Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Alerion 41 Review

Alerion 41 - Classic Elegance
The Alerion line of sailboats has long been one of my favorites, the first of which is the beautiful Nathaniel Herreshoff inspired Alerion Express 28, which was designed by Carl Schumacher. Sadly, Carl passed away in 2002, but the company has persevered and the Alerion 41 is the latest and largest of the line. The concept behind the 41 is a boat with classic lines above the waterline combined with a modern hullform below. Nowadays there are many boats of this type to choose from but few, very few, have come as close to that ineffably perfect balance of aesthetics, performance and comfort as the Alerion 41 does.

It all begins with the hull. The literature I received did not state who drew the lines for this boat so I will tip my hat to the entire Alerion design team.  In designing a boat of this type, we usually start with the sheer. The designer will put a lot of effort into getting the sheerline just right. Once that's done, he or she will work on the stem and stern overhangs to achieve balanced proportions.  Get these basics right and the rest of the hull design follows naturally. Freeboard on the A41 is rather low and the fairbody line is shallower than we would expect in a boat of this type. These design features make for lively performance at the expense of cruising accommodations. I think this is an excellent trade-off in view of the fact that the A41 is intended as a daysailer and coastal cruiser, and not an offshore passagemaker.

As I studied the drawings of this boat I began to see interesting similarities not with Herreshoff's designs but with Bill Lapworth's iconic Cal 40. Here are some numbers:

Alerion 41 Cal 40
LOA 40.50' 39.33'
LWL 30.50' 30.33'
BMAX 11.16' 11.00'
DRAFT  5.92' 5.58'
DISP 16,000 lbs 15,000 lbs
BALL 6,000 lbs 6,000 lbs
Bal/Disp 37.50% 40.00%
S/A 942 sf 700 sf
SA/D 23.82 18.48
D/L  252 240

I thought it would be fun to include profile drawings of both boats for comparison. While the Alerion is slightly longer than the Cal, the extra length is concentrated in the aft overhang.

Alerion 41
Cal 40
Drawing courtesy of

The Alerion's appendages are more modern than the Cal's but the overall proportions of the boats are, to my eye, quite similar. The Alerion will certainly be faster than the Cal due to its larger sailplan and more efficient foils, which is as it should be, but it would still be interesting to sail these boats side by side.

The Alerion comes standard with a carbon fiber mast with double spreaders and no backstay. This arrangement allows for lots of roach in the full-batten mainsail and makes handling that big sail quite easy. The optional V-shaped carbon fiber boom is lightweight and makes stowing the mainsail convenient. The jib is set on a Hoyt jib-boom which I would ordinarily not be a fan of, because they are heavy and not much fun to sail with in light air. The Alerion design team incorporated a gas spring to push the boom out when sailing with the jibsheet eased, solving that problem.

Big mainsail, non-overlapping jib and Harken electric "Rewind" winches make sailing the Alerion 41 simple. 

A large, comfortable cockpit. Notice the single helm. There is a cleverly designed boarding platform built into the transom.
Photo courtesy of

The bow roller pivots back into the anchor locker when not in use. A gas spring provides an assist so deploying the anchor is easier than it looks.

Sail controls are led to banks of rope clutches near the helm, leaving the forward part of the cockpit exclusively for lounging. Notice the beautifully varnished cap on the coamings. 

Going below, the first thing you'll notice is the exceptionally fine craftsmanship throughout the boat. Then you'll notice the refreshingly traditional layout of the interior components. This is a boat that has everything you need and nothing you don't need in terms of comfort and utility. A decent V-berth, a small but serviceable head and a couple of lockers occupy the area forward of the main bulkhead. The salon incorporates a large dropleaf table flanked by port and starboard settee berths. There is a hideaway chart table located at the aft end of the starboard settee. Nowadays, most navigational chores are handled by the GPS or tablet so a dedicated chart table isn't a necessity, but a desk is always desirable aboard. My guess is that most A41 owners will leave the small but reasonably adequate chart table in the deployed position.
Traditional accommodations plan

Aft to starboard is a quarter-cabin with a snug double berth. This will be the best place to sleep while underway. The galley is big enough for simple meals and incorporates enough storage space for local cruising.
Alerion 41 salon, a study in simple elegance. The chart table, at right, can be lowered to extend the length of the settee.
Photo courtesy of

While not a racer, the A41 could be raced at the club level but that's not its raison d'etre. This boat is as much a work of art as a sailboat, an elegant machine for afternoon cruises and long languorous weekends at the Island.  For more information contact Walter Johnson Yachts in Corona Del Mar.