Issue: March 2003
YOU DON’T often see a production boat whose designer has not been asked to compromise. The Oceanis Clipper 42CC (for centre-cockpit) is not intended as a cruiser/racer; it has not been tailored specifically for bareboat charter, as far as I know.
This is a cruising boat, no more and no less. The only design bias is that its cloth has been cut to make the owners very, very comfortable indeed, with all the conveniences.
Their guests, who will live in the second cabin forward, will also be quite comfortable. Everyone will be comfortable preparing meals in the galley, comfortable on deck, comfortable climbing in and out of the dinghy. They will even be comfortable and relaxed sailing the boat.
Vicsail’s Christophe Vanek is a racer. As we climb aboard he turns to me and says, ‘You can do the runners today’. It only takes me about 10 minutes to work out that this is a joke; runners are an unlikely bit of gear on a boat like this.
Christophe is a racer and I don’t know if he fully appreciates what this boat has to offer. I am a lot older than Christophe, and a lot lazier, and I welcome anything that makes sailing easier. If sailing is too difficult I don’t go; a lot of wives and girlfriends feel the same way only more so; they usually have an even lower threshold of difficulty than I have.
‘The hull is typically Finot,’ says Christophe. ‘It has a lot of volume aft, though this doesn’t mean the boat is not fast’. There is a lot of volume everywhere. It is a big hull with short bow overhang, plenty of beam, plenty of volume aft and a positive-raked transom and it is natural to begin with a review of below decks.
The owner’s cabin aft is huge, ‘like a powerboat cabin’, says Christophe and he’s right. The Queen-sized double berth is parallel-sided, like a normal bed. There is a settee each side, even a vanity table and mirror arrangement on the forward bulkhead. The en suite, down the starboard side, has the shower area at its forward end, with a door, which looks like frosted glass, but perhaps is something else. Because this bathroom is in a quite narrow space, you can support yourself easily when the boat is at sea, a terrific arrangement when it’s rough.
The same can be said, with knobs on (whatever that means) for the galley. This is in the walkway between cabin and saloon, on the starboard side and is quite narrow (about 18′ wide) for its entire length, which means good support at all times. But hey, this is a cruising boat and time is not the most important factor ‘ if you want to cook, heel the boat less.
The stove is at the forward end of the galley, where things open out a little ‘ the passageway is about 2’ wide. One detail I really liked. The plates and other crockery are carried in a shallow locker, located laterally by pegs and held horizontally by the lid.
The boat could roll right over without breaking the crockery, though if the boat rolled right over that may be the last of your problems. Still, a nice cup of tea would help the recovery process.
The main saloon is a reasonable size and includes the navigation station. It is easy to move around, with plenty of handholds. The second cabin forward of the saloon is a good size, with fore and aft double berth. This cabin’s en suite, further forward again, would serve the boat if you had additional guests aboard. The saloon table lowers to form a double berth if you absolutely must.
Out on deck now. The aft deck is big, and the centre part slides forward to reveal a flight of steps and the fold-down transom, which qualifies as a passarelle. A circular picnic table slots into the emergency tiller point.
There are seats in the pushpit and the can holders big enough for a stubby holder for the serious drinkers. Maybe the serious drinkers drink faster, and don’t need a stubby holder.
The cockpit is supremely comfortable, not too high above the water, not too shallow. Our boat had the steering pedestal aft, where the skipper can reach the mainsheet winch on the aft coachroof; the brochures also show a forward steering position. The starboard-side windscreen panel lifts for a through-draught of air, the fabric hood unfolds back about as far as the pedestal.
The furler lines and halyards and outhaul lead back to jammers on the portside coachroof forward, where you also find the only electric winch. Christophe used it only to furl the headsail at the end of the sail.
He says it can also be used for headsail sheeting, which makes sense, because the lead from the primary winches to the power winch is fair though the sheets would crisscross the cockpit.
Our boat had the mast-furling mainsail; those who are wary of this arrangement can specify a fully-battened main with ball-bearing cars. The brochures also illustrate a cutter-rigged headsail layout.
The mast is deck-stepped, the twin spreaders are raked at 20 degrees so the cap and aft lower shrouds connect to chainplates set well aft of the mast. The forward lowers are actually in line with the mast. The backstay is split and anchored either side of the gangway.
The Oceanis Clipper is no challenge to sail. Unfurl the main by tugging on the outhaul. Unfurl the jib by pulling on the sheet ‘ we are sailing.
Christophe unfurls about 60 per cent of the headsail ‘ we have 10-12 knots, gusts of perhaps 15. The Oceanis tacks through a good angle and sails upwind at reasonable speed, but that is all I can tell you ‘ we took no performance readings. This is a cruiser ‘ if you want to go very fast upwind, the 55hp Volvo Penta is there to help. Motor-sailing is an important part of coastal cruising, where your objective may be only a few hours away and if you lose the race with nightfall you are either standing off all night, or facing an unnecessary night at sea. Even in a blow you may need to motor-sail. I have been there when it was blowing too hard to be comfortable under more than the staysail, the boat was averaging only 4-5 knots under sail and we needed 6 knots to make a tide-gate, or we would spend the rest of the night trying to stem a vicious 6-knot tide. So we motor-sailed, in 25-30 knots of wind.
The Oceanis’s hydraulic steering seems to me to be well-geared ‘ not so fast it is nerveux (that’s French for twitchy, I think) not so slow it demands a lot of wheel twirling to influence direction, which can be really annoying.
When we sailed the Clipper 42 the weather was placid and offshore there was not even a decent seaway to test whether the boat pounded, or ran straight in a swell, or any of that sort of stuff.
So the overall impression is that it is a clever boat, which provides a very civilised environment in which to live. It is big boat, more like a 48 footer and you could happily live aboard for long periods of time, without being annoyed by petty shortcomings in the habitat, though perhaps that is another by product of the advancing years.
To set yourself up with one of these top cruising yachts will set you back around $428,000.
Story by Barry Tranter