Four sailboats underway; It’s back to the future at Hinckley

TRENTON — There was a time when, among the boating crowd, the phrase “a Hinckley” conjured up visions of elegant sailing yachts with graceful sheer lines, long overhangs, powerful rigs and plenty of varnish.

Over the past several years, though, Hinckley has become better known for its powerboats. Ranging in line from 29 to 55 feet, the company’s semi-custom, waterjet-powered Picnic Boats, runabouts and cruisers have become a leading choice for an affluent audience. Some of those Jetboat buyers are new boaters, but many of them are experienced, older yachtsmen – often owners of a Hinckley sailboat – ready for the convenience of power boating but with the same quality they have enjoyed.

The Jetboat isn’t going away. On a visit to the Hinckley plant in Trenton last week, Sales Director Eric Roos said the company, founded in 1928, has more employees now – some 250 or so in Maine – than it has ever had, and that 2014 was “the best year for new boat sales in the company’s history.”

While Jetboats represented the vast majority of those sales, last year Hinckley got back into the sailboat business, and in a big way. Four sailboats are currently under construction at the Trenton plant.

In 2013, the company introduced its first new sailboat design in more than a decade, the Bermuda 50, a performance-oriented 50-footer designed by William H. Tripp III. Fifty-five years earlier, Tripp’s father designed the iconic Bermuda 40 for Hinckley. Launched in 1959, hull No. 1 was Hinckley’s first fiberglass boat. In all, Hinckley built 203 of the boats that became known as B-40s, with the last one launched in 1991.

Hinckley now has the first two B-50s under construction. Hull No. 1, with an elegant, custom horizontally-grained interior, is currently scheduled for sea trials around the latter part of June.

“It’s a little later than we’d hoped,” Roos said.

Hull No. 2, with the cherry wood interior that is standard on the roughly $2-million, semi-custom yachts, should be ready for trials about a month after the first.

Crammed into the Trenton boat shop alongside and almost dwarfed by the massive B-50s are two more sailboats – a pair of Daysailer 42 sloops – a classic design that Hinckley introduced in 2004.

As with so many things, having four sailboats going at one time after a decade or so in which only handful were launched was a matter of timing.

After its most recent change in ownership, Hinckley decided that there was a market for its sailboats. The company commissioned Tripp to design the new B-50 and hired Roos to concentrate entirely on the sailboat market.

The buyers of the first two Bermuda 50s didn’t start out looking at Hinckley, but went to Tripp looking for a performance sailboat of his design.

He had just finished the B-50 and suggested the customers look at Hinckley where they might find the performance and quality they wanted without bearing the cost of building a one-off, entirely custom boat.

The owner of hull No. 1, Roos said, will use the boat primarily for cruising, while the owner of hull No. 2 “intends to race his boat some of the time and cruise a whole lot.”

The DS42 is an older, less performance-oriented design. But the boats still provide enjoyable performance for the sailor who wants an afternoon or weekend out on the water without putting their racing shoes on.

At a price “north of $1 million” for a very well-equipped boat, the DS42 isn’t likely to attract novice sailors. According to Roos, the people buying the two Daysailers now under construction “had their eyes on a Hinckley forever.” When the time was right, they knew just what they were looking for.

“It was impressive how well they knew the product even before they began talking to us.”

Standing side-by-side with their traditional sisters, the B-50 looks immense.

“Beautiful as they are,” Roos said, Hinckley’s older boats were never considered to have particularly spacious accommodations for their size. “The Bermuda 50 is the first Hinckley sailboat that is exceptionally voluminous.”

Unlike her older sisters, with their long, elegant overhangs fore and aft, the B-50 has a 45-foot waterline on a 50-foot hull, a plumb bow and carries her beam well aft. The result is a comfortable three-stateroom interior with a large salon and two head compartments, an enormous cockpit with twin, side-by-side helms and storage in a lazarette –which Roos called “the barn” – large enough for a good-sized inflatable dinghy, or a lot of sails and other gear.

Hinckley and Tripp conceived the Bermuda 50 as “a gentlemen’s racer,” a “semi-production performance boat with luxury you can’t get anywhere else,” Roos said.

People who buy a Hinckley aren’t keen about sleeping on stacks of sail bags or heating tins of soup for dinner while racing, so accommodations on the B-50 are about as plush as can be — heat and air conditioning, full galley with refrigeration and freezer space, elegant wood furniture and paneling are all standard. Still, the idea is to go fast and win races, Roos said, “so we’re absolutely paying attention to weight wherever we can.”

That means using such structural elements as a cored aramid and carbon fiber hull, cored decks and bulkheads, carbon fiber chain plates to allow the installation of luxuries such as a laid teak deck, real wood below decks and even marble countertops (cored, of course) in the head and galley.

While no one will know for sure how the B-50 will sail until it gets in the water, Tripp has drawn a modern hull similar to the top performers on the world’s ocean racing circuits. And, just as the Bermuda 40 in its day “had features that dazzled people,” Roos said, the expectation is that the B-50, “at the helm, will tug your heartstrings but stimulate your adrenal glands, too.”

The boat features a hydraulically operated stainless steel lifting keel (draft 6 feet 6 inches board up, 11 feet 6 inches board down) that is concealed in a wood-clad trunk in the main salon and supports a lead bulb at its base. Twin helms control the composite rudder on a carbon fiber stock.

The carbon fiber, triple-spreader rig features a fully-battened main, furling headsail and a retractable carbon fiber bowsprit for an asymmetrical spinnaker.

The first two B-50s are headed for the New York-Connecticut area. One DS 42 also is headed for Connecticut, while the other will be shipped to the Midwest.

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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