Perfect Blue Water Sailboat

The perfect blue water sailboat is a work in progress.

Novice builders and beginning yacht designers have been trained in the US to accept the notion of a trade off between sea worthiness, comfort, performance and cost.

This notion is prevalent on the east coast of the United States. The notion allows architects to rationalize vessels like TP52s (Trans Pacific 52s) that were marketed for crossing oceans but did not pass the capsize risk ratio. An ocean race boat, to get 60 percent of the performance of a buoy racer, can get only say 25% of the seaworthiness needed for a blue water cruiser is the argument.

The term blue water was not used during the age of commercial sail. According to Wikipedia, the term was applied to powered war boats in 1970 when Australia’s last aircraft carrier was to be decommissioned. Australia “would no longer have a blue-water navy” it was said.nimits
A 55-foot Alden ocean racing schooner is named Blue Water. She is just as famous as the Brilliant, a 61 footer that sails the Caribbean out of Mystic even today. Both were built pre 1950. Other than the vessel Blue Water, the term blue water sailboat is not supported in the historical record. The term was awkwardly applied in marketing sailing yachts in the late 1990s. For example, the ETAP 26i was marketed as a “rough and ready” blue water cruiser.

In July of 2006, Ann Hoffner in Saling Magazine (pg 53) defined blue water as meaning “that you are truly out of sight of land”. This definition is interesting in that it explains why more boaters on the east coast of the US consider themselves blue water experienced.

On the east coast the land is flat and, owing to the curvature of the earth, in as little as 4 nautical miles the east coast US sailor would be out of site of land. On the west coast the hills and mountains may be visible even after a sail to Catalina island (a common weekend trip for a Costa Messa build), which is more than 10 times that distance. Sailors should see that the term blue water has little meaning. There is a definition for the word seaworthy and I think most feel that a blue water cruising boat is a seaworthy boat.

monetThe problem with that is that the definition of seaworthy involves crew competency. A boat that is seaworthy when she comes into port, then is crewed with lubbers (those who only know life on land), will not be seaworthy when leaving port – by definition. Likewise a boat originally intended for lake only use, when crewed by competent patient seamen, can circumnavigate the globe. John Kretschmer, in a July 2006 Sail Magazine article, states that the perfect blue water boat is a work in progress. This statement is suitable given that crew competency changes during the duration of a voyage and during the life of her owner.

Mac26x Seaworthiness

As for its seaworthiness, Roger MacGregor said, “The 26 was designed for typical small cruising boat use — inland waters and limited coastal sailing. It is to small to be a long-distance passagemaker. It won’t hold enough gear and supplies, and the long-term day-after-day motion of a small light sailboat can be tough on crew”.

“There are thousands of these boats out there, and many have been caught in, and survived, some really extreme weather conditions, on both lakes an oceans. Like most small cruising boats, the 26 can handle high winds and nasty seas, but risk and discomfort levels increase dramatically in sever weather. To maximize fun and safety, most of our owners wisely keep a watchful eye on weather and try to avoid sever conditions.”

Practical Boat Buying Belvoir Publications 2003 page 114

With modern electronics, sailboat crews can expect to avoid dangerous weather. This is now true for even displacement pocket cruisers, like the 24 foot Dana’s from Pacific Seacraft. Weather reports are accurate for at least 10 days into the future and possibly up to 14 days. This means even slow boats can be positioned out of harms way. One of the compelling arguments for a larger than 36 foot cruising boat, up until 2015, was that it could be motored at hull speeds approaching 10 knots to make safe harbour before predicted storms.

In February of 2015, it was made clear to me by experts at the Seattle Boat Show, that no boat, not even 24 foot Dana’s need weather extreme conditions. Vessels in 2015 should be operated like aircraft. In other words, they should land when weather is predicted to be extreme or alter course to avoid that weather.

TP52 End of Story June 2014

An era in Spanish sailing comes to an end today as King Juan Carlos abdicates. An avid sailor himself, Juan Carlos was instrumental in the rise of the TP52 class in Europe.

Together with his friend Jose Cusi he decided to join the TP52 class in 2004, propelling many new owners and sponsors into the class for 2005. Ten years later, the TP52 class has become the only monohull grand-prix racing in Europe.

It will be interesting to see what effect his abdication will have in sailing sponsorship in Spain.


The king had also been battling against blows against the royal reputation. Princess Cristina was questioned in court over allegations of corruption in February of 2014. This was the first time in the Spain’s history that a member of the royal family was implicated in a criminal investigation. Spain’s Navy, with the royal family’s encouragement, operated a TP52. Pilar de Borbón, sister to former Spanish King Juan Carlos, also showed up among the clients of Mossack Fonseca, of  the April  2016 Panama Papers fame.


24 thoughts on “Perfect Blue Water Sailboat

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    Post by Islands Magazine.

  2. TP52 History Update

    In 2009 the members decided to definitely go for a complete overhaul of the TP52 Rule for 2011. The 2011 TP52 will be a faster, lighter, modern racing yacht. It will have less crew and the option to carry besides the crew a guest. In 2009 and 2010 the TP52 Class had 12 members. We hope that with the recession slowly coming to an end the TP52 Class will grow again. In 2009 and 2010 we had 5 events Audi MedCup and the TP52 Worlds organised by the MedCup organiser, WSM.

    Especially in 2010, when many of the high profile AC teams choose to join the class racing, the level of racing was very high and intense. With the AC likely going the multihull route we foresee these teams to rearrange their priorities and the TP52 Class return to the mix of owner/driver and pro driver teams that we had in 2008. In a way that should help to get more teams competing. It is lonely at the top as they say. Nevertheless to become the best in a TP52 fleet will never be easy. You really are with the top of our sport if you lead in this class.

    In 2011 six TP52’s were build to the 2011 TP52 Rule. Proving the decisions that we made were right. The recession is still with us however and wherever you look in yacht racing it is slow progress, if not survival of the fittest. With the best show in town, the Audi MedCup, and the best vehicle to race in, the TP52, we expected to be allright.

    But at the end of 2011 MedCup split from their sponsor and stopped the event. With very little time to organize ourselves for 2012 the members decided to set up a management entity to take control of our marketing and events that will be in action from mid 2012, so effectively from 2013.

    For 2012 we chose to do a mix of existing events and events that we organize ourselves with the help of the leading yacht clubs in the Med. With Palma Vela, Trofeo Conde de Godo, Sardinia Cup, Copa del Rey included in a series of 7 events, to be raced with a mix of TP52s and IRC52s on real time, this will be another entertaining as well as highly competitive season.

    During the 2012 PalmaVela the members via the recently appointed marketing manager (Jacaranda Marketing) announced the introduction of the 52 Super Series. This concept will be worked out and marketed in the months to come. For the TP52 sailing it means that the mix of racing with IRC52s will be continued into 2013 and that the 2013 program will be released as soon as possible, most likely in July 2012.

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