For the past 40 years Chuck Paine has sailed a classic Herreshoff 12½ named Petunia and has always proclaimed to any who will listen that she is the best boat ever conceived by mortal man. Not that he didn’t have some complaints: Petunia, he’ll tell you, is a bit overweight, a tad under-canvassed, a bear to trailer, can’t sail under main alone and is inclined to sink when filled with water.
So, what’s a veteran naval architect to do? Is it possible to improve upon perfection? At the very least, Paine knew he could address his own particular complaints, and so set out to build a better Petunia, which in turn became the Paine 14, winner of a 2014 SAIL Best Boats award in the daysailer category.
Compared to Nat Herreshoff’s iconic daysailer, Paine’s boat is almost two feet shorter overall (14ft versus 15ft 10in) and a bit over a foot shorter on the waterline (11ft 2in versus 12ft 6in). It is also drastically lighter (850lb versus 1,500lb) and carries proportionally more sail area, with a sail area-displacement ratio of 19 versus 17. Overall, Paine describes his boat as being 10 percent smaller and 40 percent lighter than its predecessor. Visually its hull closely mimics that of the older boat above the waterline, but is radically different under the water, with a NACA foil fin keel and a svelte dagger-like transom-hung spade rudder.
Unlike the original, this new boat can, in fact, be sailed under mainsail alone and is unsinkable, thanks to a pair of large flotation compartments fore and aft. Its rig is also considerably simpler, with an unstayed carbon-fiber mast and a mainsail that is bent on to its spars with sturdy Velcro straps. The club-footed jib sets on its own luff.
[I test-sailed the boat in almost no wind on Spa Creek outside Annapolis and was immediately captivated by it. In one sense, at least, these were perfect conditions, as this is how many people actually use such boats—drifting idly about an anchorage, ogling other boats while watching carefully for each cat’s paw of breeze.
[advertisement]The Paine 14 feels reassuringly solid, thanks to some serious ballast in its keel (almost half the boat’s displacement), but it remains quite nimble in light air. I had no problem sailing the boat efficiently upwind in 3 knots of wind (or less) against a mild countercurrent. It gets going easily, thanks to its reduced wetted surface area, but still has enough weight to carry momentum through voids in the wind.
Just as importantly, the Paine 14 feels like a true classic daysailer when you are sitting in it. The warm glow of its varnished trim, the stolid feel underfoot of its slatted-wood cockpit sole and the elegant simplicity of its bronze hardware are all intensely evocative of the boat that inspired it. The sail controls fall perfectly to hand, and the cockpit ergonomics are so seamless you feel you are wearing the boat like a piece of intimate apparel.
Paine did, in fact, design this boat for his own use and describes hull #1, Amelia, which he built himself in cold-molded wood, as “the most expensive 14ft boat in the world.” Fortunately for the rest of us, enough people have expressed interest that French & Webb is now offering both fiberglass and cold-molded boats for considerably less than what it cost Paine to build his. The glass and wood hulls both weigh the same, so it will be possible for all boats to race together on a one-design basis.
LOA 14ft LWL 11ft 2in BEAM 5ft 3in
DRAFT 2ft 3in
SAIL AREA 107ft²
Ballast RATIO 45% SA/D RATIO 19 D/L RATIO 273
What do these ratios mean? Visit sailmagazine.com/ratios
DESIGNER Chuck Paine, chuckpaine.com
BUILDER French & Webb, Belfast, ME,
Photo courtesy of Chuck Paine; illustration by Pip Hurn