New Bermuda 50 part of Hinckley’s heritage

SOUTHWEST HARBOR — Nowadays, most of the people who can afford to buy a Hinckley come to the company looking for one of its elegant, waterjet-powered motor yachts.

In Miami and Palm Beach, Charleston and Annapolis, San Diego, L.A., San Francisco or just about anywhere the financially secure pursue water-borne recreation, there is sure to be a small fleet of Hinckley’s pricy picnic boats and Talaria runabouts and cruisers. Around Northeast Harbor in the summertime, the picnic boat and its sisters seem almost as plentiful as Boston Whalers.

All of those Hinckley powerboats are thoroughly modern in design, and their engineering and construction are often at the cutting edge of boatbuilding technology. But they all carry the same DNA that, for a long time, made the name Hinckley synonymous with the best in small sailing yachts and that dominates the company’s newest sailboat – the Bermuda 50.

If the name has a familiar ring, it should. The Bermuda 40, designed in 1958 by naval architect Bill Tripp Jr., was one of the company’s most successful boats with more than 200 built during its 32-year production run. Expensive in their day – the last B40 rolled out of the shop with a base price equivalent to about $620,000 in today’s dollars – they have held their value.

A quick internet search will find a 1969 B40 yawl for sale in southern Maine with an asking price of nearly $200,000.

This summer, some 56 years after the Bermuda 40 dynasty began, Hinckley has launched its first two Bermuda 50s, fast, modern sloops designed by naval architect Bill Tripp III, son of the B40’s designer.

Outwardly, the two boats could scarcely be more different – the Bermuda 50 is just plain fast. Under the skin, though, the boats are strikingly similar – elegant, thoughtfully engineered, seaworthy and, as a sunny autumn afternoon exploring the Western Way and Somes Sound demonstrated, a joy to sail.

Make no mistake. The B50 is an expensive boat. Base price for the lean, plumb-stemmed stunner is $2,450,000. Watermark, the second B50 out of the mold but the first one launched, is equipped with a number of options – carbon fiber standing rigging and running backstays instead of the specified stainless steel rod rigging and hydraulic single backstay. That makes her more competitive on the race circuit and more expensive, too.

The cost really isn’t an issue. Most sailors can’t even dream numbers that large. For those who can afford a racing boat that can make a serious showing at big-boy regattas like Block Island Race Week, or even farther afield, and who also want the accommodations of a fine cruising yacht when they’re off watch or in harbor, the B50 could fill the bill.

A tremendous amount of thought has gone into giving the Bermuda 50 a clean deck layout and a spacious cockpit that makes sailing the boat a pleasure. Many of the details reflect refinements of Tripp’s work by Peter Smith, Hinckley’s senior product engineer, and his crew.

All sheets and halyards lead aft to a flock of hydraulic winches on the cockpit coamings forward, and well out of the way of the port and starboard helms and the custom 32-inch carbon-fiber wheels.

The push of a button allows the crew to trim the main or narrow, self-furling jib. A push of a button also controls the stainless steel lifting keel that, with a lead ballast bulb at its tip, gives the boat an 11-foot, 6-inch draft when the board is down.

The helm and keel arrangements exemplify the “custom” in a custom boat.

On Watermark, a boat that usually will sail with a full racing crew on which every member has a well-defined set of tasks, controls for the keel are installed below behind a varnished, paneled locker door. There is no radar or GPS-chartplotter on the pedestal, just a compass. Big manual Harken winches on the quarters control the running backstays. Forward, a carbon fiber bowsprit juts aggressively over the water, ready to carry the boat’s racing jib – larger than the cruising furler on the boat last week – and with tack fittings for off-wind headsails.

The other B50 in the water, whose owner is reluctant to surrender her for winter storage, was built primarily to be cruised by a couple. On that boat, the keel controls are right at the helm where it’s less likely that someone will forget to push the button before getting under way. Instead of just a compass, the widened twin pedestals carry full electronic navigation gear. The single hydraulic backstay is controlled by a button, and so is the hydraulically retractable bowsprit.

Not to skimp on description, but the interiors of the two boats also reflect what it means to have fine craftsmen build a custom boat. Both have similar accommodations: a spacious main cabin, owner’s stateroom forward and spacious guest stateroom aft, a nav station that incorporates not just the radar, chartplotter, radio and related gear, but also a touch-screen device that monitors and controls all of the boat’s systems.

“No more clunky breaker panel,” Smith said with a grin as Watermark clipped along at 7 to 8 knots in little more than 10 knots of breeze.

What does differentiate the two boats is that Watermark has the “standard” varnished cherry interior, while the cruiser has an interior that Hinckley Sales Director Eric Roos said was built of horizontally grained maple.

Last week, with a couple of journalists on board and licking their respective chops, Roos, Smith and Hinckley Sales Vice President Phil Bennett took Watermark for her last sail of the season before going back into the shop for some final work – carbon fiber handrails on deck, cockpit dodger – that her happy owner was too impatient to have done before taking the boat this summer. The sun was high and warm, the breeze occasionally topped 12 knots, and Watermark flew through the water leaving a broad and remarkably flat wake behind her. With only the lightest hand on the helm, the boat tacked without fuss and even touched 9 knots on the Western Way.

This year, Hinckley launched four new sailboats – two Bermuda 50s and two 42DS day sailers. It’s been a long time since the company built that many sailboats in a single year, but one thing is certain: Hinckley hasn’t lost any of the skills that made the Bermuda 40 and the company’s other sailboats famous.

Stephen Rappaport

Stephen Rappaport

Waterfront Editor at The Ellsworth American
Stephen Rappaport has lived in Maine for nearly 30 years. A lifelong sailor, he spends as much time as possible messing about in boats. [email protected]

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