When Garry Hoyt began thinking about a new 28-footer, he wanted to avoid the two things he felt were keeping sailors from spending more time on the water. The first was an overly complex sailplan. The second was a boat that required a lot of crew to sail. He called the result of that thinking the Alerion Express 28. It’s a boat that can be sailed easily by one person in pretty much any conditions. Almost 350 of them have been built. A 33- and 38-footer of a similar pedigree followed.
In a somewhat ironic turn of events, though, the boats’ fine sailing abilities have prompted many of their owners to start racing at the club level. Inevitably many of them began to modify their headsail and deck layouts to squeeze out a little more performance. Of course, when improved performance becomes a focus on boats this size, it’s almost a sure bet that more than one person will be aboard to help out. While some might call it an unintended consequence of the original idea, the results have been happy for everyone involved.
It’s also why Pearson Design Group has complemented the original Express 33 line with a new performance-oriented “Sport” version. I went aboard hull #1, built for a former successful grand prix owner who had campaigned many 50 footers, on a beautiful fall day last September.
Although the Sport 33 hull is identical to the balsa-cored Express 33, the deck configuration is new and weighs almost 700 pounds less. A tiller also replaces the wheel that dominates the back of the Express cockpit. This means the helmsman can sit farther forward in the cockpit and the seating benches on either side of the rudder post can be removed to open up the area for strategists, trimmers or friends.
The boat’s self-tacking roller furling jib profile remains, but the Hoyt boom, which is standard on the Express 33, has been replaced by a curved traveler track just forward of the carbon mast and a jibsheet with both coarse and fine tuning for fingertip control. Overlapping headsails are also available.
All lines are within easy reach of the helmsman, and spacious line boxes molded in at the forward end of the cockpit not only hold the winch handles but effortlessly swallow all control-line tails.
Belowdecks, things are much the same aboard the Sport model as they are on the Express 33, including the signature full-length 6ft 4in V-berth forward. One nice improvement is a redesigned anchor storage area that no longer intrudes into the V-berth area. There’s also a new dedicated wet locker in the head area for hanging up foul weather gear.
All the cruising basics, including sink, stove, refrigerator and trash can, remain. A 20hp Yanmar diesel with sail drive powers the boat at 7 knots whenever getting home at a given time becomes a priority.
Tiller steering is always a joy, and in a 10-12 knot northwesterly breeze, the boat frolicked under full main and jib. Tacking was quick and effortless, and the 33 powered up quickly on each new tack at very impressive close-hauled angles.
Putting the coarse and fine-tune control lines to work produced almost instant positive feedback from the optional Tacktick displays mounted at the base of the mast. While it would have been nice to set the optional asymmetric spinnaker, the sail was back on the dock, and wishing it were onboard wasn’t going to change things. Oh well, now I had a reason to come back.
LOA 33ft // LWL 26ft 4in
BEAM 9ft 3in // DRAFT 5ft
DISPLACEMENT 8,000lb // BALLAST 3,300lb
SAIL AREA 609ft2
FUEL/WATER (GAL) 18/16
ENGINE 20hp Yanmar diesel/Saildrive
DESIGNER Pearson Design Group
BUILDER Alerion Express, Warren, RI, 401-247-3000
PRICE $200,000 base boat (FOB Warren, RI)