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Should balsa core, handling scare him away?

2011 March 25

Dear Boat Doctor,
We enjoy racing and cruising on Long Island Sound out of Northport Yacht Club on our 1972 C&C 30 but are looking to upgrade. Our 30 is spartan inside and our two children are getting bigger and like to bring friends along.

We need a boat that is outstanding in light air. I am an avid racer and, as is typical of Long Island Sound, we are often sailing in 5 to 10 knots of breeze. The C&C 40 has caught my eye but the balsa-cored hull below the waterline and notoriously difficult downwind handling are concerns. What do think?

Patrick Winter
Northport, Long Island, New York

Dear Patrick,
I've done a bit of sailing on Long Island Sound so I understand light air, and actually my home waters of the Great Lakes aren't dramatically better in terms of wind. Before you discount the C&C 40, keep in mind that cored hulls aren't necessarily a bad thing. They create a stiff but light hull. Of course the risk is that water will infiltrate the core, and that is a big problem. A good surveyor should be able to identify any problems before you buy a boat, and it is probably worth walking away from if you do find wet core. That is unless the problem is limited to a few areas and you're getting a great deal on the boat. You need to be OK with spending some extra money to fix the problem.

As for the downwind performance, you're right, C&C 40s are a bit squirrelly downwind, but this is not uncommon for boat of this era. Be prepared for a round-up or two (or more) if you decide to go with the 40.

I can see that the C&C 30 is a bit tight for you and I have a couple of suggestions that you may want to consider in addition to the C&C 40. I wouldn't exactly call them light-air flyers, but they are good racer-cruisers that will perform in light air. Just to make sure I covered all the bases, I tapped SAILING Magazine Contributing Editor John Kretschmer's encyclopedic knowledge of used boats for his thoughts on the subject.

The first boat that came to his mind was the J-35. These are very friendly and well performing boats with a fairly active class, so you may be able to do some one-design racing as well. The Hunter Legend 37 also is a good light-air boat. You may also want to consider some of the Beneteau First Series boats in the 35- to 38-foot range, as they are comfortable boats with decent performance characteristics. John also suggested a boat that has sort of fallen through the cracks but is comfortable and offers good performance: the Seidelmann 38.
Good luck choosing your next boat. Do your research ahead of time, sail the boat if you can and have a good surveyor give the boat a thorough examination before you buy.