Upgrade Your Boat - Part 2 - Upgrade it is.


By Simon Boyde

Upgrade it is!

So, decision made, we are upgrading the boat we have and it is going to be a lot faster and a lot snazzier and we will win everything. Ha ha ha!

Fastnet RockBack in the real world, we looked at what we had. Cave Canem is an elderly (though not ancient, even though the good people at the ABC are nice enough to categorize her as a classic yacht) Beneteau First 42. The design is from German Frers and was one of the first designs to come out after the disaster of the 1979 Fastnet Race and the lessons it taught.

Fundamentally the boat was designed round the old IOR rule complete with a massive genoa, a narrow stern and big symmetric kites.

Plans and thoughts:


Cave Canem and the narrow sternPerhaps the Fastnet disaster taught a few too many lessons: here is a boat, built as a cruiser racer with an upwind sail area of around 100m2, but it weighs, ex factory, 9.7 tonnes! Ouch, that is a serious load of weight to carry round the race track. Why so much? Well, there is around 4 tonnes of lead keel (good, I like that) which means that hull deck and interior weigh the best part of 5 tonnes, with deck gear and fittings making up the rest. You may have guessed therefore that it is indeed a solid glass hull, and to call it overbuilt is a huge understatement. For example the hull is around 75mm thick near the keel - with deep ribs and stringers on top of that.

All of this gives you a comfy feeling offshore mind you so I am not complaining too loudly, but it would be nice to be lighter of course.

Wait, stop. What is this? My IRC certificate reads 10.4 tonnes - where did the extra 700kg come from? Well, back in 1985, the previous owners of the boat, with different intentions in mind, added a very nice looking teak deck. I have no objection to teak, it looks very nice indeed thank you, but it is heavy. I found a CHS application form in old files for the boat (CHS being the precursor to IRC) where they asked for a revision to the rating for the 890lbs (read 400kg) they had added to the boat when they had the teak deck laid in 1985. That explains most of it, the rest being taken up with the inevitable water uptake that all GRP hulls suffer from, and the odd fitting or two.

Now, on the internet, there is a venerable First 42 which the owner is selling with a claimed weight of 8.5 tonnes which sounds far more sensible to me. This sounds like a great target, which we will miss by miles of course, but one which we'll definitely be aiming for.

Sail Plan

Cave Canem carries a 145% genoa, sail area around 63m2 and a small mainsail, area around 30m2. Upwind she is quite quick for her age and weight, but we get overpowered on the main earlier than you would expect, and in real breeze, when the boat should perform at its best, the genoa is simply too large.

Fundamentally, even if we get the overall weight down to 9 tonnes, it is still going to be heavy for its sail area which means we are never going to be famous with less than 8-10 knots of wind. So why carry an upwind genoa for a wind speed where the newer boats certainly continue to beat us whatever? (And pay the rating penalty for it?)

The small main is great in terms of handling. Nothing huge to sweep across the deck and take people with it. It is however smaller than it should be so on the list is a larger main, perhaps pushing up to 35m2, with a fairly flat shape to it. The current main has a pretty deep draft (hence the issues with keeping it up in a breeze) which I have regretted since it arrived and is certainly now of an age where replacement is hitting the necessity stage.

Cave CanemThe boat's original sail plan had a 70m2 150% genoa. Obviously it was not designed for tacking with only three or four people on board! The idea we have here is to cut down the genoa size to a much more manageable 135%. This should enable the leach of the sail to come in forward of the spreaders, thus cutting down on sail wear and improving pointing ability, while at the same time meaning we can carry full sail comfortably further up the wind range. We would add to this a jib to tack in front of the shrouds, and to help the boat off the wind on a two sail reach, add a staysail as this is free area under IRC. Target is for the 135% genoa + staysail = 70m2 the original upwind sail area of the boat.

The result of this is that shorthanded in breeze we will have an easily tacked genoa, in lighter winds the sail although smaller than current should still perform well, and off the breeze we hoist the staysail to get the lost sail area back. And, yes, we'll be lousy under 10 knots, but as we are anyway so what?

Cave CanemDownwind the original sail plan called for 125m2 spinnakers. Well, it was just not fast so we got 145m2 spins (left) and have been in deep doo doo ever since on the drops. Just too big to handle easily. So we added a sock (above) to pull down over the kite for shorthanded stuff. The kite is still too big for the sock. Pretty easy decision this one then. We keep a lightweight kite at full size, get our medium weight kite recut down to where it should be, and for those reaching or shorthanded days get a bow or bowsprit tacked A-sail.

In the next article we start spending money!

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