From England to New England, New Designs Are Cropping Up Everywhere

While besieged by the late-spring heat wave that held Newport tenaciously in its grip this week, Mark Pillsbury finds a few new-boat tidbits to report.From "Past the Spindle" for June 11, 2008

December 11, 2008


Earlier this month, Morris Yachts killed two birds with one bottle of champagne, christening the 48-foot Ocean Series Barra and a new 50-ton travel lift at its service yard in Bass Harbor, Maine. Mark Pillsbury

Talk about frugal Yankees. The folks at Morris Yachts in Bass Harbor, Maine, came up with a way to repurpose a christening! Not wanting to waste a pricey bottle of champagne on just one launch, Morris instead broke the bubbly over the bow of the just-finished 48-foot Ocean Series Barra and also celebrated the installation of its new 50-ton travel lift at its service yard.

To my mind, the launch of Barra was probably the more exciting. Her owners plan to sail their new Morris in the Newport-Bermuda Race later this month, then it’s off to Scotland, the Canary Islands, and eventually, the 2008 Atlantic Rally for Cruisers back to the Caribbean. Intended as a cruiser and offshore racer, Barra’s mast is nine feet taller than what would come on a standard Ocean Series 48, and the keel is 8 feet instead of 6.5.

Colleague and CW managing editor Elaine Lembo, who trekked to the mountains of Valdivia, Chile, a year ago to visit a pal who was overseeing the construction of a yacht at Alex Wopper’s Alwoplast S.A., reports that the yard is currently busy building a series of Chris White-designed Atlantic 57 high-performance sailing catamarans. The first one, for a client from California, is in the water and almost ready for sea trials. The second one is for a Dutch owner and the composite hull shell is finished. The third one, again for an U.S. client, is under construction, and a fourth is just getting started.


Construction is vacuum-bagged sandwich with Divinycell foam core, Ampreg epoxy resin, and Vectorply multiaxial stitched fabrics, with ample use of carbon and Kevlar.

The A-57 is very fast and seaworthy and designed to go anywhere in comfort and safety. To read more about Alwoplast and its founder, you can read Elaine’s Sailor Profile, “A Boatbuilder off the Beaten Path.”

Meantime, CW editor John Burnham recently toured the United Kingdom, mixing a team-racing visit with a little business, and delivers the following report:


“In the village of Itchenor, on Chichester Harbour on the south coast of England, I visited the bustling factory of Northshore Yachts in early May. Under new owners Lester Abbott and Claire Horsman, the company has recently expanded its buildings and introduced several new models in its line of swing-keel sloops, the Southerly range. These boats are unique for having a swing keel apparatus built into a large, cast-iron grounding plate, which is inserted into a large gap in the bottom of the fiberglass hull. They also have wide sterns hung with a pair of short rudders that angle outboard, so when the boat heels, the leeward rudder is vertical and steers the boat efficiently. The company produces a popular 35-footer called the Southerly 110 and has recently introduced new Southerly models at 32, 42, and 46 feet.

“I enjoyed an afternoon sail on the harbor aboard the new Southerly 42 RST (raised saloon turbo), an update on the 42 RS hull designed by Rob Humphreys in 2006. The new model has twin wheels and a new deck designed by another English designer, Stephen Jones. In 18 to 20 knots of wind we hardly needed the ‘turbo’ rig. Double-reefed and with its small, self-tacking jib, the boat sailed as advertised–fast and comfortable, with a balanced helm. Upwind in flat water, the keel all the way down, the boat draws 2.7 meters (almost 9 feet!); we had it going at 6.3. to 6.7 knots and tacking through 85 degrees. Just to prove the point, Robert, our company rep, had me sail her out of the channel and up onto a mud bank where we went aground as the fathometer read 2.3 meters. Smiling, Robert simply pressed the button for the electrically actuated hydraulic pump that raises the keel and we quickly spun off and headed back to the channel.

“I’ll write a review of this boat for Cruising World soon; in the meantime, leave it that my impression is of a unique and versatile design, quality built, comfortable below, and fast. The boats are fairly pricey at current exchange rates, and the interiors won’t be for everyone as they are laid out around the keel trunk. But if you have the chance and would like to see some unique design and execution, take a look yourself in Annapolis at the boat show in October, or visit


“The company also makes a line of traditional motorsailers called Fisher and a more cruising-oriented keelboat line called Vancouver, but the emphasis is on the new Southerly models. Claire says they plan to build 70 boats in 2008, and to accommodate the increased volume, Lester has overseen the construction of two new buildings, the most recent of which is still being completed. This should give Northshore a modern facility with overhead cranes that can move boats and molds quickly and efficiently. All the space that can be freed up will soon be put to work, however, as two high-end designs are now in the works, a 57 and a 64, plus an Italian-looking Speadwave 38, which is at the drawing stage.”

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