Morris Yachts Photo

New Morris “X-Type” adds “quick” to class



Morris Yachts Photo

Hannah, the first Morris Yachts M29X out of the shop, shows off her classic M-Series lines and high-tech rig off Mount Desert Island.

TREMONT — Morris Yachts first launched its M29 Daysailer almost six years ago to nearly universal raves.

The boat was the little brother to the company’s successful Sparkman & Stephens-designed M42 and M36 and every yachting publication reviewer able to get their hands on the boat praised its elegant good looks, classic Morris construction — rugged but light — and its thoughtful design.

But it was the boat’s sailing qualities — easily handled and light on the helm, fast and nimble — that generated the most enthusiasm from the sailing press.

The M29 was well received by sailors, too, attracted by its looks, performance and perhaps by the fact that, with a price of about $185,000 it was roughly half the cost of the next largest Morris daysailer.

As successful as the boat was, though, Morris found it had a problem.

“A pretty sizable bloc of prospective buyers was hanging in limbo,” Morris CEO Doug Metchick said recently.

“They were performance guys. They wanted more performance.”

The idea that its boats were attractive to sailors who loved the classic looks but wanted a little more under the hood came as no surprise to Morris.

“The last few boats we sold had performance options,” Metchick said.

In response to the demand, the company has developed high-performance versions of its M29, M36 and M42 designated as M Series X-Type yachts.

In June, the company launched its first X-Type M29, Hannah, for a customer who will sail the boat in local waters. According to Metchick, the refined design is a success. Performance is improved in light and moderate airs and “driver feedback” at the tiller is better. While the X-boat isn’t necessarily faster than an unmodified, it is more “nimble.”

“This one is a blast to sail,” Metchick said.

While the hopped-up version retains the lines of the original, a few of the go-fast differences are immediately apparent, even on the mooring.

Most obvious are the short, curved bowsprit that carries the North Sails gennaker rigged on a high-tech Karver furler, both features absent from the straight M29. Less obvious, the high modulus carbon fiber mast also is a foot taller than the standard spar, and the boom a foot longer, giving the X a sail area of 419 square feet — about 6 percent more than the original rig.

The sails are different too. They X-type carries a full-batten main and furling jib built using North’s latest 3Di construction. The M29 carries standard Dacron sails.

The taller, stiffer rig and sails, Metchick said, “translate to more acceleration.”

Less obvious but also a major contributor to the X-Type’s improved performance is a deeper, high aspect ratio stainless steel fin keel that provides enhanced stability and sail carrying ability while taking additional weight out of the boat. With its new keel, the X version draws 6 feet 6 inches, 2 feet more than the standard boat. Combined with a redesigned rudder, the boat’s wetted surface is reduced, which makes for improved speed potential. The X-Type’s hull also is faired to extremely close tolerances and coated with extra-slippery bottom paint.

While the performance additions change the way the M29-X sails compared to the M29, the improvements are most noticeable in light and moderate airs and in the ways the X-Type accelerates out of tacks rather than in straight ahead speed.

While sailors who want to own bigger, quicker Morris yachts will eventually be able to buy an M36X or M42X, for the present the company is concentrating on the sporty 29-footer, Metchick said.

Like its other boats, Metchick said, the M29X is another example of the combination of “performance, style and quality” Morris Yachts is known for, but “We’re not pretending we’re building a racing boat.”

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]