Title: Small cruiser with a large boats comfort
Pages: 44 - 53
Author: David Owen
Text: Small cruiser with a large boat's comfort
The T24, designed by Guy Thompson and built by Hawkbridge of Chichester, is a small boat capable of deep-sea sailing that offers a spaciousness and standard of finish one might expect only on a larger boat. David Owen discusses the design.
T24, 24 ft long, has a hull built of glass reintorced plastics up to deck level, with the deck itself built up from marine ply on normal beams and shelves; the cabin top is again in GRP. The mainsail boom and mainsheet are kept clear of the cockpit by the high aspect-ratio mainsail, with tall mast and short boom.
Thesmall cruising yacht is one of the toughest challenges a designer can face. The demands of size, price, performance and accommodation all pull in different directions, making the right balance very hard to attain. The number of ways in which he can fit living and sailing necessities within the limits of a seaworthy hull is severely limited, so that he has a restricted area in which to make his influence felt.
Paradoxically, designing a boat which has all the requirements but which is still distinctly uncomfortable for the crew is all too easy. To produce a vessel of the same size, which careful detail design and intelligent use of space has made attractive and comfortable as a temporary home, is much harder. So difficult in fact that the ideal boat has never yet appeared - although there are boats which get much closer than others to the unattainable. One of these is the T24.
Much of the T24's success comes from its unusual pedigree. Most series-produced boats are designed from the start as a commercial venture, built along strictly orthodox lines, with costs cut fairly close to the bone. The T24 on the other hand started off as a single boat, specially commissioned from designer Guy Thompson by Dick Pitcher, four years ago the world champion in the International Flying Dutchman class, as a cruiser-racer for himself and his family. As it was a strictly private venture at that stage, the original boat, Goosander, embodied much original detail, the fruit of Pitcher's own sailing experience, blended into Thompson's design. Proof of the boat's efficiency came in the 1966 East Coast racing season when she beat her competitors very convincingly on several occasions. Not surprisingly, interest soon stiffened into definite inquiries, and by the beginning of the following year, the Chichester firm of DC Perfect had started work on Goosander's sister ships.
In marketing terms, the T24, with an overall length of 24 ft. fits into the middle of a group of highly competitive boats Vessels of this size are really the smallest which can take deep-sea sailing in their stride and represent probably the peak of the cruiser market in terms of volume. But where most are content with four berths, the T24 offers five. This is not necessarily an advantage-on all too many boats, an extra berth would strain the available space beyond bursting point - but here the arrangement is carefully done, so that the extra bunk really does represent a usable advantage. Tucked away below the cockpit seat on the starboard side, the occupant sleeps with his head and shoulders protruding through into the main saloon, to prevent claustrophobia: the space above his head is used for the folding chart table (whenever this in use, there is bound to be another bunk free). Above the table itself a small swivelling lamp can light up the charts without dazzling occupants of the other berths. The navigator sits on the steps leading up to the companionway, which themselves cover the large auxiliary engine.
The other four berths are fitted normally, two in the fore cabin, two more in the main saloon. The long, deep coach roof is generous with headroom, the space in shortest supply on a small boat. In the main saloon this measures a good 5 ft 11 in, with 4 in less in the fore cabin. The cabins are separated by a double bulkhead, providing a hanging locker for clothes or oilskins on the port side, and a we on the starboard side, behind a door which when opened seals the cabins off from one another. The cabin table is hinged on the forward face of this door, and folds down when the door is in position - the table itself is hollow, and large enough to hold a generous supply of standard Admiralty charts without any need for folding.
Another vital part of a cruising boat is the galley; that of the T24 would be appreciated on many larger boats, with its ample storage and generous work surfaces. Located on the port side of the aft end of the main saloon, opposite the navigator's position - so that the cook can share the companionway ladderfor seating - it features a two-burner-plusgrill cooker and a sink with removable bowl, plus an insulated cool-storage locker for perishables, cupboards forties and vegetables, and an ingeniously shaped holder for stacked crockery. Side lockers with glass front panels hold glasses, bottles, books and other small items. Clothes and other stores go in lockers under the bunks, sealed from the bilges to keep everything dry. When the bunks are not in use, the bedding stows away behind zip-up panels between the saloon bunk cushions and the upper lockers, to provide extra comfort for people sitting down in the saloon these spaces have a second seal separating them from the lockers beneath the bunks.
On deck too the T24 benefits from the thought which has gone into the design. The mast is stepped in a special sliding track, which allows fine adjustment when the boat is being rigged. The shrouds and stays are stepped inboard of the deck rails to the edge of the coach roof, which allows the headsails to set with a more efficient shape. The noise of halliards banging against the mast, bane of hollow metal masts, is avoided by running halyards down the inside of the mast, surrounded by sound-deadening material.
The headsail sheets, which on most boats run over winches set back at the sides of the cockpit, are here fitted to winches mounted on top of the coach roof, on either side of the companionway hatch. This allows one man to handle headsails, mainsheet and tiller easily when sailing singlehanded; with a full crew a man in the cockpit can take the strain on the headsail sheets while another man in the companion hatch can take up the final tension on the winches without occupying extra cockpit space.
Other features which contribute to cockpit comfort are the high coaming, which can deflect water overboard from the scuppers without letting it into the cockpit, the small
rail to which safety harnesses can be clipped, and the fact that the mainsail boom and mainsheet are kept clear of the cockpit itself thanks to the high aspect-ratio mainsail with its tall mast and short boom. Not only does this keep the cockpit space clearer, but it reduces the danger to the crew in the event of the boom swinging in a sudden gybe.
In its basic construction the T24 is also unorthodox. Most boats of this type are today built entirely of glassreinforced plastics or of wood. The T24 uses the strength, toughness and freedom from maintenance of GRP for the hull up to deck level, while the deck itself is built up from marine ply on normal beams and shelves, and then the cabin top is coldmoulded in GRP. Interior trim is a combination of Burma teak and white melamine lacquer and the standard of finish is high. Details like the heavy metal manhole covering the engine controls and the teak grating on the cockpit floor have a solid, traditional feel about them, and other fittings like deck winches (imported from Holland) are neat. Most of the wooden components are purposebuilt, and the boat has a higher proportion of finishing costs in its price than most seriesproduced vessels of this size.
In action, the T24 is impressive. Even in light airs, she is highly responsive to each touch on the well-balanced helm, and she ghosts along well on the slightest breath of wind. The view forward is slightly restricted by the height of the coach roof and a low-cut genoa which was in use when I tried it, but in all other respects she is comfortable to sail.
I have already said that no small cruising yacht yet built is perfect in all respects, and the T24 does have a few drawbacks. With the auxiliary engine running at close to full power, she moves quickly through the water, but with the RCA engine fitted, the propellor torque tends to push the boat round to starboard, requiring a strong and - in time The main saloon, left and opposite, measures 5 if 11 in in length. Steps leading up to the companionway, left, cover the large auxiliary engine, below right. The navigator sits on the steps and has the echo-sounder and radio directionfinder clamped to the bulkhead in front of him; the hand-bearing compass is also attached there when not in use. The kitchen, top opposite, has an exceptional amount of working space. There is an ingenious plate storage unit, centre of picture, which holds plates firm yet makes them easy to get at. The cooker is mounted on gimbals and has a fiddle rail and clamps for holding pans in position. Halilards, below left, run inside the mast, emerging over pulleys straight to halilard winches located for easy sailhoisting.
quite exhausting pull on the tiller to correct this. With the slower-running Albinengines also offered with the boat, I understand this is less of a problem, and with future boats the propellers will be offset to cure this tendency. The door in the stern, for easy access into the cockpit from a dinghy or for swimming, has its uses - but I would be worried about possible weaknesses when running before heavy seas. And finally, although siting of the winches seems very efficient, cleats for the headsail sheets look to be oddly placed, tending to produce chafe between the sheets and the coach-roof edge.
These are nevertheless quibbles when set against the T24's undeniably roomy and comfortable layout below decks and the efficient arrangement above. The craftsmanship of the woodwork and the finish is of a very high standard, but this kind of work is expensive, and I fear the boat's only real disadvantage may be her cost. The total price of around £3500 for a fully equipped boat could buy a larger, if less well finished, vessel which will attract many of the T24's many potential buyers.
But perhaps I'm wrong - certainly Hawkbridge of Chichester, successors to Perfect as builders of the T24, have existing orders to take them through to mid autumn, and are expanding production to turn out 90 boats a year. At the same time, orders are coming in for the larger T31, another design from the board of Guy Thompson, using the same careful approach, the same sailing models to determine a given hull's performance in advance, and many of the same features including a high coach roof, snug cockpit, short boom, inboard shrouds and a generally similar interior layout. The hull form is different, as befits a boat more specifically aimed at racing, with finer ends and lower wave resistance. Price of the bigger T31, exclusive of sails, is estimated at £5000.