Home . Articles . Boats . Boat Test . One-Design 35

One-Design 35

2008 November 10

A light, innovative package of speed and thrills

It was a beautiful day on Lake Michigan, so I wasn't concerned when Bob Hughes, owner of the One-Design 35 Heartbreaker, told me my foul weather gear was too heavy to have on board. The skyscrapers of the city stood out in high relief against the cobalt blue sky and, as if being exhaled by lungs deep within the big shoulders of Chicago, a building offshore breeze rippled across the water.

From my position on the high side, where I sat with the tiller extension in my hand, I spied a gust, turning the water the texture of 80-grit sandpaper as it raced toward us.

"Three, two, one, puff on" a crewmember forward on the rail said.

Instantly, Heartbreaker accelerated, dipping her leeward rail as her bow feathered up until the Windex was well inside the tabs. In an almost mechanical response, the crew, all of whom were on the rail as we knifed upwind, projected their bodies outboard. This was more than merely sitting on the rail. These guys were hiking, bent over the lower lifeline like linguini drying on a rack, their bodies dangling over the water.

A boat that puts its crew through that sort of abdominal torture hardly seems practical. Add to that the lack of a backstay, a sailplan consisting of a giant mainsail with a tiny jib and a displacement of only 6,500 pounds, and the boat hardly exudes convention.

But, in fact, the 1D35 is a model of racing practicality, a distillation of yacht design into simple speed and sensible handling. Designer Nelson-Marek and builder Carroll Marine took what sailors love most about dinghies and combined it with the power, speed and seaworthiness of big boats. This is a boat that can surf past a fleet of larger boats at 18 knots and then be pulled out of the water with a 4-ton lift, put on a trailer and towed home with a pickup truck.

Four 1D35s arrived on the starting line for the first race of the Chicago NOOD regatta in June 1998, just two months after the first 35 was launched. Although the design was new, the owners of these debut boats were all veteran lakes sailors and I was counting on close, competitive racing. I wasn't disappointed.

We started the first race in an 8- to 10-knot offshore breeze with flat seas. Although I lusted for a 25-knot gear-buster to test the strength of the boat and satisfy my curiosity about how it feels to surf down the face of a 10-foot wave in a 6,500-pound boat, the race proved to be an ideal test of the nonoverlapping headsail concept. Would the boat have enough power to scoot in a light breeze?

I was pleased. The boat was quick and maneuverable upwind, clicking off speeds in the 7-knot range and outpacing the two conventionally rigged, 45-foot masthead boats that had the misfortune of being put in our class for this regatta.

The jibs look tiny, and for the purposes of handling they are. The headsails actually measure 110 percent, but are sheeted ahead and inside the spreaders. Because the spreaders have roughly a 23-degree sweep angle, which give the fractional rig the support it needs without a backstay, the headsails overlap the mast just slightly. They are sheeted fore and aft on an adjustable jib lead and are easily fine-tuned with an inboard tweeker.

If there is any lack of power in the headsail, it is more than accounted for in the huge, deep-roach mainsail that rounds the total upwind sail area to a powerful 802 square feet.

Being accustomed to sailing big, masthead boats, I found tacking the 35 exhilarating. A light push on the tiller sent the bow quickly through the eye of the wind. Unfettered by a backstay, the huge main flopped effortlessly. And with a headsail the size of the staysail on the boats I normally sail, there was no need to have an NFL defensive end on board to grind. In fact, a few revolutions of the two-speed primaries and the sail was sheeted and the trimmer back on the rail.

At the turning mark, the rig again proved itself. The manageable spinnaker was hoisted up the mast and in the blink of an eye the bowman had the headsail on deck.

According to Nelson-Marek designer Greg Stewart, the spinnaker represents a compromise. Going to a hoist point midway between the hounds and the masthead, the chutes offer plenty of power but are conservative enough to keep the boat controllable in a breeze.

The 35 has what I'm tempted to call an oversized rudder, measuring a quarter-inch shy of 6 feet. "I'd say it was a bigger rudder with ample area," Stewart said, noting it was builder Barry Carroll who lobbied for the larger appendage in the interest of keeping the boat's behavior in check. Even sailing downwind in a light breeze on a windward-leeward course, the boat felt slick through the water and maintained solid speeds when sailed low, thanks to the clean underbody shape, high-aspect appendages and downwind sail area of 1,567 square feet.

As we prepared for the first jibe, I found the open, shallow cockpit a joy to work in. Besides the traveler controls and main and jib sheets, all lines are led to the companionway and stopped off in a series of rope clutches.

The first race of the day proved the One Design 35 can move in light air. For the start of the second race, the wind was blowing 15 knots and I was looking forward to excitement.

With a minute left before the start, Hughes drove Heartbreaker to the leeward end of the line and stopped her. With less than 10 seconds to the start, he bore off, the sails were trimmed and, at the gun, the crew was on the rail and we were sailing at nearly 8 knotsÑadditional testimony to the boat's breakneck acceleration. I could have sworn I was sailing a dinghy.

Upwind in a breeze it became apparent that the 35 needs weight on the rail as much as water under the keel. "If a guy has to get off the rail to crack the jib for a duck, we're looking at giving up at least two-tenths of a knot," Hughes said.

The boat, however, is ingeniously designed to keep everyone on the high side. The helmsman is able to steer and play the heavily ratioed traveler at the same time. Although the traveler is located well aft of the tiller, where it needs to be to get a decent purchase on the 18-foot boom, control lines are led under the deck and emerge at a console just forward of the helmsman.

Because the boat lacks a backstay, I was concerned about being able to depower the 35 sailing upwind in a breeze. The mast, which has a significant amount of prebend, is adjusted by a hydraulic headstay ram located below deck at the bow knuckle. It is operated from a control on the cockpit console. This adjustment, along with fine-tuning the diagonals before the race, seemed to offer enough options to bleed power from the big main.

Downwind the boat handled like a dream with its large rudder. In puffs, it planed over the flat water. "Doing 18 knots in 20 to 25 knots of breeze, I can hold the tiller extension like a pool cue with one hand," Hughes said.

Unfortunately, our second race was marred by equipment failure when the outhaul broke, leaving the $5,000 North 3DL mainsail flogging for much of the windward leg. As Hughes can attest, some of the running rigging is undersized.

Overall the boat was fast, easy and fun to sail. Its simplicity takes the mystery out of boat speed and puts a premium on tactics.

The deck layout and construction deserves mention, as it should be the standard for race boats. Most control lines are led under the deck, keeping working areas free of clutter. The hull seemed extremely stiff and, with one season of racing as testimony, it appears strong and durable. Carroll Marine uses what is called a post-cured wet preg construction method. The hull is built in two halves out of bidirectional E-glass and epoxy resin. It is vacuum bagged and post-cured at 140 degrees. A balsa core is used because of its high shear strength, a benefit both when the boat is on the water and on the trailer. Carbon is used to reinforce high-load areas around the mast, keel and chainplates.

The 35 comes standard with a Hall Spars carbon fiber fractional rig. With two sets of spreaders and no jumper struts, the mast is light and kind to the righting moment of the boat.

The sail inventory on the 35 is also refreshingly simple. Class rules allow for one main, three jibs and three spinnakers, although several owners carry only two. Keeping in mind this class has no limitations on sail material and owners usually opt for top-end inventories, a set of sails costs roughly $25,000 for this 35-footer.

Below, the 1D35 will be a disappointment to any sailor who values even the slightest creature comfort. With only 5.3 feet of headroom, the shortest crewmember will have to maneuver bent over. But the interior is functional, with plenty of space for sail storage, four fixed bunks and two removable pipe berths. After all, this is a race boat. On long-distance races, the last place any of the crew will be if it's blowing will be warm and dry below.

The 35 comes with a small sink located forward by the mast, a three-burner, gimbaled, camping-type stove and a modest head. I'm willing to sacrifice comfort for speed, but the navigator's station tucked under the companionway is even too small for my tastes. Most 35 owners use the counter space forward to spread out charts.

A Yanmar 18-horsepower diesel with a saildrive powers the 35 at a respectable 7.5 knots. In keeping with race boat tradition, the 12-gallon fuel tank is small.

The 1D35 is obviously quite capable of being transported on her bottom, but faced with the prospect of a long, short-handed delivery into the teeth of a stiff headwind, I'd just as soon be looking at the bow of the boat in the rearview mirror of my SUV.

The boat has a single point lifting ring located at the base of the companionway and can be hoisted with a 4-ton dry lift. It takes two to three hours to have the boat highway ready, Hughes said. A 3/4-ton pickup truck has ample power to pull the boat.

Theoretically, designers of a one-design class need not be slaves to costly modern boatbuilding techniques or even to speed. But the One Design 35 was built with fun in mind for owners who want to sail in a fast, competitive fleet both around the buoys and long distances. The concept seems a success. At a base price of $139,995, the 35 is relatively affordable. With the addition of sails, a trailer and electronics, a ready-to-sail and ready-to-tow 1D35 will set the owner back just less than $183,000. In comparison, the latest generation of competitive 40-footers cost roughly $300,000.

And the one-design appeal of the 35 must be attractive. Twenty-one boats have been built and nine more ordered. As many as 20 1D35s are expected to race in Key West later this month.

"The nice thing about this boat is even if you're getting really hammered and having a horrible regatta, it's still a blast," Hughes said. "This boat has put the fun back in sailing."