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Old 09-02-2012, 18:43   #1
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Is the Bristol 45.5 a dog ?

Hello Americans. There are two Bristol 45.5 sailboats for sale in Australia. They look quite good. From a sailing perspective they have a furling main. I'm not made keen on that idea because obviously sail shape and power would be an issue. However, I have never sailed with a furling main so do not speak from first-hand experience. However, I've been told the Bristol 45.5 is a very slow boat. So slow in fact as to not be worth considering. May I have some opinions from those in the US please, who may be more familiar with them?
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Old 09-02-2012, 19:26   #2
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Re: Is the Bristol 45.5 a dog?

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Hello Americans. There are two Bristol 45.5 sailboats for sale in Australia. They look quite good. From a sailing perspective they have a furling main. I'm not made keen on that idea because obviously sail shape and power would be an issue. However, I have never sailed with a furling main so do not speak from first-hand experience. However, I've been told the Bristol 45.5 is a very slow boat. So slow in fact as to not be worth considering. May I have some opinions from those in the US please, who may be more familiar with them?
The PHRF on the Bristol 45.5 is 111. So you can certainly get faster modern boats in the same overall size. However I think it compares OK to other medium-displacement cruisers of the day.

I'm an unashamed fan of the later Bristols - for their build quality (superb), sea-kindliness, and beauty inside and out.

If I were looking for a boat in that price range, I'd think they make sense. They have done most of their depreciating, the Bristol build quality will always stand you in good stead, as will the timeless lines and design.

I tried to find a PHRF rating for your Adams for comparison, but couldn't.
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Old 09-02-2012, 19:49   #3
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Re: Is the Bristol 45.5 a dog?

I have direct and hands on experience on Bristol 45.5 hulls 1-5 with # 5 being the owners personal boat that we delivered to Tortola and endured very serious weather where several other boats were lost. They are beautiful cruising boats. Well built and good systems for a production boat. I do not like furling mains. They howl in the wind and have little shape. However it is a compromise. It is not a slow boat. It is a cruising boat built for comfort. If you want a light go fast this is not the one.
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Old 10-02-2012, 07:40   #4
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Re: Is the Bristol 45.5 a dog?

I crewed on a delivery from Virginia to St. Thomas on a 1980s Bristol 45.5 in pretty bad weather in early November, 2009. We went during the Carib 1500 race, and several "better" boats had to retire. Sensibly used (meaning reefing early and often), the furling main worked flawlessly, and there was so much wind we were holding eight to nine knots of speed under pretty minimal sail.

You can read about my experience here: The world encompassed: Nothing Like the Real Thing: A November Atlantic Yacht Delivery

You can read about the owners' experiences aboard their 45.5, which has now taken them across the entire Pacific to Australia, here: www.onainia.blogspot.com

So while I can't vouch for the light-air sailing performance, I can say that I felt safe and was able to function aboard in a boat with plenty of handholds and tether attachment points, which were, at certain times, very much necessary. The furling main was not to my taste, but I've used them or see them in action on two boats now (the other being a racing Catalina 47) and I don't think they are a bad idea anymore, and could be a rig-saver with a short-handed crew jumped by heavy weather.

I agree that while it's not a speedster, it will be out there when other boats have to retire or worse. The value of that attribute is up to you. I'd have one, even though I am not a huge fan of furling mains or centerboards. The Bristol 45.5 in action changed my opinions on this and on many other points.
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Old 13-04-2012, 10:05   #5
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Re: Is the Bristol 45.5 a dog ?

Per the other posts, the question of speed is relative and all boats are compromises. I have raced championship one designs at the national level and sailed a Bristol 45.5 for the last 5 years covering over 20,000 Kn in the Caribbean and the Med.
The B 45.5 is speced at 18.6 tons dry. My boat, fully loaded as a liveaboard is 20 tons. As compared a new 45 ft Beneteau (Oceanis) is 10.5 tons. Naturally a boat the same length at half the weight will be faster in light air. I however have seen a 50ft Beneteau that went up on a rock in RI on a calm day and the boat was a total loss! The paper thin glass around the keel just caved in!. By comparision the Bristol is 1 3/8 inches of solid glass at the turn of the bilge.
Regarding the autofurling main, the Bristol was designed by Ted Hood who also invented that rig (Hood Seafurl) and this is a guy who designed most the Americas Cup sails at the end of the 12 meter era. Flat, battened mains are better for upwind performance but being able to drop the traveler to leward and shorten sail without ever getting out of the cockpit or coming off your point of sail up wind is a huge advantage in a short handed ocean passage. I did this all the way to the Caribbean in 30 to 40 knots of wind and 25 ft seas. As far as speed is concerned we covered 1473 NM in 8 1/2 days and had 2 200 NM days.
Unless you want to spend 2 or 3 times the money for a Halberg Rassey, you can't get any better value for the money in an off shore capable boat then a Hood designed Bristol. Google Saildestiny_dot_com for lots of pic of Destiny.
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Old 13-04-2012, 11:52   #6
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Re: Is the Bristol 45.5 a dog ?

I have the Bristol 38.8 (same hull shape) and love the way it sails. It's stable and predictable and the helm is beautifully balanced. It heels to 15% and then stops. It moves very well in anything over 10 knots of breeze. Less than that you need an asym. My friend's Bristol 41.1 is similar and I would have no qualms about the 43.3 or 45.5 if I could afford one.The 38.8 is 20,000 lbs loaded, about half of the 45.5. But obviously the rig is smaller too.

The Ted Hood/Dieter Empacher keel/centerboard "whale bottom" design is just a great design. You find it in the 2nd generation Bristols and in most of the Little Harbors.

Others have commented on the excellent build quality. Solid fiberglass hull, no veneer anywhere in the interior. In fact, Bristol went belly up because it was determined to compete with Hinckley and Morris but didn't have the staying power.
Hallberg Rassy is a good comparison, except that few, if any, Bristols had teak decks.

I don't like the furling main either. But a ton of Hood's stowaway furling systems were installed in the 1980's--and not just on Bristols. There's a guy in Jamestown, RI who specializes in repairing them and has parts: Eric Pearson 401-423-1568 (just in case you buy one of the 45.5s)

The centerboard "thunks" at anchor unless you crank it all the way up. That's the only complaint I have about my boat.
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Old 15-04-2012, 23:41   #7
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Re: Is the Bristol 45.5 a dog ?

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I have the Bristol 38.8 (same hull shape) and love the way it sails. It's stable and predictable and the helm is beautifully balanced. It heels to 15% and then stops. It moves very well in anything over 10 knots of breeze. Less than that you need an asym. My friend's Bristol 41.1 is similar and I would have no qualms about the 43.3 or 45.5 if I could afford one.The 38.8 is 20,000 lbs loaded, about half of the 45.5. But obviously the rig is smaller too.

The Ted Hood/Dieter Empacher keel/centerboard "whale bottom" design is just a great design. You find it in the 2nd generation Bristols and in most of the Little Harbors.

Others have commented on the excellent build quality. Solid fiberglass hull, no veneer anywhere in the interior. In fact, Bristol went belly up because it was determined to compete with Hinckley and Morris but didn't have the staying power.
Hallberg Rassy is a good comparison, except that few, if any, Bristols had teak decks.

I don't like the furling main either. But a ton of Hood's stowaway furling systems were installed in the 1980's--and not just on Bristols. There's a guy in Jamestown, RI who specializes in repairing them and has parts: Eric Pearson 401-423-1568 (just in case you buy one of the 45.5s)

The centerboard "thunks" at anchor unless you crank it all the way up. That's the only complaint I have about my boat.
I've been trying to find out more about the whale belly hull design, as this is the first time I heard the term, and I think it's summarised as follows :

The deadrise is steeper than normal, making for more space down low, which can be used for interior room and ballast. This low ballast allows the use of a smaller keel and centreboard combination.

But what about the boats that they did in a centreboard OR full keel? The 31.1 and 35.5 could be ordered in either version. Does the keel version have all the ballast moved to the keel? If so what did they put where the ballast was?

I have a 31.1 with keel. Just trying to understand some more about the design.
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Old 16-04-2012, 00:48   #8
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Re: Is the Bristol 45.5 a dog ?

Mark...you're deeper into the design world than I can go. Others on here seem to be into it a bit though.
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Old 16-04-2012, 01:58   #9
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Re: Is the Bristol 45.5 a dog ?

So, there's nothing wrong with the boat if you want to go cruising. It's not a racer, but it will get you there. And you'll never be ashamed of it's build quality. Looks to me like the price is the only thing worth arguing about if it's the cruising life that you want, not a day racer. The only comparable boats for seaworthiness would be the older cats, and the Prouts in particular (there are others). Sound sailors, space and good accommodation at good prices. More modern cats are certainly quicker and so is the price.
My Prout had similar sailing qualities, typically a third of wind speed. Under ten kts was motoring weather, 30kts was fun and after that the ride got lumpy with slamming into wind but the big thing, as a novice sailor. was that I never felt she or I was at risk. It's a great feeling when the weather turns nasty, just have to make the right decisions in time, and that can mean staying out rather than doing a risky channel to peace and calm. it's very nice to know your boat is up to it and fuel isn't a problem 'cos she sails well in rough weather.
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Old 16-04-2012, 13:00   #10
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Re: Is the Bristol 45.5 a dog ?

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Originally Posted by MarkSF View Post
I've been trying to find out more about the whale belly hull design, as this is the first time I heard the term, and I think it's summarised as follows :

The deadrise is steeper than normal, making for more space down low, which can be used for interior room and ballast. This low ballast allows the use of a smaller keel and centreboard combination.

But what about the boats that they did in a centreboard OR full keel? The 31.1 and 35.5 could be ordered in either version. Does the keel version have all the ballast moved to the keel? If so what did they put where the ballast was?

I have a 31.1 with keel. Just trying to understand some more about the design.
I'm not a boat designer. But see: Bristol Yachts - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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Old 16-04-2012, 21:11   #11
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Re: Is the Bristol 45.5 a dog ?

From my perspective as a Bristol 41.1 owner:

I wouldn't characterize the boats as slow. Instead, this is a mid/heavy displacement blue water cruiser, with a good turn of speed. It's not a boat I would choose for around the buoy racing (though in some areas you might get a charitable PHRF number). It can be slow accelerating in light air, though in some conditions can sail better than light displacement boats that might come to a standstill from wave action or diminishing puffs.

It also tacks a bit slower than some cruiser/racers I have owned, but again, in cruising mode this doesn't matter 99% of the time.

In all the years I have been sailing this boat, I have yet to discover any glaring design errors regarding the performance. If you want to sail a little faster, empty the water tanks and take all the accumulated crap off the boat.

At the end of the day, it is a matter of horses for courses. If you are looking for a boat for the Wednesday night races, maybe this would not be such a good choice. If you are looking for a safe, comfortable boat to carry you to distant shores, this line of boats is worthy of consideration. And the point above was correct - Ted Hood designed great boats.

As for furling mains, that is something you will encounter from many, if not most, builders. In my case, I still have a traditional hoist main ( loose-footed full batten) that at times can be a struggle. I can certainly understand the case for roller furling.
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Old 16-04-2012, 22:09   #12
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Re: Is the Bristol 45.5 a dog ?

Probably the most telling ratio to look at would be your sail area/displacement ratio. On the US Sailing calculator, cruising boats range from 10-15, racer/cruisers from 16-20, racers 20-23, and sportboats/high performance racers 24 and above. The B 45.5 rates 14.94, so just at the high end of a cruising boat.

Two other ratios that will tell something about performance are ballast/displacement, which for your boat is a very stable 43.28%, and displacement/length, which comes out at 299.37, which puts you in the category of moderate displacement. (I believe an earlier post put you in the mid/heavy displacement category; this was incorrect.)

What does this all say? Well, first of all it says that your boat was designed in 1979. By the standards of the day it was right on the numbers. By today's standards it's a bit sluggish, but certainly not in the same way that the full-keelers of the days of yore were.

So if I were tactician on your boat, I'd go into a race knowing to avoid tacking duels since it won't accelerate well out of a tack. I'd want to carry a bit more sail than most of the competition because it's stable enough to carry it well. I'd look for race courses with a lot of reaching, because I'm going to do better there than on a windward/leeward course. I'd love chop and steep waves, because she'll carry through it better than lighter weight boats.

I'd know better than to bet pink slips with recently built boats in the same size range like the Catalina 47, the Hunter 460, or the Beneteau 463, especially in light air. Your SA/D of 14.93, for example, compares to the Hunter's 18.22. In light air, with its greater waterline, it's going to run away from you upwind and down. Your best chance in such a race would be to hope it blows at least gale force and that the skipper doesn't quite understand how to reef.

We're not racers, however--we're cruisers, right? You've got a boat that was built at the end of an era when cruisers were cruisers, racers were racers, and there was little thought of making something try to do both. If a fellow wanted a fast cruiser, there wasn't anything built better than a Bristol 45.5.

Is your boat a dog? Well, if it is, it's no greyhound. Not even an Irish setter. Think of it more as a seasoned Labrador retriever. Steady, reliable, loyal to its owner, and not at all afraid of getting wet.
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Old 17-04-2012, 00:28   #13
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Re: Is the Bristol 45.5 a dog ?

As a Bristol 45.5 owner, totally agree with Bash. What a great analysis and analogy.
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Old 17-04-2012, 07:06   #14
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Re: Is the Bristol 45.5 a dog ?

I concur. The reasons I would be happy (again) to crew on one offshore in a gale are the same reasons I wouldn't want one for Tuesday night club racing, esp. in light air.

One thing I noticed on the 45.5 I was on is that there were so many places to stow gear/spares/provisions that the owners had numbered with Dymo labels every one of them.

The numbers exceeded 100, but were very well organized!
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Old 17-04-2012, 11:59   #15
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Re: Is the Bristol 45.5 a dog ?

The 45.5 for sale in Sydney certainly looks like a bargain unless there are serious maintenance issues. BTW the listing has an error: that boat draws 4'11" with the board up, not 4.5 feet, as stated in the description, or 9', as stated in the specs.

My first question would be how many engine hours (not stated) and my second would be about the water tanks. Bristol used baffled stainless steel tanks in the second generation Bristols, but if there is a leak in one of the tanks it can be a major, major PITA to repair.

1985 Bristol 45.5 Center Cockpit Sail Boat For Sale - www.yachtworld.com
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