New Boats: Malbec 18

Author:
Publish date:
An elegant cruising boat from Argentina by way of California 

An elegant cruising boat from Argentina by way of California 

It turns out there’s a reason why this handy new trailer-sailing pocket cruiser, with its hard-chined hull and jaunty appearance, is vaguely reminiscent of the old West Wight Potter. It seems boatbuilder Ken Lange was devoted to the old Potter and ran the company that builds the boats, International Marine, before getting turfed out of the business by a Chinese investment group. In looking for a new project he soon found Argentine designer Heraldo Ruesch, who had just developed a new boat—he called it the Ruesch 5.5—that tugged at Ken’s heart. A deal was struck, the boat was renamed after a popular Argentine wine, and production commenced in California. The first two boats that popped out of the mold, curiously, were given away as prizes on The Price Is Right.

I will say this new boat looks much sleeker and more attractive than the old 15ft Potter. With a relatively fine bow, a high-aspect fractional rig and a neatly sculpted cabinhouse, it reads as a considerably more modern boat. Still, it is a simple one. Construction is straightforward: both deck and hull are hand-laid solid laminate with a few dabs of lead ballast set in the hull forward and in the centerboard to help keep things upright. The interior is utilitarian, taken up primarily with a V-berth and a pair of long settee berths, with room left over for an ice chest, a small chemical toilet and a one-burner Jetboil swing stove.

I sailed the boat with Ken in pleasant, unchallenging conditions on Chesapeake Bay off Annapolis. The true wind was blowing just 3-7 knots, and we could have made good use of the optional genoa (98ft2) or the optional asymmetric spinnaker (120ft2). Instead, we had just the mainsail and a standard working jib (55ft2), but still we managed well enough.

The boat made up to 3.5 knots of speed sailing close-hauled at a 40-degree apparent wind angle and sometimes touched 5 when we cracked off to a close reach. Even when bearing away, first to a broad reach and then dead downwind (sailing wind-and-wing with Ken’s extended arm playing the role of a whisker pole) we always kept moving at 2 knots. There was very good helm feel throughout, so the boat was rewarding to sail, even in light air flying less canvas than we would have liked. I did note the mainsail had two sets of reef points. I suspect the boat, with its relatively flat bottom, will plane readily in strong conditions.

The Malbec comes standard with an aluminum rig from U.S. Spars and deck hardware from Ronstan. For ventilation below, there is a foredeck hatch from Bomar. The sail controls are quite simple, with a boom vang but no mainsheet traveler. I found the mainsheet and centerboard controls were easy to reach from the helm, and though the jib sheets will require a singlehander to stretch a bit, only those with truly short arms will find this challenging.

Our test boat was also equipped with a unique raised stainless steel grabrail around the cockpit. As freeboard on the boat is fairly low, some will find this provides a sense of added security, particularly when the wind is up. I found it also serves admirably as a backrest.

All up the Malbec weighs just 1,500lb and does not require a heavy trailer when on the road. I expect most automobiles will be able to tow the boat without any trouble. As for auxiliary power, we ran our test boat with a 2.5hp propane-fueled Lehr outboard, which I thought worked very well, although those expecting to motor long distances may want to invest in a larger gas-fueled engine. 

Malbec-18-Sail-Plan

Specifications

LOA 18ft LWL 16ft BEAM 7ft 2in

DRAFT 3ft 9in (board down); 1ft (board up)

DISPLACEMENT 1,500lb

BALLAST 540lb

SAIL AREA 157ft

ENGINE 2.5hp outboard

BALLAST RATIO 36

SA/D RATIO 19 D/L RATIO 163

What do these ratios mean? Visit sailmagazine.com/ratios

DESIGNER Heraldo N. Ruesch

BUILDER Ventura Sport Boats, Oxnard, CA, 805-303-0003, venturasportboats.com

PRICE at time of publication $19,795

April 2018

Related

TOTW_PromoSite

SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell. Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.com No chafe, safe stay  If you’re leaving the boat unattended for a longish period, there’s a lot to be said for cow-hitching the shorelines, as this sailor did. They’ll never let go, and so long as the ...read more

belize600x

Charter Special: Belize

It would be hard to imagine a more secure spot than the Sunsail base on the outskirts of the beachside community of Placencia, Belize. The entire marina is protected by a robust seawall with a channel scarcely a few boatlengths across. It’s also located far enough up Placencia ...read more

DSC00247

DIY: a Top-to-Bottom Refit

I found my sailing “dream boat” in the spring of 1979 while racing on Lake St. Clair in Michigan. Everyone had heard about the hot new boat in town, and we were anxiously awaiting the appearance of this new Pearson 40. She made it to the starting line just before the race ...read more

01-oysteryachts-regattas-loropiana2016_063

Light-air Sails and How to Handle Them

In the second of a two-part series on light-air sails, Rupert Holmes looks at how today’s furling gear has revolutionized sail handling off the wind. Read part 1 here. It’s easy to look at long-distance racing yachts of 60ft and above with multiple downwind sails set on roller ...read more

HanseCharles

Video Tour: Hanse 348

“It’s a smaller-size Hanse cruiser, but with some big-boat features,” says SAIL’s Cruising Editor, Charles J. Doane. At last fall’s Annapolis Boat Show, Doane had a chance to take a close look at the new Hanse 348. Some of the boat’s highlights include under-deck galleries for ...read more

amalfitown

Charter Destination: Amalfi Coast

Prego! Weeks after returning from our Italian flotilla trip last summer, I was still feeling the relaxed atmosphere of the Amalfi Coast. It’s a Mediterranean paradise, with crystal-clear waters, charming hillside towns and cliffside villages, plenty of delicious food and wine, ...read more

image005

Inside or Outside When Sailing the ICW

Last April, my wife, Marjorie, and I decided to take our Tartan 4100, Meri, north to Maryland from her winter home in Hobe Sound, Florida. This, in turn, meant deciding whether to stay in the “Ditch” for the duration or go offshore part of the way. Although we had both been ...read more

MK1_30542

SailGP: There’s a New Sailing Series in Town

San Francisco was the venue of the biggest come-from-behind victory in the history of the America’s Cup when Oracle Team USA beat Emirates Team New Zealand in 2013, so it seems only fitting that the first American round of Larry Ellison’s new SailGP pro sailing series will be ...read more