I was only one day shy of 50 before I went for my first sail on an Express 27. What can I say, I'm a slow learner.
Judging from the activity level on the Express 27 class website, this model has a lot of fans. Though most of the 117 boats built have stayed in the San Francisco Bay area, which was home to the late designer Carl Schumacher, a few owners took advantage of the boat's trailerability to stray a little farther away. Hull #115, the one my husband Paul recently acquired, has spent many of her 28 years on the East Coast.
No matter where you come across them, what Express 27 sailors talk about is that great downwind ride. So when I had the chance to sail around Conanicut Island, which would be downwind along the entire east side, I jumped at it.
There were no ocean waves to ride on our adventure. And we weren't pushing hard, or even thinking about trying to break the record. But even on an easy sail, I still had a taste of what she was capable of off the breeze. Propelled by a tall and red symmetrical spinnaker that probably caught the eye of any rubbernecking drivers crossing the Newport Pell Bridge, and without even trying, we passed a lot of newer designs—downwind and later on, upwind too. "Higher and faster" is something this boat definitely understands.
The 27 was Carl Schumacher's favorite design, and it's easy to see why. She's small enough to be sailed by one or two people, even offshore; two guys sailed one from San Francisco to Hawaii, averaging 16 knots and covering 1100 miles in just 4 days. (For the full story, read Squallbusters.) She's also big enough (and light enough in the ends) to truck through (rather than hobby-horse over) waves while sailing upwind. The boat feels like a much larger, heavier, boat when it counts—but she still scoots, with very light loads, under a manageable sailplan.
I've still got a lot to learn about the Express 27, especially compared to boats.com Editorial Director John Burnham. Here's how he described trying to sleep off-watch on an 437-mile race from San Francisco to San Diego back in 1988:
"As the stern lifted on each wave, the helmsman would jerk the tiller a few times, and the 2100-pound boat would jump sideways and accelerate. The effect on one's beauty sleep was, to say the least, some what deleterious . . . and that's not even considering what it felt like on any of our many broaches." (Read the full article on the class website: San Francisco to San Diego - by John Burnham)
I'll skip the broaches, thanks, and stick to daysailing. But it's great to know that Paul will be following in some well-trod footsteps when he puts the boat through her paces this summer.