The sloop Nordkyn is a 13-metre (43′) round-bilge alloy yacht with a displacement of about 8600kg half-loaded in cruising trim. It features a fixed bulb keel with a draft of 2.35m (7′ 9”) and a single deep spade rudder.
The alloy construction is very robust without being heavy and the deck is integral to the aluminium shell. Three internal watertight bulkheads subdivide the hull into sections that can each be sealed and pumped separately, with the goal of buying plenty of time and allow a remediation plan to be implemented should some significant damage event ever occur.
Clean, sleek lines, wide side-decks, nothing to carry away in heavy weather, low, narrow roof windows, a deep and well protected cockpit… profiled like a submarine for punching in all weather.
The sloop rig is masthead with double swept-back spreaders. This arrangement, combined with some camber in the section and a slight rake back, results in excellent rig stability and strength without the need for runners or inner forestay. Fore-and-aft lower shrouds provide strong support in the lower section, which is the one most challenged with a deep-reefed main.
The keel-stepped rig is stayed wide, reducing compression forces, and headsails sheet well inside of the lateral rigging, the leech stopping before the spreaders. This limited genoa/mainsail overlap facilitates handling of the headsails and results in very easy tacking.
The distribution of the sail plan between mainsail and headsail slightly favours the main, keeping the foretriangle more manageable with a wider wind speed range.
The mainsail sheets down onto a track-and-traveller arrangement in the cockpit, from the end of the boom, well away from the companionway. This simple, classic arrangement provides the lowest mainsheet and boom loads together with the best sail control to harness the huge power of the mainsail and still leaves ample space in the large cockpit.
Tiller steering provides for the most efficient hook-up for a self-steering vane, the most dependable helm system for long-range voyaging. Very careful attention to rudder design and overall balance resulted in a boat that does not require the mechanical advantage associated with a wheel.
The rudder is also free to rotate over 360 degrees, which opens an option when reversing at speed under power.
The companionway entrance is recessed underneath the sliding hatch. This arrangement is extremely effective at keeping the entrance dry down-below in the rain.
On the water…
Light wind performance is excellent and – to put it conservatively – the boat is fairly swift in all conditions, thanks to the generous sail plan, decent keel, long waterline and the characteristics of the hull itself. Balance and course stability are phenomenal at all sailing angles regardless of sea conditions.
Aft quartering seas have very little impact on steerage. The boat accelerates, heels a little and keeps tracking.
Upwind, the hull balances with the helm close to neutral and remains balanced when a puff hits, unless heel becomes really excessive. Upwind speeds of up 7.4 knots were recorded under full canvas simply with good Dacron sails, and tacking angles can reach as little as 60 degrees in the right conditions.
The boat creates considerable apparent wind close-hauled in light breezes and one needs to think in terms of VMG, rather than pure boat speed on a beat in very light winds. Similarly, tacking downwind is very effective in light to moderate conditions, almost sailing a beam reach at times while only 15 degrees off the axis of the true wind. It also readily balances on a beam reach with a lashed tiller, including in strong winds and rough seas.
Heel angles are very moderate all round, very good speeds are achieved with little effort. The boat doesn’t pitch, cutting though small waves and otherwise following the contour of the sea. It shows very little inclination to slam upwind while sailing higher and faster than most, but can do moderately if seas are unusually steep and short, such as in tide rips. In such instances, the ride doesn’t get hard the way it used to on the Yarra that was deeper and V-shaped forward; it makes a bit of noise more than anything else.
The only situation that causes it to slam forward is a very faint wind unable to heel the hull, or a following wind, with short steep waves coming directly on the nose. This is so rare and abnormal that it isn’t really worth worrying about and changing course a little takes care of it.
On a run, the hull accelerates smoothly, the helm remains light and the sloop will punch through the 10-knot mark with a child at the tiller. The bow lifts as the boat accelerates before the sea and it gets on the plane with no noticeable transition, breaking the water at the mast and leaving a rooster tail behind. It is a startling feeling the first few times as it happens unexpectedly easily with a good breeze, full sail and a bit of a following sea running.
Course stability is such that one can often abandon the tiller for a few moments at sustained speeds of 9 and 10 knots with no consequences. With some 20-25 knots of true wind on a broad reach, boat speed hovers around 10 knots under full main and genoa, surging to 12 knots and more, the helm is light, the apparent wind just is just starting to get noticeable and we are still just cruising.
The reduction in apparent wind afforded by boat speed is often spectacular: a gybe in 15 knots true can be performed by hauling one strand of the mainsheet in by hand and “throwing” the mainsail across, as if sailing some huge dinghy. This makes for extraordinary manoeuvrability single-handed. Of course, with more wind, the picture eventually changes and the same manoeuvre involves significant work on the winch.
The sloop can balance under mainsail alone, achieving very good upwind speeds, or headsail alone, including upwind. It makes it very versatile and flexible, especially when handling canvas.
One striking feature is how incredibly dry the boat is at all times. Even at 8-9 knots in rough confused beam seas, there is very little water coming on deck. Headsail changes can be performed safely while still hauling upwind, just slowing down a little. Good freeboard, good buoyancy and a reasonably light vessel make for much more pleasant sailing. More importantly, having been designed in cruising trim, the yacht operates at its optimum rather than overloaded like most cruising yachts.
Lastly, if the wind drops completely, or the sea state simply doesn’t allow making any use of some faint residual breath, I drop all sails on deck and head down below. This is the course of action I had devised on the Yarra already, preferring to endure some rolling than the on-going slapping of the mainsail and shaking in the rigging. On boats with bulbed keels, flattening the sails to dampen rolling is even harder on the gear up there.
On Nordkyn, I had a welcome surprise. Very little roll with all canvas on deck, in most instances a cup of tea could stay on the table. This also means that the gear doesn’t crash rhythmically from side to side in the lockers and peace and quiet mostly reigns on board. The stability and inertia achieved in the design naturally oppose rolling most of the time, especially out at sea where the period of the waves is longer. Even the odd lurch taking place doesn’t go very far.
The interior structure is built from PVC foam and E-glass composite for its light weight, faired and painted using a two-part semi-matt polyurethane. Hardwood trims, veneer tops and darker upholstery add contrast to create a bright, simple and classy finish on board.
A raised step separates the cockpit from the companionway, followed by a landing and a single step to reach the cabin floor level. The long windows at head height provide good view outside.
Two near-symmetrical aft cabins with standing headroom at the entrance and a double bunk each extending underneath the cockpit sides provide sleeping quarters.
The galley is located to the port side of the companionway and a vast chart table and navigation station occupies the other side, up to a partial bulkhead separating it from the saloon area.
The saloon area offers a L-shaped settee to port, a good table and a deeper, strait settee that can be used in conjunction with a large folding flap on the main table. The starboard settee doubles as a day bed and a seat for a small aft-facing desk that services the communications area with SSB radio, laptop etc.
The mast crosses through the deck just aft of the saloon forward bulkhead and a watertight door gives access to forepeak that contains storage lockers, a toilet and shower compartment and a workbench with a vice.
Another watertight bulkhead leads to the sail locker, also accessible from a deck hatch.
Behind the aft cabins, the sealed lazarette houses the rudder stock, exhaust system, SSB antenna tuner and storage for fenders and various other light, bulky items. Access is afforded from a deck-style hatch from one of the aft cabins, or from outside through two hatches aft of the cockpit.