Owners Carolyn Grant and Ron Zarella on the bow as Blackfish first dips its keel in the water at Brooklin Boat Yard. ISLANDER PHOTO BY STEPHEN RAPPAPORT

Brooklin yard launches 49-foot racing yacht

BROOKLIN — Like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, when yacht designer Jim Taylor and the crew at Brooklin Boat Yard (BBY) get together, they usually turn out a showstopper.

Three years ago, the pair produced Dreadnought, a handsome 49-foot, Spirit of Tradition cruiser-racer. Last Tuesday, the yard launched Blackfish, a boat that Taylor describes as a “variation” on that earlier design.

Like the older boat, Blackfish measures 49 feet overall with a 35-foot waterline and 11.6-foot beam. But it draws 8.3 feet, 6 inches more than its predecessor.

There are a few more subtle differences, but by any measure, it’s a beauty.

BBY built Blackfish for an owner who has plans for a serious international racing campaign — initially around Nantucket, the boat’s homeport, then in the Caribbean and, ultimately, in the Mediterranean. That aggressive agenda accounts for the most significant differences between the two boats.

In order to suit that competitive focus, Taylor said, the cabin house and interior on Blackfish are 2 feet shorter than on Dreadnought. Its cockpit is shifted forward that same 2 feet.

The shorter cabin means no shower on board, but otherwise the accommodations below are spacious, comfortable and elegant. The cabin sole is built with English black oak sawn from a diseased tree, which gives the wood a “unique grain,” according to BBY owner Steve White. That grain complements the quarter-sawn oak used for the furniture and trim in the Herreshoff-style white-paint and varnished-trim interior.

According to Taylor, because Blackfish rarely will sail offshore or on extended cruises, its interior design “focused on comfortable and attractive social spaces rather than on the cargo capacity required for passage making.”

Wherever it sails, the new Taylor 49 should be fast. The boat is light – 16,750 pounds – with a sleek underbody and what Taylor describes as deep, high aspect ratio appendages (fin keel with bulb and rudder) with an “ample profile area to provide a user-friendly groove” even at low speeds or in sloppy sea conditions.

“Long sailing length and narrow beam will give this design a meter boat feel, with low drag and an especially comfortable motion in a seaway,” according to Taylor’s description of his Blackfish design. “Low wetted area and large rig reflect her emphasis on rewarding performance in light-to-moderate-air New England.”

Blackfish does have a large rig, with a working sail area of 1,007 square feet, and all the modern gear needed to handle it.

The carbon mast, with twin swept spreaders and boom, was built by Hall Spars & Rigging of Bristol, R.I. All are painted with a faux wood finish.

“We got them out of there just before they closed,” White said. Hall Spars closed its U.S. operations in January. Last week, North Technology Group, owner of North Sails and Southern Spars, among other well-known marine brands, announced that it had acquired the Hall Spars business.

Standing rigging is solid Nitronic stainless steel rod. The adjustable Kevlar backstay and Harken Boom Vang are adjusted by a pair of hydraulic control panels, one on either side of the long, efficient cockpit. Harken supplied the winches, electric headsail furler and all related deck gear.

The boat will be daysailed and cruised with a relatively small lapper jib, but raced most often with a genoa, and will carry asymmetrical spinnakers. All the sails were built by Doyle Sailmakers.

Brooklin Boat Yard built Blackfish for Ron Zarella and Carolyn Grant, both highly experienced sailors, and launched it a good eight months later than White had planned.

“This was the most unhurried boat we’ve ever built,” White said. “We wanted to launch in the fall of 2016, but Ron said ‘No! Spring 2017.’” The delay, White said, was attributed largely to construction of a new house on Nantucket and the owners’ wedding.

Blackfish was built using the cold-molded wood/epoxy technique and features tongue and groove Alaskan cedar planking with diagonal western red cedar veneers. All structural members are laminated Alaskan cedar. The keel loads are supported and distributed by a grid of laminated keel floors that are capped with unidirectional carbon fiber.

“One of the most impressive things about BBY is that they are so willing to take suggestions at face value, even if they come from someone with a fraction of the experience that they have with doing what they do,” Taylor said after sailing trials aboard the newly launched Blackfish. “It reminds me of my experience with Ted Hood,” with whom Taylor trained as a designer. “With Ted or at BBY, if there is a good idea, it is a good idea, no matter who came up with it.”

“Every time that I go to BBY,” he continued, “when it is time to leave, it is always too soon. I always want to stick around and exchange more ideas, soak up more knowledge and gain more appreciation for things done exceptionally well there.”

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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