Cruising sailors who avoid racing designs could be missing out on the extra pleasure that comes from a boat that sails superbly in light or heavy winds, with or without a full crew…


Many sailors tend to steer clear of yachts dubbed as cruiser-racers when they’re browsing classified ads or brokerage lists in search of their first (or next) cruising yacht. I often wonder if they’re missing out on enhanced sailing fun by following this route.

Much of my early sailing experience was based on cruiser-racers such as the Nicholson-designed South Coast One Design (SCOD) and Nicholson 26, a Holman-designed Elizabethan 29, a French Samouraï quarter tonner and an Oliver Lee-designed Hunter 19 and Hunter 701.

In their different ways all these yachts mixed cruising (admittedly cramped in the Hunter 19!) with above average performance and handling.

And then there’s the social side of the sailing clubs that are at the heart of our sport. Whether you enjoy a cruise in company, a social get-together, occasional sessions at the bar, low key club racing or high-octane regatta weeks, sailing clubs come up with the goods.

Without these clubs and the volunteers who help administer them, our sport would have less to offer and provide fewer opportunities to get together with like-minded sailors.

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Over a lengthy sailing career I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy countless happy hours – mainly pulling sheets – on all sorts of club races. And in the process I’ve made many friends. That’s the joy of cruiser racing.

Whether it’s as up-market as Cowes Week, as huge as the Round the Island Race, as muddy as Burnham Week, as chilly as a winter or spring series or as low key as mid-week summer evening racing, it guarantees splendid sociable sport.

And you don’t need to own an expensive modern yacht to join in the fun. Cruiser racing can encompass anything from a modest 22-footer up to a sumptuous Swan. Splitting the fleet into separate divisions takes care of size variations and the results are calculated using a variety of handicap systems.

When assessing a yacht’s likely performance, motion and behaviour at sea it’s important to take account of its displacement, ballast ratio, DLR (displacement to waterline length ratio), SA/disp (foretriangle and mainsail area to displacement ratio) and Ted Brewer’s Comfort Ratio (a complex formula that assesses a yacht’s motion at sea based on waterline beam and weight etc).


The crew of this Hunter Impala seem to be enjoying their Round The Island Race in The Solent. Photo: Peter Brogden / Alamy

Lower DLR and Comfort Ratio and higher SA/Disp indicate faster sailing.

The day I asked David Thomas to design a new Hunter cruiser-racer was – with the benefit of hindsight – the day that Hunter Boats’ fortunes took a dramatic turn for the better.

It was also the day that David embarked on his career as the leading British designer of One Design cruiser-racers: although One Design racing was not part of my initial brief.

I simply asked for a boat of around 22ft that would have more beam and offer better accommodation than other cruisers of its size, look attractive, handle nicely, take strong wind in its stride and win races under its IOR handicap. Looking back, it was a request that bordered on mission impossible.

Hunter Sonata

When the wood hull plug for the Hunter Sonata (Displacement 2,460lb, ballast ratio 41%, DLR 175, SA/disp 17.3, CR 11.1) arrived at Hunter’s Essex factory, we made a mould and then tackled the deck plug.

But once we’d framed up the coachroof and draped it with material to see what it looked like, my business partner Derek Chardin and I reckoned it could go higher, thus winning two more inches of headroom in the cabin.

So we took a unilateral punt and did precisely that. Once it was planked up we invited David Thomas to the factory and heaved a sigh of relief when he said it looked very elegant.


A Hunter Sonata from Scarborough Yacht Club racing on the North Sea in South Bay, North Yorkshire. The yacht in front is a Hunter 707 ‘sports boat’. If you plan to go racing you should inform your insurers to be sure that racing risks are covered. Photo: Damien Taylor / Alamy

The Sonata’s spacious interior was unusual for a mid-1970s design. The settees stretch under the cockpit to create quarter berths, and there’s enough width to incorporate another DT ‘special’ – simple pilot berths offered as an alternative option to fixed side shelves.

The galley butts against the main bulkhead while the forepeak accommodates twin V-berths and a heads. David and Derek also perfected a simple, light and strong ‘box girder’ system of plywood structures to provide the basis for the accommodation plus overall rigidity. This was jigged then bonded into the hull (while still in its mould) before the deck was attached.

As a result, finishing off the interior became a simple procedure; both for the Hunter workforce and – more relevantly – for clients who bought the boats as kits. This was an important part of the business as owners traded their way up the Hunter range; building, then sailing, then selling, then building bigger.

At the 1975 Earls Court Boat Show we handed out provisional leaflets showing our new but as yet unlaunched Sonata. DT’s reputation as a designer was invaluable and several sailors liked the look of her so much they put down deposits.

Things were on a roll before anyone saw, let alone sailed, a Sonata. We had another stroke of luck when Peter Hornbrook, an existing Hunter owner, ordered a Sonata and said he’d like to become class secretary and help set things up.

David Thomas also ordered his own Sonata and helped create Sonata One Design class rules. And the rest is history… Sonatas won races galore and became the first RYA-recognised National One Design cruiser class.

To this day, Sonatas are popular as speedy coastal cruisers as well as One Design or handicap racers. Back in 1979, Yachting World said: ‘She is fun to sail yet seaworthy enough for short cruises.

As the Sonata has already shown herself capable of out-sailing larger boats, she is worth racing in handicap events where there is no one-design class.’


Hunter Duette 23. Photo:

Hunter Duette 23

Later, we asked David Thomas to design sleek twin keels to go under the Sonata hull and rig and called this the Hunter Duette, followed by a stub keel and centreplate Sonata. Several were bought by RYA Sailability.

Then, as a final throw of the Sonata dice, we asked David Dyer to draw a completely new deck that could provide standing headroom, an aft heads compartment and an aft double berth.

The Hunter Horizon 23 (LOA 22ft 9in, Disp 2,745lb, Ballast ratio 52%, DLR 205, SA/Disp 17.6, CR 12.6) and 232 twin keelers showed how a successful Thomas racing hull could morph into an even more spacious fast cruiser.

Proof of this bionic cruiser’s ability was the 2021 Sailor of the Year Award won by 82-year-old Murdoch McGregor for his 1,900 mile 10-week single-handed sail around the UK in Artemis, his Hunter Horizon 232. At the same time he raised £10,000 for the charity Mental Health UK.

The previous year, 15-year-old Timothy Young had also set off to sail solo around the UK in a Hunter Impala 28 (LOA 28ft, disp 4,300lb, ballast ratio 44%, DLR 154, SA/disp 20.33, CR 14) showing that David Thomas’s second One Design for Hunters was as capable a cruiser as a racer.

Hunter Impala 28

The Impala 28 came into being after a group of sailing pundits decided to select three new offshore One Design classes. The OODC (Offshore One Design Council) invited proposals for a 28-footer, a 34-footer and something in between. So David Thomas showed me the plans of his new 28-footer and told me that Hunter should build it.

The Impala’s development and build processes were like the Sonata all over again; but bigger. One unusual feature was the pivoting outboard motor system located in a central stern locker. It was cheaper than an inboard, made life easy for kit builders and was simple to install.

The Impala’s interior was also unusual for its time. Settee berths extend under the cockpit seats and their backrests hinge up to create two comfortable pilot berths under the side decks, safely suspended by lines and lee-cloths and ideal for off-watch crew on night passages.

Hunter Duette 23. Photo – David Harding

The galley is forward to starboard and an ingenious full size chart table hinges down beside the main bulkhead opposite to port. The enclosed heads compartment is just ahead of this and the forepeak contains twin berths.

Overall, Thomas designed a simple and practical seagoing layout that was as good for cruising as it was for racing.

The Impala duly won the OODC’s 28ft slot. It excelled as a One Design, frequently beat top Half Tonners in IOR regattas and also made a great fast cruiser. As ever, Thomas was on hand to help the class he had created.

In later years an IOR rule change led to him add a 3in lead shoe to the keel base, then the association changed the rules to permit an inboard diesel. Otherwise little has changed.

Just like the Sonata, the Impala Class is still active and the boat remains a potent weapon in IRC club cruiser-racing. Thomas’s evergreen designs do as well under today’s IRC rules as they once did under IOR and CHS handicaps.

As was Hunter’s wont, the Impala hull (with an elegant new extended counter stern) was also used to create a new twin keeled cruising variant.


The Hunter Horizon 30 adds an extended, elegant counter stern to the Impala’s hull

Hunter Horizon 30

Named the Hunter Horizon 30 (LOA 30ft, disp 7,264lb, ballast ratio 43%, SA/disp 19.8, CR 22.5) this had a new deck design and interior layout featuring a twin berth forecabin, a conventional saloon with table, an aft chart table (port) and galley (starboard), an aft heads compartment and a separate aft double cabin.

It’s a tribute to Thomas’s original Impala 28 hull design that, with this elegant new deck, the Horizon 30 has ample headroom and space for an aft heads and double cabin without having to resort to an ugly fat stern. It all adds up to a great cruiser with race-boat genes.

Sigma 33

Say the word ‘Sigma’ to many cruising sailors and they might reply that these are racing boats and they wouldn’t want anything so quick or demanding.

This would be a shame, because they could be missing out on the extra pleasure that comes from a boat that sails superbly; either in light or heavy winds, with or without a full crew.

The David Thomas-designed Sigma range – the 29 (1983), 33 (1979-1991), 36 (1979), 362 (1983), 38 (1988) and 41(1982) – first hit the scene back in the late 70s with the Sigma 33.


A Sigma 33 sailing at Cowes Week 2005. Photo: Gary Blake/DPPI Media/Alamy

This was marketed as a One Design cruiser-racer and to this day there are fleets of Sigma 33s racing around the cans along our coastline.

Many cruiser-racers spawned by the IOR rule in those distant days have a lot going for them. They are beamier than their RORC rule inspired predecessors, providing more initial stability and increased space down below.

Some had pinched narrow sterns but most were of medium displacement and their sterns were moderately wide.


Sigma 33 Workout under spinnaker during the 2015 Round the Island Race. Photo: Niall Ferguson/Alamy

The Sigmas remain balanced and well mannered, even when sailed overenthusiastically. The Sigma 33 (LOA 32ft 6in, disp 9200lb, ballast ratio 38%, DLR 227, SA/disp 17, CR 22) proved her seaworthiness when the prototype boat successfully weathered the worst of the infamous 1979 Fastnet storm.

Thirty years later 29-year-old Will Sayer sailed his Sigma 33c (a masthead rigged, shallower draught cruising version of the 33 OOD) to overall IRC victory in the single-handed OSTAR race from Plymouth to Rhode Island.

His 33c Elmareen was the smallest boat in the race and finished in 16th place on the water, winning her class (and overall) on IRC handicap.

Sigma 36

In the same 2009 OSTAR, Marco Nannini’s Sigma 36 British Beagle (LOA 36ft, disp 12,350lb, ballast ratio 34%, DLR 232, SA/disp 18.2, CR 23.9) was first to finish and overall handicap winner in the IRC3 class. Whether sailed single-handed or fully crewed, these Sigmas are balanced and seaworthy yachts.

Since then, hundreds of Sigmas have sailed thousands of miles. And many are now owned by enlightened cruising sailors who have no intention of going anywhere near a race course. But such owners have the knowledge and experience to recognise a good thing when they see it.

They regard sailing upwind as a pleasure rather than a penance and they enjoy the sensation of sailing quickly and efficiently – as opposed to bouncing around in the same hole in the water or crabbing sideways towards their destination.

Back in 2001, Yachting Monthly’s comment on the Sigma 36 could equally well apply to the entire range: ‘…. the Sigma 36 is beautiful to sail. There are not many yachts that can compare. She gives a huge feeling of security… backed up by fabulous handling.’


Sigma 38s enjoy close racing at Cowes Week. Photo: Johnathan Smith/Alamy

The larger Sigma 38 OOD (LOA 38ft, disp 13,750lb, ballast ratio 42%, DLR 206, SA/disp 19.33, CR 23) and Sigma 41 (LOA 41ft, disp 19,000lb, DLR 229, SA/disp 16, CR 29.5) are equally popular as capable offshore cruisers.

Sigma 362

My most memorable Sigma experiences were on a Sigma 362 (LOA 36ft, disp 12,400lb, ballast ratio 41.6%, DLR 252, SA/disp 17.8, CR 24.4). This successful model sold in large numbers from the early 1980s to the early 1990s and was the first Sigma hull of its size to adopt the contemporary accommodation layout.

Unlike the 33 and 36 (from whose hull she evolved), the 362 has an aft stern cabin with a double berth and a sizable aft heads compartment with shower. The boat is long enough to accommodate these features while still retaining a graceful and moderate stern.

Amidships, the hull features a touch of tumblehome. This not only looks beautiful, it also creates extra buoyancy in the right place as the yacht begins to heel and puts the maximum beam where it’s most useful from an ‘inside space’ point of view.

So why don’t modern cruisers have tumblehome? Tumblehome means the builder has to make a split, as opposed to one piece, mould to get the hull out and this puts up the price.

And the extra labour needed to lay up the hull in a two part mould and then polish out the flash marks where the mould is joined means extra time. And time is money.

The 362’s hull lines are the same as those of the sportier 36. Her well-proportioned new coachroof design is nicely styled and provides ample space and headroom below without looking too high or sacrificing the wide side decks.

The 362’s rig, however, makes concessions to family cruising. Instead of the racier (and taller) fractional rig on her Sigma 36 sister designer Thomas gave the 362 a slightly shorter mast featuring a masthead rig.

Thus the genoa becomes a bit larger and lives on a headsail roller, while the mainsail becomes smaller and is easily tamed by efficient slab reefing and a system of lazyjacks.

The owner of the 362 I sailed said the only drawback was that the repositioning of the mast changes the boat’s trim slightly, so small puddles can remain on the side deck right aft.

My first experience of the Sigma 362 was on a race. Alastair Chilston and his co-owners had entered Thembi in the Round the Island Race. When I came aboard, I discovered (to my relief) that Alastair had enlisted one crew who was an experienced racing helmsman.

Thembi’s forward facing nav station. Photo: Peter Poland

The boat also had a nice new fully battened mainsail and a fancy looking light No1 genoa. Alastair’s youngest son looked as though he had all the makings of a nimble foredeck hand, so things looked promising.

The skilled guest helmsman made an impeccable start and kept us clear of the close tacking tangle. When sailing in such a big fleet clear air is essential. Then, from the Needles on, the powerful masthead spinnaker pulled like a train.

On the final long beat the genoa set beautifully and Thembi continued to climb through the fleet. I’ll never forget the delightful feel on the wheel (with one finger on one spoke) as she ate up the miles to windward with effortless ease and sailed past larger and racier yachts in the process.

The Sigma 362 that Peter Poland raced on and then later cruised in the Ionian

Interior of the Sigma 362 Thembi that Peter Poland raced on in the Round the Island Race then later cruised in the Ionian… four male crew can tend to be untidy!

We knew, as we crossed the finish line, that Thembi had done us proud. But a first in Class and Division came as a complete surprise. If we’d gone easier on the refreshments off Ventnor we could probably have saved another one-and-a-half minutes and carried off the top prize.

My second, and considerably longer, sail on Thembi could not have been more different. I was part of a motley crew of four for a week’s fun on a ‘boy’s outing’ in the Ionian. Alastair had had enough of spiralling Hamble mooring costs and decided to sail Thembi to warmer and cheaper climes.

He’d already visited Ireland and Brittany on long summer cruises and enjoyed a trip across Biscay and back to visit some rias in Northern Spain.

The Sigma 362 that Peter Poland raced on and then later cruised in the IonianHe now fancied the Med so in a series of hops sailed her across the Bay of Biscay, down the Portuguese coast, past Gibraltar and on to Spain, where Thembi was laid up for winter. He then carried on to sample the Italian and Balkan coastlines before fetching up in Corfu. It was here that I joined him for a brief June cruise.

Some might think that four large chaps would find living aboard a 36ft cruiser-racer for a week a bit of a squeeze, but that wasn’t the case. The 362’s interior provides the ideal compromise between seagoing efficiency and harbour comfort. That’s the benefit of using a designer who is also an experienced seaman.

Starting in the bow, the 362 has a generous sized forecabin. Despite being 6ft 2in tall, I happily shared this with a spare sail or two. With an infill in place the berth is wide and long enough to qualify as a genuine ‘double’.


Sigma 362 Thembi cruising in the Ionian. Photo: Peter Poland

There are also full-length under-deck lockers either side, plus a hanging locker (starboard) and a washbasin (port). So stowage and ablutions are well catered for.

In the spacious main saloon, the U-shaped settee to port converts into a double berth. Outboard of the starboard settee, this 362 featured an option derived from the 362’s racing pedigree – a pilot berth.

In heavy sailing conditions this makes a snug and secluded corner for an off-watch crew. When in cruising mode, it becomes a stowage area into which untidy crew can dump bulky objects.

The navigation and galley areas are located aft, at the foot of the companionway steps. Both are large for the size of boat and work well.

The chart table faces forward and is surrounded by useful lockers and drawers while the galley has a substantial work surface and usable lockers – when the doors are slid open the contents don’t fall out in a jumble.

The deep ice-box and double sink are big and work well. It’s hard to believe that this functional and user-friendly layout was designed so long ago.

The spacious aft heads compartment is also a surprise in such a sleek hull. Indeed, it’s big enough not to look out of place in a modern wide-stern cruiser. And much the same can be said of the aft double cabin on the other side of the boat. The bed is big, yet there’s still space for hanging lockers and shelves.

Perhaps the clearance beneath the cockpit sole is slightly less than one might find on a modern, high freeboard cruiser, but it’s still ample to do the job. And it’s a small price to pay for owning a thoroughbred, proper looking yacht.

Despite her age, Thembi’s rig and equipment were mostly original – which speaks volumes for her solid build. The Kemp (now Seldén) spars looked in excellent condition, though the standing rigging had sensibly been replaced as a matter of course.

The original Volvo inboard thumps along happily. “It’s serviced regularly. They say the first part of these engines likely to give trouble is the gearbox”, said the owner. “But, so far so good.”

The only thing that caused a brief worry was the DeepSea stern gland. But this was only because a service engineer had removed an extra jubilee clip that the owner had wisely clamped onto the prop shaft immediately ahead of the seal to stop it slipping.

A new stainless steel fuel tank lived under the aft double berth. This was a Spanish replacement for the original mild steel tank that rusted through then dumped its smelly contents into the bilge. Access to the tank and stern gland is achieved by lifting the bunk boards.

The interior fit out will be familiar to any Moody owner. This is because, like production Moodys of that era, all Sigmas were built by Marine Projects. The finish in teak-faced ply and solid teak trim is sound and functional.

The interior tray moulding supporting bulkheads and bunk structures is neat and unobtrusive. Moulded side linings inside the roof are nicely matched in colour and texture to the vinyl material glued to the headlining panels.

In places the vinyl had come unstuck, but this is easily rectified. The cushions throughout the boat were also original, and in excellent condition. What’s more they are comfortable to sleep on – even in the sticky heat of Greek nights after overindulging in Greek tavernas.

Since it was hot, we saw a lot of the cockpit. It’s typical of a Thomas design and is spacious yet not too wide. With the helmsman aft behind his wheel, there’s comfortable room for three or four more ahead. Sheet winches are sensibly positioned and the mainsheet track spans the cockpit. So it’s easy to adjust sheets.

A cockpit table folds neatly away against the wheel pedestal when not in use – which was not often the case on our Ionian cruise. And to prevent crew from tumbling down the companionway, solid and seamanlike grab rails surround the opening and come easily to hand.

About the only sign of age in the cockpit was the condition of the teak decking panels (made of ply) set into the seats. But that’s par for the course on many production boats of this era.

And how did she sail? Being in the Ionian in June, the answer was not very often. Many a mile was covered under engine, with the original trusty Autohelm connected up to the wheel. But when the wind did blow, Thembi was a joy to sail.

One evening we enjoyed an unforgettable and long spinnaker run in a rising breeze as we approached Paxos. With the wind initially on the beam and the spinnaker set shy, the boat charged along at 7+ knots.

What’s more she was so well balanced when the wind went further aft that she let the Autohelm steer her – without collapsing the spinnaker. “The Autohelm’s steering the boat better than I did,” muttered one crew member.

But that’s the sign of a sweet and balanced hull – if you set the sails properly, it should rarely leave its groove.

On another memorable occasion we had a stomping beat back towards Levkas. With a couple of rolls in the genoa Thembi reeled in fat charter boat after fat charter boat as they sagged off to leeward while she climbed effortlessly up to windward.

I sat on the lee side of the cockpit with a finger looped around one spoke of the wheel, just watching the woollies on the genoa luff and helping her on her easy and speedy way.

That’s the joy of steering a well-designed yacht. Who would swap such a splendid sensation for a larger stern cabin? Maybe a charter company, but not me.

The Sigma 362 achieves an admirable balance between creature comforts, sailing performance and good looks, which is all that I’d ask for in my ideal cruiser. A well-maintained and re-engined 362 would do nicely.


Sigma 38 Beefeater racing at Cowes Week back in 2007. Photo: Gerry Walden/Alamy

Sigma 38

The Sigma 38 also makes a great cruising yacht. An owner once summed up the 38’s appeal well when he told me: “It is interesting how, as classes wax and wane, the Sigma 38 still hangs in there.

Sigma 38s win in RORC, JOG and, when organisers take them out of One Design, they win under IRC inshore as well. Much of this is down to an enthusiastic bunch who run the Sigma 38 class association website, which is gradually being improved as a resource to help keep these boats going.

“One problem is that the 38 makes a seriously good cruising boat as well, which might dilute the racing. But most folk are attracted to them because they want to do both – and it would be difficult to find another boat that covers both these roles without spending more than double the money. But then I am probably biased!” He is, but then again he’s right.

When considering buying any well-used yacht, including a Sigma, it pays to employ a reputable surveyor. Hugo Morgan-Harris of surveyors Saunders Morgan Harris sails a Sigma 38 so knows what to look for on this and other models.

The Sigma 38 Association also offers useful advice about buying a Sigma (see their website). My own Sigma 362 experiences suggest that if they’re still there, any original mild steel fuel or water tanks will need replacing!

SAILING - SYDNEY (AUS) - 15/05/2010PHOTO : CHRISTOPHE LAUNAY / DPPIJessica Watson, 16, crosses the finish line of her unassisted solo voyage around the world in her yacht Ella's Pink Lady S&S (Sparkman and Stephens) 34 at Sydney Harbour.

Sixteen-year-old Jessica Watson crosses the Sydney Harbour finish line of her unassisted solo voyage around the world in her S&S 34 Ella’s Pink Lady. Photo: Christophe Launay/DPPI Media/Alamy

S&S 34

The S&S 34 (LOA 33ft 6in, disp 9,195lb, ballast ratio 58%, DLR 290, SA/disp 16.5, CR 24.3) is another all time great cruiser-racer that has many fans.

It was built in the UK from 1968 and also in the USA and Australia. From the day Edward Heath became an owner, the S&S 34’s fame spread. Heath won pots galore, including the Sydney Hobart Race in his first S&S-designed 34 Morning Cloud.

Many S&S 34s built in Australia have circled the globe, including the remarkable Jessica Watson and her S&S 34 Ella’s Pink Lady. When she finished her non-stop 23,000 mile solo circumnavigation via the Roaring Forties in 210 days, Jessica was still only 16. You can read about it in her book True Spirit.

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S&S 34. Photo:

When I asked her ‘why a 34?’ she explained: “The S&S 34 was the obvious choice for the voyage. I just couldn’t ignore its amazing track record. I would have struggled sailing a bigger boat and I needed a boat that would comfortably handle multiple knockdowns.

“Also it was really important to have a boat that could sail into +30-knot wind and huge seas. Very few modern boats could do that.”

Experienced delivery skipper David Thompson was another owner to sing the S&S 34’s praises, saying: “The owner before me did four transatlantics in her, including the OSTAR.

“She’s what I call an offshore boat… very stiff, seaworthy and goes like a train to windward if it’s blowing hard. The raised sheer at the bow makes her a dry boat for her size. She has a big skeg rudder that’s unbalanced, as on many boats of that era.

“The pinched stern makes her a bit of a handful going downwind at speed, but the big rudder would always haul her back. With the powerful keel and strong construction one could hang onto lots of sail if the wind got up a bit.”

Elan 333

Anyone looking for a more modern cruiser-racer also has plenty of choice. Most of the many boats designed by Rob Humphreys make versatile cruiser-racers. The 32ft 9in Elan 333 (1999) is a good example.

A high SA/disp ratio of 20.72 and low DLR of 166.35 add up to speed; while a ballast ratio of 38% (with a CG-lowering bulbed keel) promises stability.

As an added bonus, the modern interior layout is well thought through and she’s also a pretty boat. If her size does not suit, the Elan 31 (2002) and 340 (2006) are worth a look.

The J109 (2004; LOA 35ft 3in) cruiser-racer has also been successful. Its 10,900lb displacement, SA/disp ratio of 21.3, DLR of 171.51, and bulbed lead keel (ballast ratio 35.78%) explain why this yacht really shifts, while its Comfort Ratio of 20.4 suggests an easy motion.

And note that J boats go for lead keels. These cost much more than cast iron, but are so much better in so many ways. The J109’s bowsprit and asymmetric downwind chute is suited to cruising as well as being potent around a racecourse.

The interior has a modern layout with a heads compartment and double cabin just aft of the L-shaped galley and forward-facing chart table. Forward are two saloon settee/berths, two hanging lockers and double forepeak berth.

Leading European builders such as Jeanneau, Beneteau and Dehler have also offered successful cruiser-racers down the years. However these days they tend to concentrate on larger yachts that also appeal to the charter markets.

If a brokerage cruiser-racer appeals, it’s still important to use an experienced surveyor and study any relevant owners’ class association facebook pages or websites.

Any boat that appears to have been raced hard needs careful scrutiny. But find the right one and you should get a lot of fun for your money. And if you plan to go racing, be sure to tell your insurers first.

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This feature appeared in the November 2022 edition of Practical Boat Owner. For more articles like this, including DIY, money-saving advice, great boat projects, expert tips and ways to improve your boat’s performance, take out a magazine subscription to Britain’s best-selling boating magazine.

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