Boats

SAIL's Best Boats 2014: Alerion 41

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Alerion Yachts has long believed that sailing should be done “on your own terms,” aboard boats that are quick to rig and simple to singlehand. Now the company has extended this philosophy into the 40-foot range with the Alerion 41. This past spring, we stepped on board hull # 1 in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, to experience it for ourselves.


The hull and deck on the Alerion 41 are built using the SCRIMP approach to create a light but stiff laminate that includes a balsa core with carbon reinforcements in high-load areas, such as winches and cleats. The outer layer is vinylester to resist blistering. All bulkheads are laminated to the hull to provide additional stiffness, and the deck is attached to the hull with adhesive on an inward-turning flange. The through-bolts that secure the toerail add additional strength to the assembly. Overall construction quality is exceptional, as good as you’ll get in any production builder.

>> On Deck
The Alerion 41 is a strikingly good looking boat. Aboard hull #1, the navy topsides, elegant sheer, low coach roof and slick elliptical portlights combined with her steel rod rigging and carbon fiber mast to create a classic New England look. The boat did not have the optional lifelines, and all cleats and chocks were nestled into the side decks, which looked remarkably clean.

This aesthetic is further enhanced by the fact that the Alerion 41’s lines are uninterrupted by either an anchoring system or a swim platform. Rather, the anchor, anchor roller and windlass all tuck away in a foredeck locker, where they can be easily deployed with the help of a gas spring and then secured on deck with a pin. Similarly, the sleek-looking traditional transom cleverly transforms into a drop-down platform for deck showers, swimming and dinghy access.

The Alerion’s helm is designed for single-handing: you can steer, trim and adjust the throttle all without standing up. All lines lead aft under the deck to a pair of reversible self-tailing electric winches on either side of the helm station. The wheel itself is substantial enough for you to comfortably steer from any position, but there’s still room to walk around it into the cockpit. Cockpit benches are comfortable, with well-rounded corners and high seatbacks. An additional pair of well-thought-out rope bins conceals halyards and other lines.

The main halyard and sheet are both controlled by electric winches, making them easy to raise and trim. With two reef points and a wide V-boom pocket, the sail is easy to douse and adjust to a wide range of wind speeds. There’s no backstay, and the 8:1 traveler attaches to the stern, leaving the cockpit clutter-free.

>> Accommodations

The Alerion’s beautifully finished interior is replete with clever details. The galley is equipped with a number of purpose-built drawers and an elegant stainless steel faucet. The starboard settee includes a laptop-sized chart table that can be dropped down to seat height with the pull of a pin to create a full-length berth. Still not long enough? The 6-inch armrests fore and aft are also removable, providing more length for your extra-tall guests.

The two cabins can comfortably accommodate two couples. The aft starboard cabin includes a clever wet/dry hanging locker while the spacious forward berth has a full bureau and hanging locker, all finished in teak. Hanging lockers come standard with automatic lights, a welcome detail when you’re stumbling around in the dark. There’s enough vertical and horizontal space throughout to lie down, stand up and walk around without feeling cramped. Even the heads compartment boasts a clever touch: a drop-down cover rests atop the electric head so you can shower without dousing the toilet seat in water.

The joinery on our boat was teak, but owners can also choose cherry or traditional Herreshoff-like styling. All lights are LED and controlled by dimmers, which combine with the oval portlights and subtle track lights to create a warm, sophisticated space.

>> Under Sail

When we first cast off, there were more than a few snowflakes falling on Narragansett Bay. It was already blowing 10 knots and expected to build, so we wasted little time getting going—not that we had much choice. Once the sails were up, the boat took off. Her narrow hull created a forgiving motion  in the light chop that I suspect will also translate into an easy motion in heavier seas. The boat tacked through about 80 degrees and easily topped 9 knots on a close reach in 18-plus knots of wind. When the puffs hit, the boat would heel, load up and then dig in as the 6ft keel and ballast bulb asserted themselves. All the while, the helm remained balanced even with the main strapped in—another plus for shorthanded crews. This is not a boat in which you have to continually play the sheet to keep from rounding up in the gusts.

Alerion has a lot of experience creating sailplans that are easy on shorthanded crews, and it shows in the 41. In addition to lines being led aft and the decks being clutter-free, the rig is configured so that it will perform just as well when reefed. When the wind pipes up, Alerion’s Scott Bryant recommends furling the jib and reefing the main, which with its full roach and no backstay, allows the boat to handle much like an oversized Laser. “We want our sailors to be able to go out alone for an hour,” explained Bryant, “and still feel as though they got a good sail in.”

>> Under Power

The Alerion 41’s Yanmar 40hp yields around 7 knots of boatspeed at full throttle, and the boat easily circles in her own length. The Gori folding prop took a moment to transfer momentum into reverse, but once the boat got going, she was equally maneuverable backwards.

The engine is located under the cockpit sole, where the teak flooring lifts up on a hinge to reveal not only the engine, but a person-sized standing pit. Step down into the sole, remove a lightweight divider, and you’ll have full access: yet another clever feature aboard this boat. Though the engine is centrally located, noise levels were negligible in the cockpit and below. 

 

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