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Old 01-06-2016, 08:03   #1
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Interesting Day on a Swan 60

I was lucky enough to get invited to spend a day on a Swan 60 which is being prepared for the Nordstream Baltic race which starts next week.

This boat is not an actual race boat, but a very expensive and flash performance cruiser. A fleet of them, identical and in semi-racing trim (stripped out interior), was bought by one Russian hydrocarbon company to use for this annual race, which is intended to “spread good will” among Baltic littoral states, but actually as propaganda in favor of a certain pipeline project. But never mind – there’s good ocean racing involved.

The skipper is a really cool Finnish guy, who currently holds the record for best time in the ARC, which he won using an English supermaxi yacht.

I had a wonderful day out with them in sunny, calm weather, and especially enjoyed watching the superb crew interaction and coordination.

I had mixed feelings about the boat. On the one hand, the performance was thrilling – we saw boat speed in excess of true wind speed at one point.

The rig was very beautiful – tall thin carbon mast, carbon rod rigging, very spare and elegant controls. According to the race rules, the boat carries three non-furling, non-overlapping headsails, an assy, and one roachy mainsail. The sails are identical to my sails – the same carbon laminate, tri-radial cut, with taffeta on both sides (so not truly racing sails, but the crew love them, they said).

This was my first experience with double wheels on a yacht – I spent some time at the helm. I liked it. You see much better standing off to one side, and it’s much easier to move around the deck (I won’t say cockpit, because the boat didn’t actually have one) without a big wheel right in the way.

But I absolutely hated the deck arrangement. There’s not really any cockpit – just a shallow depression with low benches. Flush deck. So you basically stand on top of the boat. This would be absolutely dreadful in strong weather. Nothing to hold on to whatsoever, nothing to sit on, nothing to even hide behind. I can’t even imagine beating into a F8 on that boat. What’s worse, the crew said it was a very wet boat, taking tons of water over the bow in any kind of chop.

And not only was there nothing to hold onto on deck – there’s was nothing to hold on to below, either. The crew had improvised a netting of Dyneema rope which was attached to the headliner. This reminds me of the Swan 90 I spent some time on – also impossible to move around below in a seaway.

The sail controls were interesting. The boat has an elaborate hydraulic system which controls almost everything. The vang is one huge hydraulic ram, the jib tracks are controlled by a hydraulic ram, backstay and outhaul with still more hydraulic rams, and the main sheet is controlled by a system called “Magic Trim”, which is a big hydraulic ram below decks operating on the single mainsheet via a reverse-purchase system. No traveler! In order to get the boom above the centerline, the crew had to improvise a tackle (which they grumbled about). No unpowered winches on board and a relatively small number of them – less than the 10 winches on my boat. Halyards led to the cockpit under the deck.

Such a system would cost a huge fortune, and you would be totally screwed if something broke on it. But for this boat’s purpose – sporty sailing or racing, in controlled conditions with a full crew – I guess it’s a pretty nice system. It was beautiful to watch the crew working it, gybing and tacking and doing all kinds of things with perfect coordination, and effortlessly. Incredible control over sail shape despite the lack of a traveler (basically, leech tension is entirely controlled by the massive hydraulic vang, leaving the mainsheet to control only boom angle – which seems to work fine except when you need the boom above the centerline). In controlled conditions, and with an army of skilled mechanics to support it, this boat would be an absolute blast to sail.

In any case, it was a lovely, lovely day out.
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Old 01-06-2016, 08:15   #2
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Re: Interesting Day on a Swan 60

Pictures!!!!!!!
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Old 01-06-2016, 08:27   #3
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Re: Interesting Day on a Swan 60

Nice write up! How old are the boats, brand new or a few years old?
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Old 01-06-2016, 08:27   #4
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Re: Interesting Day on a Swan 60

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Old 01-06-2016, 08:55   #5
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Re: Interesting Day on a Swan 60

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Originally Posted by deluxe68 View Post
Nice write up! How old are the boats, brand new or a few years old?
Race has been going on for a while, so I guess the boats must be a few years old. But the one I was on was in very beautiful condition, obviously meticulously maintained.
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Old 01-06-2016, 09:09   #6
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Re: Interesting Day on a Swan 60

Yep.

Swans seem to be sweet (and sweat!) overall.

I even like their motorsailor 'ugly' duckling.

Lucky U!

Cheers,
b.
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Old 01-06-2016, 14:11   #7
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Re: Interesting Day on a Swan 60

Yes, the Swan 60 is a lovely boat even if very much race oriented.
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Old 02-06-2016, 09:40   #8
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Re: Interesting Day on a Swan 60

Gee, I would expect Russians to spread "good will " in the Baltics with steel destroyers.
What do I know? Those boats are gorgeous. Jealous! Thanks for posting.
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Old 02-06-2016, 09:56   #9
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Re: Interesting Day on a Swan 60

Call me old fashioned but imho nothing beats the classic S&S and German Frers Swan designs. But yes I'm still jealous Dockhead
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Old 02-06-2016, 10:22   #10
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Re: Interesting Day on a Swan 60

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Call me old fashioned but imho nothing beats the classic S&S and German Frers Swan designs. But yes I'm still jealous Dockhead
I actually agree with you!

The boat was gorgeous, but had several serious drawbacks for anything but controlled, calm weather conditions.
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Old 02-06-2016, 16:30   #11
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Re: Interesting Day on a Swan 60

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I actually agree with you!

The boat was gorgeous, but had several serious drawbacks for anything but controlled, calm weather conditions.
As usual in what regards cruiser racers you are exaggerating regarding their abilities in bad weather: they have a huge stability and power as well as very fine entries, three very positive points in what regards seaworthiness. Due to their program (cruising and racing) they minimise windage that has a positive effect in what regards sailing performance and seaworthiness but that can make the boat wetter as surely the extra speed will do.

A wetter boat is not a less seaworthy boat just a less comfortable boat and in what regards comfort versus sailing performance and pleasure the preferences vary. In what regards this point is like you are insisting that a Ferrari GT is less safe than a BMW berlina. Sure it is less comfortable, but not less safe (and a lot more fun to drive).

I have seen modern Swans racing in very tough condition and they cope very well with bad weather.

Finally in what regards to prefer older designed Swans I would say that the ones that prefer them will not understand what Swans were always been about: Fast performance boats. Older designs are hugely outperformed by new Swans and therefore in what regards Swan design program, inferior boats.

Most that prefer the older boats do so because they are not wanting to use the Swans for what they are designed for : sailing fast (cruising and racing), but just for cruising taking advantage of the excellent built quality that remains till today.

Some movies with new Swans, the 45 and 60. On the end of the movie with the 45 you can see some windy conditions. If I remember correctly that race the wind blowed 40K gusting 60K. They only show the boat going fast downwind but they got heavy weather on many points of sail and many boats retired, among them, the famous Scarlet Oyster (with a broken rudder).

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Old 02-06-2016, 17:20   #12
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Re: Interesting Day on a Swan 60

Have to say.........
LOVE my Swan 57rs German Frers design. True ocean cruiser. Can cover 200 miles a day and does not exhaust the crew with banging and carry on!!
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Old 03-06-2016, 01:45   #13
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Re: Interesting Day on a Swan 60

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As usual in what regards cruiser racers you are exaggerating regarding their abilities in bad weather: they have a huge stability and power as well as very fine entries, three very positive points in what regards seaworthiness. Due to their program (cruising and racing) they minimise windage that has a positive effect in what regards sailing performance and seaworthiness but that can make the boat wetter as surely the extra speed will do.

A wetter boat is not a less seaworthy boat just a less comfortable boat

I get the impression that you've never experienced big ocean conditions. A boat which takes sheets of green water over the bow in bad weather is a very dangerous boat. Especially a boat which has no cockpit and nothing to hide behind.

Of course it is possible to survive, and even enjoy strong sea conditions on such a boat, but it's an extreme sport requiring very intense effort to stay tied down tight to the boat to avoid being washed off the deck. It's a bit like technical mountain climbing -- a dangerous sport, but a real thrill for people who seek that particular experience.


In the case of this boat, the lack of provision by the designer for any kind of protection of the crew in bad weather is a style-driven design defect (this is not a pure racing boat so style was a big part of the design brief), shared by a number of other stylish performance cruisers. Not just my opinion, but the opinion of the crew also, and these guys are top ocean racers.
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Old 03-06-2016, 02:33   #14
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Re: Interesting Day on a Swan 60

Quote:
Originally Posted by sepeteus View Post
Have to say.........
LOVE my Swan 57rs German Frers design. True ocean cruiser. Can cover 200 miles a day and does not exhaust the crew with banging and carry on!!
Nice boat!
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Old 03-06-2016, 06:56   #15
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Interesting Day on a Swan 60

Dockhead, in the second picture you posted of the target speed table, do you know if the BS column is indicating the sails to use at that wind angle and speed? Thanks for sharing, interesting insights.

Edit: Nevermind, just hit me this is in Europe and the comma is a period here in the US, duh...

On the other hand, I just noticed how they have rigged up a barber hauler for the headsail in your third pic and it may be just the solution for my own staysail trim issue, thanks again for posting!
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