It is easy to get caught up in megayacht fever. Rare and exotic materials punctuated with gold fixtures and objects of art for ambience work skillfully together to remove any feeling at all that you are on a boat. Wait a minute! I thought we wanted to feel like we were on a boat. I wonder what goes through the head of a megayacht owner as he or she sits on the upper fantail and watches Russell Upsomerup zoom around the bay, singlehanded in his Alerion Express 28. "Gosh, I wish I had one."
There's a lot to say for the feeling of power and megalomania that comes with steering a huge yacht in a breeze, but the best way to appreciate the joys of sailing is to reduce it to its basic elements. If you are a beginner, an El Toro dinghy can do quite nicely. I have to drape myself across the little 8-footer with my feet usually dangling in the lee wash.
Take it up a notch and you can tackle a Laser dinghy. You will get some wet lessons on how to gybe in a breeze and your tummy muscles will spring back to life. When the Laser begins to bore you I suggest a windsurfer. Now you are physically part of the hardware of sailing. The slightest change in body attitude will result in performance changes that you will feel from head to toe.
These simple approaches to enjoying life under sail will reacquaint you with the basics that probably were responsible for your initial attraction to sailing, i.e., working with the elements, self-sufficiency and that strange feeling that comes with mastering over wind and wave. Small boats are a good way to get back to basics.
The Carl Schumacher-designed Alerion-Express is a great example. The general aesthetic model for this design is straight out of Nat Herreshoff's 1916 design Alerion.
The gentle sweep of the sheer is balanced by moderate overhangs and freeboard that is low by today's standards. Beam is narrow, and the hull shape looks to be moderate in all aspects. The D/L ratio is 168. Below the waterline the design shows a modern fin keel and a semi-balanced spade rudder. To me this is the most exciting mix of design features. Take an attractive, dated topsides look and blend it with performance characteristics below the waterline. The result is a boat that has the romance of yesterday and the performance of today.
You could cruise the Alerion-Express. The accommodations are quite Spartan, but there is a head tucked under the V-berth. The first step into the cabin is the top of the icebox. A Yanmar diesel is available as an option.
The rig is a fractional rig with self-tacking jib. The mainsheet leads forward from the Harken traveler to a barney post in the middle of the cockpit. The SA/D ratio is 20.97. I think that this sail area coupled with a healthy ballast-to-displacement ratio will result in a stiff and fast ride.
The Alerion-Express is currently being built by Tillotson-Pearson in Rhode Island. All gear is first rate and the overall look is one of a sophisticated and refined small yacht.
|Auxiliary Yanmar JGM||10|
This story originally appeared in Sailing Magazine, and is republished here by permission. Subscribe to Sailing.