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Sometimes you just need to go for a sail. It is not a recognised cognitive therapy with the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists but it should be and every time you do it you wonder why you don’t do it more often.
In the time-poor money rich world in which we find ourselves, the concept of the day-sailer makes sense. Day sailing means you don’t need the vast accommodation and hull of a cruising yacht nor the cast of thousands and complicated gear required to race around the buoys. You just need something simple that’s easy to maintain and that you can sneak in a sail during a spare two hours on a Wednesday afternoon when no one’s looking.
It’s a concept that’s gaining traction and firmly at the front of it all is Netherlands-based Saffier Yachts which has just appointed its Australasian dealership in New Zealand. The first of its seven elegant designs to hit the water in New Zealand is the Saffier SC8 cabin. She is named Hapaira and is already catching much attention among the waterfront loafers of Lake Wanaka.
Saffier Yachts is owed by brothers Dennis and Dean Hennevanger. After sailing to the Netherlands from their home in Australia their father Richard formed the company, which they now operate. The boys learned a lot about sailing on the way and Dean has managed to design a stable of elegant boats that have become renowned for their head-turning looks and definitive design.
Rather than go for the caravan-on-the-water approach to cruising-yacht-design, Saffier has stuck firmly with sailing ability as the primary criteria. With cruising accommodation out of the picture the design focuses entirely on making sailing pleasurable with a welcome side effect is that the boats have beautiful, well-proportioned lines. Hapaira’s hull is constructed in solid 7mm polyester laminate rising to 22mm in the keel sections while the decks are foam core and reinforced by marine ply backing pads in high-stress areas. This makes for a solid-feeling boat. The keel/mast step section of the hull is reinforced with four box-section stiffeners that take the stress from the keel bolts, which are connected to a solid lead keel.
Yacht design can be a fussy business full of compromise, but as anyone who sails for pleasure knows, the more stuff you get rid of the better the experience. The Saffier SC8 is a boat that’s been designed down to the finest detail. Someone has done the hard work for you.
Her dominant feature is the commodious cockpit which is at the heart of the day-sailer experience – and keeping it clean and functional is the key. Over two metres of cockpit length is supported by a coaming each side – and it’s found the magic balance for comfort that still allows you to experience the water rushing past the rail. Cockpit ergonomics are excellent with comfortable backrest angles and foot bracing distances reducing any chance of fatigue.
The 4:1 mainsheet is attached to a fixed point aft of the rudder post with the final lead to a mid-cockpit post. This makes the mainsheet control always to hand and free from the complication of a traveller arrangement cutting the cockpit in half. Any twist in the mainsail is dealt with by the Selden Vang/topping lift Rodkick arrangement.
The cabin top is where most of the sail controls finish and with the aid of a couple of Harken winches, everything is well-tamed. The port side winch is electric which knocks out the bleeding knuckle exertion that’s best avoided in old age.
On the foredeck, the self-tacking jib has its furler drum recessed below decks giving a sleek look to the whole operation. Forward of this is the anchor locker with the water filler cap at its base. Further stowage is available in the commodious aft locker.
Decks are finished in Esthec synthetic teak, an elegant, strong and maintenance-free solution that can only be differentiated from the real thing by placing your nose in close proximity to the deck.
One of the boat’s most innovative features is the positioning of the reverse-mounted Yanmar 2YM15. It drives a two-bladed folding prop through a sail drive arrangement. Its positioning means keeps it out of the way and it has the economy, simplicity and elegance that far eclipses the outboard-well arrangements you usually see on boats of this size.
The entire cockpit layout revolves around the idea that one person can do it all. From engine controls to raising sails, it is a one-person job and that’s what makes this a viable day-sailer. Any flaky friends who flip-flop on their sailing commitments will not ruin your day with this boat.
As you would expect with the day-sailing brief, accommodation is not a high priority for Hapaira, yet here again is some Dutch design genius. The open-plan interior has large forward berth with a quarter berth to starboard and a settee to port.
There is comfortable sitting headroom and standing headroom in the large hatchway. The galley is a simple sink and Origo cooker arrangement, which eliminates the need for LPG aboard. There is a toilet under the forward berth, with a holding tank and privacy screen if you’re caught short.
Beneath the companionway is an Isotherm 32-litre fridge to keep the beers cold and plenty of storage throughout the cabin. It’s a comfortable arrangement for a weekend or overnight and the design uses every opportunity to maximise space.
On the water
At the dock Hapaira looks like of a modern version of the folk boat. She is all elegant lines and simple systems that bode well for simple sailing pleasure. The lines have been drawn so that each curve is relaxed and not trying too hard to make more room or finish too early, which is a temptation on boats designed around their accommodation first. This is clearly a boat that’s designed to sail.
Once aboard she feels more like a keelboat – none of the flighty dinghy sensation a trailer-sailer often imbues. The cockpit is the central feature and with the traveller eliminated it’s a comfortable socialising space. It is perhaps this piece of design that would make non-sailing guests feel most at home.
With Saffier Yachts Australasia co-director Greg West aboard we motored out into Lake Wanaka looking for some breeze. The Yanmar purred away quietly – the easily-driven hull moving effortlessly. All control systems are within easy reach and the inclusion of a permanently-attached Raymarine autopilot below deck proves the designers have put the needs of the short-handed sailor to the fore.
The Harken electric winch made short work of hoisting the mainsail while we mooched over to a promising patch of wind on the south shore of the lake. Even in light wind drift mode, Hapaira was able to keep moving. We experimented with the code zero and trim, clutching at zephyrs. It was beer-drinking weather but there was none aboard.
Boating New Zealand’s co-owner Tim Porter was at the helm of the photo boat. Tim knows everyone in Wanaka including the local wind Gods. He got on the phone and before you knew it we were presented with a nice 10-12 knot draft down the lake.
With the breeze kicking in we were able to get the full Saffier experience. Upwind we to slipped into the groove easily, reeling off 5-6 knots with a helm so well-balanced she sailed herself just as well as I could. Downwind it was simplicity itself to furl the jib and crack the code zero for some delightful broad reaching at 6-7 knots. This was sailing for sailing’s sake and, as it happens, it was all happening on a spare couple of hours on a Wednesday afternoon.
All the sail controls were there for the tweaking but after a time it was just great to solve the world’s problems with Greg while the boat did the sailing. The systems had been sorted so that there was no panic or fuss and the hull spoke volumes in the breeze – enough to tell me that she could handle a lot more weather.
One classy little lady./>