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By Dennis Caprio - From Yachting Magazine
Remember the day you first saw the love of you life? For many sailors, a first glimpse of the Friendship 40 likely will invoke similar feelings – the tingle, the ache. She may be most alluring when you’re sailing your 80-something high-performance cruiser/racer with a professional skipper and mate/engineer and eight of your not-quite-closest friends as crew. Aboard the Friendship, though, you’ll notice that a solo sailor sits comfortably on the low side, perched on the fanny-friendly cockpit coaming. Simply by looking forward, he checks the telltales on the small jib. In a header, he stands momentarily to step behind the wheel. You see the boom trim toward the centerline, as if by telekinesis. As he resumes his original place, you see the jib trim to match the main. The wonders of hydraulics, you assume.
Your assumption would be correct. Designed by Ted Fontaine of the Fontaine Design Group, the Friendship 40 combines the ease of operation you’d expect from a relatively small day boat with the aesthetics, luxury and comfort of a mega-size yacht. His customers, Fontaine reckons, will include owners of large luxurious yachts trading down to or supplementing their yacht quiver with this convenient solo sailer, all without abandoning the high quality to which they’ve become accustomed.
This was Fontaine’s goal from the inception for the Friendship 40, but branching into the business of marketing completed boats was not. That concept developed when he was chief designer at t Ted Hood Design Group, which was part of Little Harbor. At that time, The Hinckley Company was absorbing Little Harbor, and the Friendship concept dropped onto Hinckley’s table. When Hinckley’s research, however, turned up disappointing numbers, and the company decided not t o build the design, Fontaine bought the concept with his purchase of Hood’s design office. Eventually he commissioned Austral Yachts in New Zealand to construct the 40 to order, forming the Friendship Yacht Company, LLC to handle the sales.
Fontaine drew aesthetic inspiration for this design from a Friendship sloop that he saw at its mooring almost daily during his commute to the office. These handsome gaff-rigged lobsterboats worked the coast of Maine during the eighteen hundreds. Characterized by a clipper bow, wineglass transom with tumblehome, gracefully arced fascia on the trunk cabin and elegant swept sheerline, Friendship sloops attracted an enthusiast following among yachtsmen long after the internal combustion engine exorcized them from commercial fishing.
Anyone who is familiar with the Friendship sloops will recognize elements of their design in the Friendship 40. Her sheerline describes a lovely sweep from a proud bow to a subtle lip over the counter stern, drawing your eye to the transom’s seductive arc and tumblehome. The rakes of the stern and transom balance the yacht.
In plain view, seen directly from above, the trunk cabin resembles those of the working Friendship sloops, but the swept fascia and tumblehome in the sides elevate Fontaine’s design to the stratosphere of chic. The tumblehome and elliptical portlights trick us into believing that the trunk cabin is lower than it is.
Friendship sloops never would have endured if they exhibited bad manners at sea or were slow. On the other hand, a fully rigged working sloop (topsail, staysail and jib) had more lines than the late Rodney Dangerfield, a diabolical arrangement that persists today in recreational versions of the type. Complication, at least in the routine handling of the 40, was the one characteristic Fontaine wanted to avoid. Hull number 1, Manaaki, wears nearly every option the company offers, the most notable of which are the hydraulic and electric sailhandling devices. A hydraulic ram manages the mainsheet via push buttons on the cockpit sole near the steering pedestal. The sheet exits the deck through a slot in the cockpit coaming behind the helm and belays to the after end of the boom.