Kirié Feeling 396 DI Sailboat Review | Cruising World

Kirié Feeling 396 DI

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Most people aboard a ballasted 38-foot monohull tend to leave the boat on a hook in 10 or more feet of water and take a dinghy to the beach. Not when sailing the Kirié Feeling 396 DI; it’s designed to slip onto that beach like a catamaran - on purpose, mind you.

The magic is accomplished by means of a large, lifting, keel-like centerboard that reduces 7’4" of upwind draft to a beachable 2’11". Hull sections are basically flat from stem to stern to minimize the depth of the underbody. Structural skegs on either side of the centerboard trunk and at the propeller protect those critical areas. In lieu of one high-aspect, balanced-spade rudder are two shallower elliptical foils canted port and starboard; each one is engineered to accept the weight of the whole boat when on the hard.

Of course, for those who truly appreciate the deepwater sailing sensation of a performance cruiser and don’t require the landing-craft option, the 396 is available alternatively with a fixed 5’11" ballasted fin. So configured, the boat prices out at approximately $10,000 less.

The hull is fabricated of solid glass with chopped strand mat and woven roving in a polyester resin matrix. The deck is cored with end-grain balsa. Longitudinal stringers and athwartship frames are glassed in for structural rigidity. Hull thickness at the bottom of the boat is one inch to support beaching, and the lifting-keel version includes a cast-iron belly pan affixed externally into a recess in the underbody; it is fair with the bottom and provides 6,860 pounds of ballast. The lifting foil is constructed of fiberglass and weighs less than 300 pounds; it pivots around a heavy-duty stainless pin secured through bushings. The fixed-keel version of the 396 features a 5,400-pound cast iron foil externally affixed to the hull with conventional keelbolts.

We have some concern over the suitability of cast iron as belly ballast in the shallow-draft 396; it is vulnerable to rust and corrosion in the marine environment. Kirié appears to have covered its bases with regard to this issue, by keeping the metal external and beefing up the hull schedule where it attaches.

The interior is available in two versions -- a two-stateroom version with a double berth in the bow and another double berth in a full-width cabin aft, and a three-stateroom version in which port and starboard cabins occupy the space in the stern. Woodwork is rendered in elm for that light, airy look, and there’s enough of it below to impart a bit of elegance too. Both versions include two heads with showers, one forward and one aft, each with its own dedicated stainless steel holding tank.

The main saloon features L-shaped settees port and starboard with a central dinette that folds out to accommodate both seating areas. A very secure galley with everything from double stainless sinks to a microwave is tucked in on the port side to the left of the companionway; to the right sits the after head and a well-appointed forward-facing nav station and electrical/electronics control center. There are three decent hanging lockers in the boat.

Access to the 40-horsepower Yanmar is through convertible front and side inspection hatches below the companionway. Underneath the cabin sole in this area is the battery bank in a custom-fabricated fiberglass casing - one battery for engine starting, two deep-cycle units for house current. Electrical distribution is organized at a panel in the nav station and includes 16 12-volt breakers and six European 220-volt breakers. Pressurized hot and cold water is available in the galley and heads; a deck shower is provided in the cockpit.

Topside, the 396 has a low-profile cabintop and flush foredeck. The mast is deck-stepped, with lines led aft through organizers and stoppers to cabin-mounted self-tailers. Forward are double anchor rollers and a generous chain locker with a mechanical windlass installed. The cockpit features a removable helmsman’s seat that opens onto a swim platform. The cockpit itself is rather small, compromised by a wide bridge deck that occupies the space between the cockpit and the main hatch designed, presumably, for fairweather lounging. We question the shrewdness of infringing on cockpit volume and encouraging idle activity in such a high-traffic area. Going below becomes a climb-out-of-the-cockpit maneuver, leaving a crewmember vulnerable in rough offshore situations.

We went sailing aboard the 396 DI in light air on flat water. The boat moved along effortlessly in these benign conditions, tracked well and dug to weather nicely with the board deployed. Connected to the wheel by means of a Whitlock rack-and-pinion system, the dual canted rudders provide excellent response at the helm.

The issue of stiffness and stability aboard a monohull with virtually all of its ballast in the hull (e.g. higher up than normal) is worth addressing here; however, a look at the numbers and a comparison with the conventional-keel version of the vessel sheds positive light. The conventional keel tips in at 5,400 lbs., giving that version a 35-percent ballast ratio and a respectable SA/Disp figure of 16.9. To compensate for the elevated center of gravity aboard the 396 DI, Kirié has jacked belly ballast way up to 6,680, resulting in a 39-percent ballast ratio and a more conservative SA/Disp of 15.4. Clearly the design process has taken into account the stability trade-off involved with shoal draft and has calculated a solution.

Offshore sailors without the need for reduced draft would do well to consider as much draft as they can possibly accommodate. But anybody keen on poking into shallow backwater haunts has to think along opposite lines. To that end, the 396 DI is certainly an intriguing alternative.

Kirié 396 DI Specifications:

  • LOA: 38’6" (11.7 m.)
  • LWL: 33’9" (10.3 m.)
  • Beam: 12’6" (3.8 m.)
  • Draft (fin): 5’11" (1.8 m.)
  • Draft (lifting): 2’11"/7’4" (0.9/2.2 m.)
  • Ballast (fin): 5,400 lbs. (2,450 kgs.)
  • Ballast (lifting): 6,680 lbs. (3,030 kgs.)
  • Foil weight (lifting) 286 lbs. (130 kgs.)
  • Disp (fin): 15,470 lbs. (7,017 kgs.)
  • Disp (lifting): 17,680 lbs. (8,020 kgs.)
  • Sail area: (100%) 654 sq.ft. (60.8 sq.m.)
  • Mast above water: 54’0" (16.5 m.)
  • Ballast/Disp: .35 (fin); .39 (lifting)
  • Disp/Length: 180 (fin); 205 (lifting)
  • SA/Disp: 16.9 (fin); 15.4 (lifting)
  • Fuel: 66 gal. (250 ltr.)
  • Water: 105 gal. (397 ltr.)
  • Holding: 2 x 18 gal approx. (136 ltr.)
  • Auxiliary: 40-hp Yanmar diesel
  • Cabin headroom: 7’0" (2.1 m.)
  • Designer: Gilles Vaton
  • Base price: $223,500

Kirié USA
Gratitude Yachting Center
5990 Lawton Ave.
Rock Hall, MD 21661
Phone: (410) 639-7111

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