For those who may have forgotten, Olin Stephens was the Twentieth Century’s resident genius of yacht design, our own nautical Da Vinci. In every aspect of the sailing game from dinghies like the Lightning to offshore racers like Finisterre to America’s Cup defenders, Stephens created fast boats that were always a step ahead of their time.
Some years ago, when asked which of his designs he would like to see brought back and renewed, Stephens immediately suggested design number 97, a 30 foot racer-cruiser named Babe. Designed and build in 1935, Babe was a noted performer in coastal and offshore races—yes, regular people used to race 30 footers offshore. And, she was an able, compact coastal cruiser for a couple or small family.
The new boat, which is the brain child of yacht dealer and broker Glenn Walters, founder of Bluenose Yacht Sales, takes the pretty lines of the original design, including the thoroughly modern plumb bow and square transom, both of which look current by today’s standards, and marries them to a new underwater profile that includes a shallow hull form, bulbed fin keel and spade rudder. Plus, with a high-tech, cored hull, the 30 is both light and very stiff.
Up top, the 30 has been given an aggressive rig with a tall, full roach, slab reefing mainsail and a 100-percent self tacking, roller furling jib. A Selden top-down furler is used for the asymmetrical spinnaker.
The result is a new boat that is truly the best of both worlds. The hull looks sweet and right, like most of Stephens’ designs. The rig has the horsepower to make the boat sprightly to sail and competitive around the buoys. And, the interior is large enough for a family of four to enjoy a weekend cruise.
We met up with Glenn Walters in Miami after the Strictly Sail Miami show and had the chance to take a brief sail in the flat waters of Government Cut. We motored from the Miami Beach Marina, with the little 14-horsepower diesel and saildrive shunting us along easily and, once in the channel, hoisted the mainsail and rolled out the jib.
With the engine switched off and a fair breeze blowing into the cut, the 30 reacted immediately to the press of sail. The 30 is quite narrow by modern standards, similar in some ways to the modern fleet of J Boats, so the hull is very easily driven. We sheeted in the main, trimmed the self tacking jib and away we sailed, carving a course very close to the wind.
If you haven’t sailed a boat with a tiller in a while, we have to say that this is how a little thoroughbred should be steered. With the wind puffing and gusting between the condo towers, the tiller gave an immediate and visceral feel for how the boat was performing and allowed us to feel the puffs and steer up and through them without having to think about it.
We threw the 30 through a few tacks and noted that she was able to hold happily at about 40 degrees from the true wind and tacked through about 80 degrees. The self tacking jib makes tacking effortless. The mainsail is rigged with a four-part tackle that gives you plenty of mechanical advantage and it has a fine-tuning tackle that lets you trim in minute detail. The traveler runs across the cockpit so you can power the big mainsail up and down as the breeze dictates.
We didn’t get a chance to sail with the spinnaker flying, but we did sail next to the 30 when it had the chute up and noted with pleasure that the boat is very quick and lively. And, with two people aboard, the spinnaker with the top down furler is a cinch to fly.
There are some other good boats in this category, such as the Morris 29, Alerion 28 or the J/100 and each has its own characteristics. When it comes to pure sailing, the new S&S 30, with its long waterline and slippery hull form, will certainly hold its own with all of these and in the right hands will be a winner around a race course or in point to point events. After all, Babe won the 184-mile Miami to Nassau Race in 1936 and 1937, the same years another pint-sized thoroughbred, Seabiscuit, won his first races.
The S&S 30 has a large, comfortable cockpit. In the days when the first Babe was drawn, her owners would have said, “she drinks eight, eats six and sleeps four.”
The cabin house is low and fits neatly onto the hull, yet it offers a surprising amount of space and headroom below decks. The cabin has bench settees on both sides and a small galley forward with a stainless steel sink and room for a portable cook stove.
The head is enclosed in its own compartment for a modicum of privacy and forward there is a large V-berth. The hull is lined with a fiberglass ceiling that looks like old fashioned planking. There are cabinets and small storage lockers for essential gear and clothing and tanks for water, fuel and waste water.
With bunks for four people, you could certainly take the S&S cruising and would have a fine time exploring your nearby coastlines, coves and harbors. And, for longer runs, you could even store your small inflatable dinghy on the afterdeck.
A pretty and sweet sailing newcomer in the daysailer and weekender fleet, the S&S 30 is easy on the eye, fun to sail and capable of taking you around the buoys or around the islands in real style at a price that won’t make your banker hiccup.
By George Day
Displ. 5,640 lbs.
Water 12 gals.
Fuel 13 gals.
Waste 6 gals.
Sail area 462 sq, ft.
Bluenose Yachts Sales
Newport, RI and South Portland, ME
Ph: (877) 695-6538