With a name like Free Range Chicken, the explanation for how this yacht got its name needs to be offered up front. “It’s my ninth boat,” says owner Bruce Anderson. “My first boat was a Catalina 27 that I sailed out of Chicago. Fast forward to boat number six, and I’m in Southern California with a custom Andrews 36. With that boat I thought maybe we would build a bunch of sisterships, so I wanted to give it a name people would notice and not forget. I sat down one night with a dictionary and went through it page by page looking at words and more words. I was almost down to the Zs when a name came to me right out of the air. Chicken Lips.
“Just try to forget Chicken Lips. We sailed that boat until I was ready to ask Bob Perry to design a dual-purpose 55-footer. The B-1 stealth bomber was in the news at the time,” Anderson continues, “which is how boat number seven became Stealth Chicken. My next effort was a small step down in size to a Santa Cruz 50, so I called that one Chicken Little. And now here we are with another Perry design, this 59-footer that we’ll race some. But since I really want to get out there and do some cruising now, this one had to be Free Range Chicken.”
Westerly Marine in Santa Ana, California, has built all three of Anderson’s custom boats. This latest one was launched in early 2006 and raced to Mexico by way of an early shakedown. “I wanted a man-sized boat,” Anderson says. “I’ve chartered boats in the British Virgin Islands, and one thing that experience taught me is that I want to be able to move around belowdecks and not feel like I’m shoehorned in. And I didn’t want one of those so-called deck-saloon yachts with windows so high overhead you can’t see out. I had seen another boat that Bob Perry designed with a hard dodger, which makes sense to me. Why build a yacht this size and then snap on a lot of canvas that soon will look like dog meat?”
The hard dodger on Free Range Chicken is man-sized, all right, and besides providing lots of shelter, it also has the main traveler mounted on it, so the mainsheet on a flying gybe can do no harm (to humans). This fits the character of a yacht designed to facilitate shorthanded cruising—in a racing hull—while still being able to accommodate a racing crew.
Under current rating rules, Bob Perry says, the penalty for including a complete interior on a boat has been reduced to a point where dual-purpose boats can be competitive “in almost all fleets.” Perry, who is far better known for his cruising designs, jokes that Anderson came to him the first time “because he thought my name on the drawings would get him a better PHRF rating. He even had me put ‘Cruising Cutter’ on all the drawings.”
As Anderson is quick to point out, custom designs and PHRF committees have never gotten along all that well. Preparing his new yacht for the race to Mexico, he said, “I’ll take a rating of 30 as a compliment. After Mexico, we’ll race in the Pacific Cup to Hawaii in July to get ourselves out there. Then we’re heading for the South Pacific.”
Perry has drawn for Anderson a yacht that has a sleek profile in spite of its generous house. To keep the structure light, Westerly built the hull over a male mold using an E-glass composite with biaxial fabrics on the inner skin, followed by an Airex C70 core with an outer skin of a Kevlar/E-glass hybrid plus unidirectional E-glass. The epoxy resin was applied with rollers, then was vacuum-consolidated. The hull was then oven-cured under vacuum at 160F.
The deck was built in a female mold using a combination of biaxial cloth with unidirectional E-glass reinforcements. The deck is foam cored, except at load points, where end-grain balsa is used. The bulkheads were foam cored, with E-glass reinforcements, and then vaccuum-bagged. A cherry veneer was laid on 3-millimeter plywood and epoxied to the bulkheads.
All chainplates are carbon-fiber strapping. Carbon has also been used for the traveler arch and hard-top bimini, helping to minimize weight above the deck. The hull and deck structure was then returned to the oven for post-curing.
Ballenger Spars (www.ballengerspars.com) built the aluminum mast, which is supported by discontinuous Navtec (www.navtec.net) rod rigging. The boom features a Leisure Furl in-boom furling system. The primary, halyard, and mainsheet winches are all electric Lewmars.
“Our goal was to have a yacht we could race when we wanted that wouldn’t be a pig in light air,” Anderson says. “Perry’s first design for us, Stealth Chicken, was comfortable enough, but it was still considered a ULDB in Southern California racing. Because we’re going cruising with Free Range Chicken, we’ve made each winch independent, and we’ve included a lot of redundant systems. For example, we have two 140-amp, 24-volt alternators. There’s also a 4,000-watt inverter and AGM batteries for rapid charging. We also have a chain counter in the cockpit. In short, we are trying to do everything right for shorthanded sailing.”
The cockpit is comfortable, under sail or at anchor, and includes a pair of pushpit seats from which the deck can be surveyed in a state of majestic repose. The double-ended mainsheet leads to electric #54 Lewmar winches mounted just forward of the twin wheels—another nice touch for shorthanded sailing. Crew moving out of the cockpit and forward on deck feel secure, thanks to extra-high lifelines and a hefty grabrail that starts on the dodger and leads down and forward along the cabintop. Storage areas accessible from the cockpit include space for a dedicated bracket for a dinghy outboard and a built-in dive compressor.
Moving from the cockpit to the interior is easy, and there is so muchvisual space and natural light belowdecks that it feels like part of the world outside. In port or under way, there are ample views. And just as Anderson wanted, whether you’re sitting, standing, or walking, there is plenty of man-sized elbowroom.
The layout is designed for two couples cruising together, with seaberths in the large main cabin for hot-bunking racing crew on the way to Mexico or Hawaii. The large L-shaped galley is to port, conveniently close to the companionway, with a commercial-grade oversized double sink on centerline. That detail says a lot. Bob Perry loves to cook, and he’s a man of strong opinions when it comes to designing a proper galley.
The galley includes four independent Sea Frost 24-volt refrigeration and freezer units. Each has an owner-designed sliding drawer—there will be no groping (“Honey, could you hand me the flashlight”) for hidden items—plus there is a bonus fridge handy in the cockpit. Countertops in the galley and elsewhere are an epoxy-granite composite just 1/4 inch thick; it is reputedly lighter and less expensive than Corian.
Under way at night the blue LED lights overhead feel very space age, and they are bright enough to reveal the close attention paid to every detail, including upholstery in which the pattern matches from panel to panel.
The owner’s stateroom is forward. Anderson acknowledges it is not a comfortable place to sleep whileat sea, but notes that “the berths in the main cabin have leecloths, and under way we don’t all sleep at the same time.” The head has a dedicated shower stall (a man-sized space, of course) that can double as a wet locker.
The yacht is designed so people remain dry in the cockpit under almost all circumstances. It also likes to be set free to fly downwind as often as possible. The easily driven hull is happy in light winds, but strong haunches should keep her happy running off in big trade-wind breezes as she sails toward islands where free-range chicken is the only kind you’ll find.
Designer: Robert H. Perry
Yacht Designers, Inc.
5801 Phinney Avenue N., Suite 100 Seattle, WA 98103
Tel. 206-789-7212; www.perryboat.com
Builder: Westerly Marine
3535 W. Garry Avenue
Santa Ana, CA 92704
LOA – 59′
LWL – 51’9”
Beam – 16′
Draft – 8′
Displacement – 38,000 pounds
Ballast – 13,750 pounds
Sail area – 1,652 sq ft (100% foretriangle)
Auxiliary – 124-horsepower Yanmar diesel
Fuel – 336 gal
Water – 220 gal
Sail area-displ. Ratio – 23.38
Displ.-length ratio – 122