Yachts that combine good performance with shallow draught and a deck saloon are few and far between, making the Southerly 42 RST a popular fast, go-anywhere cruiser
Southerly 42: A popular, fast, go-anywhere cruiser
It’s always interesting to see what sort of boats racing sailors buy when they decide to go cruising.
I know many competitive dinghy sailors who, when moving to bigger boats, have bought cruiser-racers such as MG Yachts, Starlights, Arconas, Elans, Archambaults, Dehlers, Js and Xs.
Although I hesitate to group all these together in one category, what they have in common is that they’re fast, fun to sail and competitive on the race course while also being sufficiently comfortable and well-mannered (in most instances) to cruise with the family.
In a previous life I worked for Sadler and Starlight, and well remember the advert for the Sadler 34 that invited you to ‘eat them for breakfast and have
them to dinner’.
Many people with racing in their blood have gone the performance-cruiser route, often simply because they enjoy fast and efficient sailing.
One surprised me by opting for what I thought was a ploddy and thoroughly uninspiring cruiser, explaining that he was fully aware of its limitations in all sorts of ways but that it served its purpose for weekending in the Solent with his wife and children.
When you have been racing bigger boats for a long time, deciding what to move on to for your cruising years can present a challenge.
In my time with Starlight I took a number of well-known offshore racing sailors out on demonstration sails and several of them became customers.
People in their position are now often buying the new-generation Xs, Elans, Salonas and so on, but some want something different.
Exploring the options
Someone who decided he did want something different is Jim Macgregor. Jim needs no introduction to anyone who has raced on the south coast in recent decades.
If you have ever found a boat called Flair entered in your class and the name Macgregor next to it, you’ll have known that you had some serious competition.
From events such as Cowes Week and the Round the Island to the Fastnet and the Commodore’s Cup, Jim’s Flairs have been there, done it and, as often as not, won it.
The original Flair was a centreboard version of the MG C27, built by Jeremy Rogers. Next came a MG 335 and then a series of Elans.
Jim played a major role in helping to establish Elan in the UK, starting with a 333 before moving on to a 40 and finally Flair V, an Elan 410.
He ran the 40 and the 410 concurrently for some years, chartering and, latterly, cruising in the 40 from Poole while racing the 410 from the Solent.
As a recently retired Poole pilot of long standing, Jim knows his local waters pretty well but has made a habit of going the right way wherever he has sailed.
My most recent race with him was on Flair V on a brisk day in Cowes Week.
On that particular day, Jim had been happy to hand over the helm to his daughter Lucy, who just happens to be a former Olympic match racer (along with her sister Kate) and women’s world match-racing champion.
With daughters like that on board, it’s not difficult to relinquish the helm and enjoy the ride as a proud father.
As the urge grew to spend more time cruising, Jim continued to race Flair V while making a series of modifications to Flair IV to convert her from racer to cruiser.
I wrote about these in 2016, after which she was used exclusively for cruising and then sold the following year.
‘As soon as Flair IV had gone we missed our cruising,’ said Jim, ‘so we rapidly did less racing.’
Radio-controlled (model) yacht racing took over from big boats to satisfy the competitive instincts of a lifelong racer, Poole’s Radio Yacht Club being one of the most active in the UK and attracting seasoned campaigners from both dinghy and cruiser fleets in the area.
That left the cruising hole to plug. So, what to buy?
Jim had learned a good deal from converting Flair IV, subsequently looking at and sailing a number of potential replacements.
When he and his wife, Chrissy, started looking in earnest, however, it wasn’t long before the idea of a deck saloon took hold.
They realised that swapping their fin-keeled, low-coachroof performance cruiser for a newer performance cruiser with a low coachroof and fin keel wouldn’t make a lot of sense, so they started looking at boats with a bit more ‘up top’.
The Luffe 43 DS immediately appealed: ‘a racing boat with a tasteful doghouse’, as Jim put it.
‘It had lovely woodwork, looked nice and obviously sailed well, but it wouldn’t have been a good compromise for us to sell a well-equipped boat from 2007 (referring to Flair V) and buy something that was older in design just because it had some big windows.’
The Regina 40 and 43 made their way on to the list before being rejected when shallow draught entered the equation. That reduced the choice even further.
Jim considered a Sirius (from one of the few builders offering a choice of fins, twins or swing keels) before a friend with an interest in statistical analysis suggested that the Southerly 42 stacked up pretty well.
Big or bigger?
Apart from the type of boat to buy, the main question was its size. As Jim says: ‘It’s easy to look at slightly bigger boats, then a bit bigger again, then when do you stop?’
As much of their sailing would be two-handed when not with their daughters, Jim and Chrissy decided that it would be sensible to stick to something of similar length to Flair V, especially since the Southerly 42 offered so much more space.
Now in their second season with Flair VI – a Southerly 42 RST – they’re confident that they made a good decision in terms of both design and size.
‘We’re very pleased we didn’t get sucked into anything bigger than this,’ notes Jim.
Another important point was that his daughters were happy. ‘At my age it seemed unreasonable to spend a good chunk of their inheritance on the Southerly 42 unless they really wanted to share her.’
As he and the whole family hoped, they have indeed shared her, ‘whether it’s joining Chrissy and me on a cruise, or spending a night around the back of the islands here in Poole. My guess is that they and our grandchildren will be taking me out long after I become incapable of taking myself!’
The latest boat to bear the Flair name was bought through Discovery Yachts’ brokerage.
The previous owner had given the yard a long list of equipment to fit, and the work still went ahead when the boat was put on the market.
So, in addition to having been lightly used and well looked after, this particular Southerly came with pretty well everything an owner could want, including a stern-thruster.
Flair VI thus became Jim’s fifth boat designed by Rob Humphreys. All the earlier Flairs had been Humphreys designs too, except for Tony Castro’s MG 335.
‘It’s a Humphreys design so it isn’t going to be a bad sailing boat,’ says Jim, ‘and it’s got all that draught.’
As well as using Humphreys, Northshore commissioned new Southerlys of the same generation from Stephen Jones and Ed Dubois.
Jones was also given the job of designing a new deck for the Southerly 42 a few years after its launch, a ‘T’ then being added to the RS (raised saloon) designation to reflect the addition of twin wheels in the redesigned cockpit.
Whoever was responsible for which part of the boat, everything about it adds up for Jim and his family – and that includes the sailing performance.
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‘All that draught’, as he puts it, gives the Southerly 42 an advantage over fin-keelers.
After all, there’s no need to limit the depth of a keel when, at the touch of a button, you can swing it up to make the boat float in just 0.84m (2ft 9in) of water.
There are further potential performance benefits of the swing keel too, but in any event Jim was more than happy when he sailed his new boat home from Chichester to Poole, beating into 15-18 knots all the way.
‘It was going like a train.’ That was only in June last year, since when he has been east to the Solent and west as far as the Dart, ‘where we were mostly up the river, enjoying being up a creek in 3ft of water.’
Conditions were undemanding on the day I went for a sail with Jim: flat water and an easy 12-15 knots of wind.
The Southerly’s generous displacement and self-tacking jib might point to a less-than-scintillating performance in light airs, but we had enough for her to power up quite nicely.
The polars show upwind speeds of nigh-on 7 knots at about 32° to the wind when it builds, (‘Optimistic,’ says Jim. ‘Maybe 42°’ ) and 6 knots in the conditions we had.
She will also point reasonably high with the lightweight headsail on the outer forestay.
You wouldn’t normally use it upwind in more than 10 knots or so and it has to be furled away during tacks because there’s only a small space between the forestays.
It comes into its own for straight-line sailing once you’re cracked off a few degrees.
Balance seemed good and the boat felt positive and reassuringly sure-footed, suggesting that she would look after you and not get excited without good reason.
The ergonomics of the cockpit worked well.
A nice detail is where the seating is lowered slightly to form the bridgedeck, angled edges for foot-bracing making the approach to the companionway easier when the boat’s heeled.
Below decks, the raised saloon and chart table give a good view out and the keel case is incorporated into the layout in such a way as to be hardly noticeable.
It’s worth noting that the keel accounts for about one third of the ballast and the remaining two-thirds is in the cast iron grounding plate on which the boat sits when dried out.
This distribution means that the centre of gravity (CG) remains reassuringly low (and the righting moment correspondingly high) when the keel is raised, though in turn the CG is not as low with the keel down as it would be if the keel contained all the ballast.
With the seating and chart table in the raised part of the saloon, the galley is at a lower level.
Some Southerly 42s have a third cabin to port, abaft the forecabin. That moves the forward heads across to starboard, making the galley smaller.
Others are like Flair VI, with a double en-suite cabin at each end and the longer galley. You can always use the saloon if you have extra overnight guests.
In terms of finish and detail, the standard is noticeably higher than on the earlier-generation Southerlys I have sailed.
The woodwork, in a light shade of teak, is hard to fault. Jim has just one niggle thus far:
‘There’s only one drawer in the whole boat’.
Lastly on this rocket-tour of the interior, I mustn’t fail to mention the aft cabin. It’s vast.
Verdict on the Southerly 42
If you like having a good view from inside, want to be able to dry out and enjoy exploring the upper reaches of harbours and creeks and river and estuary sailing, you might find it hard to imagine why anyone wants a fin-keel and a low coachroof.
Jim Macgregor has spent most of his sailing life owning boats like this.
Now the time has come for him to start enjoying a different sort of sailing, and it looks as though the Southerly 42 RST is going to be just the right boat.
Expert opinion on the Southerly 42
Ben Sutcliffe-Davies, Marine Surveyor and full member of the Yacht Brokers Designers & Surveyors Association (YDSA)
The Southerly 42 RST, like many of the yachts built by Northshore Yachts, were built to a very high standard.
I believe the yacht’s underwater areas were solid laminate with clear gelcoat, and that her topsides and decks have a core that will be either balsa or a foam.
As with any core decks, it’s essential to check it is suitably secure and watertight.
A few of the Southerly 42 RSTs were fitted with teak decks; this needs careful examination to check for wear and water tightness of any fastenings.
I have seen some issues with voiding of the laminate, especially around the keel return mouldings and I have had reports in the past of gelcoat crazing near the hull to deck joints.
The keel arrangement is a large cast pan that is bolted up into a recess using stainless fastenings.
The whole of the keel mechanism needs regular lubrication; I have surveyed one which had damage to the laminate on the return of the keel pan after it took some rough ground.
Many of the craft were laminated in colours and, in many cases, this will now be in need of painting as the gelcoat will have faded from UV light damage.
One other thing I have found when onboard the Southerly 42 RST is that it is quite a narrow space when moving from the cockpit to the side decks, and possibly would have benefited from a few more grab rails.
Alternatives to the Southerly 42
Given the Southerly 42’s particular blend of attributes, few boats are directly comparable.
Most of those that might be seen as fulfilling broadly the same purpose are built of aluminium or have more than one hull.
If you’re attracted to the Southerly 42 but can’t find one (or can’t find the cash, as they’re not inexpensive), probably the most likely alternative is another Southerly: the 135.
The 135 was the first Southerly designed by Rob Humphreys and the first to move away from Dick Carter’s ‘wedge-of-cheese’ shape of keel found on earlier models to one that was deeper, of higher aspect ratio and more efficient.
It gave the 135 a lower centre of gravity, better upwind performance and a less intrusive keel case into the bargain.
Designed in the late 1980s, the 135 was a slim and attractive design.
By the turn of the decade, however, sales had slowed and buyers were demanding more volume.
So, in 2001, a remodelled version (the Series III) appeared, with a longer deck saloon and wider cabin top.
The original Southerly 135, the Series 1, had been a Dick Carter design that was later stretched to become the 145.
Northshore’s next move, revealed the following year, was to increase the freeboard by 15cm (6in), because the 135 still only offered stooping headroom in the aft cabin and a duck-through passage from the saloon.
Completing the transformation in 2003, when I tested the boat in her final form, were twin rudders to enable her to sport a taller rig.
Earlier Southerlys had been limited in their sail-carrying ability because the single shallow rudder would lose grip at a modest angle of heel.
Twin rudders (first seen on Humphreys’ Southerly 110 and fitted to later examples of the 115) played a major role in releasing the boat’s performance potential and making the most of her slippery hull.
She might not match the Southerly 42 RS or RST in every respect, but is probably the closest you’ll find.
Built of aluminium in France by Alubat, the Ovni range places the emphasis firmly on ruggedness and functionality.
The chined hulls are un-painted so as to need less attention, giving them an appearance that’s a little too functional for some.
Unlike Southerlys, the Ovnis carry all their ballast internally: the centreplates are unballasted and relatively easy to lift manually.
Despite stability curves that might raise questions among offshore sailors,
Ovnis have found favour among long-distance live-aboard cruisers and been chosen by some high-profile names in the cruising world.
Dating from the early 2000s, the Ovni 435 has a single rudder, but its hydraulically lifting blade is deeper than the shallow fixed blade found on the original Southerly 135 and some of the earlier Feelings.
With her generous displacement and relatively modest rig – necessitated by the lack of low-down ballast – the 435 is a steady rather than spectacular performer under sail.
She’s known for her comfortable motion and gentle handling in heavy weather.
Below decks, the high-volume hull accommodates three double cabins – two in the stern sharing a heads by the companionway, and another forward of the mast with its own heads in the bow.
The linear galley – not always popular on offshore cruisers – works because of the central bench seat over the keel case that provides a bracing point.
On the early boats, levels of insulation were variable and a fair number were built with non-standard layouts.
Like the Ovni, the Feeling 39 was designed by Philippe Briand.
She was originally built as the Kelt 39 before the Kelt yard was taken over by Kirié, builders of the Feeling range in Les Sables d’Olonne, in the late 1980s.
Kirié in turn was taken over by Alliaura Marine, which then became part of Privilege and the 39 was eventually discontinued.
One way and another, it’s a bit of a chequered history, but the boat herself has a reputation as a spacious, nicely-finished cruiser with a good performance.
Again like the Ovni, the swing-keel version carries all her ballast in a grounding plate, though this time it incorporates a central stub and two mini ‘stublets’ on which she dries out.
Being unballasted, the centreplate is easy to raise with a rope tackle.
One way in which she differs from the Ovni is in having twin rudders.
The centreplate version was always more popular among private owners.
Accommodation-wise, the centreplate case is incorporated within a bench seat in the saloon, with a galley along the port side.
A double berth is offset to starboard in the forecabin.
The alternative layout, used on the fin-keeler, has a conventional saloon with a galley to starboard by the companionway forward of the twin double aft cabins.
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