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knots at times with it… and this with your reviewer wimpishly letting the mainsheet go at every gust, until I worked out that she stood up to the wind rather better than my CBL. Not unexpectedly, the BayCruiser out-sailed the lugger on every point of sailing but I was particularly impressed with how safe the boat felt even when sudden violent gusts tried to lay us over. In that respect, she was as steady as some keelboats but when tacking or accelerating in the gusts, she was as responsive as a dinghy. I guessed that we were covering the ground about twice as fast as I would have in the lugger but I would have thought twice about taking the Four Sisters out in these conditions: strong tide, wind F5, dying away generally but gusting F7 at times.
With the ballast tanks full, the Bay Cruiser could take it all in her stride. She has a trailing weight of only 992 lbs (450kg) but once in the water, you can let another 882 lbs (400kg) of water into the ballast tanks. No wonder she's so stiff in a blow! Empty, she should fly in light airs and you can fill or pump out the ballast tanks as you sail, as conditions change. The only thing I did find fault with was the degree of weather helm she carried in the gusts - a trait she has in common with the lugger - but this was the first time this particular boat had touched the water and a certain amount of tinkering can be expected. Matt was of the opinion that raking the rudder forward Bay Raider style and moving the forestay from the foredeck to the stem head might well cure the problem. As it was, it was no problem to ease the mizzen a little - the lost drive was barely noticeable.
The BayCruiser is not simply a BayRaider with a lid. The cruiser is a little beamier – though still well within the UK and EU trailing limits – and has quite a bit more freeboard which carries back to the stern as attractive tumblehome. A boat of character, this. The mainsail is a deep-roached fullybattened job using slides and a mast track, mounted on a conventional boom with a kicker rather than the Bayraider's self vanging sprit boom. The mainsheet track is on the aft cockpit bulkhead, along with the jam cleats for the mizzen sheets so everything is handy for the helmsman. The roller furling jib was conventionally sheeted on this boat but Matt has plans for a self-tacking version – useful for single handers
– in the near future. Both masts are carbon fibre and weigh next to nothing compared with spruce but they don't look out of place. After the Cardigan Bay Lugger's simple balanced lug and sprit mizzen rig, this was all impressively high tech– not that any of it would worry the average sailor – but then the BayCruiser is a much more agile and powerful animal. The new hull shape, however, was not over pressed by all this canvas and I soon felt in control of what was happening and gave more attention to the accommodation.
The self-draining cockpit is roomy and comfortable with a coaming which comes aft from the cabin side giving good back support and a secure feeling of being in the boat rather than on it. All the important bits of string are within reach of the helm but if you have a couple of crew wanting to take charge of the jib, they will not get in the way of the helmsman in the slightest – the cockpit could seat 6 easily – and will be well sheltered by the cabin bulkhead, even without a spray hood being raised.
Having the outboard motor actually in the cockpit with you, under the clever dog-legged tiller arrangement, is much more convenient than hanging it off the stern. It's sheltered, with easy access for refuelling, although a long range tank in the seat locker would be a better arrangement. There would be no problems fitting or removing the engine and it doesn't even get in the way when raised for drag-free sailing. The shutter that closes the well keeps the ocean out and stops turbulence but it would probably not be a good idea to drop your car keys down there. Best of all, the prop is in line with and ahead