Just Launched: Blue Jacket 40, HPS 38 & Cornish Shrimper 19

You’re about to read a sneak preview of a sharp-looking new performance cruiser from Island Packet. Yes, you read it right—that Island Packet, the one renowned for tough, long-keeled, bluewater cruising yachts.
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You’re about to read a sneak preview of a sharp-looking new performance cruiser from Island Packet. Yes, you read it right—that Island Packet, the one renowned for tough, long-keeled, bluewater cruising yachts.

The Blue Jacket 40 is the first of a line of new fast cruisers designed by Tim Jackett and built at Island Packet’s Largo, Florida plant. To the Island Packet faithful, this news may reek of apostasy; after all, with 2,500 Island Packets already sailing the world’s oceans, why mess with a proven formula?

First off, says Island Packet Yachts CEO and designer Bob Johnson, the Blue Jacket 40 line will complement, not replace, the Island Packet family—“the two product lines address different market segments with different sets of priorities.” In other words, the new line will open a whole new market sector to Island Packet.

Jackett was for many years the chief designer for Tartan and C&C, and also has some 2,500 of his designs on the water. When he opened up his own design office last year, Johnson seized on the chance to collaborate with him on a new project. The Blue Jacket 40 combines elements of the design philosophy that made Jackett’s tenure at Tartan so successful, and also shows considerable input from Johnson.

The broad stern sections for offwind power, the large cockpit, resin-infused, foam-cored hull, finely sculpted foils and double headsail sailplan are Jackett trademarks; the self-tacking jib set on a Hoyt Forespar boom, the molded anchor sprit and the interior engineering and layout are typical Johnson/Island Packet details.

With a sail area/displacement ratio of 20 and displacement/length ratio of 172, the Blue Jacket 40 promises satisfyingly sharp performance. Such a collaboration between two respected designers, coupled with Island Packet’s build quality, should be a big success. Two more models are in the early planning stage.

There are various ways of achieving good performance and shoal draft in the same package, and Shannon Boat Company president Walt Schulz’s take on the subject is intriguing. He’s followed up his Shoalsailer 35 design of a decade ago—and the more recent HPS 53—with the HPS 38.

The letters stand for High Power Sailer, and with a choice between two 75hp diesels or a single 165hp diesel, the boat should certainly power well. A cruising speed of 12 knots under power, with a range of 500 miles, is not to be sniffed at.

But what about sailing performance? The sailplan is based around a large mainsail, with either a self-tacking jib set on a boom, or a “scutter” double headsail—genoa and working jib on furlers—combo. Schulz predicts the boat will comfortably exceed 7 knots on most points of sail.

Like Island Packet with its SP Cruiser and Moody with its 45DS, Schulz has thoroughly blurred the lines between powerboat and sailboat with the styling and layout of the HPS 38. Aft of amidships the boat is pure displacement powerboat, with a hardtop sheltering the cockpit and a hefty pilothouse containing a dinette and an inside steering station. Forward, there’s a roomy head/shower, a galley and a choice of saloon/cabin configurations, all customizable.

Able to sail or motor in three feet of water, the HPS 38 is targeted at the vast stretches of the East Coast that are out of bounds to deep-draft boats. Hull #1 should be in the water by early 2013.

“Plastic gaffers”—fiberglass derivatives of traditional workboat designs—are common in European waters, but not so much over here. These are typically pretty boats, low of freeboard and sporting tan sails and jaunty bowsprits, usually under 30 feet on deck—true “character” boats. Probably the best-known builder of such classics is Britain’s Cornish Crabbers yard, and its most popular product is the Cornish Shrimper 19.

More than 1,000 of these sweet little weekenders—yes, you can sleep and even cook aboard—have been sold over the last 30 years, and its appeal shows no sign of diminishing. Thomas Duhen of Forum Yachts in Florida is one of the latest victims of this gaff-rigged seductress and has begun importing the boats into the United States again after a gap of nearly a decade. At a boat show a few months ago, he proudly pointed out the immaculate build quality and seamanlike deck and cockpit layout of this big little boat.

At just over 2,300lbs dry, the Shrimper tows relatively easily, and the simple rig is easy to handle. Owners can specify either a small inboard diesel or an outboard in a well. The boat is not known for razor-sharp performance to windward, and it likes to be sailed free, but off the wind that big rectangular mainsail provides satisfying impetus that gives larger Bermudan-rigged boats a good fright; small wonder there is a big Shrimper racing scene.

Photo courtesy of Island Packet (top)

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