Fairly often we are asked why we sold our 44′ Fountaine Pajot catamaran, Let It Be, and bought our Hudson Hakes 55′ catamaran, Ticket to Ride. The follow up questions are usually “how different are the boats?” and “was the change worth it?”
Well the answers are pretty involved, but we must begin by saying that Frank and I would probably not have ordered an HH55 unless we were certain the cruising lifestyle worked for us. I have read that as few as 30 percent of couples who decide to live on a boat for an extended time actually complete their plan. That means about 70 percent of the partners who begin this journey do not enjoy it enough to continue as long as they planned. Before investing in Ticket to Ride, we had already learned that we enjoyed the cruising lifestyle and that it would be a long term choice for us.
Let It Be was a trustworthy boat and clearly capable of the circumnavigation recently completed on an FP 44′ by our friends Amy and David of s/v Out Chasing Stars. So obviously our decision was driven by other factors.
Rather, we were in search of three things: more space, more speed and more sailing. Plus there was a strong “why not?” factor.
Recently I read a well written blog about a couple who found cruising just wasn’t for them . The main complaints were that their boat was slow, they were the last to arrive at a destination and their motor use/sail use proportion was 73 motor/27 sail. That would be very frustrating.
The difference in how often we sail Ticket to Ride versus Let It Be is tremendous, especially because now we can sail well to windward. Clearly having dagger boards rather than mini keels is a huge advantage in sailing to windward. Combine the excellent design of our hull and dagger boards with the piercing bows and significant sail plan on TTR and we find that we sail much more than we motor. At wind angles that allow sailing, TTR usually sails faster than she can motor. Overall on TTR, I would estimate that we sail 70-80 percent of the time and here in Hawaii that percentage has risen to about 90.
I remember a particularly frustrating day when we were sailing Let It Be from Barbuda back to Antiqua. The day was beautiful but the sail was upwind and we had to tack and tack and tack because the best we could point on LIB was about 73 degrees true and 52 degrees apparent. At those angles we also suffered from side slipping so achieving our destination was time consuming and frustrating.
Later we bought some very nice North 3Di sails for Let It Be and we improved our apparent wind angle capability by about 5 degrees (68 true/47 apparent) but those angles still didn’t allow us to head to wind well and often we used our motor(s) to help.
The angles I’ve mentioned are probably pretty standard for production cats with mini-keels, so there is no shame in those numbers for Fountaine Pajot. We thoroughly enjoyed our Fountaine Pajot and are very glad LIB was our first sailboat.
Sailing Ticket to Ride is completely different because even in ocean waves we can sail at 47-50 degrees true wind angle with an apparent wind angle of about 29-30 degrees. Combine those tighter wind angles with the dagger boards which keep us from side slipping, and we actually sail where we are pointing.
Clearly pointing better allows us to sail much more directly to our destinations without using engines and that reduces frustration and improves our arrival time.
When we were route planning on LIB, we would hope to average 6 to 6.5 knots but on passage our average number of nautical miles per 24 hours tended to be about 140 or 5.8 knots of boats speed. I’m certain others with a FP Helia have better speed averages, but we were conservative about sailing a socked assymetric spinnaker at night, so that lowered our average speeds.
On Ticket to Ride, we route plan anticipating an average boat speed of 8.5 to 9 knots but we usually have better speeds than that and end up arriving earlier than expected. On TTR a 200 nm day (8.3 average) is casual and routine sailing and we have had several comfortable 250 nm days (10.42 average).
The really nice thing about the faster speeds of TTR is that what are overnight sails for many boats often become long day sails for us. This means we don’t hesitate to “pop over” to anchorages that on LIB would have required an overnight or partial night passage. Faster sailing brings more opportunities and willingness to explore additional anchorages.
The other obvious advantage of sailing faster in TTR is that our passage time is shorter so our exposure to weather is shorter. Although we do our best to avoid bad weather, if we encounter systems, we have a better chance of outrunning or avoiding storms on Ticket to Ride than we did on Let It Be.
In the article I referenced above, my take away was that two of the main frustrations were first how slow the boat sailed: “It’s pretty demoralizing to be passed by every boat on the sea, especially when it was rough out.” The second frustration was that they only sailed 20-27 percent of the time and the rest was spent motoring or motor sailing.
I completely understand how frustrating that would be and I think I would also want to throw in the towel or move to a motor cat if we were always using the motor and our speeds were slow.
The standard rigging on the HH55 is more sophisticated and precise than it was on our FP. One example is that the HH55 rigging uses Karver Hooks for reefing the main sail. Karver Hooks are fixed to the boom and attached to the mainsail through a designated loop. The benefit of the hook is that the reef is always in the same place and the reef in the sail is clean and properly aligned every time.**
On Let It Be, we had the standard 2:1 main halyard held in place with clutches and, while we could reef from the helm, our reef point varied depending on how tightly it was pulled and how well the line ran. Our reefs on LIB were not always clean and well aligned, especially at night when we could not see well.
Another example of more sophisticated rigging is the use of halyard locks for sail lines. Once we raise a sail, we make sure it is engaged in the halyard lock, then release all the pressure from the line. The sail is held aloft by the locking mechanism rather than by tension on a line. Learning to use the locks took very little practice and the benefits are; our lines are not under load when the sail is up, we have a shorter halyard because it is a 1:1 ratio instead of 2:1 length ratio, and the diameter of the line is much smaller. Removing the load from the halyards also lengthens the life of the lines and clutches.**
There are some performance sailboats that bring speed to the table but sacrifice interior space and amenities to make sure the boat remains light. We looked at a couple of performance cats that were longer overall than the HH55 but they had less interior space than our 44′ FP. The HH55 definitely has more room than our FP had.
The designer for this HH Catamaran, Morrelli and Melvin, has a long history of go fast boats including several Gunboats. The Gunboats I have seen are fast and modern, but somewhat spartan inside. Our HH is fast but also has all the luxuries we want for living aboard our boat. We think Morrelli and Melvin’s HH55 design is the perfect combination of speed and space still manageable for a couple.
When discussing the strengths of our HH, we must include the materials and manufacturing of the boat. This cat is made of carbon fiber which is strong and light. The boat has very little flex and is extremely quiet under sail – no creaking in the rigging. We have greater confidence in the strength of this boat than we did in our fiberglass sailboat. Every part manufactured at HH is cut using a CNC machine so the fit of the parts is excellent and we have confidence that each part is made to the proper specifications.
Finally, let’s talk about the “why not” factor. Frank worked very hard to provide excellent care for his patients and have a successful business. We were conservative stewards of his income and, while we lived well, we rarely spent our money on flashy cars or a lot of extremely high end items.
When considering a new sailboat, we definitely decided to let go of our circumspect mentality and buy the boat we wanted without regard to the statement it made. We sort of said, “why not” get what we want and not worry about how others perceive our choice. We decided the HH55 worked within our budget and we were going to go for it.
When looking for a new boat, we were at a point in our sailing where we could maintain our level of experience and buy a larger production boat; or we could step up the performance of the boat and our experience level by sailing a faster and slightly more sophisticated boat. We wanted to challenge ourselves and grow through the new boat.
I was more hesitant about the image of an expensive boat than Frank was, but we are extremely happy with our HH and wouldn’t change our decision. Although I was concerned the boat might put people off, she has actually increased the number of people we meet. TTR is rather eye catching and folks tend to paddle up, motor up, or approach us dockside to ask about TTR. We love meeting new people this way and sharing TTR with friends. With her ample space, Ticket to Ride is often the gathering place for sundowners or dinners and we like creating those memories and sharing our floating home.
Pictures of just a few of our guests over the last 21 months.
One final “why not” note; we both feel the importance of “loving your boat.” Big or small, mono or cat, white, pink or blue, when you approach your boat in the dinghy or welcome guests on your boat, we feel it is important to “love your boat.” We liked LIB for introducing us to the cruising lifestyle and taking us to many beautiful places. However, having the opportunity to build our own boat that meets our personal cruising needs and even have it painted the color of our choice all added to our “boat love” category.
Living on a sailboat is not all sunset cruises with umbrella drinks. Routine chores take much longer than on land and require more effort; like walking to the grocery and carrying your groceries on your walk home. Power and water must be monitored and carefully used; no more 20 minute showers with unlimited hot water. Moving from point A to point B takes a long time and if you don’t learn to enjoy the process of sailing to get to point B, you will probably not enjoy cruising. If you are a “type A” person you will need to learn to let go of the reins; a schedule is your enemy. Nature, not you, determines your timing.
Cruising is definitely more challenging than living on land and it takes some time to adjust to moving at a slower pace and expending great effort to do things that were so easy on land.
For Frank and me, sailing has worked very well. We have learned to enjoy the slower pace and embrace the rhythms of nature that guide our decisions. We have adjusted to spending all of our time together and we have become a team, focusing on the same goals.
I hope this offers a little understanding of why we chose to move from our Helia 44 to the HH55. If you have questions, feel free to write them in the comments and we will do our best to respond.
**These features may not be included in the 55′ Ocean Series or the HH50 Catamarans.
Mary Grace and I try to keep our blog focused on the positive, explain some of the difficulties we encounter and try to give our readers a realistic view of our sailing lives. Our relationships with the vast majority of our suppliers and technical support have been positive and very helpful. For example, customer support for CZone / Mastervolt, Hudson Yacht, Northern Lights, Spectra, PYI, and Harken I would rate excellent; the support from B & G electronics I would rate average, and a few others such as Magma and Pochon Electronics score below average. Unfortunately, we had a long, difficult and very poor recent customer experience with our sail maker, Doyle New Zealand, which is the reason and the topic for this writing. I am truly sad that I feel compelled to write this article; however, the overwhelmingly negative experience will not let me rest.
Hudson Yacht encourages their HH55 clients to choose their own sailmaker and work directly with them. With HH55-01 and HH55-02 choosing Doyle Sails NZ, we decided Doyle would be a good choice for Ticket to Ride. Every sailor’s plan is different and we explained to our sales rep, Matt Bridge, that we were cruisers, only the two of us, and wanted one furling headsail that would cover the TWA of 130-160 and could be left hoisted on passages when not deployed. The solution introduced to us by Matt was Doyle’s new cableless reacher made from their Stratis laminate with a mid girth of 62% and on a continuous line bottom up furler. The reacher was contracted at an actual finished weight of 38kg and the contracted size was 150 sqm (square meters). Seemed to be the perfect solution. I asked Matt via email (July 12, 2018) this question,
“Will I be able to keep the main up and the Code 0 (reacher) full (not fluttering or falling against the rig) when the TWS is 12-20 and the TWA is 135-160?”
And I received this answer (July 15, 2018), “it all depends on apparent angle.”
Moving forward the sails were fabricated, delivered to HYM in time for sea trials, and with a few modifications the sails seemed to accommodate our boat.
Ten months after boat delivery and while sailing south in the Baja Haha, I noticed obvious problems in the leech of the reacher while sailing. After dropping anchor in Bahia Santa Maria and dropping the reacher, the deterioration on the trailing 18 inches and some areas further in were very obvious and serious. The sail material was toast! After finishing the HaHa, I shipped the entire reacher to Doyle Sails San Diego. After a month of discussion between myself, San Diego and New Zealand I was told that the problem was a product issue and the sail would be replaced under Doyle’s 3 year “material and any workmanship” warranty with no cost to us.
Multiple issues can be seen in the integrity of the leech of reacher #1.
A close up of the leech of reacher #1.
About 2 weeks later, I received the “hate to tell you the bad news” email from Doyle NZ. Matt stated that after examining the small samples sent to NZ from the San Diego loft, the problem with the reacher is 100% user error caused by UV because The Stiches had been furling the sail improperly. The painted-on UV strip is absolutely clear and was on one side only. The Stiches had been instructed by the Doyle rep at sea trials and others during commissioning to furl the reacher always using the windward line; so depending on the tack when the sail was furled this meant that one side or the other (about 50/50) would be exposed after furling. Mary Grace and I, along with other much more experienced people than us, questioned Doyle NZ about how such significant UV damage could occur to a sail that is hoisted only occasionally. Doyle NZ squashed any questions about load and design of the sail. Doyle NZ insisted the cause was 100 percent UV as evidenced by this email quote (March 1, 2020) from Matt Bridge to the yacht’s designer who also questioned the UV diagnosis:
“In the case of Frank’s reacher, it absolutely is a case of the sail being rolled backwards. Honestly, if you could see the sample I have on my desk right now it is blindingly obvious.”
Before any fabrication of a replacement sail was begun, Doyle now insisted that the Stiches contribute 30% of the sail retail cost ($18,835 x .30 = 5,650), and The Stiches paid an additional $725 dollars in shipping costs. Doyle made an identical sail, except now the UV strip was painted on both sides of the leech and foot. There was no owner’s manual, no 29 cent sticker stating “roll this side out,” and we were following the instructions given by a Doyle rep at sea trials. Mary Grace and I were not delighted; however, we needed this sail for our Pacific crossing so we swallowed the pill and moved on.
Ticket to Ride got her new reacher (Reacher #2) in March, the day before leaving on our passage to Hawaii. During the passage of 2900 miles and 16 days, the reacher was deployed for about 103 hours according to our log and at TWA typically from 120 to 160. Unfortunately, when the reacher was taken down after arrival in Hawaii, the exact same problems were occurring in the leech of the new sail. This time I had caught the problem earlier although it was still very obvious.
Damage on the leech of reacher #2 appears identical to that seen on reacher #1.
Another image of reacher #2.
After several emails with Matt at Doyle NZ, we agreed to find someone in Hawaii who could evaluate the sail and the way we were using our cableless reacher. Doyle had a representative on TTR for a short sail and Mary Grace and I hired our own expert to evaluate the cause. Doyle’s rep determined that there were no Stich sail handling problems and stated “the set up is just about right” (June 1, 2020). Doyle NZ’s conclusion of the cause of the problem is explained in the email quote below from Matt Bridge (June 1, 2020);
“the biggest issue is that the sail is definitely more suited to reaching angles, rather than deeper running ones and that the break down in the leech surfaces is caused by the leech being unstable at the lower angles. That sounds about right to me and I can say that laminate sails are not great at handling that collapsing and re-filling for extended periods. With hindsight, it is probably asking too much of that design to have a sail that can cope with that big a wind ranges for extended use on ocean passages.”
After no apologies for the incorrect reacher #1 UV diagnosis, no financial discussion response from Matt Bridge, and my less than cordial reply, Doyle NZ’s co-owner, Mike Sanderson, took over the conversation. Mike’s diagnosis of the problems with reacher #2, although showing identical symptoms to reacher #1, was our chosen style of sailing deeper wind angles and lower boat speeds. Mike stated we were using the sail improperly by deploying the reacher in wind angles for which it had not been designed. Mike insisted we were not sailing to polars and why “not put the bow up to 145 TWA and do 16, 18 knots?” (email June 3, 2020). Basically, Doyle had designed our reacher according to how Doyle thought we should be sailing our HH55 not how we expressed in writing we wanted and expected to sail.
Yes, Mary Grace and I were furious.
- Did we not explain who we are and our downwind sailing intentions?
- Was the onus of responsibility not Doyle’s to ask The Stiches the right questions and therefore design sails to meet our plans?
- Why was this “sailing improperly” cause not explored in Reacher #1? Several knowledgeable people questioned the UV diagnosis and suggested load or material issues. Doyle could have saved all parties time, hassle and money if there had been a better analysis.
- Why didn’t we hear from Doyle NZ that the recommended wind angles for this sail were 38-105 AWA until after reacher #2 began showing issues?
- Quote from the Doyle warranty “… designed wind range, (as detailed in the user manual supplied at the time of commissioning).” Mike, we are still waiting to receive our user manual.
- Why would any sail, especially one designed for downwind angles, show these delamination problems after only 103 hours of use? Certainly, Stratis was not the proper material for our only downwind sail.
- Why was the cableless reacher specified in the final contract as 150 sqm made to be 177 sqm? I had consulted with the yacht’s designer and other owners to arrive at the 150 sqm size. The sail size was changed and I was not informed.
- Why is the actual reacher weight 65 kg versus the contracted and promised weight of 38kg? I would have cancelled my boat purchase if the final boat weight was 171% over contract. Mike’s statement from his June 4, 2020 email “it’s obviously a shame that if this (contracted weight) was an issue for you that we went ahead and made the replacement sail the same” almost made me blow a gasket. Who builds a carbon fiber performance cat and is not concerned about weight?
- And finally, since reacher #2 showed problems after a 20-day life, UV was certainly not the cause. Therefore, Doyle NZ should be returning to me, no questions asked, the $6375 spent on reacher #2. Furthermore, Doyle NZ should apologize for blaming The Stiches for the problems with reacher #1 which was accompanied by the accusation that the Stiches lack “basic knowledge” (email Feb. 26). Then we could have opened a customer friendly conversation
One of the most common questions we hear from guests on Ticket to Ride is “Can you and Mary Grace handle this boat?” My standard answer is an unwavering “yes, on our terms.” We don’t sail around with our hair on fire, the windward hull out of the water, or matching polars. Unfortunately, after 20 days of email discussions with Mike Sanderson, we actually started to wonder if we had bought too much boat, even though we already had 10,000 successful miles under TTR’s keels. It is very sad that the owners of any company would lead a customer to doubt his ability.
In the end, Doyle made no conciliation to our requests for monies to be returned and made only weak attempts to make us happy on Doyle’s terms. Doyle NZ’s entire point of view was summarized in this Mike Sanderson email quote (June 4), “the bottom line is that it is still the right sail for the boat.” There is no doubt that Doyle NZ had designed this sail and built it from a material according to how THEY think we should be sailing our boat.
In our opinion, Doyle had 3 chances to make this right: 1. Initial design, listen to the customer. 2. Proper diagnosis of the problems with reacher #1. 3. Evaluation and customer friendly plan after the problems with reacher #2.
After a month of confrontational emails, wasted money, and the delays to our cruising plans, Mary Grace and I had totally lost confidence in Doyle Sails NZ, both the people and the products. We wanted nothing to do with Doyle Sails.
Doyle did pay for the repair to the reacher done in the Hawaii North Sails Loft which involved cutting a deep hollow in the reacher leech, adding a wave strainer to the reacher leech and replacing the leech tape. Disturbingly, our Doyle Stratis Genoa was showing early signs of similar delamination on many spots along the leech. Doyle paid for a portion of the genoa repairs needed.
The Stiches paid in full for necessary additions and repairs made to the mainsail in the North Loft. Areas of the mainsail along the foot were chafing due to the inability to control the reefed portion of the main below the new foot. North Sails Hawaii carefully placed reinforced grommets in the mainsail to control the reefed portion of the sail. These mainsail reefing grommets were considered by Doyle to be owner preference. The Stiches considered the lack of grommets to be a Doyle oversight.
A rusty C-clamp and a few sail ties is not the proper way to control the reefed portion of our main.
The added grommets and bungee ties are a necessity, not an owner preference, to control the reefed portion of this main.
Essentially, our current, repaired reacher is too fat cut to fly properly in reaching wind angles and especially in light wind. At the same time, it is made of the wrong material to accept our downwind sailing style without damaging the sail. So where do we go from here to create a sail inventory for our cruising itinerary?
- We are working with North Sails Hawaii to design and build a sail for the deeper downwind VMG angles that we explained to Doyle in the beginning was our preference and intention. The design being considered is a woven polyester sail on a top down furler with the torque rope encased in the luff to help prevent some of the issues with top down furling.
- At some point in the near future, we will add to our inventory a sail properly designed and made from appropriate material for the purpose of reaching, especially in light winds.
- In the mean time, we will use the repaired reacher in limited situations. This reacher will not tolerate any fluttering so the sail can only be used below an AWA of 100 which for TTR means a TWA of probably 115-120 depending on the wind speed. This reacher was designed with a fat cut mid girth of 62% and does not fly well under TWA of 85, so we are left with a usable TWA range of about 85-115 for this sail.
Certainly, this entire experience with Doyle Sails NZ is unfortunate and not a part of life or cruising that Mary Grace and I enjoy. I would assume there are many Doyle Lofts who value customer satisfaction and would regret the manner in which this issue was handled. At the same time, I was dealing with the owners of Doyle Sails and their philosophy will be reflected in corporate policy.
Doyle Sails may have some excellent products; however, every company has occasional issues with a product or a decision. Our greatest surprise was the attitude of the Doyle NZ management, their lack of ownership of the problems, and especially their treatment of us as customers. Mike Sanderson went to great lengths using theoretical polars and VPP’s that are irrelevant to our stated sailing preferences to show us and prove to us and others that our choice of sailing style was faulty. I have never had a business owner communicate with me with as little respect as I received from Doyle NZ.
Based on Doyle NZ’s handling of this issue, our lack of confidence in Doyle products, and the attitude displayed by one of Doyle’s owners, we will never purchase or recommend Doyle products again.
Many people have followed this issue; I would invite those people or others to comment or express your thoughts. Thank you as always for reading.
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