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Sydney 38

Bashford International’s fast, new offshore one-design from Australia

October 29, 2001
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There’s a lot to like about the Sydney 38 from Bashford International’s Sydney Yachts and the design firm of Murray, Burns, and Dovell.

Outside of sails and electronics, the boat comes as a fixed one-design package that incorporates many desirable design elements. From the bottom up, the Sydney 38 has all the fast stuff: a modern underbody and foils faired and finished for racing, a bulb keel that draws 8’8″, a spade rudder with sealed bearings, and a recessed wheel set in an enormous cockpit. The cockpit is so large it could easily accommodate a cocktail party or the dance floor at a small junior prom. There are 842 sq. ft. of sail area, which includes a non-overlapping headsail. The aluminum rig’s aft-swept spreaders eliminate the need for runners or checkstays, and the high-end rigging package includes rod rigging and all the high-tech lines a serious racer would choose.

We test sailed this well-mannered boat last fall on Chesapeake Bay. According to our GPS, in a 12-knot breeze the boat sailed upwind at 7.2 knots. It accelerated to 8.4 knots downwind when we set the symmetric kite. If you’re looking for a gauge of its speed potential, the boat rates between an Aerodyne 38 and a Farr 40.

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Doug Croker, who previously owned a 1D35, supplied our test boat, Canvasback. “I wanted something that could go offshore and do some distance racing,” says Croker. “This boat is unbelievable in a blow. One race we just smoked up and down the Chesapeake in 35 knots and waves. I went down below and nothing moved- no flex, no leaks. It’s a really solid boat.”

While our experience with the Sydney 38’s handling characteristics indicated the boat would excel in 20 knots, we checked with Alice Martin, a 38 owner from Chicago. “We looked at over 50 designs, and this boat fit our desire for a serious raceboat with an interior that allows us to enjoy Mac races,” says Martin. “My crew had ’jib envy’ in the light airs at Key West Race Week, but I’ve been in a few good storms, and in anything over 10 knots, the boat kicks butt.”

The deck layout is functional, with six Harken winches positioned for duty and a split 2-to-1 European-style mainsheet system that runs aft along the boom to a flush-mounted deck traveler. The boat also has adjustable jib cars, Spinlock stoppers, and a solid Forespar boom vang.

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To keep the price of the boat under $200,000, Bashford builds the boat using vinylester and E-glass over a PVC foam-cored deck and balsa-cored hull, and covers everything with a polyester gelcoat finish. The fractional aluminum rig and the high-gloss gelcoat interior finish- and in some places, such as the forepeak, a matte finish- are concessions to achieve the boat’s target price. An internal one-piece fiberglass grid, which incorporates the keel, mast, engine, and rudder, supports and stiffens the hull.

A clean interior look is complemented by the minimal amount of wood finish, primarily found in the teak and holly cabin sole. The forepeak is used for sail storage and houses a ventilated head, which has a vanity sink and wet locker. The main cabin has a large settee and fixed, contoured teak table forward and to port. The galley is placed forward too, opposite the settee, and has a sink, icebox, and two-burner stove.

To provide space in the main cabin, the engine is installed aft of the sail drive, instead of forward of it. This also places the folding prop forward, closer to the keel. The nav station is immediately to port of the companionway and has cubbies. To starboard is another settee, which conceals storage below and behind it. The backrest of the starboard settee has hinges, which allows it to flip up and make another berth. Other sleeping accommodations are quarter berths- a double to port and a single with a pipe berth above it to starboard. With the placement of all the bunks so far aft, one would consider balancing weight forward during overnight racing. The main cabin is open and spacious with four fixed sidelights and ample storage. It’s more functional than luxurious, but all the bases are covered for coastal or offshore racing.

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Thirty-six Sydney 38s have been built; eight are in the United States, and there’s already a fleet of six in Chicago. There’s potential for more one-design fleets around the country, but, in any case, the boat’s usually rated at 30 seconds per mile. Its base price is $196,000. With sails and electronics, we estimate the boat, in race-ready, sail-away condition, will cost about $225,000. Although it doesn’t break new design ground, the Sydney 38 is a solid product, and the sum of its parts is a well-built racing package.

The Sydney 38 is distributed and sold in the United States by Nelson Marine; www.nelsonmarine.com, 510-814-1858, in San Francisco and Thoroughbred Yacht Sales, 410-267-9419, in Annapolis.

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