Upgrade Your Boat - Part 1

UPGRADE - Part One

By Simon Boyde

Upgrade or buy new?

Cave Canem Sailing by Storm Force Marine, Hong KongThe idea developed after the China Coast Regatta in 2007 and hardened after the China Sea Race in 2008. Cave Canem is alas an old boat, (right) a heavy boat, and it has to be said a little tired. We sat and talked about what to do and plumped down on the side (pretty quickly it has to be said) of selling and buying that 'dream boat'.

Eliot TourerIn between the two regattas I had visited the yard of China New Yachts, near Qingdao, and looked at the brilliant new designs and builds theywere working on - take a look at www.elliott-marine.com/e1550t.html. Greg Elliott, certainly no slouch as a designer and with a fleet of race winning boats having come off his pen, has been designing what he refers to as tourers, (left).

I looked at them and saw fast comfortable bang up to date modern offshore cruisers with more than a hint of wolf-in-sheep's-clothing about them. A hydraulically dropped keel so at anchor she draws under two metres, but when sailing it is at three metres plus. a cockpit sole which is level with the saloon sole - so you just walk straight in. Raised steering positions (twin wheel of course) so you can see over the coach house roof, fantastic accommodations, semi custom interiors, and all the bells and whistles you can think of.

For the cost of average production boat from Europe of a similar length (50ft, say HKD 5 million), you get a hell of a lot more boat for your money, and the ability to tinker (albeit in a minor way) with how you want it to look downstairs, and to have your likes and dislikes in terms of deck equipment resolved at time of build, rather than more expensively later.

The straight walk through from the cockpit to the saloon is attractive, though for racing a raised cockpit sole, perhaps removable, might be an idea.

We dreamed on!

AmbushIn the meantime, we had been out on a J109 a few times and marvelled at how easy it is to sail compared with our old bateau. I sailed back from Macau on the Mills 41 Ambush (right) and was green with envy on how high it pointed. Both boats, in terms of going cruising, are however both hampered (to my eye) by smallish accommodations. Fair enough, as both are designed with a eye to racing, the Bush especially so.

Thoughts went on, we looked at equipment ease of sailing, thought about what we would actually use this theoretical new boat for, thought about our comfort factors and the people we are comfortable sailing with - and, inevitably, thought about money!

And There's the Rub. A new boat, if it was going to be worth it to us, was going to be outside the cash range for the moment. This of course was brought home in terms of a serious reality check by the events of September and October 2008!

Cave Canem by Storm Force Marine in Hong kongAll the way through this process we had of course been sailing as much as we could on Cave Canem, and we kept on remembering why we liked the boat (left). Yes: the big overlapping genoa is a right pain, but the resultant small mainsail means the boat is much easier to handle in heavy weather and rough seas. The oversize spinnakers are very hard to use short handed - which explains my large spinnaker repair bill! But hey, I can always get new smaller ones or have the existing ones cut down, or even go for an A-Sail.

But and the big but, what to do about it being heavy? We kept coming back to this. Meanwhile, it was round and around the course, middle of the fleet as always, having fun, but wanting to be up there.

Cave Canem sailing the 2008 China Coast Regatta by Storm Force MarineChina Coast Regatta 2008 - a full crew for once, 4th place in class, a massive buzz from the event, and I realised I was still in love with the old girl so the decision, come what may, was there. Upgrade in situ it is!

So into planning mode. We looked at the boat, its faults, and its advantages. We looked at weight, we looked at the sail plan, we looked at the interior, electrical systems, electrical equipment and we looked at the deck equipment. We looked at the budget - I wont go into details right here right now, but we were looking at a good HKD750 thousand - and what we could do ourselves and what we'd be getting someone else to do for us.

The articles which follow this one will go into more detail of what is there and where we want to go, and will then track the work as it progresses.

Read Upgrade Part 2 - Upgrade It Is

Simon Boyde is a Director of Storm Force Marine and regularly races Cave Canem