Swan 46

by Erin C. Myers

Blue Water Sailing
May 2006


 

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BORN AGAIN CRUISER

After a decade's focus on fully-crewed racing boats, Nautor's Swan reinvents its blue-water cruising identity with the Swan 46

Since the company's 1967 debut with the Swan 36, Nautor's Swan has been a leading name in top-end racer/ cruisers. In recent years their designs have moved increasingly toward the racing end of the compromise, where they have racked up notable achievements, not least of which is the success of the Swan 45 class or the collaboration with the New York Yacht Club for a 42-foot onedesign class. However, as loyal Swan sailors mature, many diversify their racing campaigns with more doublehanded cruising. While Nautor's Swan continues to push the leading edge of onedesign Corinthian racing, they have simultaneously reinvented their cruising line, this time incorporating all of the performance and panache that Swan sailors have come to expect. After proving her mettle in European waters, the Swan 46 debuted in the U.S., and BWS had the opportunity to go for a spin in a recent light air test sail in Annapolis.

The flags had been drooping all morning, but the leaves started to rustle after lunch, and we decided to give it a try. Though bow thrusters are an option most owners will opt for, Fierce Pride, hull number eight, relied solely on her 75-horsepower Volvo saildrive. And it was refreshing to see Keith Yeoman of Nautor's Swan USA's Annapolis office deftly maneuver her out of the crowded marina.

Sweat is uncivilized when cruising, and thus Fierce Pride has been upgraded with electric winches instead of the standard manual ones. All lines are led to the cockpit, and sail handling was a breeze. With the simple press of a button the main was up, the 107- percent genoa was unfurled and we were off.

UNDER SAIL
In five knots of true wind we made four through the water, close on the wind, impressive numbers given her moderate displacement and large wetted surface area. The 46 can come with a standard draft of 7.5 feet or a daggerboard, a first for Swan. The daggerboard option draws 4.3 feet when the board is up and 11.1 feet with the board down, and has twin rudders. The board is lowered with an electric motor and hydraulic pump. In case of failure, there is a manual backup.

With the board down we took Fierce Pride through her paces. Without question, the Swan 46 is a heavy boat. Fully loaded, she tips the scales at 39,000 pounds in the standard hull and 41,900 pounds in the daggerboard option. Built to Nautor's Swan's seaworthy standards, the 46 has a Displacement/ Length of 221 on the standard hull and is designed to feel solid underfoot and maintain directional stability in rough conditions. However, the 46 felt nimble and responsive in the mere zephyrs offered by the afternoon. Even Yeoman was surprised at how well she performed in the barelybreeze conditions.

With the wind speed at a measly 5.5 knots we made better than 4.5 knots of speed from a close reach to a broad reach. She maintained her speed as we nimbly tacked and gybed. Then we spied the real test. A Morgan 44 was making for the Naval Academy. We crossed ahead of her and lined up well to windward to minimize the effect of our wind shadow. Everyone involved was surprised by how quickly we pulled ahead, perhaps too quickly as after a few hundred yards the Morgan 44 furled her sails and turned on the iron genny.

INFLUENCED BY POWER
So as not to be too spoiled of a winner (did they even know they were racing?), we started up our engine as well, to "see what she's got." While no Volvo Open 70 racer I still found myself reaching for something to hold on to.

The Swan 46 comes standard with a 53-horsepower Volvo Penta with saildrive and Flex-O-Fold three-blade folding propeller. Again, Fierce Pride was outfitted with the upgraded version with a 75- horsepower Volvo. We powered up to a cruising speed of 2,400 rpms and made 7.75 through the water. Then it was full speed and a hard turn to port followed by a hard turn to starboard that had me reaching for the compass pedestal as she made each turn within a boat length, maintaining better than five knots. Full-ahead to full-stop took 15 to 20 seconds and ate up less than five boat lengths.

The well-insulated engine room kept the noise in the cockpit to a hum and was better than tolerable even when listening in the quarter berth. Access to the engine was ample on all sides. The standard arrangement comes with a 110-amp alternator for the 240-amp/hour, 24-volt house battery bank. A separate 115-amp alternator is installed for the starter battery. The standard gelcell batteries vent through the aluminum mast. A generator, air conditioning and watermaker are options that make life on Fierce Pride a little more luxurious.

DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION
The Swan 46 is Germán Frers' 33rd design for Nautor's Swan. In a departure from the double cockpit Swans designed for full racing crews, the 46 was designed with shorthanded cruisers in mind. It can be sailed with ease and comfort whether headed offshore or down the coast.

While it is obvious that performance was paramount in the design brief, accommodations were made to issues of comfort and simplicity on deck. Compared to Swan's earlier cruisers, the 46 has proportionally the same beam but carries it farther aft for a more voluminous interior and spacious cockpit. The 15/16 fractional rig, non-overlapping headsail and absence of a staysail make tacking easy. The 46 can also be rigged with a code zero, or the like. The deck is strikingly open and every effort has been made to eliminate superfluous fittings and minimize clutter. The roller furler and windlass are both installed recessed under the deck, keeping the foredeck clear.

The windlass is accessible through the forepeak while the roller furler has its own compartment. Sweptback spreaders remove the need for running backstays. The backstay splits for easy access from the companionway to the swim platform, between the twin wheels.

There are no inner shrouds, and chainplates go all the way to the sheer rather than across the deck. The jib sheets are the only lines that run over the deck. All lines at the mast are led under the cabin top via a tidy collection of fair leads. The main sheet is rigged with the German main system. The line runs through the end of the boom to a single block in the cockpit and back through the boom to the mast where it splits and the two bitter ends are run back to winches on either side of the cockpit.

There is no traveler on the main, forfeiting the ability to windward sheet, she is a cruiser after all. However, the absence of a traveler and coils of mainsheet in the center of the cockpit further the 46's minimalist theme. In port, the mainsheet block at the center of the cockpit can be moved to the base of a stanchion to fully open up the cockpit. To complement the mainsheet system, the 46 is equipped with an oversized hydraulic vang that is operable from the helm.

The main is fully battened with lazy jacks that make setting and striking a tidy affair, and allow for a much better sail shape than would be possible with a furling main. Combined with the single line reefing system that runs back to the cockpit, there is no need to consider a furling system. When sailing in pleasant conditions the dodger folds down into a recess in the cabin top that can zip closed. To maximize space and options in the cockpit, a series of fittings in the cockpit floor can receive a table, foot brace, or be left vacant depending on the day's agenda.

The teak deck is vacuumbagged, then cooked, which, Yeoman explains, will last substantially longer than the "screw and glue" method and provide better security for the fiberglass underneath. In a departure from earlier Swans, the teak is absent from the cabin top for styling and saved weight. From stem to stern the deck is remarkably open and simple, with everything operable from the cockpit.

The hull is solid fiberglass, reinforced with isopolyester laminate with vinylester skincoat. Multiaxial or unidirectional fibers are used in selected areas. The deck is of sandwich construction, using multiaxial fiber-reinforced isopolyester laminate, with lowdensity closed cell foam core.

INTERIOR

Stepping down below, the comfort of onboard living was immediately apparent, but close inspection revealed that it was not at the cost of seaworthiness. While obviously envisioned for extended periods of comfortable cruising, the characteristic Swan sturdiness is at the foundation of the aesthetic and functionality.

The Swan 46 is available in a three-cabin or two-cabin layout. In either option the forward cabin will be the owner's stateroom with private head, vanity and ample storage space. The head is all the way forward, keeping the double berth farther aft to minimize motion. The threecabin version has double quarter berths, while the twocabin version uses the space on the starboard side for more galley counters and lockers, optional washer/ dryer, optional second freezer and large deck locker.

Unique to this new generation of cruising Swans, the 46 has the nav station forward of the galley. Situated across from the dinette and outfitted with a flat screen on the bulkhead, it is truly a multifunctional nav station with the ability to show a DVD or share the latest nav information with the whole crew. The chart table is boothstyle with benches on either side.

The Swan 46 was designed to accommodate the most modern navigational suite with a screen that can switch between functional displays. While the chart table is sized for a chart kit with plenty of storage underneath, it will more likely serve as a breakfast or cocktail booth with the important nav information displayed on the screen above. On the bulkhead aft of the flat screen there is room for a full complement of navigation and communications gear.

On many boats meals with a full crew require at least someone to perform an uncivilized shimmy between a bulkhead and the corner of the table. Swan has restored crew dignity with the sliding dinette top that creates room to slide in between the settee and daggerboard trunk, and then locks back into place. Extra places at the table are accommodated with free chairs that lock into place when underway with fast pins.

The interior is finished with Burma teak and is beautifully done. The grain is consistent throughout, and Nautor keeps a reserve of the teak used on each boat so that future interior work will match. All of the lockers are vented to promote air circulation and drying action. False floors allow access to the hull, should the need arise.

You will be hard-pressed to find a joint or corner anywhere on the 46. All corners are molded with teak laminates to minimize creaking and shifting and keep doors operable underway. The fiddles and laminate trim on the overhead are securely fastened and feature an ergonomic shape, thus serving as a stylish replacement to traditional handholds.

An aluminum grid supports the floorboards, all of which can be removed for access to the bilge. All of the tanks are designed with hooks and straps so they can be removed and fit out the companionway.

BWS THOUGHTS
After nearly a decade of focus on fully-crewed racing yachts with split cockpits and large sail inventories, Nautor's Swan rediscovered its cruising traditions, this time incorporating its Ferragamo style with racecourse performance. The Swan 46 debuted the line with a similarly- designed 53 already plying European waters and a 66 on the drawing board. While the Swan 46 makes no concessions to racing rules and measurements, she is not short on performance. Her impressive performance proved she is aptly designed for the Chesapeake and other light-air cruising grounds, and when I bumped into Jack Gierhart of Swan USA after my test sail, he lauded his recent sail on Fierce Pride where she ticked off eight knots in 15 knots of breeze at 29-degrees apparent.

In a time when many boats try to be everything to everyone, Swan must be commended for not conceding to compromise. The Swan 46 is a high performance cruiser that will be easily managed by a couple offshore and is simple enough for impromptu afternoon sails. It is the perfect boat for a couple looking to trade in their racing campaigns for a cruiser that is going to give them just as much of a thrill when the wind kicks up.

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