Compact and superbly built, the Rustler 31 is ideal for a two-man crew, as Bob Aylott finds when he steps aboard a 1981 model

Product Overview


USED BOAT: Rustler 31


Rustler 31 review

See the April 2016 issue of Yachting Monthly for the full test

What’s she like to sail?

With her sound design, substantial build quality, encapsulated long keel and high ballast ratio she is steadfast and sea-kindly. Her rig is strong and simple – a thick-section mast well supported with chunky fore and aft lower shrouds. The deep vee-sectioned, overhanging bow cuts through waves rather than slamming, and little water reaches her cockpit unless you push her too hard.

Though slower to react to the helm than a lightweight fin-keel yacht, she is thoroughly predictable and gets on with the job regardless of sea and weather. Her big genoa provides most of the power and should be reefed first, when her lee toerail is awash. She can be cutter-rigged if you need a more flexible sailplan.

Her shortish waterline and large surface area below it make her relatively slow downwind, but a spinnaker will speed her up considerably in light to medium airs. She tracks straight, with little or no assistance needed on the helm to keep her on course.

What’s she like in port and at anchor?

On many Rustler 31s, the anchor chain is fed down a pipe into a locker below the forward berths. This can be tedious, as often the chain piles up in a pyramid and blocks the pipe when recovering the anchor, so someone has to go below and tip the pile over. She has stout mooring cleats and fairleads, but none amidships. An extra turning block on the genoa track can help with solo docking.

Her long-keel hull is cumbersome when motoring astern. It takes a little practice and there are a few tricks to learn, but most owners soon learn how to manoeuvre in and out of marina berths. But that keel also provides a good, flat base for her to dry out on, and with a pair of legs fitted she’ll take the ground upright.

If she has a downside it’s her accommodation – somewhat cramped and a little gloomy. For a couple, it’s just a question of working around each other, but with guests you’d best hope for fine weather or invest in a cockpit tent. Her cockpit is long but narrow and if a wheel has been fitted it reduces the useable space quite a bit, whereas a tiller can be hinged up to free more space.

Would she suit you and your crew?

Whether or not you’d want to own a Rustler 31 depends on your outlook to sailing and what your priorities are. She is indeed pretty, sails to windward effortlessly and if you’re planning to do frequent long, open-ocean passages, she won’t let you down. But if you like having groups of friends on board for the week, then you’d better have some skinny mates!

The cabin layout is snug but straightforward and practical. The two 1.88m long (6ft 3in) settees make very good sea berths with the addition of leecloths. Even better if you can find the version with a quarterberth behind the chart table. However, the galley is basic and small, as is the heads. Also, few Rustler 31s have pressurised hot water and even if they did, there’s no room for a shower unless you have it in the cockpit.

To sum up, this is a boat for the traditionalist – someone who likes the look and feel of owning a classic yacht and is willing to overlook her shortfalls in the luxury department for her seaworthiness and beauty on the water. And unless you have deep pockets, it’s good to be handy at boat maintenance, too.

Facts and figures
Guide price £18,000-£25,000

LOA 9.58m (31ft 5in)
LWL 7.32m (24ft)
Beam 2.74m (9ft)
Draught 1.68m (5ft 6in)
Displacement 5792kg (12,770 lb)
Ballast 2,540kg (5,600 lb)
Ballast ratio 43.9 (%)
Sail area 51m2 (547sq ft)
SA/D ratio 16.1
Diesel 68 litres (15gal)
Water 50 litres (11gal)
Engine 28hp
Transmission Shaft drive
Designer Holman & Pye
Builder Various, including Maltings, Orion and Ansteys
Owners Group Websites