I'm old enough to have actually raced and cruised such boats for tens of thousands of miles in the Pacific, Caribbean
, Atlantic, and Mediterranean
The early Swans were S&S designs. When in 1977 Imp, a 40 foot Holland
design kicked tail in the SORC and then in summer racing in England
, including a very heavy weather
Fastnet, Swan switched to Holland
designs. By the early 1980s, new Swan models were designed by Freres. There is a BIG difference between the designers, and their designs!!!
Note also that often Swan models are in production for quite a long time, so you can't assume that a boat built in 1984 is not an S&S design.
The S&S designs are MUCH dryer sea boats than the Holland or Freres designs, because the S&S boats have curvature to the topsides and are fuller forward, while the more modern designs are quite slab sided, allowing the water
to keep climbing up the hull sides.
Also, the S&S designs have deadrise (a V shape) the entire length of the hull, whereas more recent designs are more typically flat across the middle. The deadrise dampens pitching when heeled going upwind, and provides additional directional stability on all points of sail. This difference is quite dramatic.
The build quality of Swans, and the S&S Swans in particular, is amazing. Very few leaks
, creaks, groans. Rare to find systems that don't work underway as well as at the dock
. The ergonomics on deck and below are also good underway, in very rough conditions, or at anchor
. And most can be rigged with very effective dodgers.
The downwind handling issues of many racing boats is very well known. But what is missed is the conditions when problems occurred, and how the boats could be sailed safely in heavy conditions downwind.
First, the root of the handing problem was the pinched ends, deep midships, and very small mainsails first encouraged by the RORC and then by the IOR racing rules. When pushing the boats downwind at over hull speed
, the trough of the wave train would be under the middle of the boat, so rather than being supported by that beamy middle, the boat was balanced on the very narrow ends. This condition was made worse by the tall masts, large spinnakers, and small mainsails, and the fine bow sections combined with the racer's intent of pushing the boats to the maximum.
For example, a Cal
40 had rig dimensions of I=46' J=15.2 E=40 P=17.5 while a smaller Ranger
37 one tonner had dimensions of I=49' J=15.7' E=43' P=11.7
The extra leverage of the spinnaker
on a 3' taller mast
, 6" longer pole, was poorly balanced by the 6' shorter boom!
The semi-solution to these handing problems was the Blooper, essentially half a spinnaker flown to leeward of the spinnaker sheet, to make up for the missing mainsail
area. The blooper also moved the center of lift
further forward. However, it also put another sheet point right at the transom, so if you started to round up with a blooper, it was a total wipe-out.
So there were lots of racers who moved from, say Cal
40s to, say, Ranger
one tonners, and sure enough, the down wind
conditions that were no problem on the Cal 40 were a big problem on the one tonners. "20 knots of wind, sure we'll pop the chute!"
If one sailed those boats like a cruising boat, there was no negative, only really big positives: the boats go upwind great in any condition, from light to heavy air, from flat seas to really huge breaking seas. They are easy to work on deck and below at sea as well as at anchor
Let me be very specific about one early S&S Swan design, the Swan 65. To quote from the Swan web site: "A production Swan 65 (Sayula II) effortlessly won the first Whitbread Race
in 1973/4. The second Whitbread in 77/78 saw the Swan 65 take 2nd, 4th and 5th."
I sailed a Swan 65 from Newport Beach
to the Med. Only human powered winches. Electric autopilot
. Roller furling
headsail. Slab reefing main. Conventional spinnakers. We did one person watches the entire way. I never once called anyone up on deck for any reason. Not even one single
time was there an "all hands on deck" condition. We did use everyone on spinnaker sets, drops, and gybes, but these were never emergencies, and we chose to always do such things in daylight. We had exactly one failure: the autopilot
when we were in Cozumel. We sailed from Cozumel to Marathon in the Keys without autopilot. No problem, the boat sailed itself using the lock on the wheel
When we got to the Med, I had lost
something, so I lifted the board under the midship berth by the mast
. There was still DRY wood sawdust in the bilge
from the original construction! By this time, the boat was 8 years old and had sailed from California
and back, then California
through the Panama Canal
, up to Florida
, through the Bahamas
, to Bermuda
, the Azores
, Gibralter, to the Baelerics.
A wonderful thing about a boat that goes the same speed in all directions in all conditions is that you are not tempted or forced to always sail downwind or on a reach. You can go anywhere you want, any time, any conditions.