Friday, December 4, 2015

ClubSwan 50 Review

For roughly the last fifty years Nautor's Swan yachts have represented the epitome of quality and performance. Their yachts tended to be a bit heavy for my taste but always embodied classic elegance of design, very respectable performance and very high quality construction. In 1998 the company was acquired by an investor group led by Leonardo Ferragamo, a director of the fashion empire of the same name. I think that since he came aboard, the Swan brand has reached new levels of style and elegance.

In the early years Swan relied on the firm of Sparkman and Stephens to produce their designs. Later they turned to German Frers for the majority of their boats. It was a good choice since Frers had been with the S&S firm at the time they were engaged with Swan, and was arguably their best designer.

Frers left S&S in 1968, eventually returning to his native Argentina where he took over the family design firm while Swan engaged Ron Holland to design their boats.  In the 1980's Frers reconnected with Swan and since then has produced a long string of beautiful designs for them, including the 45' and  42' one-design racer/cruisers and the elegant Swan Regatta 60. So it is somewhat of a surprise to me that Swan turned to Juan Kouyoumdjian for their newest design.

Interestingly, Juan K, as he is known, is also an Argentine, although his design firm is located in Valencia, Spain. I had heard a few months ago that he was working on a new design for the company and expected it to be an incremental development of their current design trend of lighter racer cruisers with plumb bows and elegant appointments. I was wrong.

Swan unveiled the new design a couple of months ago with a series of drawings and renderings which I downloaded and include below. As you can see, the new boat is a significant, one might even say radical, departure from what we think of as the Swan Style. The ClubSwan 50 is intended to be a high performance one-design racer with accommodations for distance races and, as Swan calls it, sports cruises.

Let's start with the hull. The first thing that catches the eye is the reversed bow and sheer. Students of yacht design know that reversed bows have been used on racing catamarans for the last fifteen years or so. The purpose of this shape is to maintain maximum waterline length while reducing the weight and windage of the bows. This makes a lot of sense on boats that frequently fly the weather hull or, as in the case of the AC72 cats, simply fly.  This shape is harder to justify on a ballasted monohull, especially when it is fitted with a large bowsprit that pretty much negates any weight or windage savings. Regardless of any performance benefit, the reversed bow profile is certainly a strong aesthetic statement that is complimented by the reversed sheer. The reversed sheer enables the designer to keep the freeboard at the bow and stern minimal yet still provide enough headroom amidships with a cabin trunk of minimal proportions. This is a design feature more often found on smaller boats than the CS50. There is a pronounced chine aft that appears to run nearly to the bow in the renderings. Bear in mind that we are dealing with renderings and not photos of an actual boat, so the finished product may be different from what we see here. Notice the flare in the aft topsides. I don't know what hydrodynamic principle would require this shape but, again, it makes a strong aesthetic statement.

New Club Swan 50. A bold step forward for Nautor.
The fairbody line of the the CS50 shows a very shallow hull with the knuckle of the bow just at the waterline, while the stern is lifted slightly above it. In the stern view, notice the arc-like shape of the hull at the transom. I think this boat will surf easily and leave a very clean wake when driving upwind. I'm not a huge fan of twin rudders unless they make a meaningful contribution to the performance of the boat. In the CS50, they are relatively small so that when heeled, the weather rudder will usually be out of the water, so at least it won't be much of a drag most of the time.  Still, if I were to order a CS50 for myself, I'd ask them to show me the hydrodynamic data that prove twins are better than a single centerline rudder. The keel is exactly what we would expect on a boat of this type, a deep carbon fiber fin with a lead torpedo shaped bulb.

Here are some numbers:

LOA:  50.00'
LWL:  45.93'
BMAX;  13.78'
Draft (deep): 10.50'
Draft (shoal): 7.22'
Disp: 20,503 lb
Ballast: 7,496 lb
Sail Area (upwind): 1,527 sf
Sail Area  (downwind): 3,185 sf
D/L: 94.47
SA/D: 32.74

With a SA/D of nearly 33 and a D/L of 94, there is no doubt that the CS50 will be as fast as it looks. I am intrigued by the rig proportions. Notice that the three-spreader carbon mast is located significantly further aft than we usually see on high performance boats. I don't have any rig numbers but the "J" dimension is clearly longer than "E", which means that the jibs on this boat will be quite large relative to the mainsail. In the sailplan below, the boom doesn't quite reach the transom and the traveler appears to be at least a couple of feet forward of it, but in other drawings and in the literature, the traveler has been located all the way aft. Either way, this is a powerful rig that will take a full crew to get the most out of. On the other hand, the brochure states that when it's just the husband and wife aboard, they'll hoist the main to the second reef and unroll just the small jib, which should provide adequate performance for a leisurely daysail. Of course all the winches will be electric so the hoisting and trimming will all be done by pushbutton. With the main hoisted to the second reef the square top of it will pass inside the twin running backstays so you won't have to ask the wife to scamper over and tend them when you tack. Sounds pretty civilized to me.

Interesting proportions of the CS50 rig.

The deck of the CS50 leans more toward racing than cruising. There are minimal coamings from the companionway to the aft end of the seats.Aside from that, I don't see any concessions to cruising comfort on this deck except for the short cockpit seats.  The transverse jib tracks are located on the cabin top and the chainplates are all the way out at the sheer, leaving the decks uncluttered. There doesn't appear to be a provision for leading jib sheets to the cockpit winches so I assume they are led to the cabintop winches. I was aboard a  new Swan 60 a few months ago and on that boat many functions such as vang, outhaul, traveler controls, etc. were managed by pushbutton. Indeed, the panel of buttons at the helms was extensive. This kind of arrangement might free up those cabintop winches for the jib sheets but I think a better solution would be to move the tracks to the deck and use barber haulers to move the jib clews inboard and out, and lead the sheets back to the cockpit winches.
The cabin is wedge shaped and somewhat reminiscent of the old Swan wedge decks. Somehow I can't quite picture an inflatable dinghy stored on that foredeck even though there is certainly plenty of room for one.

 The cockpit is huge, with plenty of wide open space for the working crew. The companioway hatch is sloped at about 45 degrees. I'll wager that the production model may well end up with a more conventional sliding hatch and seahood. The aft part of the deck is basically cantilevered out from the hull with sharp radii where it joins the hull.  This is not a particularly strong arrangement and there appears to be a strut that that supports the aft-most part of the deck. Notice that this bit of deck supports the mainsheet and spinnaker sheet winches. I'm  sure J&J Design, who are listed as the project engineers, carefully analyzed this area and designed the laminates and geometry to resolve the high loads this area will experience when the boat is pressed.

The transom is wide open with the traveler  located as far aft as possible. The companionway hatch is set at an angle and the aft end of the weather deck appears to be supported by a strut near the transom. 
Beam is carried straight aft to the transom. 
Notice how small the rudders are relative to the keel. They appear to be no more than about 50 inches deep and are angled outboard about 20 degrees. They will probably be deeper than that in the production boat.  In this drawing the boom extends well beyond the twin running backstays. 

Accommodations in the CS50 are Spartan by Swan standards but I would feel quite comfortable spending a month or two living aboard this boat. The head runs the full width of the boat, or more precisely, is split by the centerline passageway, with the toilet and sink to port and a nice large shower to starboard. I really like this arrangement. In the bow you'll find what appears to be a queen size berth along with lockers and shelves. Notice that it is set roughly eight feet aft of the bow, forward of which appears to be a crash bulkhead and lots of empty space. Swan states that all of the forward cabin furnishings can be easily removed for racing.

Simple, efficient accommodations.
The main salon is wide open, with very large settees to port and starboard, and a decent sized dining table on the starboard side. If I owned a CS50 I'd want to entertain a lot, so I'd have Nautor make sure the table will accommodate at least six diners. Aft to port is a smallish galley suitable for basic meal preparation. Notice the generator just aft of the galley. I think it might be a good trade-off to eliminate it and expand the galley a bit. Opposite the galley is a quarter-cabin with what looks like a king size berth and a hanging locker. This will be the nicest place to sleep when the boat is underway. The nav station is...well, there doesn't seem to be one on the CS50. I think this is because in a daysailer and weekender, you really don't need a nav station because all your navigation tools are in the multi-function screens at the helm stations. Still, I'd like to see a chart table/desk on the boat. I don't use the nav station aboard my Beneteau 423 for navigating, but it's a perfect all purpose place to work the SSB radio, manage ships papers and do all those mundane things I do at my desk at home.

I really appreciate that venerable, conservative Nautor has gambled on a truly new design for the 50. Having been a lifelong fan of German Frers' designs, I would like to have seen what that firm's answer to this design brief would have been, but Juan K got the nod instead. This is a bold step for Nautor and my hope is that it will be a huge success for them. I can't wait to see hull number one hit the water. For more information about this boat visit

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