The BOTY Files: With the Rustler 24 available in the States, classic one-design aficionados can stop scouring boatyards for derelicts. A boat review from our May 2010 issue
In late 2009, naval architect Greg Stewart, a Sailing World Boat of the Year judge, was putting the final touches on Scoot, a high-tech, 55-foot daysailer designed and built for a client in Nantucket. Thus, the notion of what makes the daysailing experience pleasurable was fresh on his mind as he climbed onboard the Rustler 24, a full-keeled, classic one-design with lines “interpreted” (so says the builder) from the Piper 24, a 1960s David Boyd hull design. Whereas Stewart’s Scoot is laden with complex hydraulic systems and all the latest electronic gadgetry, the Rustler 24 is the polar opposite—the embodiment of daysailing simplicity. And after a lengthy turn in the boat, Stewart’s praise for it was equally straightforward: “It’s a very sweet sailing boat, beautifully built. I could really see this being an excellent club-racing boat, too.”
Several years ago, Cornish Crabbers, an established builder in England, attempted to bring the Piper 24 back into production after building a set of molds. Rustler Yachts, another English builder better known for rugged coastal cruisers, later acquired the molds and designed a completely different deck layout. And, most noticeably, they integrated a much more performance-oriented aluminum rig from Selden.
Modernized as it is, the Rustler 24 takes a more traditional construction path. From the sheer to the bottom of the encapsulated, full lead keel (with keel-hung rudder), there’s solid, hand-laid glass. The deck is balsa-cored and teak-appointed for that requisite touch of style.
“The thing is gorgeous,” said fellow BOTY judge Chuck Allen, who’s knocked around enough in the Newport, R.I., Shields fleet to appreciate racing such full-keel designs. “It had a really nice feel to it; very responsive on the tiller, and it was surprisingly lively in the breeze.”
When we sailed the Rustler 24 during our Boat of the Year trials, the wind started at the low end and built into the teens by the time we were done, so the judges got a well-rounded sense of how it performed across the range. In the light stuff, with only one judge aboard, the boat slipped along beautifully with a light, balanced helm. Later, in the big puffs and chop, with two people in the boat, the 2,072 pounds of ballast kept it on its lines, and it tracked gracefully through the water as its long overhangs stretched out the waterline. Like other boats of this ilk—Shields, International One-Designs, Metre boats, and lots more—it wouldn’t be tossed around by the wind and waves. It was as stiff as could possibly be, and the fine bow just chomped through the chop.
The Rustler may be old school in design, but it benefits from the keel-stepped Selden mast. The rig is identical to that used on the Laser SB3, and the above-boom Gnav vang opens the forward cockpit, so a racing crew of three will have plenty of room to move around without banging elbows. Plus, there’s no danger of unsuspecting crew getting swiped during accidental jibes. The mainsheet is led to a barney post just forward of the helmsman’s seat, and the jib sheets are led through the high, angled cockpit coaming, which did a superb job of keeping the occasional splash out of the cockpit during our tests. The coaming itself seems to be angled to match the boat’s natural heel angle as well: whether sitting on one of three athwartship cockpit seats or standing in the deep cockpit, the crew will find the coaming to be a comfortable back rest. For the skipper who prefers to lounge around the racecourse, the aft-most seat has a curvature that invites you to sit back and relax.
During our test sail the spinnaker gear wasn’t rigged, but the sail plan calls for a 409-square-foot symmetric spinnaker. The 107-square-foot jib is set on a small, recessed, continuous-line furling unit, so the jib sweeps the deck, as it should. The full-battened main is a perfectly manageable 172 square feet of Dacron with a single reef point. The boat comes standard with Hyde Sails.
Motor options include diesel inboard, electric drive, or an outboard that hangs from a side-mounted bracket (optional). Our test boat had the outboard option, and the absence of an iron genny and its associated elements definitely contributed to its lively feel.
As much as new-boat trends are pushing racing sailors toward ever faster and more nimble sportboats, there is a formidable movement afoot in the classic daysailor realm this year. With the Rustler 24—and more accommodation-laden offerings like the e33, Morris 29, Harbor 25, and forthcoming Alerion Sport 33 (to name but a few)—it’s encouraging to see that sailing, and racing, can still be enjoyed at any speed.