Mal­bec 18

An el­e­gant trail­er­a­ble cruis­ing boat from Ar­gentina by way of Cal­i­for­nia

SAIL - - New Boats - By Charles J. Doane

It turns out there’s a rea­son why this handy new trailer-sail­ing pocket cruiser, with its hard-chined hull and jaunty ap­pear­ance, is vaguely rem­i­nis­cent of the old West Wight Pot­ter. It seems boat­builder Ken Lange was de­voted to the old Pot­ter and ran the com­pany that builds the boats, In­ter­na­tional Marine, be­fore get­ting turfed out of the busi­ness by a Chi­nese in­vest­ment group. In look­ing for a new pro­ject he soon found Ar­gen­tine designer Her­aldo Ruesch, who had just de­vel­oped a new boat—he called it the Ruesch 5.5—that tugged at Ken’s heart. A deal was struck, the boat was re­named af­ter a pop­u­lar Ar­gen­tine wine, and pro­duc­tion com­menced in Cal­i­for­nia. The first two boats that popped out of the mold, cu­ri­ously, were given away as prizes on The Price Is Right.

I will say this new boat looks much sleeker and more at­trac­tive than the old 15ft Pot­ter. With a rel­a­tively fine bow, a high-as­pect frac­tional rig and a neatly sculpted cab­in­house, it reads as a con­sid­er­ably more modern boat. Still, it is a sim­ple one. Con­struc­tion is straight­for­ward: both deck and hull are hand-laid solid lam­i­nate with a few dabs of lead bal­last set in the hull for­ward and in the cen­ter­board to help keep things up­right. The in­te­rior is util­i­tar­ian, taken up pri­mar­ily with a V-berth and a pair of long set­tee berths, with room left over for an ice chest, a small chem­i­cal toi­let and a one-burner Jet­boil swing stove.

I sailed the boat with Ken in pleas­ant, un­chal­leng­ing con­di­tions on Ch­e­sa­peake Bay off An­napo­lis. The true wind was blow­ing just 3-7 knots, and we could have made good use of the op­tional genoa (98ft2) or the op­tional asym­met­ric spin­naker (120ft2). In­stead, we had just the main­sail and a stan­dard work­ing jib (55ft2), but still we man­aged well enough.

The boat made up to 3.5 knots of speed sail­ing close-hauled at a 40-de­gree ap­par­ent wind an­gle and some­times touched 5 when we cracked off to a close reach. Even when bear­ing away, first to a broad reach and then dead down­wind (sail­ing wind-and-wing with Ken’s ex­tended arm play­ing the role of a whisker pole) we al­ways kept mov­ing at 2 knots. There was very good helm feel through­out, so the boat was re­ward­ing to sail, even in light air fly­ing less can­vas than we would have liked. I did note the main­sail had two sets of reef points. I sus­pect the boat, with its rel­a­tively flat bot­tom, will plane read­ily in strong con­di­tions.

The Mal­bec comes stan­dard with an alu­minum rig from U.S. Spars and deck hard­ware from Ron­stan. For ven­ti­la­tion be­low, there is a fore­deck hatch from Bo­mar. The sail con­trols are quite sim­ple, with a boom vang but no main­sheet trav­eler. I found the main­sheet and cen­ter­board con­trols were easy to reach from the helm, and though the jib sheets will re­quire a sin­gle­han­der to stretch a bit, only those with truly short arms will find this chal­leng­ing.

Our test boat was also equipped with a unique raised stain­less steel grabrail around the cock­pit. As free­board on the boat is fairly low, some will find this pro­vides a sense of added se­cu­rity, par­tic­u­larly when the wind is up. I found it also serves ad­mirably as a back­rest.

All up the Mal­bec weighs just 1,500lb and does not re­quire a heavy trailer when on the road. I ex­pect most au­to­mo­biles will be able to tow the boat with­out any trou­ble. As for aux­il­iary power, we ran our test boat with a 2.5hp propane-fu­eled Lehr out­board, which I thought worked very well, al­though those ex­pect­ing to mo­tor long dis­tances may want to in­vest in a larger gas-fu­eled en­gine. s

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