these, and I suspect he was guarded in his use of space–the small nav desk and the slightly quirky dining arrangement–simply because he’s not been used to having that much to work with. Judging from the boat’s looks and performance, he has a good eye and a firm grasp of the naval-architectural aspects of his work. His partner is an industrial designer, which helps assure a sound transition from concept to realization. I expect that as his experience with bigger boats grows, the relationship between builder and designer matures, and both become better acquainted with the nuances of the American cruising ideal, the Delphia “D” and the boats’ distinctive profiles will become a familiar sight in American waters–and beyond.
Jeremy McGeary is a CW contributing editor.
LOA 39′ 2″ (11.95 m.)
LWL 36′ 3″ (11.05 m.)
Beam 12′ 11″ (3.94 m.)
Draft (deep/shoal) 7′ 2″/5′ 6″ (2.18/1.68 m.)
Sail Area (100%) 707.4 sq. ft. (65.7 sq. m.)
Ballast 6,072 lb. (2,760 kg.)
Displacement 18,150 lb. (8,250 kg.)
SA/D (100%) 16.4
Water 92 gal. (350 l.)
Fuel 55 gal. (210 l.)
Mast Height 55′ 9″ (17.00 m.)
Engine Volvo 40-hp. diesel with saildrive (55-hp. optional)
Designer Andrzej Skrzat
Base Price $179,900
Delphia Yachts USA (866) 459-2005 www.delphiayachtsusa.com
by F. Scott Farquharson, Delphia Yachts USA
Jeremy McGeary’s comment about the storage on the three-stateroom Delphia 40 is valid, but he may not have considered the intended use of this configuration. This layout is aimed primarily for use by families or by chartering sailors. These boats will be used for long weekends or weeks at a time, seldom for long-range cruising. Therefore, the current storage is adequate for that purpose. The two-stateroom version is geared more toward long-range cruising. The Delphia 40 boasts a cavernous port-side locker aft of the galley that’s accessible from both the cockpit and galley. This locker can be configured in many ways to ensure a flexible and utilitarian storage area.
The same can be said for the galley. The three-cabin version will probably not be used for more than island or marina hopping. Most galley duty will be performed in the upright and locked position, whereas the two-cabin 40 will more likely be utilized for passagemaking. The two-cabin boat has an L-shaped galley to port with plenty of handholds and a secure place to anchor the cook when preparing meals in challenging conditions.
The described “greenhouse effect” can be lessened by checking the blinds-and-screens box on the order form. The Delphia 40 can also be ordered with small, outwardly opening hatches in the doghouse “windscreen,” augmenting airflow and ventilation.
Delphia Yachts appreciates all comments as we continue rigorous development of the current line. We’ll be announcing two new models this fall expressly for the U.S. market.