Duncan Kent spent a day on the Solent aboard Richard Hales’ Moody 42, Sugarwing, and ended up creeping home in thick fog

Many years ago, after sailing several thousand miles in our tiny old 24-footer, my wife and I returned to Blighty to look for a new boat with enough room for us to live on board.

After many yard visits, we chose a Moody 419 as she matched 95 per cent of our requirements.

Our criteria appear to have been shared by Richard Hales and his family, owners of Sugarwing, a Moody 42 they keep at Clarence Marina in Portsmouth.

Surrey- based Richard, aged 47, says that, after many years of chartering with his wife Susanne and daughter Georgina, aged 12, they decided in 2010 that it was finally time to buy their own boat.

It had to be capable of taking them anywhere they might fancy going, whilst also keeping the family safe and sound – and keen enough to spend their holidays exploring new places by sea.

The benchmark

Reading about the tragic Fastnet Race of 1979, Richard noted that yachts longer than 42ft (12m) seemed to cope best, so this became the benchmark for their new boat.

They hunted around for a year and finally came across a Moody 42, launched in 2000, which fulfilled their needs and aspirations more than any other boat they had viewed.

A quick read of YM’s review on the Moody 40 (the 42’s predecessor) gave them enough information to be confident the Moody range was well put together and capable of weathering heavy seas.

They named their new boat Sugarwing – a combination of their initials and the Honda Goldwing that Richard’s dad was always promising to buy himself when he reached retirement, but sadly never did.

Moody 42

Richard keeps an eye on the charts

As she was based in Kip Marina, in Scotland, Richard’s first sail was to deliver her from there to her new home port, Gosport.

Shake-down sail

What better way to shake down his new boat than a cruise of some 600 miles through what can be some of the most testing waters of the UK?

Keen to get her home as soon as possible, they only made one stop on the way – in Padstow – to stretch their legs and take shelter from the relentless sou’westerlies.

‘Although I like a good thrash around the cans with my mates, when it comes to cruising with my family I’m a very conservative sailor,’ says Richard.

During the first year or so of their ownership they sailed Sugarwing in local waters to get a good feel for her.

Then in 2013 they ventured to the Isles of Scilly and loved every minute of being on board – both sailing and just relaxing at anchor. This year they are planning a similar cruise to the Channel Islands – after Richard and his mates have completed the Round the Island Race in her, that is!

‘Whilst our sailing is regularly curtailed by work and other commitments, we hope to sail off into the sunset as soon as finances allow,’ he says.

‘The short-term bucket list is the Channel Islands, and hopefully after that the Mediterranean, Black Sea, Brazil and an Atlantic circuit.’

Moody 42 design

The Moody 42 was a development of the Moody 40, which stopped production in 1999.

The Moody 40’s transom was simply extended by a couple of feet, giving room for larger transom steps, big lazarette lockers and a more spacious aft cabin.

Like all big Moodys of that era, she has a centre cockpit, high freeboard and generous displacement.

Designed for blue water cruising with a family and guests, she offers comfortable and spacious accommodation in three cabins, two of which boast en suite heads with showers – the third having a single berth, mainly for use on passage.

She has a long waterline for her year and a nicely balanced masthead rig with a relatively generous sail plan that results in her being a tad swifter than her predecessor.

She’s an easy boat to sail short-handed if necessary, although tacking the large, 145 percent genoa can be hard work if you turn the wheel too quickly!

As standard she had a Selden in- mast furling mainsail, but many slab- reef versions were ordered with full battens and lazyjacks – Sugarwing included.

As standard her fin keel draws just over 6ft, but a sub-5ft shoal draught version was available.The quality of deck gear initially supplied with a Moody was always a little above average, with enough of a margin in size and capacity to be confident that none of it would be likely to break under all but the most extreme circumstances.

She has Lewmar 48ST primary winches, along with a pair of 30STs for the halyards and reefing lines on the coachroof, and another pair for the mainsheet, positioned on the afterdeck just behind the helm.

Moody 42

The Moody 42 leaving Portsmouth

As with all models, Sugarwing has a fixed windscreen, but Richard has since added a full cockpit tent to extend their useable space at anchor, while offering a panoramic viewpoint in all weathers.

Deck stowage is in two hull-depth lazarettes as there are no cockpit seat lockers (to give more headroom below), although a few fenders can be accommodated by the cavernous chain locker, despite it housing a large Lewmar electric windlass.

Day sail

The mid-March day we chose to sail Sugarwing started off as a typical crisp and sunny spring morn with almost no wind, although the forecast promised some a little later.

We motored gently out of the marina and through the busy harbour, dodging the Gosport to Portsmouth ferry and casting an appreciative eye over HMS Warrior berthed on the east side.

The flurry of motoryachts and fishing boats scrambling to get out into the Solent rocked us about as we set about hoisting the main, just as a few zephyrs set the ensign fluttering.

There were hints of a light mist once were out on the open Solent, but they soon burnt off in the warming spring sunshine.

This boat isn’t the lightest around, but she does have quite sleek underwater lines and a relatively narrow forefoot, although this soon broadens past her shoulders to ensure ample volume in the accommodation.

Sailing performance

Light airs have never been any Moody’s favourite conditions, but this later model seems to have improved her performance way beyond some of the brand’s earlier boats.

Her boom is high, giving good clearance above the heads of the cockpit occupants, but this does raise the centre of effort on the mainsail, which is one of the reasons it is fairly modest in size.

In just nine knots of true wind she was making a decent 4.0 knots through the water on a beam reach, increasing slightly to 4.5 knots on a close reach, but dropping back down to 3.4 knots close-hauled.

As would be expected, in these conditions she is light on the helm and comfortably balanced, with the large genoa doing a lion’s share of the work.

Downwind, the genoa does a good job, but beyond a broad reach she needs a spinnaker or cruising chute to keep her bow wave rippling.

In previous sails on this model, and in more lively Force 4-5 winds, I’ve happily managed 6.5-7.0 knots to windward, tacked cleanly and effortlessly through 90o, and sailed up to 34o off the apparent wind.

In those conditions she remained easy to sail, drama-free and, best of all, comfortable in a seaway.

Moody 42

Duncan and Richard relax below deck

Cruising speed under power is a quiet, vibration-free 6.5-7.0 knots at 2,000- 2,400rpm, with 8 knots+ attainable at a noisier and less economic 3,000rpm.

The drive is through a standard shaft and P-bracket, but Richard has changed the fixed three-blade prop for a feathering one with no detrimental effect to her ability to manoeuvre into tight berths, even without a bow thruster (often considered mandatory on a 40ft+ yacht these days!).

After a lazy lunch at anchor in Osborne Bay off the Isle of Wight, we set off home – and were almost immediately engulfed in thick fog.

With sub-50m (164ft) visibility as we crossed the main traffic channel to the container port of nearby Southampton, we were mighty grateful for Richard’s radar – although I did hear faint murmurings of AIS now featuring highly on his ever- increasing wish list!

Reaching the busy entrance of Portsmouth Harbour we crept in via the small boat channel while all the commercial traffic had been brought to a halt by the QHM (Queen’s harbourmaster) as a Type 45 Destroyer appeared stealthily out of the murky mists and motored almost unnoticed into port behind us.

Below deck

All Moodys were comfortably fitted out below, and the 42 was no exception.

The companionway steps bring you down more or less in the centre of the boat, right by the large, forward-facing chart table to port.

The area beneath the steps is part of the galley and provides twin sinks, a concealed gash bin and further stowage.

The rest of the galley, outboard and to starboard, houses the main stowage, a deep fridge and a fully-gimballed cooker.

The worktop area is somewhat limited, though, especially if regular access to the top-opening fridge is required when preparing meals.

Her saloon is spacious and has comfortable, contoured upholstery on two settees – one U-shaped around the large, twin drop-leaf table.

Fixed portlights above the settees and two hull lights in the bookshelves provide a fair amount of light, but you have to rely on the two hatches above and dorade vents for airflow, which could make her a tad stuffy in the tropics.

The plentiful teak (cherry optional) joinery gives her a warm feeling that is certainly not claustrophobic, but can be a little dark in poor light. There’s enough electric lighting to brighten up any dark corners.

Generous cabin space

Her sleeping accommodation is often the envy of visitors.

The forecabin is large, with two generously-proportioned single berths that can be joined at the head end by an infill, resulting in more room for the sleeper than most vee berths offer.

It also has a compact heads with integral shower, but it’s nowhere near as roomy as the one aft.

Along the corridor aft is a single passage berth, which can be closed off by a door each end and treated as a separate cabin if required.

It means, though, that the occupants of the aft cabin are then only able to use the access through their heads and the door abaft the galley.

Most end up using the single bunk and cabin as a dumping ground, workshop, or as a dressing room for the aft cabin, keeping it for sleeping only when under way on a long passage.

The pièce de résistance of all centre-cockpit Moodys is their extremely spacious aft cabin with its roomy island berth on the centreline and large, en suite heads with separate shower stall.

The cabin has plenty of light from a large hatch and numerous fixed portlights, and plenty of useful stowage for clothing, hanging and on shelves.

It even has a vanity desk for the ladies and the rear engine bulkhead makes a perfect spot for a flat-screen TV.

Engine access is good, via side and end panels, and there’s enough room at the rear of the engine to mount a compact, self- contained generator.