Boat Review: Seascape 18
How’s this for convenience? I got the word from SAIL HQ that I should test-sail the Seascape 18 from Slovenia, recently introduced to these shores, and it turns out the new U.S. rep is based in Kittery, Maine, mere footsteps from my home in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Even better, on arriving at the town dock in Kittery I found out I’d be sailing with Andraz Mihelin, one of the masterminds behind the whole Seascape concept.
Which is as follows: take the current hot monohull-racing hull form—fine plumb bow, wide hindquarters, plus hard-chined topsides—and insert one super-simplified performance rig with easy-to-use controls so that mere mortals can have fun sailing fast without getting the pants scared off them.
Seascape, which was founded by two hot-shot Mini-Transat racers (Andraz and his buddy Kristian Hajnsek), introduced the 18, the company’s first boat, just six years ago in Europe and have already sold several hundred hulls, in the process fostering a burgeoning one-design racing scene. They’ve since followed with a Seascape 27, which was actually introduced here before the 18, and the Seascape 24.
Sailing the 18 with Andraz was like getting the gospel straight from the prophet’s mouth. “The idea behind the boat,” he explained as we shot away from the dock, “is to have 80 percent of the fun of sailing a Mini with 20 percent of the work.”
Convenience-wise the boat is just that. The tubular carbon-fiber mast, which weighs just 30lb, is supported by a fractional headstay and two straight shrouds with no backstay or spreaders. Underwater appendages consist of an easy-to-control ballasted swing keel and two retractable rudders in cassettes. The whole boat weighs just a tad over 1,000lb, and it takes just a little over 20 minutes to get it from a trailer into the water fully rigged.
And yes, it is definitely a thrill to sail. We had a blast skating around off the mouth of the Piscataqua River in what turned out to be ideal test conditions. The breeze built up from 8 to 20 knots, and we had little trouble hitting speeds well over 10 knots. We also had little trouble controlling the boat. No panic. No near broaches. Nothing but the good stuff.
We also set and struck the easily handled A-sail, which flies at the end of a long retractable bowsprit, by pulling it in and out of its deck sock on its continuous halyard. Closehauled with just the roller-furling jib flying forward of the mast we cut apparent wind angles well inside 25 degrees. And when the gusts came through, the top of the big square-headed mainsail fell away, the mast bent a bit in the right direction, and the sail magically depowered itself. When that wasn’t enough and we had to take action ourselves, the counter-intuitive trick Andraz taught me was to ease the jib sheet rather than the mainsheet, as this was the best way to manually depower the backstay-less rig without throwing slack into the headstay.
Andraz truly is an evangelist and is full of neat ideas on how to have fun competing in these boats. He envisions round-the-island time trials where skippers pick their start times and online global “best game” contests where skippers on boats with transponders post and compare their best 500-meter speed runs.
That said, he also sees the boat as a fun camp cruiser and regaled me with the tale of a young Austrian couple who circumnavigated southeastern Europe on their Seascape 18, cruising down the Danube River, through the Black Sea, the Greek archipelago and up the Adriatic. The boat’s cuddy-cave cabin is decidedly Spartan, with not much more than a full-length double V-berth inside, but you can set up a tent over the cockpit to expand the accommodations, and the boat is easily beached so you can spread out onshore too.
All in all the boat is a very exciting package and should check all or most boxes on the lists of buyers looking for a fun, affordable, versatile and easy-to-manage sport boat.
BEAM 7ft 9in
DRAFT 4ft 11in (keel down); 1ft (keel up)
SAIL AREA 248ft2 (main and jib)
BALLAST RATIO 25
SA/D RATIO 37 (main and jib)
D/L RATIO 84
DESIGNER Samuel Manuard
BUILDER Seascape, Ljubljana, Slovenia
US DISTRIBUTOR Seascape USA, Kittery, ME, 207-703-0307, www.seascapeusa.com
PRICE $31,400 (sailaway) at time of publication
Correction: The price in the printed version of NB&G was accidentally transposed. The above price is correct.