Saturday, September 11, 2010

Honcho as a Cruising Boat

Honcho Glides Into Cat Harbor
Honcho is a Beneteau First 36s7 designed by the French firm of Berret/Racoupeau. Jean Berret had some very successful IOR designs back in the dark ages and eventually teamed up with Olivier Racoupeau to design production boats and BOC type racers in the 1990's. During that period they designed several boats for Beneteau. Today the B/R firm, sans Berret, still does a lot of work for Beneteau. The First 36s7 is typical of the work they did for Beneteau in the 1990's. The hull is beamy, wide in the stern and of moderate displacement. The proportions of this hull make it quite fast reaching and running, and tricky to sail fast upwind. For me, that's a nice compromise in a cruising boat. Here are some stats:

LOA: 34.50'
Bmax: 12.50'
Draft: 6.10'
Ballast: 3,650 lb
Disp: 11,684 lb (Honcho weighs about 12,500 in cruising trim)
SA: 605 sf (100%)
D/L: 173
SA/D: 18.8
Bal/Disp: .31

For you students of yacht design, the displacement/length ratio (D/L) is an indicator of the weight of the boat relative to its length. These days a D/L ratio of 173 is fairly conservative. You could say the same for the sail area/displacement ratio (SA/D). As old Josh Slocum once said, "The calculations are well and good, but how does she sail?" Well, as you would expect, the Honcho is a bit sticky in light air compared to a racer, but trundles along quite nicely in 12-18 knots true with a full main and #2 up. Point the boat downwind in a breeze with the big kite up and it's fun to sail. But I would say that this boat is happiest on a reach in 15 knots of wind.

The sailplan is excellent for a cruiser. The main is big, with efficient controls and the foretriangle is fairly small. This is an easy boat to balance and once you find the groove you can lock the wheel and boat will steer itself if you pay a little attention to the traveler. All the sail controls are handy and I've dialed in the block and tackle on the sheet, vang, traveler, outhaul, cunningham and backstay so that everything is easy.

I’ve made a few changes to the boat that are designed to make it more seaworthy or more comfortable:
  • Reinforced the stemhead with a chainplate and tension rod. It was originally simply bolted to the deck and had a tendency to lift when the backstay was tensioned up. At the same time I reinforced the deck in that area and extended the stemhead fitting to accommodate stowing an anchor as well as provide a tack fitting for the asymmetrical spinnaker.
  • Installed an anchor windlass.
  • Replaced the batteries with 2 group 31 and 1 4D Lifeline AGM batteries.
  • Installed an autopilot.
  • Installed a watermaker and replaced the hot water heater.
  • Installed a manual freshwater pump in the galley (the boat came with pressure water only).
  • Replaced a leaky, slow hydraulic backstay adjuster with block and tackle.
  • Installed a dodger and replaced the bimini.
  • Installed an outboard motor hoist along with padeyes so the dinghy can be lashed to the deck forward of the mast.
  • Replaced all the portlights. The old ones were crazed and leaky.
  • Replaced the old mainsheet with a coarse/fine block and tackle system.
  • Replaced all the old beat up rope clutches with new Spinlocks
  • Replaced all the sheets, halyards and control lines.
  • Installed a SSB radio.
  • Added a transom extension/swimstep 
  • Replaced the nav lights with new LED Aquasignals
  • Added all the safety gear necessary for passagemaking.
  • Installed a GPS chartplotter in the cockpit
The stemhead attachment gave me pause, but after thoroughly inspecting the boat from keelbolts to masthead crane, it appears to have been the only structurally deficient part of the boat that I could find.

Notice the gap between the stemhead and deck. There was no reinforcing structure underneath it except for a backing plate.


  1. Would love to get some pics of how you reinforced the stemhead. Also did you just replace the lenses in your portlights or the complete portlight?

  2. Jess, send me your email address and I give you the details on the stemhead. As for the windows, I replaced the entire units, frame and all.