Friendship 53, Classic Cruiser

By Robert H. Perry - from Sailing Magazine

I would hesitate to try and define Euro styling in words but I think you get the picture when you study the Wauguiez and the Etap. I’m probably a jingoistic knuckle-head, and I’m comfortable with that, but I think Ted Fontaine’s designs exemplify good old classic American yacht styling. While the Etap’s styling relies upon jarring your expectations with shapes and contours you did not expect, Ted’s designs are all about harmony in line. Jarring visual incongruities do not exist on a Fontaine design.

This new Fontaine 53 is a stretched version of the earlier Friendship 40. The 40 was promoted as a daysailer. We can’t call this 53 a daysailer but the overall style remains consistent. It’s a heavy boat with a lot of deadrise and a very short and stubby keel. The D/L is 327.82. I’m not overly keen on this hull form and I think the aesthetics could be preserved with a lighter more modern hull form. But Ted has used this hull shape for a long time and it obviously works well for his clients. The keel has a centerboard that, down, gives 12 feet, 3 inches of draft, and up, 5 feet, 9 inches of draft. Whether you go for the displacement or not there is no denying this is a very sexy hull shape. The elevated counter aft is attractive but you can only get this shape when you have a lot of displacement and plenty of rocker to the canoe body. Look at that transom shape with the rounded off corners that highlight the tumblehome aft. This is styling and it has nothing to do with performance. It’s about making your eyes feel good. Call it eye chocolate. With that in mind, let’s check the freeboard/LOA percentage. It is 7.5 percent, and that’s a dramatic change from the other boats. Lowering the freeboard is always a good way to improve a boat’s looks.

The Friendship 53 us laid out for the same sailors that the Maestro 40 and the Wauquiez 41 are laid out for – a cruising party of two couples. But in this case there is a lot of boat to work with and the layout shows it. This layout is great. Look at that huge galley. There is lots of elbowroom in these spaces and after dining you can spread out and really relax. I don’t see a nav station but maybe you could use that table to starboard of the dinette. These boats are built by Austral Yachts in New Zealand and I’m sure they will custom fit a layout to your particular needs if this layout does not work for you. Note the big shower stall ahead of the main bulkhead.

The rig is just barely fractional. Maybe that short drop of the headstay is to make room for an asymmetrical chute. The cap shrouds are led to chainplates outboard on the side deck while the lowers are led to inboard chainplates. Spreaders are swept 13 degrees. The headstay is pulled off the stem by about 14 inches and the mast is stepped on station 4.26.This is putting the rig pretty far aft. I would move this mast forward. Unfortunately, I’d like to put it in the middle of that nice shower stall. “You smell.” “Yeah, whatever, but just feel the helm balance.” Different designers have different ways of dealing with helm balance. Rumor has it in my crony circle that the 53 is very well balanced, almost neutral. I like a near neutral helm. If I need some weather helm I’m confident that I’ll be able to find it when I need it. The SA/D is 18.83. Look at the lovely sheerline and the way it is complemented by the soft lines of the cabintrunk. Godiva chocolate for the eyes.

The deck is laid out with conventional jib tracks and sheeting winches but the mainsail is different. Ted chose a hydraulic, reverse purchase mainsheet system that uses a 6-foot-long hydraulic ram hooked to a five-to-one mainsheet purchase. Future 53s will most probably use a captive, in-and-out reel winch. I can’t fin anything to complain about on this deck. A real nice subtle touch is the companionway hatch sans garage. My pal Tom sent me a pic of this boat when it visited the marina next to his. There were drool marks on the caprail. This boat will attract some traffic.

Ted calls this style of yacht “American Colonial.” If I owned a 53 I’d consider naming it Sentimental Fool. But with the $2 million price tag I won’t get that chance.