Monday, June 18, 2012

Morris 45RS Review

M45RS with non-overlapping jib and in-boom furling main. 

We've been having a grand time tinkering with the Finisterra but the previous owner was so meticulous in his care of the boat that there is little for me to repair or rebuild. So while we're waiting for the new mast, I thought it would be fun to take a look at the M45RS, the latest offshore racer/cruiser from Morris Yachts. Morris has been around since the 1970's and has had a longstanding relationship with Chuck Paine, who designed this boat as well as the pretty double-enders that Morris was originally known for.

A modern and powerful rig on the M-45RS. Notice the spreaders and non-overlapping headsail.  This is a racing rig on a sleek hull with a deceptively cruisey deck.

Morris describes this new boat as a "Fast yet extremely durable IMS and PHRF racing yacht, [yet] she is also highly qualified for long distance adventures." I'm not too sure about optimizing for PHRF, but the M45 is clearly a faster ride than we ordinarily expect from Morris. The rig certainly would not look out of place on a pure racing machine. It's tall, with non overlapping headsails and a carbon fiber three-spreader mast. The sail area/displacement ratio is a healthy 19.30 and the displacement/length ratio is 149. These ratios indicate a fairly powerful rig on a medium displacement hull. The ballast/displacement ratio of .42 is somewhat indicative of a stiff boat that should go upwind quite well, but the drawback in these impressive performance numbers is the draft, which is only 5.83'. That will compromise the upwind performance of the M45. Of course there are many parts of the world where more draft would limit the places you can go in this boat, so the choice is to put a deeper keel on the boat and go get some trophies, or settle for fewer trophies and more cruising destinations. Since I live in California where the water is plenty deep, I'd go with a deep keel if they'd offer one.

Notice the mid-cockpit main traveler and exposed windlass.

The deck layout of the M45 is an interesting compromise for racing and cruising and it exposes the difficulty of trying to be both a racer and a cruiser. Starting at the bow, notice the traditional pulpit. It works fairly well for a cruiser, but makes handling the asymmetrical spinnaker, which is set on an extendable pole, tricky. The foredeck, which is quite small is further cluttered by the windlass, making scrambling around up there a bit more challenging for the bowman. Moving aft, there is a pair of dorade vents just forward of the mast which will be much appreciated when it's hot and sultry in the galley, but add more clutter to the foredeck. I was surprised to see the drawings showing the mainsheet led forward along the boom, admirals cup style, then aft along the deck to a pair of winches adjacent to the traveler. I'm certain that arrangement was quickly changed to a cabintop traveler and conventional mainsheet system. The cockpit is too small for that sort of arrangement and few cruising families would tolerate the traveler bisecting the cockpit. Aside from those small items, don't you think the proportions of the sheer and cabin trunk are simply elegant? I also like the slim lines of this boat. It is a bit narrower and finer in the stern than you'll find on similar sized production cruisers. This gives up some space below but will result in an easy motion and good all around performance.

Morris offers the boat in two basic versions, galley up and galley down.  In the galley up version, the main salon is forward and a step down from the raised portion of the cabin trunk. Just forward of that is the forward cabin, which includes a queen size berth, plenty of seating and storage and lots of varnished wood.
Sweet lines are evident in the hull shape. Is this a practical layout?

In the raised part of the cabin you'll find a large galley to port, offering the cook lots of light and splendid views through the large windows. The nav station, to starboard is equally inviting, with lots of finely crafted wood and all the instrumentation you need to circle the globe. Adjacent to the companionway is the boat's only head. It's spacious and incorporates a shower stall. Opposite the head is a quarter cabin to port, with a double berth and what appears to be plenty of storage.

Galley down arrangement. I like the shape of the underbody, but not so thrilled with the saildrive.

In the galley down arrangement, the main salon is in the raised part of the cabin, along with the head and nav station while the sleeping cabins are the same as in the other arrangement. In this version, with the galley forward where the motion of the boat is greater, cooking will be a bit more challenging. I like this arrangement almost as much as the other, but neither seems quite right to me. I think it's better to have the dinette as well as the galley in the raised part of the cabin, and the head forward, next to the forward cabin. I keep trying to imagine us living aboard this boat and I have a feeling I'd want to change things around before long. Imagine yourself living on this boat. What do you think?

One thing we can be certain of is the quality Morris puts into the boats they build. There are photos of the M 45RS on the Morris web site ( which is where I got the drawings and photos for this review. I encourage you to visit the site and enjoy not only the photos of this boat, but the earlier boats that Morris built. You can't help but admire them.


  1. It's surprising that someone with a performance cruising/racing background such as you would prefer mid boom sheeting. The very thought of jibing that in a breeze would put me off.
    Living with the traveler in the cockpit isn't that big a deal.

    In regards to galley placement, who cooks much when underway. I'd much rather have a main salon with a view than being down in the cave.

    Speaking of views. I was looking at the Sense 43
    online. Wow, what an airy interior. Like a catamaran even. Yeah, I know, wide beam aft, flat bottom, yada yada..... but considering that most boats spend 99% of their time at rest, what a way to live.

  2. I'm not a fan of midboom sheeting, but clearly many cruisers are. I doubt that an admirals cup mainsheet system would be widely accepted by the kind of customers who would buy a comfortable and expensive boat like the M45RS. My guess is that this boat will be cruised a lot and seldom raced.

    I agree 100% with your comment about the main salon.

  3. I am looking for leif if it is the same person that raced on Russianwood in the 1980's

    1. Good to hear from you, Nick. I'll try your old 250- number.