Back to Basics: When you want to escape crew and companions, these four dreamy daysailers offer a path to the simple life.

By Alessandro Vitelli - From ShowBoats Magazine

Yachts are mere reflections of sailors’ dreams; mirrors held up to the aspirations of people determined to indulge their passion. And passion is not necessarily a rational impulse; it leads us sometimes to explore beyond the confines of the purely practical. So if you consider the remarkable technical development of cruising and racing sailing craft in recent years, it is nothing short of astounding that smaller craft – in the popular 35- to 45 – foot range – now offer features that were once exclusive to much larger yachts. For cruising sailors as well as serious racers, this is indeed a boon, and a temptation as well.

But trends invariably and logically spawn countertrends, and the boats featured here represent and impetus toward a new sensibility; a search for simplicity that mirrors the desire of many sailors attracted by the absence of increasingly underutilized features. The driving force behind this recent trend goes beyond a mere quest for simplicity; it reflects the more fundamental fact that many yacht owners, having achieved the means to indulge in as finely developed a sailing craft as can be built, scarcely have the time to take pleasure from it.

Designers enjoy the freedom offered by this emphasis. “Once we realized that standing headroom was not necessary,” commented Greg Matzat, head designer at Sparkman & Stevens, architects of the Morris 36, “all sorts of new design possibilities became available.” Builders, while never stinting on quality and safety, appreciate the straightforwardness. The most obvious and visible aspect of all is that instead of maximizing interior volume, all the daysailers have large cockpits and small cabins. Fancy dodgers, lifelines, all those appurtenances of the cruising boat, can be minimized or even eliminated all together. If the weather is bad, you simply don’t go sailing.

Mainsheet, jib sheet, steering wheel, compass; distilling sailing back to these basic necessities becomes hugely appealing, and the four sailing vessels described here offer an excellent path back to the realization of our dream of a lazy afternoon ruffling the water in a summer sou’wester.

It’s tempting to draw comparisons between the boats described here, but that would be doing them all a disservice. They reflect different philosophies and different interpretations of their common theme. Each builder and designer has drawn from his own experience and strengths. What they offer is proof that variety does indeed improve the breed, and these builders and designer are to be commended for offering such a range of choices. We sailors are the beneficiaries.

Friendship 40: Simple yet sumptuous

The required parameters for the Friendship 40 were simple: She had to be pretty, perform well and be easy to sail shorthanded. She should be comfortable on an overnight cruise, but long-range cruising was not important.

Pretty? The Friendship 40 is gorgeous, a masterful use of French curves – sweeping sheer, neat tuck at the transom, curves everywhere. Her almost-13-foot beam creates space for a huge cockpit; deep, comfortable seats long enough to stretch out on for a nap; and ample room for six adults.

Because sooner or later you will want to toss a salad, make an espresso or just take a nap, the Friendship 40 does not stint on interior comforts. The only daysailer of the group to offer full headroom belowdecks, she is exquisitely finished in raised-panel teak and plush upholstery and will give you a delightful weekend escape.

As is true of all these daysailers, “simplicity” may be a somewhat deceptive description of Friendship’s sailing systems. While indeed simple and easy to use – all lines and controls lead back to the helm – there is a great deal of modern technology at work beneath the surface. For instance, a five-part hydraulic tackle (a reverse purchase, so to speak) under the deck controls the single-part mainsheet. With in-boom furling, electric winches, a self-stowing anchor launcher and the most comprehensive list of standard equipment of the group, she is indeed, as designer Ted Fontaine defines her, a “mini-megayacht.” A 53-foot version is in the works.