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C&C 33

2008 January 8

A dual-purpose boat prepares for racing and romping on the Great Lakes

Many builders have tried to perfect the racer/cruiser design. The idea is to have a boat that is comfortable enough to cruise, but still fun and competitive around the buoys. C&C has come as close as anyone to balancing this formula. We have been looking for a boat to cruise, a lot of weekends but some longer trips as well, but we still want to have fun on Wednesday evenings. Naturally, we looked to C&C.

We spent a lot of time looking at boats, the 30 was a little too small, and the 37 and 41 a bit too big, not to mention too expensive. The 33 and 35 seemed close to the mark. We talked a few brokers into demo rides and we fell in love with the 33. The boat was fast, but did not require a lot of tweaking to go fast. It was small enough to handle, but large enough to carry our cruising gear or all of the racing crew on the rare nights when everyone turns up.

C&C actually produced two 33-foot boats, the 33 MK I from 1974 to 1977, and the 33 MK II starting in 1984. The newer 33 is a more modern design, but we fell in love with the classic lines of the MK I.

A freshwater find
With our sights set on a 33 MK1, we went to search for our boat. The boat had a big production run, and a lot of them are still on the Great Lakes. We found a very nice 33 in Michigan, but there were other interested buyers and we did not want to get in a bidding war. After a few months of looking we found a solid 33 in Ohio. It needed a little work but all the important bits were there. For the record, we bought a 1978 33 MK I, and after the dust settled we paid $32,500.

We closed the deal on the boat in mid-July, and rather than diving into the refit straight away we decided to go sailing. We had some great weekend trips, and spent a full week aboard in August. As the summer waned, we took stock of the season and decided where to spend our refit money. Our goal was a comfortable boat that we could race at a respectable beer-can level. We needed a solid, slippery hull, a dependable engine, efficient sails and maybe a few toys.

Our hull was in good shape overall but had some fairly chunky bottom paint on it. Since the bottom paint was a little flaky and we didn't know what type of paint it was, we decided to remove it. In a classic "while we were at it" way, we decided to do a barrier coat job at the same time. The worst part of this job was the removal of the old paint. We were able to rent vacuum sanders from our boatyard, which kept the mess down and protected the environment, but it was still a ton of work and very dusty. Two of us were able to sand the bottom to gelcoat in a weekend. Between the sander rental, sanding disks, safety gear and a case of beer, the job cost us $275.

With a nice clean bottom, we got to work on the barrier coat, choosing Interlux Interprotect 2000E. The first step was a wipe-down with solvent to be sure the hull was clean, and then five coats of Interprotect. The Interprotect system is quick drying, with short overcoat times, so we were able to get all the coats on in one very long weekend. With painting materials, solvents, and the Interprotect we spent $470.

Finally we were on to bottom paint. A slippery race bottom in fresh water means VC17, specifically Interlux VC-17m Extra with Biolux. This is a copper-based paint with Teflon for slipperiness, and a Biolux to keep the slime under control. Since we were starting with a fresh clean bottom we chose to apply the manufacturer's recommended three coats. The paint and materials cost us $450.

We were tired and paint-spattered, but for a little over $1,000, three weekends and a lot of called-in favors we had a beautiful new bottom. Mostly to psych out our competition, we took another afternoon and burnished the bottom with 600-grit sandpaper.

The C&C 33 used the Universal Atomic 4 engine exclusively. The trusty Atomic 4 has a bad rap, but it is really a pretty good little engine. The biggest complaint is the "danger" of using gasoline. Yes, gasoline is explosive, but it is not that dangerous. Remember, there are millions of gasoline-powered powerboats in the world that cruise around without incident. The important thing is make sure that the fuel system is sound and to be responsible with the use of the bilge blower.

Even though we trusted our little engine, it started hard and ran a little rough. We called in our local Atomic 4 expert for a little tune-up. Our mechanic did a tune-up, changed the oil, replaced the starter battery and gave us a little maintenance lesson for $420. After this small investment the engine started and ran very nicely.

A new suit of sails
Since we were looking to competitively race, we needed a decent set of sails. We wanted a new mainsail, genoa and spinnaker. Our budget would not allow both racing and cruising sails, so we needed a good compromise in the sail material and design. We turned to our trusted sailmaker Peter Grimm of Doyle Sailmakers in Fort Lauderdale.

The C&C 33 was designed in the day of the short boom and large foretriangle. The mainsail is extremely high aspect at approximately 3.5:1, meaning it is 3.5 times as tall as the boom is long. The space between the backstay and the back of the boom is much larger than you would typically see. Peter used this space to build a very full roach mainsail with 15 percent larger sail area than the original main. He supported the roach with two full top battens and two long bottom battens. The sail was designed with slightly more draft for power and a straight leech profile for pointing. The increased roach helps boat speed in all breezes and all angles of sailing, especially reaching and running. Peter built this sail of Contender MAXX sailcloth, a low-stretch, high-performance polyester laminate material. The sail and cloth have served us well on the race course and is durable enough for extended cruising. The mainsail cost us $2,700.

For our boat, Peter recommended a 150-percent genoa to give the performance we need for light wind on the Great Lakes. The C&C derives much of its power from its large foretriangle. The 150 is almost twice as big as our mainsail. The sail was cut with the draft well forward and a very straight exit angle on the leech, this sail shape allows for a much wider groove making it easier to maintain consistent boat speed. The clew height was set at the lifelines with a nice round foot. This will allow the clew to pass easily over the lifelines yet still maintain the performance of a more tedious-to-handle deck sweeper. Peter added a foam luff pad to give us a good shape when we furl the sail down. To protect the sail from the sun yet not impact performance, Peter recommended a zip-up external UV cover. We could have added a sewn-on UV panel but it adds extra weight and changes the sail shape in the leech area, where it really counts. This sail was also built from Contender MAXX cloth. This big genoa, with the external cover, cost us $3,925, a tidy sum but the cost of doing business on the race course.

The C&C 33 spinnaker is a real workhorse downwind. The sail is very large because the foretriangle is so large. Peter designed a versatile shape for "pole-on-the-headstay reaching" and to sail deep downwind angles. To keep the boat moving fast without a lot of tweaking, Peter cut the sail with a large groove-he joked that the sail was designed to be trimmed "beer in hand." For fabric we chose Contender Super Kote 75, a .75-ounce nylon with a polyurethane coating. We appreciated just how big that chute was when got the bill, $3,450, but that is for a whopping 921 square feet of spinnaker.

To be able to efficiently trim those new sails we decided to do a tune-up of all blocks and winches. We started by washing all of the grit from the blocks with hot, soapy water. After a thorough rinse and dry we lubed up each one with McLube Sailkote. Next came the winch rebuilds. We took down each winch, cleaned the parts in solvent and reassembled with new lubrication. Some of the pawl springs were a bit sprung so we replaced them. Parts are not readily available for Barient winches, but Harken springs fit well and are a little beefier than the original Barient springs. This job took all weekend but the deck hardware all worked like brand new. We spent about $40 on the solvent, Sailkote, pawl springs, winch grease and lightweight oil.

We did a lot of work, but we have a solid boat that we know inside and out. I envision a great summer of relaxing evenings on the hook and some exciting ones on the course.

LOA 32'10"
LWL 26'5"
Beam 10' 6"
Draft 5'6"
Displ. 9,800 lbs.
Sail Area 501 sq. ft.

Project list and cost summary
Retrofit budget:
1. Bottom strip $275
2. Barrier coat $470
3. Bottom paint $450
4. Engine work $420
5. Mainsail $2,700
6. 150% genoa $3,925
7. Spinnaker $3,450
8. Winch rebuild $40

Total retrofit work $11,730
36% of purchase price
Grand total $44,320

Interlux Yacht Finishes, www.yachtpaint.com, (800) 468-7589; Doyle Sailmakers, www.doyleflorida.com, 800-541-7601; Contender Sailcloth,
www.contendersailcloth.com, (508) 674-7700; McLube Sailkote, www.mclube.com, (800) 262-5823.