By Graham Jones
C&C International’s entry into the sport boat sweepstakes is the SR 25 – a slick, sleek 25-footer that expands this builders growing stable of single-purpose, strictly-racing fillies. Following a successful regatta debut at last years Key West Race Week, the SR 25 officially became the fastest monohull for its size built on Canadian shores. And so when C&C’s sales manager, Rob Maclachlan, offered CY his demo-boat to race in a local weekend regatta, our staff began to drool over their keyboards in anticipation. The event was Cornucopia, an annual 75-boat PHRF and one design regatta, hosted over the Labour Day weekend by the friendly folks at the Dalhousie Yacht Club in St. Catherines, Ontario. This would be the ideal venue to put our magazine staff and this tricked-out rocket to the test. Real life. Real sailing. Real review, so to speak. Now the only matter left to resolve was, “Who would steer?”
The day before our regatta review, Team Canadian Yachting met with Maclachlan and C&C President, Anthony Koo, at the Niagara-on-the-Lake Sailing Club. Our plan was to rig the SR in preparation for the delivery to St. Kits that afternoon. At the same time, our crew would hopefully glean a few last-minute go-fast tidbits from the experts. The only advice we received, however, was “sail it like a dinghy.”
And at just over 1,900 pounds that just about sums it up, for the SR is a 25-foot dinghy. Like the other sport boats in its size range (the Melges 24, for example), this single-purpose design brings together exhilarating off wind performance, light weight, a stripped interior, simplified sail handling and trimming systems, trailerability and a no-compromise, no-holds-barred, strictly racing philosophy. The line drawings rendered by C&C’s designer at large, Glen Henderson, show a fine bow section as well as razor-sharp, low-drag foil sections on the rudder and a lifting bulb keel. Other conspicuous features of the 25 are a wide and open transom, a vast, shallow cockpit, pronounced hull flare aft of the primaries, spinnaker sheets that lead under the deck, a twin-spreader 7/8ths rig, and the choice of either an almost-masthead symmetrical spinnaker or an asymmetrical, flown from a retractable bow-sprit.
The technically-inclined will be interested to know that the SR is constructed using C&C’s proprietary resin infusion system in which all the elements of the laminate schedule, including the balsa core, are applied to the mould in a dry state following the application of the gel coat. In the next step of the process, the entire hull is sealed in plastic and subjected to vacuum pressure, which draws a carefully-monitored dose of resin through the fiberglass. This process controls fiberglass-to-resin ratios, promotes a void-free laminate and, in theory, produces a stiffer, stronger hull for a given weight.
With all this emphasis placed on a light, stiff hull for speeds sake, one might expect that the SR would sport a fairly large spread of sail. Yet with a sail area of 275 sq ft, the sail plan on the SR 25 is anything but radical ñ moderate is probably a better word. Even with a sail plan that is over 50 sq ft smaller than that of the J-80, the SR 25 is billed as an all-round performer. Designer Henderson explains his approach. “Generally, sport-boats receive ratings based on their ability to plane off the wind in a fresh breeze. Unfortunately, these handicaps are often tough to race with in light to medium airs. And since we spend most of our time sailing in these conditions, this is one of our boat’s strong suits.”
While the knee-jerk reaction to boost light air performance is to stack-on more sail area in an effort improve a boat’s sail area-to-displacement ratio, Henderson approaches this problem by looking below the waterline, not above the boom. To ensure light air zip with a moderate sail plan, the SR bow has a sharp entry, the hull is narrow and therefore easily driven, and the wetted surface area is so low it barely gets wet.
But does the SR live up to the promises of its designer and C&C’s earnest salesmen? To give the boat a fighting chance on the water, and also to ensure that our publisher, Cam MacDonald, and I would not hurt ourselves at mark roundings, we recruited a few smart-bodies to help pull the strings. Two ex-national team members who made sure that we were heading to the right side of the course, and who also made a significant contribution to this review filled out the crew of Team Canadian Yachting.
As Cam attended the skipper’s meeting and tried to establish our PHRF rating (a preliminary figure of 120 seconds a mile with a symmetrical spinnaker), we looked over the layout of our steed. Our crew observed that C&C has not cut-corners in the hardware department, and all the equipment on the SR is top-notch and appropriately sized. Key components include Harken two-speed primaries, a Harken traveller, Spinlock sheet stoppers on the dog-house, as well as Harken control blocks. Composite Spectra halyards and spinnaker sheets are also standard.
All of this equipment defines the SR 25 as a turn-key racer, for this speedster is ready to race out of the box, and will not require any further finishing or fairing once it leaves the C&C shop – a relief to those who want to race at a high level but cant afford the time it takes to tweak most PHRF boats for maximum performance. We were also pleased to see that the builder has set up the backstay and vang with powerful purchases that provide the crew with two-finger control in any conditions. This said, some of our crew balked at some of the hardware positioning on the factory boat. I agree that in leading the SR traveler, the backstay, and mainsheet fine-tune to the helmsperson, this crew member is burdened with too much to do in addition to his or her steering duties. We concluded that the backstay and traveler should remain back with the mainsail trimmer/tactician who sits behind the helmsperson at the back of the bus. Driving was a full-time job and therefore the mainsheet controls, with the possible exception of the fine-tune, should be left to the sail trimmers. Our headsail trimmer made another valid comment about the oversize adjustable Genoa lead cars, observing that they looked more suited to the layout of a J/35. We suggested that C&C replace the cars with a simple track and spend the money saved on a compass. C&C says that our beefs about the ergonomics of the main controls will be addressed in future boats.
On the way out to the race course, we gawked at some of the other well-conceived features of the SR. Molded foot braces that permit the crew to sit comfortably when the boat is heeled, for example, span the cockpit floor. Similar braces exist up on the bow so that the foredeck does not go for a swim in the middle of a gibe.
There is not much to observe about the SR below-decks as the cabin is virtually empty, apart from a token stove and sink. There are a vee-berth and two quarter berths down there, but the folks at C&C can’t properly call this boat an overnighter – without their fingers crossed behind their backs. For one, the needle-nose shape of the bow cramps the forward vee berth so much it is just large enough for a spinnaker bag and a single crew – any more than that and things would be very squishy. Something that would warm up the Spartan interior of the 25, however, would be the addition of a wood or fiberglass bin for keys, wallets, race instructions and sunscreen.
One of the most innovative features of the SR 25 is a lifting keel, which is raised and lowered in its trunk using a small trailer winch. With the keel wound up, the boat draws 16 inches — barely more than a loaded canoe. The rudder, which lies slightly inboard from the transom for improved control, will also lift out of a cassette-style slot for trailering.
Our start at Cornucopia was very typical of Great Lakes PHRF fleets consisting of a mixed bag of racer/cruisers ranging from a One Tonner, to a Frers 36, an Andrews 30, a Kirby 30 and a C&C 38. With the exception of the One Ton, these boats fell within a 30 second-a-mile rating band — an acceptable (if not ideal) range for fair racing in PHRF. At the start, we tacked at the boat end and ghosted away on port in search of more pressure inshore. While I won’t bore you with a tack-by-tack account of our racing, I can say that by the windward mark I was in awe of the SR 25’s light air jets.
Even in the two- to four-knot conditions, we were able to tack the SR extremely fast. In fact, we lost very little boat speed coming out of our first tack, and rapidly accelerated again into top-gear — our five person, 1,000 pound crew notwithstanding. As we tacked again to consolidate our position, Cam observed that the SR felt more like a dinghy than the Lightnings he grew up in. Indeed, roll-tacking this boat in light-air is key.
During one of our looser tacks, we swung the SR so hard that it nearly dumped the crew in the water to leeward. Moments later, as we sailed though the lee of an Andrews 30, our helmsman piped up, “This thing is a treat to steer.” From my spot back at the main traveler, I also concluded that the SR points very high for a boat of its size. During the second windward leg, the breeze built to five knots. Sensing that we were not flat enough, our helmsman called for some weight and three of our crew dutifully slid out to weather. Hiking in five knots? So what will this machine be like in 20?
Our 20-knot test-wind arrived on cue for the Sunday race. In this growing breeze, we sailed with all bods parked squarely on the hull-deck joint. Our main was set with the traveler all the way to leeward and we flew a Dacron blade jib sheeted to inboard tracks. Even in the 18-22 knot breeze that afternoon, the 25 had all kinds of power to punch through the waves. This is not something that you would expect from a light 25-footer, but we still held our own against many of the larger boats in our class. Surprisingly, we even stayed reasonably dry in the moderate waves while we worked the boat upwind. The SR showed no signs of hobby-horsing in the bumps, and was easy to steer, with a wide groove — just as it had been the day before.
When we turned the top mark and ran off-wind, this Glen Henderson design remained a stable as an aircraft carrier. And while other boats broached violently around us, we avoided the foul-ups, surfing from tough-to-trough. As our confidence built, we began to experiment with our gibe and heel angles and concluded that the 25 felt quickest with a bit of windward heel.
Our learning curve over the weekend was steep, but once we figured how to tweak this sport-boat, we were able to sail to our rating and placed with consistent, if conservative 2, 3, 3 finishes. And although we never won a race, our steady placing lead to an overall fleet win. This suggests that the SR is a strong all-round PHRF performer in winds from a puff to a blast. And at $43,000 (ex. sails, trailer and outboard) C&C’s latest can’t be beat for knots-per-dollar.
Originally published in Canadian Yachting’s Winter 1996 issue.
LOA 25ft. 5in.
LWL 21 ft.
Beam 8 ft. 6in.
Draft (up) 5 ft. 5in.
Displacement 1,960 lbs.
Sail Area 275 sq. ft.