Late last fall, I looked over a partly completed hull sitting in a small workshop at a boatyard in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Even minus keel, paint, trim and other essentials, it was apparent that this would be a fast and attractive boat. Less than four weeks later, with snow carpeting the small islands off Marblehead, the boat was being sea-trialed; and yes, it was indeed fast and attractive.
It takes a bit of moxie for a small company to develop a new sailboat in the middle of a recession that’s hit the luxury goods market hard; either that, or having a clear vision of what’s at the other end of the financial tunnel.
Chris Hood, proprietor of CW Hood Yachts, is the nephew of none other than Ted Hood, who also started his sailmaking and boatbuilding businesses in Marblehead before moving to Rhode Island. After spending his formative years building powerboats, Chris upped stakes and moved to Marblehead, establishing himself a half-mile or so from Ted’s old loft and boatyards.
He still builds power cruisers, but it seems Chris’s true passion lies with sailboats. The CW Hood 32 is the first of what he hopes will become a full range of daysailers. Designed in-house by Chris and Ben Stoddard, the boat embodies the old dictum that what looks right is right. Long overhangs, a subtle sheerline, a slim beam and a long and deep cockpit all bespeak tradition; but the underwater lines and tall rig are as modern as they come, and the build is sophisticated too.
The hull and deck are laid up by hand and vacuum-bagged, with vinylester and orthophthalic resins infused into biaxial rovings and mat sandwiching a Core cell foam core. After the two moldings are bonded together the result is a light, stiff construction; the boat displaces little more than a ton, which makes it both easily driven under sail and easily transportable via trailer.
I seized the opportunity to sail the 32 on a sparkling spring morning off Marblehead, in around 7-10 knots of wind. Hull #1 was equipped with an aluminum spar instead of the lighter Seldn carbon one that will be standard, but the extra weight aloft made little difference in those conditions. The boat performed exactly as I’d envisaged: the long, slender hull heeled to the breeze and accelerated as the long overhangs kissed the water, and soon the GPS was reading close to 7 knots as we knifed to weather.
Thanks to the self-tacking jib, going about was merely a matter of putting the carbon fiber tiller over and pulling the traveler up to weather as the boat spun. With no compass on board, it was not possible to gauge tacking angles, but the boat certainly felt closewinded. With the shallow draft in mind I expected it to make some leeway, but even hard on the breeze there was no sign of the shoal keel losing its grip on the water.
The combination of low-aspect ratio keel and large rudder is a good one; the boat both tracks well and responds instantly to tiller input. It virtually sails itself to windward once the sails are trimmed correctly. The builders have worked out a smart barber hauler system that pulls the self-tacking jib’s clew closer to the centerline when hard on the wind, thus eliminating one of the sail’s weak points. There are no winches on board, and all sail controls bar the mainsheet are set out in two rows. It is all very logical and well thought out.
Boats like the CW Hood 32 lay out a compelling case for the joys of simplicity. All you need is a sunny day, a good breeze and a boat like this to remind yourself why you fell in love with sailing in the first place
LOA: 32ft 3in
LWL: 20 ft
BEAM: 6ft 10in
SAIL AREA: 280 sq ft (100% FT)
DESIGNER: CW Hood Yacht Design
BUILDER:CW Hood Yachts, Marblehead, MA, 781-631-0192
BALLAST-DISPLACEMENT RATIO: 48%
SAIL AREA-DISPLACEMENT RATIO: 22.8
DISPLACEMENT-LENGTH RATIO: 153