Nonsuch 30

Nonsuch30250By Paul Howard

Nonsuch, as reported by Brian Shelley, means “without rival” (Without Rival, by Brian Shelley and Mary Beaucock Fryer, 1995. Wishbone Publishing Co. Willowdale). The class was named after the Nonsuch of the Hudson’s Bay Company that first sailed in 1968. That vessel was named after Baroness Nonsuch of Nonsuch Park, Surrey, England, who was the mother of King Charles II’s two natural sons. The Baroness also bore the illegitimate daughter of John Churchill, who was the First Duke of Malborough, and became governor of the Hudson’s Bay company in 1685.

Gordon Fisher, Past Commodore of the Royal Canadian Yacht Club, and former President of Southam Press, wanted a boat which was easy to sail, offered ample accommodation, and was of manageable length. Mark Ellis was commissioned to do the design work for this formula, and Hinterhoeller Yachts became the builder. A consortium of six R.C.Y.C. members placed orders for this magnificent new design, and the first boats were launched in 1978.

Though the Nonsuch 30 was the first, and the most popular, there is a series based on this design with a similar hull, and sail shape. All the Nonsuches continued to be designed by Mark Ellis, and built by Hinterhoeller Yachts in St. Catherines, Ontario. The series includes the: 22, 26 (Classic and Ultra versions), 33, and the 36. Upgraded versions of the 30, called the Nova and the 324, were introduced. These models boast an improved interior and a carbon fiber mast and wishbone.

Sadly, production of the Nonsuch came to a close in January 1996, when Hinterhoeller Yachts closed its doors.

The hull shape is patterned after 19th century working catboats of the U.S. east coast. At 11’10” beam for 30’4″ length, the beam to length ratio is extreme in comparison to most monohull sailboats. The beam is also carried over most of the length, resulting in a hugely spacious interior and cockpit. Indicative of her working boat heritage, the Nonsuch’s mast is unstayed and placed forward of the accommodation area. An aluminum wishbone, about the same length as the boat, is high off the deck and sheeted at the aft end. A relatively flat underbody, moderate draft fin keel, and semi-balanced spade rudder at the aft end of the waterline, give the Nonsuch design a low-wetted surface which results in good performance.

With no chain plates, shrouds or stays, Genoa track or cars, mainsheet traveler, or primary winches, on the cockpit coamings (there is one mainsheet winch well aft on the starboard coaming), there is an amazing amount of space above deck on this 30 footer. Cockpit benches are living-room chair depth, with high coamings for comfortable seating.

The boat’s most apparent feature, from the moment you step aboard, is its stability. A person’s full weight on the rail hardly affects the boat’s balance. However, comfort and weight do have their price, and at 11,500 lbs. displacement, a Nonsuch 30 is 3,500 pounds heavier than a higher performance cruiser like the CS30.

A short, three step, companionway ladder leads below through a wide companionway. The interior is brighter than most sailboats, with three opening hatches in the coach roof, plus nine opening ports. Two quarter berths grace either side of the companionway, and there is a sizable L-shaped galley to port. The head includes a shower and is a generous size, as is the forward lounging area, which has a port and a starboard settee, complete with a drop-leaf table on the centre line. The port side berth extends to provide a double capacity bunk. Later Classic interiors added a slide up panel and bi-fold doors to close off the forward cabin. There is also ample storage space available, in the form of a hanging locker, in the forward cabin.

The interior of the Ultra, introduced in 1984, has a large permanent double berth located forward in the cabin, with a large hanging locker and a vanity on the opposite side. Aft lies a large head with a separate shower stall. A bi-fold, teak door separates the forward cabin from the main salon. The head is almost bathroom-sized, and lies opposite a large galley. Just inside the companionway lies an L-shaped dinette, with an opposing settee and a hanging locker aft. The permanent sleeping area is comfortable, private and out of traffic.

Diesel engines in the Nonsuch 30 have ranged from Volvo MD11C Saildrive (most Classics), to a Westerbeke V-drive in the Ultra years. There are cradle lines, slung under the wishbone boom, which fully contains the sail when it is down. If you are fortunate, you will be sailing on a boat equipped with a power halyard winch for when you round into the wind and start raising the mainsail. If not, the last of the 540 square foot single sail will require a lot of cranking on the halyard winch on the coachroof. A 12 volt power winch is an option that is well worth the investment for those of us who are not ageing as gracefully as our boats. In addition to the electric halyard winch, other desirable options include an extended bow pulpit, incorporating bow rails, and anchor rollers. The near plumb-bluff bows, combined with a tipped down anchor on a standard short-bow roller, generally leads to gelcoat nicks.

Once the sail is up, it is simply sheeted to the winch beside the helm station, as it is self-tacking and self-vanging. The top of the mast flexes to spill the wind from the upper part of the sail when the wind pipes up. Thus, it is common to see Nonsuches out on a gusty day, under full sail, and still relatively upright. This type of stability is also achieved through a good combination of weight, ballast (39 per cent), and hull form stability. It is a quality which is pleasantly reassuring to guests, neophyte sailors and, of course, nervous spouses.

The windward ability of the Nonsuch is better than most sailors would expect, given the bluff bows, the high topsides, and the usual dodger and bimini combinations. Off the wind performance is also very good. The big, fixed-shape sail catches a great deal of wind, however the large sail area is unable to overcome the weight factor in the light winds.

With nearly one thousand built, the Nonsuch enjoys a loyal following and an active owners association of about 575 members. Rallies and group cruises are organized annually, and the owners’ association publishes a 112-page compendium of articles detailing engine maintenance information, and various upgrades and equipment that owners have installed. Fibreglass work was good, and the hulls have aged well as a result, although crazing and stress marks on the deck, around the mast partners, is common, and can require repair. With the early boats now nearing 20 years old, many have had, or need, their topsides recoated.

I am often asked about the suitability of the Nonsuch for ocean crossings and although I feel confident in the ability of this design to withstand the stress of such a voyage, I must qualify my endorsement. There have been two books written by people who have attempted ocean crossings in a Nonsuch 30. In the case of Brian Shelley, the 1985 crossing to Falmouth was successful, but the boat was lost on the return trip. Breakdowns in the wishbone boom, the sail ripping from the mast track, and the loss of halyards, were some of the problems encountered. Ocean sailing causes a great deal of chafe and stress, due to the constant rolling and pitching. Most sailors know where to look for fraying lines and worn fittings on standard rig, but wishbone-rigged boats have a different set of wear and chafe points that must be considered. The pennants, shackles, and fittings that hold the wishbone boom to the mast, must be inspected frequently for wear. The choker line for the wishbone needs frequent replacement, and the sail slides and luff taping may require reinforcing. One must also be aware that the original blocks, tackle, and sheet fittings may need upgrading for long distance/long term sailing. Both abandoned boats, David Philpott’s Serenity (Dangerous Waters, by David Philpott, 1985. McClelland and Stewart, Toronto), and Saci IV, Brain Shelley’s boat (mentioned above), drifted for four to five months with no one aboard. They were eventually found, taken to port, refitted, and are sailing again. The hull integrity never failed.

The Nonsuch represents good value for money. This design offers high re-sale value, ease of sailing and, with marina charges always based on a price per foot of length, owners get maximum cockpit and interior volume for their 30 feet.

Originally published in Canadian Yachting’s Fall 1996 issue.


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