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Sou'wester 53

2018 November 1

With a Down East bloodline, this cruiser can also make the most of sunny Caribbean sailing

The Hinckley Sou’wester series goes back many years to when I was a kid. It would be difficult to draw a line from the old Sou’westers of the 1970s to this modern Bill Tripp-designed Sou’wester 53. In fact it would be impossible. So much has changed in our definition of what makes a good cruising boat. It’s still changing. 

Look at the Hylas 48, a cruising boat. Now look at this new 53, also a cruising boat. I think we need more of a breakdown into what “cruising” means. Certainly these two boats featured this month have very different target markets. For me the Hylas looks like a boat designed for offshore cruising. The Hinckley is more aimed at weekend sailing in semi-protected, sunny waters. This is not to limit either of the boats, just to help understand the design decisions.

The elephant in the room here is the striking similarity this Tripp design has to the Ted Fontaine design for Jimmy Buffett we reviewed in the July/August issue. The similarities are obvious. The differences are not, but they are important. Look at the hull profile. This design has considerable overhang aft and a far softer turn to the bilge than the Fontaine design. This Hinckley will be less likely to dig that transom corner in when heeled. This is good, and in light to moderate air it should result in a better sailing boat. 

The D/L is 155 and the L/B is 3.67. Both are moderate numbers. Draft is 8 feet 3 inches with a bulb on a fin. Yes, an 8-foot 3-inch draft might be a bit much for some of you but if you want upwind performance you have to have some span to your fin.

Draft choice is very personal. “What good is upwind boat speed if I can’t get out of my slip?” I understand.  Note how far forward the rudder is. This will make sure it stays in the water when those big hips begin to immerse.

The layout is based upon the idea that the cockpit and saloon can be integrated into one huge living area. We saw this on Buffett’s boat. The Hinckley also does it but incorporates a change in levels to allow the height of the cabintrunk to come down. On the Buffett boat the height of that house dominates the look of the design. It’s a bit awkward looking to my sensitive eye. On the Tripp design the house height is lower and far less obtrusive. 

From the  twin helms, you look over this house, not through it. From the wheels you step down and are on one level all the way through the saloon. To port and aft you step down into a small quarterberth cabin. Forward of this is a large dinette raised up one step for a better view out the big windows. The galley stretches along the starboard side of the saloon. Forward of the galley counter is an inside steering station. Going forward you step down about 3 feet and there is a double berth cabin to port and head with shower to starboard. Forward of this is the owner’s cabin with another head to port. The shower stall is separate and on the starboard side. There is a large fo’csl’e.

The rig is a tall, three-swept-spreader rig with a SA/D of 27.1. That’s plenty of sail area to keep everyone happy even if you want to do some casual racing. The traveler is on the aft end of the cabintop overhang. Once again there is a track for a self-tacking jib. But on this design I see no provision for any overlapping headsail sheeting locations. That’s fine. You can fly some kind of code zero-type headsail for light air speed.


The 53 is being built by Brooklin Boatyard in Maine. The hull is carbon fiber and I suspect the deck is also.

I like this design. I can see it working very well in the sunny Caribbean and I can also see myself enjoying it in the rainy Pacific Northwest. I could sit and relax under that cockpit overhang out of the rain and watch my wife drive. While this is not your grandfather’s Hinckley, it’s a very interesting boat in tune with the sailing style of today.

LOA  52’4”; LWL 44’1”; Beam 14’3”; Draft  8’3”; Displ. 29,700 lbs.; Sail area 1,624 sq. ft.; SA/D 27.1; D/L 155; L/B 3.67; Auxiliary 80-hp; Fuel 100 gal.; Water 118 gal.

Hinckley Yachts

One Little Harbor Landing 

Portsmouth, RI 02871