Something Old and Something New - Lead to Something Truly Remarkable
The world of cruising under sail continues to move toward bigger boats, faster hull designs, plumb bows and lighter construction. Where into this world of bulb keels, spade rudders and light displacement racer/cruisers, did anyone fit a cutaway full keel boat with a clipper bow? Several years ago, Cabo Rico built a boat that was a contradiction to current designs in almost every way except of course, in performance, manageability and sheer style. Madrina was hull #1 and I fell in love from the second I saw her. She’s been sold to owners on the East Coast since I was on her and her name changed, but my memories of her never will.
Design, Construction and Performance
When Fraser and Edi Smith, owners of Cabo Rico in Costa Rica, decided to pursue a new yacht design, they again sought the assistance of designer Chuck Paine, with whom they collaborated on their earlier and very successful CR42. The result was an inspired 60’ LOA vessel that supports their positioning statement as being builders of boats that will take care of their owners and provide safe and comfortable passage-making in any conditions.
I listened, with a certain amount of awe, to the stories of first-time boat owners with little sailing experience who have been steady customers with Cabo Rico, purchasing 40, 45 and 56 foot boats without fear or the usual doubts of novice sailors. The company’s mantra of “we build boats that will take care of you” is definitely working and the CR 56 fits right into this category. It’s truly an ocean-going sailboat that is beautiful, safe, easy to single-hand and amazingly fast and light on her feet.
The hull is a one-piece construction with an underbody design that provides good tracking characteristics and balance, allowing the boats to practically sail themselves on most points of sail. The moderate draft keel (6’6”) is fully encapsulated lead ballast and has a substantially cut away forefoot, providing good pointing when going to weather.
The balanced rudder is keel hung with a massive rudder gudgeon at the bottom and provides a quick and responsive feel at the helm.
The CR 56’s slight stern overhang provides additional reserve buoyancy in case of a following sea and adds the extra benefit of providing a small aft deck (and substantial lazarette) on an aft cockpit boat. The deck to hull joint has been described as bulletproof. It is a through-bolted, U shaped bulwark that adds tremendous stiffness and provides sure footing even when heeling.
CoreCell closed cell foam is used in the hull construction to provide additional stiffness, as well as good insulation. This sandwich construction eliminates a good deal of weight while additional strength is provided via a carbon fiber capped stinger system. There is no wood below the cabin sole on any Cabo Rico. Solid fiberglass floor stringers are tabbed to the hull so there is nothing to rot in the bilges now or ever in the vessel’s future.
Layup is all by hand and the Vinylester resin virtually eliminates the risk of blistering. In fact, Cabo Rico is so confident that blistering will not affect any of their boats, that they offer a 10-year limited hull warranty.
Much has been made of the clipper bow and some may dismiss it as an affectation compared to today’s designs. However, the clipper bow functions today as it did 150 years ago when clipper ships were setting speed records. This kind of a bow parts the waves as opposed to pounding down onto them and the reserve buoyancy keeps the boat driving through the water while minimizing spray and staying dry.
The Cabo Rico 56 hull #1, Madrina, was built for Dick and Dianne Simon now owners of Dick Simon Yacht Sales in Dana Point, California. Dick, a former Indy 500 driver, took to sailing after single-handing a CR 40 down the coast of California in a big blow a few years ago.
Cockpit, Deck & Rigging
The cockpit is the focal point of any cruising boat and the CR 56 will seat 8 comfortably. The seatbacks are high and ergonomically designed to provide comfortable and safe seating for long periods of time and the seats hide deceptively large storage areas that are in addition to the aft lazarette – the deck accessed storage is unlike that of any other boat I’ve seen.
There are 5 opening hatches on deck and 6 cowl vents for excellent air flow and there are even opening window options depending on the cabin house design specified. A groove for a dodger is molded into the deck for a truly dry cockpit.
The extended bowsprit forward provides an excellent area to store two large anchors and Madrina features side by side Muir windlasses to make an easy job of anchoring. The cabin house is low and the deck is clear and uncluttered and very easy to get around.
The double spreader rig and the three headsails on roller furling allow for many sail combinations to match any conditions. The forward most sail is basically a Code 0, super lightweight gennaker that is also on a furling system which makes it easy for a small crew to take advantage of every bit of a light breeze. Madrina has a fully battened main on an in-boom furling system that is easily reefed. Her lines have all been led aft and she sports 7 electric winches to ensure that sail changes are easy even when short or single handed.
Layout & Accommodations
The CR 56 accommodations begin with the master stateroom forward that features a centerline queen bunk and a head with a separate stall shower to port. An exceptionally large saloon follows that is completely customizable. Standard layouts feature a U-shaped settee to port that will comfortably seat six for dinner and another straight settee to starboard. On Madrina, the main settee and dinette were modified and a separate work desk was added to allow the Simons to carry on their shore side business while living aboard. Built-in, separate washer and dryer are hidden in a cabinet aft of the head. Each of the hatches feature mosquito netting on teak frames that make the hatches easily accessible when the inevitable 3:00 am downpour interrupts a tropical night.
The galley is large with ample counter space and the 120 HP Yanmar sits under the sink, accessible from all sides. On starboard is the forward facing nav station which is well laid out although a little far from the companion way for quick communication with the helm. A second stateroom and head are aft to starboard along with the circuit breaker panel that stretches from headliner to cabin sole. A truly envious space is the sizeable workroom all the way aft and to port which, on Madrina, houses the generator as well as a work space, tools and spares, and a hanging locker. It’s these kinds of spaces that put an end to the “Where are you going with all those tools?” debates.
But no discussion of a Cabo Rico interior would be complete without a nod to the amazing joiner work and beauty of the honey-colored, hand-rubbed teak that makes the cabins below simply glow. The attention to detail is unsurpassed and it shows, even the louvered lockers are finished inside and out. Although the rich wood makes for a very solid feel, most of the teak is only ¼ thick so the weight added on a boat of this size is negligible.
Optional Systems and Tankage
All the systems aboard, whether added generators, watermakers, in-boom furlers or flat screen TVs are sourced via Cabo Rico’s office in Ft. Lauderdale and are touted as best-in-class. Owner specifications vary and Madrina carries a full complement of comforts and toys but each boat is completely different and built to the exact demands of each purchasing individual.
Tankage is extraordinary. The CR56 carries a total tankage of 700 gallons which is translates to 267 gallons of fuel and 320 gallons of water, with the rest divided between grey water and holding tanks.
As is typical of Southern California conditions, we headed out of Dana Point Harbor under beautiful sunny skies, with a light breeze that eventually puffed up to 10-12 knots. As we headed out, Madrina was responsive and agile. On a beam reach she glided gracefully through a small chop, up to 7.5 knots. Imagine, at almost 60,000 lbs (fully loaded with gear and tanked up) a boat moving like a Rolls Royce in 10 knots of breeze. Although we didn’t get a chance to test the CR 56 in rough seas or gale force winds, her heritage as a Cabo Rico speaks to the fact that it is precisely those conditions in which she will excel and provide a safe and comfortable platform for her crew. Cabo still offers the CR 56 and I'm still buying lotto tickets in hopes the next Madrina will be mine.
While underway, Dick showed me the built-in dive tank holder next to the built in air compressor both of which took up only a portion of the enormous port lazarette. As another, and more renowned, sailing reviewer put it when speaking about a Cabo Rico, “That does it, I’m dying of jealousy.”
Specs for Cabo Rico 56
Designer: C.W. Paine Yacht Design, Inc. (Chuck Paine)
Ballast: 18,750 lbs
Displacement: 51,300 lbs (1/2 load)
Sail Area: 1504
Fuel Tankage: 267
Water Tankage: 320