[alberg30] CCA Design Suitabilty for Cruising (very long)

George Dinwiddie gdinwiddie at min.net
Wed Dec 8 11:18:39 PST 1999

From: "George Dinwiddie" <gdinwiddie at min.net>


I don't see the reference to the Alberg 30 in the quote, but
presume that the A30 qualifies as a CCA design.  I'm also
neither a naval architect nor a student of boat design.  In
fact, the A30 is the only keelboat I've owned or extensively
sailed.  With that disclaimer, I'll toss in my $0.02 worth.
Ignorance has never prevented me from stating my opinion. ;-)

> In my mind CCA
> boats are appropriate for certain people but are not good
> boats for the average person including
> many of the people who buy them for price or appearance
> reasons.

I'm not sure who this "average person" is.  If you're looking
at the general population as a whole, the average person wants
nothing to do with boats.  If looking at the boating population,
it seems the average person wants a power boat.  Looking at the
sailing population, the average person chooses a trailerable
daysailor.  Restricting our population to keelboaters, judging
by what I see on the Chesapeake Bay, the average person likes
a Hunter or Catalina or Beneteau.  The average Alberg 30 owner
seems to like the Alberg 30, else they would have sold it for
another design.

Discussing the strengths and weaknesses of a design and
comparing designs is certainly worthwhile, but making overall
ratings of merit is the stuff of flamewars.  The way I see
it, all boats are a compromise.  One person may highly value
a boat that is very stable and performs well in extremely
light air.  Another may prefer a boat that is beautiful to
the point that the heart sings when you spot it under sail.
This latter individual would probably prefer a boat with
excellent light-air performance, all other things being
equal.  But all other things are never equal.  There is no
free lunch.

> Short waterlines length does a lot of things, the most
> obvious being it makes a boat slow. [snip] The CCA boats
> were often designed to pull the bow wave forward and stern
> wave aft as the boat's heeled. [snip] It
> means that to get speed you are constantly sailing with
> larger heel
> angles than you would on a more modern design.

Certainly the A30 likes to sail with about 15 degrees of
heel.  She can tolerate quite a bit more.  Since the wind
is never constant, it's tempting to choose sail area such
that the optimum heel is reached in the lulls and the
boat is overpowered in the gusts.  At least, that's what
I tend to do.  My wife prefers less heel and always
suggests the working jib and reefed main. ;-)

Perhaps I'm just immature, but I like that feeling of
power when the boat bows to the wind.  I don't object
to tweaking sails to keep the rail out of the water.
And I think that the A30 behaves gracefully when abused
with too much sail for conditions.

> We know from testing and empirical observation
> that in reality this longer sailing length does not work as well as
> designing a boat that has its displacement spread out over a
> longer static waterline.

Sailboats have long been surpassed as an efficient and fast
means of transportation.  If you want to get somewhere quickly,
take an airplane.  If you're racing boat for boat, a faster
design will get you there quickly.  Of course, people don't
generally race different designs boat for boat.  If you're
racing one-design, you get speed by bottom preparation, not
by lengthening the waterline.  If you're racing under a handicap
rule, the differences between boat designs is theoretically
factored out.  Then you're back to the 'rule-beating' that
was deplored by the poster in the CCA designs.

This is not to say that boat speed is not important.  It's
always nicer to have the speed available.  It's just that
speed is not the primary reason for going sailing in the
first place.  For me, the pleasure of the journey means
far more.  That's one reason I don't have a Cigarette boat.

> The result is fairly large amounts of
> leeway. (It's not hard to observe this. Sail up
> to the stern of CCA era boats on a on a modern design. Set your
> course parallel to the CCA boat and sight an object on shore.
> As you watch the amount of leeway
> becomes pretty apparent. [snip]
> These CCA era keelboats really slide a lot.
> [snip] As a weekender in confined waters, It matters a
> lot of me.
I've got a friend with an Ericson 26.  I helped him bring the
boat home when he first got it.  It has a wing keel and tacks
through about 75 degrees.  I find it amazing.  A hydrodynamic
keel design can provide lift to hold the boat to windward.
Certainly the keel of the Alberg 30 is not designed for lift.
On my boat, it's not even symmetrical.

Still, I find myself often pointing as well as, or even better,
than some modern boats.  Many of these are just not being
sailed well.  Many are also deficient in design.  Often, wing
keels were put on as a marketing ploy rather than as a result
of careful design.

I used to sail up and down the South River when we first got
the boat.  (Now, we're more likely to motor in close quarters.)
Leeway was not a significant problem; clumsy sailhandling
during tacking was the biggest problem.  I guess I'm saying that
the Alberg 30 points well enough for me.

> Semantics aside, when you look at many of the popular
> production boats of the era, the water line was often
> 75% of the LOA
> and then the forefoot would be cut away further and the
> rudder post raked to the point that
> there is relatively little keel length. [snip] In my mind there is
> nothing worse than a fin keel with a
> rudder attached it have few of the advantages of either
> full or fin
> keels and all of the disadvantages. Today people tend to
> refer to these as full keels they are not. In
> my experience they neither tracked like a genuine full
> keel nor had
> the maneuverability or lightness of control of a detached
> rudder. They had more weather helm and
> the rudder being closer to the center rotation created more
> resistance for the amount of turning accomplished. I find
> that these boats are more tiring to steer.

Yes, a keel with a cutaway forefoot tracks less than a full
keel and has less maneuverability than a fin keel.  Or, you
could say that it has more maneuverability than a full keel
and tracks better than a fin keel.  It's a compromise.
Certainly, weather helm is caused by a number of factors
besides the keel design.  In any event, the A30 can be
balanced such that the boat is very easy to steer.  In
fact, I often am able to let go of the tiller for brief
periods while I tend to a line.

In the bargain, I get a boat that is rarely perturbed
by a grounding on sand or mud.  The rudder is protected
by the keel.  The boat can usually be kedged off easily.
And picking up a crab-pot is a very rare occurrence.

> "The short waterlines result in more pitching. This too
> is easily
> observable watching a mixed fleet of boats going to windward.
> I have never liked the CCA boats in a chop.

I have never liked the chop, anyway.  Certainly a boat
with long overhangs will "hobby-horse" more than a boat
with a plumb bow and reverse transom.  My advice is to
ease the rig until you get enough power.

> 	"I really do not like the typical rigs on a CCA boats
> which heavily
> depended on huge jibs for drive in anything below moderate
> winds. The boats were designed for
> 170% to 180% genoas on boats with very big foretriangles. After
> watching the sail size on CCA boats in the bay, I concede
> that they seem to be getting by with
> smaller, maybe 140 % to 150% genoas but they require
> these sails in
> winds that I can comfortably sail with my less than 110%
> lapper. They rigs were short and the
> spars very heavy. This resulted in a further reduction
> in stability
> and the overly stiff spar eliminates being able use the mast
> as a tool for sail shaping.

Is a smaller jib an advantage?  Is a larger main an advantage?
Is a catboat therefore superior to a sloop?  I don't understand
this complaint.  Certainly a stiff, short mast is better for
heavy weather than for light air.  And, you have to use something
other than mast bend for shaping the main.  There are ways.
(How does a shorter rig reduce stability?)

> "Then there is the weight issue. In and of itself weight does
> nothing good for a boat. Many of these boats were heavy in
> ways that really did not help comfort, or
> carrying capacity, or stability, or strength.

I would say that heaviness often was the result of less-sophisticated
FRP construction techniques.  Builders figured "more is better" when
adding glass and resin.  Today, builders calculate the stresses very
precisely and use techniques such as preimpregnation and vacuum-bagging
to enable them to reduce the amount of resin.  This results in a
boat that is exactly strong enough.  Or, perhaps not.  There have
been some prominent failures in ocean racing boats in recent years.
I've never heard of an Alberg 30 hull falling apart while underway.
And these hulls can be maintained by unsophisticated owners (like me).

> 	"I have always found CCA Boats wet when compared to more modern
> designs.

Compared to which modern designs?  I've seen some very wet modern
boats.  I've also seen some center cockpit boat that wouldn't take
water in the cockpit with a garden hose.

> Much of the hardware of the day was inferior to modern gear and
> some like reel winches are just plain dangerous. (Want to feel my broken

I wouldn't have a reel winch.  But I've also had some modern gear
fail in short order, such as the Harken cam cleats I installed
on the traveler a few years ago.

> "Then there is the economics of older boats. No matter
> what you do to one it will only be worth so much.
> [snip] In the most extreme case one fellow
> described the changes that he (and prior owners) made to his boat. He
> described changing the rig to a
> carbon spar (Taller and double spreader), all new standing and
> running rigging, all new deck hardware, new sails, repairs to
> the deck and topsides where "time had
> taken its toll", Awlgripping the topsides and deck, modern
> electronics, replacing an atomic 4 with a diesel, replacing
> the pressure alcohol stove with a propane stove,
> refinishing the interior including replacing a rotted
> bulkhead, new
> wiring and plumbing, and replacing the cushions.
> [snip] But even a reasonably good boat from this era
> can be very expensive to own.

Much of this is basic maintenance and has little to do with
the design of the boat.  These things don't come cheap whether
you buy them one at a time, or all at once with a new boat.
One at a time is easier on my budget.  Then, there's
depreciation.  Every time my boat has been sold, the price
was roughly the same, about $18K.  Granted, that's in
smaller and smaller dollars due to inflation.  But I doubt
that'll happen if you buy a new boat today.

Maintenance is part of the joy of boat ownership.  If you
can't or won't do your own maintenance, buying new and
trading early may make more sense.  It won't be cheaper,
though.  If you want cheaper, charter a boat; don't buy
one.  You'll miss out on the ownership aspects, but the
maintenance will be someone else's problem.

As for making major changes such as a radically different
rig, I think that's silly.  If you want a tall rig, don't
buy a boat designed for a short rig.  Get the boat you
want.  As in a marriage, you can't expect to easily make
major changes.

> "I guess the bottom line to me is a very subjective
> thing. I like to
> sail. There are a lot of days with winds less than 8 knots
> where I like to sail, or days with over ten
> knots winds in the gusts but something less in the five
> knot range
> in the gaps. I can easily sail in these winds and be fine. If
> I owned a CCA era boat, I would not sail.
> Its that simple to me. There are creeks and tight areas
> that I think nothing of beating out of.

In less than 8 knots, I'm more likely to take the Sunfish
out for a quick sail than the Alberg.  Then, for a quick
sail, I'm more likely to take the Sunfish, anyway.  I don't
use the Alberg for daysailing in tight areas.  I anchor in
tight creeks rather than sail in them.

I use it a lot for weekending.  I also use it for a week
each fall.  I'm not afraid to sail in heavy air, especially
if I can crack off the wind a bit.  I've had some wonderful
sail in 35 knots, with Gail and me double-handing the boat.
I find the Alberg 30 handles reasonably well in a wide
variety of conditions with a two-person crew.  There are
modern boats that really need a larger crew and might not
go out in winds over 20 knots.

So, it's different long-splices for different boats.  It's
hard to defend a comparison against something so nebulous
as "modern boats."  There's a great variety in those modern
boats and none of them have *all* of the virtues ascribed to
the lot of them in that post.  No matter.  I'm happy.

 - George

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