James Boyd Photography / www.thedailysail.com

33ft all-carbon canting keeler

Designer Sebastien Schmidt gives us a guided tour to the new Psaros 33

Wednesday June 20th 2012, Author: James Boyd, Location: Switzerland

Over the decades some extreme boats have been developed on Lake Geneva to cope with the notorious light breeze usually found on its waters.

Among the monohull offerings few boats in recent years have been able to surpass the Sebastien Schmidt-designed, Jean Psarofaghis-built Psaros 40, with its complete plethora of stability enhancing devices including not just a canting keel, but also water ballast and multiple trapeze wires. The two Psaros 40s, Oyster Funds and Syz & Co, have claimed monohull line honours in the all-important Bol d’Or Mirabaud in 2005, 2007, 2008, 2010 and 2011. In last weekend’s race Jean Psarofaghis’ own Syz & Co was only beaten by the Hungarian Libera class boat Raffica.

Ten years on from the Psaros 40’s first launch (see above), so Schmidt and Psarofaghis have come together once again to launch the Psaros 33, built at the latter’s yard in Vesenaz in carbon fibre/foam/epoxy.

While the 40 was conceived as a Bol d’Or Mirabaud monohull winner, the 33’s remit is quite different. According to Sebastien Schmidt while they want her to maintain the 40’s high performance, the 33 is designed as more of an all-rounder, to be much simpler to race by a smaller crew of five. As a result the Psaros 33 has a canting keel, but that is as far as the stability enhancing features go.

The reason they have gone for the 33ft length, Schmidt (above) says, is that it is a popular size in Switzerland and enables the boat to be readily transportable should an owner wish to take it to another lake or to the Med or to come and sail at Cowes Week. As a result the new boat has a two piece mast, while the canting keel arrangement allows the keel to be cranked up inside the hull for road trailing.

Given that the rule systems on the lake still leave a lot to be desired (Schmidt believes they should adopt IRC...) there is also the aim of developing a new box rule class on the lake, called the LEM 33, to which, it is hoped, the Psaros 33 will conform. The proposed box rule includes LOA at 10.70m, hull length at 10m, beam max TBC, able to fit in a 40ft container, max draft 2.5m, max crew weight of 385k, canting keel, no water ballast or trapezes, carbon fibre two part mast, 16.5m max air draft, retractible bowsprit and a maximum of six sails.

Compared to the Psaros 40, the 33's hull lines are markedly different. If the 40 has a slight Volvo 60 look to it with rocker and a narrow waterline, the 33’s hull is more powerful, narrow on the heeled waterline but with slab-sides, a chine and less rocker, giving it a slight mini-VO70 look. “The 40 has a low wetted area and it is very narrow and the stability you get from the ballast, the trapeze and the canting keel,” explains Schmidt. “Here we wanted simplicity - no ballast or trapeze, just a canting keel - so we tried to gain a little bit of stability in the hull shape.”

As example of simplicity, Schmidt also points to the forestay which has no chain plate – just a lashing that goes around the bowsprit, a similar arrangement found on the D35 catamarans (which he also designed).

The Southern Spars carbon fibre rig on the 33 is also very different to the arrangement on the 40. Whereas the latter has in-line spreaders and a narrow shroud base, the 33 has maximum length swept back spreaders. Again this has been designed for non-professional sailors to find easy to use. The rig does have runners, but they are there more for fine tuning and are not necessary in light airs. Shrouds are from French manufacturer Lancelin and are in Spectra.

The 33’s sail wardrobe comprises main, J1 and J2 jibs, a Code 0 for use in up to 8 knots, and two asymmetric kites flown from the retractible bowsprit. Obviously as the 33 has been designed primarily for use on lakes, so its sail plan is substantially bigger than a typical non-lake racing fixed keel 33 footer. Comparing the 33’s sail plan to the JPK 10.10 for example:

sqm Psaros 33 JPK 1010
Main  48.6 33
Light genoa 38.5  
J1 30.4 25
J2 21.4  
Spinnaker 140 85-95

However the canting keel and the 33's draft of 2.5m (0.5m more than the fixed keel JPK) should enable the Swiss boat to carry her sail for longer. Schmidt believes her rig is such that the 33 could be used for coastal racing and the flat top mainsail for example is fitted with two reefs.

The 33’s keel carries a 800kg bulb with a narrow fin of just 34mm thickness. The canting keel is reasonably unique in that the keel can be lifted via a substantial purchase point at the top of the main bulkhead enabling draft to be reduced to 1.6m. Primarily this is for transportation but is also for use getting into shallow harbours (of which there are more at present on Lake Geneva since the powers that be have chosen to drop its level by a 1m this summer).

The keel fits within a cassette which pivots and to which the lateral hydraulic ram is attached to carry out keel canting. The ram can be operated electrically via control panels mounted either side of the cockpit. According to Schmidt there is presently discussion about rule 52 and whether electricity can be used to drive the ram while racing, but at present it is forbidden, so for racing a manual pump is used, fitted in the cockpit at the top of the companionway. However Schmidt says to move the keel they have become quite adept at using gravity, dropping the keel down before a tack so that only the last few degrees need be cranked manually with the pump.

There is a glass inspection hatch through the hull just aft of the keel to see if there is any grass or weed wrapped around the keel and on the front of the keel there is a blade to remove this.

Accompanying the canting keel are of course twin asymmetric daggerboards. These seem to have grown further apart compared to the Psaros 40 but are still toed out (ie the leeward one is more or less vertical when the boat is heeled), whereas the modern trend is for daggerboards on canting keel boats to be fitted more vertically in the hull so that when the boat heels the boards develop vertical lift. “Today. purely for a sailing point of view we would be happy for them to have a slight lifting effect, but then the device to handle them becomes complicated,” says Schmidt of why the 33’s boards are configured as they are. With the present set-up a purchase point on the mast can be used to raise the boards.

The 33 is designed to be sailed with a crew of five. One change from the 40 is that the helmsman and main trimmer have swapped positions, the former coming forward, which Schmidt says is to improve communication between the crew. The cockpit is open-ended with the sidedeck carried aft (TP52-stylee). One of the strangest things for those not used to lake boats, is the lack of stanchions and life lines. They are fitted in places, but only up to shin height, to encourage the crew to remain on the boat when they are hiking.

A neat feature, and one which we are likely to see more in the future, is that the Psaros 33 is fitted with an electric engine. The Psaros 40 is typically driven with an outboard motor that drops down into the water from inside a box in the centre of the cockpit. With the 33 the more compact electric motor operates in a similar manner. The 6kw engine is power by a lithium battery. Schmidt points out that this is literally a get-out-of-harbour arrangement rather than a get you home one and one imagines that 33s destined for use outside of Lake Geneva will have to have a more grunty set-up. Schmidt says that electric engines in sailing boats are likely to become more popular in the future as the technology develops for the automotive industry. They are also looking at this option for some of their cruising cat designs.

The aim of the 33 is to make it a one design and Schmidt says that if they had five racing on the lake they would be very happy. To date two Psaros 33s have been launched and a third is waiting to be sold.

The cost of the Psaros 33 is around 250,000 Euros including sails but excluding tax.



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