Gunboat 55 – short handed circumnavigator?

gb-spec Gunboat55_int-extJust watched a Sail magazine review on the first Gunboat 55 from the recent Annapolis boat show, and it is a seriously impressive boat. I have been following Gunboats since their introduction and always like their focus on high performance.  Nigel Irens was the designer for this new 55, and he created an innovative centerboard system in each hull.

One of the problems with daggerboards is that hitting something involves significant or catastrophic damage to the daggerboard and potentially the hull. A friend hit a whale on an Atlantic crossing on his Catana 47 and broke his daggerboard, rotated it into the hull and penetrated the hull. He was able to use a patch to stop water flow into the hull to minimize damage but it was a terrifying experience. (No word on what happened to the whale). The broken daggerboard impacted his transit speed across the Atlantic, and cost many thousands of dollars to replace.

In contrast, Irens’ centerboard design will pivot vertically if the boat hits something. The centerboard is designed to survive this type of contact without damage to the centerboard or hull – a major safety advantage. The centerboard may not have as great an influence on pointing ability as a daggerboard has when both are partially retracted – my Catana 431 was remarkably stiff and had great pointing ability with the boards partially retracted. Also, the daggerboards on my boat rattled – the slots in the hulls were slightly oversized to enable installation and retraction/deployment of the daggerboards. We designed a set of shims to stabilize the boards in their slot as it was brutal listening to the boards rattle – I did not want them to vibrate to pieces and have to replace or refinish the boards.

I don’t know if there is a way to shim the centerboards, or otherwise keep them from vibrating. Something to watch out for in a test sail, particularly in lumpy conditions or at speed.

I am surprised and a little concerned by how narrow the Gunboat 55 is – only 25 feet. My Catana was 24 feet wide and twelve feet shorter. Get ready to fly a hull in the Gunboat!

The steering station is forward, immediately behind the base of the mast. This gives good visibility to each side, and to the rear, but may make it challenging to trim the main. My Catana had twin aft sGunboat55_commandGunboat55_sailsShelteredteering stations, and sail control was outstanding. The sail controls were widely distributed – on the port, starboard and center line depending on which sails you were adjusting. In contrast the Gunboat controls are all centralized roughly four feet in front of the wheel. An enhancement might be to bring some of the controls onto the console immediately in front of the wheel, so that you could trim/ease the headsails and blow the main as needed without leaving the wheel. The picture in Sail shows a series of switches but I cannot see if they are controlling the winches and mainsheet or are controls for the electronics, engine, communications, etc.

The first Gunboat 55 has the galley down, which I hate. Gunboat offers a galley up option, similar to what I had on my Catana. I loved being able to cook and do dishes while interacting with the crew steering, trimming and relaxing in the cockpit. Similar to how many new homes have the great room and kitchen adjacent.

With galley down, it is much harder to interact with the cook, and impossible for the crew to interact without leaving their station and poking their head down to the galley.

Enjoy the article!


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