By Steven Killing

Buttered Seat Belts

A glance at the sail plan of Meridian tells you this boat is fun-and fast. It looks as though the builder carved the deck out of butter and then drove it down the highway on a hot day. A sort of smoothed out, nothing in the way of the wind profile. If you get the impression that I like the boat, you are right. This sensible approach to an Ultra Light Displacement Boat (ULDB) began soon after Chuck Schiff, a successful architect in his own right, came to work for Robert H. (Bob) Perry. Schiff had been in the office about a year and was becoming proficient at the various aspects of yacht design. Then the idle chat about a new 70 footer for Schiff began to solidify. The desire was to produce an all round ULDB one that goes upwind as well as reaches and runs.

In the past, ULDB’s were designed to ignore the rating rules and go for the speed that would deliver first to finish honors. That hasn’t changed here. In off the wind races they would shine, but they didn’t have the stability to sail fast upwind. That part has changed. Perry and Schiff had been watching the success of the Olson 30, a light boat that performs well in most wind conditions. That was their starting point. They then drew up two hulls and used the proven performance prediction program to test them out. Combining the output of the program with the expected sailing conditions in its Seattle home, they arrived at the “perfect “hull.

Ballast is a critical factor in a ULDB design. At a displacement of 26,000 pounds, the boat has 12,000 pounds of ballast for a 47 per cent ballast displacement ratio. Even with that high quantity of lead, it needs to be placed as low as possible to hold up the tall, 72V2-foot rig.

Perry comments, “We looked at bulb configurations, normal NACA style keels, and we ignored wings. In retrospect, I would have to say that wings seem the way to go, especially in light of the benefits of a low [center of gravity].” Much of the benefit of Australia Ifs famed wings is in the fact that they are made of lead and there­fore provide a lot of stability. To lower the ballast in Meridian’s case, Perry started the lead halfway down the keel and made it very thick at the bottom.

The deck has some nice sail handling features, including a recessed roller furling drum for the jib to cut down windage, lazy jacks on the main and an electric main halyard winch. The owner does have plans to cruise the boat now and again, although I think that to appreciate the scenery he may have to drag a few sea anchors. “If the impression you receive as you walk down the dock toward Meridian is one of pure racing intent,” suggests Perry, “the impression you receive below is almost the opposite.”

Berths everywhere. There are two private cabins aft and a lovely galley. It looks spacious, but that shouldn’t be too hard in a 70-footer. The hull sections show an easy-going hull shape with lots of flair above the waterline. So little consideration has been given to the IOR that, in fact, it rates 79.1 feet, well above the 70-foot limit allowed. The response from Perry and Schiff? “We are prepared to bring the rating down to 70.0, but we really don’t want to.” Strap on the seat belts and let’s go.

For more information, contact Robert H. Perry Yacht Designers, Inc., 6400 Seaview Ave. N.W., Seattle, Washington 98107.

Manufacturer: Meridian
Model: Meridian
Model year: 1984
Length: 50 – > Ft

Steve Killing is an independent designer based in midland, Ontario. He is the Head of the Design program from North America’s Cup Challenge.
Originally Published in Canadian Yacht’s Nov 1984 issue.



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