SAIL's Best Boats 2014: Alerion 41
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. The company has now extended this philosophy into the 40-foot range with the Alerion 41. Recently, we stepped on board hull No. 1 in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, to experience it for ourselves.
While it might be an exaggeration to say the Alerion 41 does it all, it would not be an exaggeration to say this new design comes pretty darn close.
Do your tastes run to a boat that offers sparkling performance in a wide range of conditions? With its modern underbody, long sleek hull and generous sailplan, the Alerion 41 has performance to spare. Are you looking for a boat that is easy to singlehand? A well laid-out deck configuration, self-tacking jib and absolutely magnificent helm station make this boat a breeze to handle. Better yet, the sail plan has been precisely proportioned so that it sails equally well under main or reefed main alone: think an oversized Laser with a wheel and a comfy place to get in out of the rain. Are you looking for a boat that is drop-dead gorgeous with generous overhangs and a heart-breaking sheerline? Well, we’ll let the photo handle that one.
The Alerion 41 also boasts a wealth of features that make it as practical as it is good looking. Forward, for example, there is a carefully engineered retractable bow roller that preserves the boat’s clean lines and won’t mash your fingers as you’re getting ready to drop the hook. Aft there is a cleverly engineered drop-down swing step in the reverse transom, while belowdecks the many extras include removable arm rests on the settees, automatic lighting in the hanging lockers and even a drop-down shower seat that keeps the toilet from getting drenched.
The hull and deck are both built using the SCRIMP method and include a balsa core, while the deck includes carbon inserts to support high-load areas, like those under winches and cleats. As for the joinery work belowdecks, it is nothing less than a work of art. All-in-all winner in the truest sense of the word.
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.
The A41 is a strikingly good-looking boat. Her navy hull, elegant sheer, low coach roof and slick elliptical portlights combine with her steel rod rigging and carbon fiber mast to create a classic New England look. Hull No. 1 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 with a pin on deck. 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.
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 enough 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 has 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.
When we first cast off, there were more than a few snowflakes falling into 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 Alerion 41 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 chop. 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 Alerion 41 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 A41. 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, Bryant recommends furling the jib and reefing the main, which with its full roach and no backstay, allows it to then 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.”
It took only a minute to lower the mainsail into the V-boom so we could test out the engine. The Yanmar 40hp got up to around 7 knots at full throttle and could spin a circle in her own length. The Gori folding prop took a moment to transfer momentum into reverse, but once she got going, she was equally maneuverable backwards. The engine is located under the cockpit sole, and access is, once again, clever. The teak cockpit floor lifts up on a hinge to reveal the engine and a person-sized standing pit. Step down into the sole, remove a lightweight divider, and you’ll have full access. Though the engine is centrally located, noise levels were negligible in the cockpit and below.
If you’re looking to sail a good-looking boat with a classic appearance, a performance rig and a menagerie of clever design details, the Alerion 41 is just about right. She can sleep six on an overnight cruise or accommodate a solo sailor on an afternoon outing. She’s fun to sail, comfortable to be aboard and nice to look at.
HEADROOM 6ft 4in
BERTHS 7ft x 4ft (aft); 6ft 9in x 6ft 4in (fwd)
LOA 40ft 6in // LWL 30ft 6in
BEAM 11ft 2in
DRAFT 5ft 11in
SAIL AREA 942ft2
FUEL/WATER/WASTE (GAL) 40/52/30
ENGINE 40hp Yanmar
ELECTRICAL 12VCD 2 x 4d AGM house batteries, 1 group 31 engine battery
DESIGNER Alerion Yachts Inc.
BUILDER USWatercraft, 373 Market Street, Warren, RI
U.S. AGENT Alerion Yachts