A matter of weight

An overlooked and notoriously underestimated issue is the weight of the boat. How heavy and thus undercanvassed is it? Will it sail in light winds at all? And how much extra load, provisions and luggage can it handle? Five examples.

Concrete mixer or sailboat?

Today, cruising boats are seen as floating weekend condomuniums. All comforts are repeated aboard that we know from home, which are nice to have: induction cooker, freezer and refrigerator, microwave, television, heating, air conditioning, battery banks, 12 to 220 volt converter, solar cells, radar and satcom, hot water boiler, washing machine. Further bicycles and tools.

Insieme 40

The Insieme 40, being advertised on YouTube since the end of 2023, is a relaunch of the Sunbeam 40.1. In 2015 it reportedly weighed 8.5 tonnes. I say reportedly because boats are not weighed when tested. This fact check, which is crucial for sailing, could be done with a little preparation if you are interested, but it seems too time-consuming. Instead, you rely on the figure provided by the yard or the dealer. Is this an estimate from an early design stage? Was it ever corrected? Is it the net weight of the commonly equipped yacht, or half load, i.e. with 50 percent filled tanks and ready to sail, as serious yacht designers state? Or is it – ever better – a number determined by a crane scale?

Naval architects with sailors integrity, such as Gerard Dykstra or Juliane Hempel, provide detailed information about their creations. Note the article on the 75 square metre boat Gustaf. For the owner focussed on sailing, only the actual gross weight including common equipment matters. In short: Boats are commonly heavier than initially thought.

There must be enough buoyancy so that the boat floats almost as intended by the naval architect, even with the common extras, full tanks, luggage and supplies for the annual summer trip. And the sail area should be suitable so this weight so that the boat moves in little breeze. Today’s furled head- and mainsails do not help here.

How heavy will the boat be?

The Insieme 40 is built even more solidly than back then at Schöchl at Mattsee in Austria. With good ideas such as an additional steel keel plate, a particularly robust keel suspension, a railing made of 25 mm stainless steel tube instead of cables, an equipment rack and battery banks, a technical room, heating, air conditioning, washing machine, an additional freezer. 440 liters of fresh water, 300 liters of diesel and 65 liters of gray water/sewage tank are provided. Altogether about a quarter of a ton more tank capacity than the Sunbeam 40.1.

So it will hardly come out at the previous 8.5 tons. The weight be more like 9.5 to 10 t, with the same sail area. Since there is no information regarding the Insieme 40, I asked Julia and Markus Luckeneder on February 19, 2024 and look forward for their reply.

A few years ago I visited Markus Lenz in Lauterbach, looked at the impressively solid construction of the Vilm Yachts and reported about it in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. But are Vilm boats moving at all in a light to medium breeze?

Bente 24 and 39

In light to medium winds, every dinghy and racing sailor moves forward in the cockpit so transom does not submerge. The tearing edge of a flooded stern would drag a violently slowing whirlpool of water behind it. A sailing no-go, and strangely accepted today on practically every modern series boat with bubbling stern water. On the empty Bente 24, the tear-off edge remains just above the water. Without crew and outboard.

Apparently the Bente 39 is not made for the actual weight. Either it turned out a lot heavier than designed, or the crew weight and usual extras were simply forgotten in the design. Nobody in the trade press noticed.

How could this happen to the respected design office Judel/Vrolijk & Co? In the 1970s and 1980s, it was a J/V featured to design race boats with a minimum waterline of millimeters precisely tailored to rate favorably and win the Admiral’s Cup with a crew in the cockpit and an effective waterline stretched. They knew to play the game with net and gross weigth and precise numbers.

Spirit 46

A few years ago, a client showed me the plans for a Spirit 46. To get the order, the yard had specified a raised cabin structure, a seawater desalinator, air conditioning and other extras as requested. I asked him if Spirit Yachts had explained him the additional weight of a the add ons. Whether he is aware that there is simply no scope for these extras aboard a daysailer with 4 1/2 t net weight.

At 3 Beaufort Swede 55 starts going – Foto Wolf Hansen/Swedesail
Swede 55

When Knud Reimers inspected the Swede 55 prototype berthed at Fisksätra Yard in the 1970s, he noticed his design floating deeper than planned. That was coommon then and it can’t be changed today. Swede 55 was initially planed for less than 7 t by Reimers, then adjusted to 7.75 t with slightly increased sail. In fact, the boat weighs about a ton more. You finde the detaile in the Swede 55 Introduction.

Over the years I’ve taken away what isn’t needed. Superfluous fittings and instruments, dinghy and outboard engine, the gangway, rarely used tools, the windlass. Swede 55 is not a slow boat, there are issues in light wind private races with certain older X-yachts with a big genoa. There is 13 percent more weight to move.

Occasionally sailed races such as Schlank & Rank reveal a lot in this regard. The comparison to classic, much lighter skerry cruisers, where the ratio of water resistance and propulsion is way better, is brutal when there is little wind. The article on the Jubilee S40 cruising square metre variant also deals with the delicate topic. Apparently designer Knud Reimers was a bit optimistic.

You return the sports car that accelerates poorly and corners like a sip of water to the dealer because it’s no fun. The standard weight and the permitted total weight are stated in the papers. An overloaded plane will not get off the ground. With yachts, losses in sailing are not even noticed, glossed over or tacitly accepted. The so-called specialist press doesn’t know or care.

Yards, boat dealers and distributors keep quite when it comes to weight for good reason. There are no data or at best vague information and corresponding exclusions of liability to be found in the technical pages. As the weight increases, sailing becomes boring that everything under 2 1/2 Beaufort is motored. This does not fit with the sustainability of sailing yachts that is stressed today. In the Mediterranean, where you have a light thermal breeze, you better buy a motorboat straight away.

The second, most overlooked disadvantage of the heavy boat is the draft. Swede 55 was planned for 2 m. The brochure soon stated 2.05 m. In fact it is 2.15 to 2.17 m. With that draft you can only approach Marstal, Ærøskøbing, Drejø, Fåborg or Svendborg in the Danish South Sea.

Per Göran Johansson, the technical manager of Baltic Yachts, once calculated what is possible in terms of yacht construction. You can find out more about these considerations in the Swede 55 new build page.

What can you do?

If you are considering a new or used boat, check the weight of the extras you’d like to have on board. This can be done quickly via Internet with just a few mouse clicks. Add an estimate for installation material such as foundations, hoses and wiring with appropriate diametres. Because an electric winch or windlass isn’t enough. There are long, thumb-thick cables and possibly a separate battery needed. The recently popular on-board washing machine weighs around 50 kgs net, plus foundation and installation material. Then check if the additional weight fits the boat type and size. If you are interested in the sailing characteristics, skip unnecessary heavy extras because everything is not possible at the same time.

Weigh your boat at the next crane appointment. Then you know what unfortunately cannot be found in any boat “test” and whether there is any scope for extras. Or check the actual freeboard height and compare it with the drawing in the brochure.

Find your compromise

If you consider a cruising boat, it should be big enough as a 12 t boat handles the additional 1 – 2 tons more easily than an 8 t boat. How many nice-to-haves do you need to bring? Are all the extras suiting to the design and planned displacement?

How the “Bootsprofis” did it

At 7Seas, an 8 t Comfortina 39 belonging to the Berlin Pilz family, which has been known as Bootsprofis for a while, the weight and the deeper floating position were accepted. It is better to make concessions for an upcoming trip with the boat you have and sail to the Caribbean and back again in a certain life situation. Because you can only do it once. Even if it doesn’t work in light winds. This is what the compromise can look like.

In times of socalled boat “tests” and YouTube sales channels with overlooked facts, sailing is still a matter of simple physics.

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