AS-29 Handling and Sailing Characteristics.

AS-29 Handling and Sailing Characteristics.

In response to a query on AS-29 handling I will attempt to summarise my experience on Leyenda over the last few years. At the outset I can only claim hopping up and down the NSW coast and not ocean crossing. I have used my boat primarily as a liveaboard mobile work base moving from job to job as an itinerant boatbuilder. Consequently I have generally been fortunate enough to select favourable winds for the passages and have not encountered anything too severe.

A shoal draft flat-bottom hard chine boat with low-aspect cat yawl rig must, of course, be sailed differently to a deep draft, round bilge high aspect boat. The rig takes a bit of getting used to but after a while I began to appreciate its advantages. The boat sails like a big skiff and must be trimmed as such. With all your driving force in one powerful gaff mainsail hanging off the mast up the bow it is not hard for the sailing forces to get off balance if wind strength becomes excessive. I found this out through trial and error and in stronger winds the main must be reefed down for steering control. This is imperative. The hull form is extremely efficient and reduction of sail area does not slow the boat down but maintains boat speed and steering control. You then have a fast, sensitive, balanced monohull that will leave most others in her wake. This is especially true with sheets eased and moreso if the bottom and boards are given a good scrub before sailing past the racing boats. This is not exaggeration as AS29 with well cut sails and minimal friction will outfoot downwind comparable modern `cruiser-racers' due to hull form efficiency.

Reduce the wetted surface by raising both boards completely when running square. If steerage is a bit unresponsive lower half a board. Experiment with both/either board. Usually when driving to windward I have the lee board fully down and the weather board halfway. Tacking is brilliant...just slam her across and carry on the new tack without fuss. AS-29 points very high although you have to sail by feel due to the lack of rigging to attach telltales. I suppose one could invest in a masthead indicator but by now I am used to the simplicity of looking at wind shifts on water rather than looking up aloft. It is a cruising boat, after all.

The 1st reef usually goes in at about 15Knts. If the wind is expected to increase the 2nd reef is preferred as it saves having to reef again. Drop the gaff and sail on the gallows and do it at your leisure without the hindrance of a wildly-flogging main. In stronger winds I like to sheet the double-reefed main in flat and hard with traveller out and sail the boat free. It is important to have a clean aerofoil shape with taut leech for maximum effort. If she has a tendency to round up let the mizzen out ... sometimes totally so that the little sail completely luffs. The idea is to balance sail/hull pressures for the increasing forces of a stronger wind. If you don't have good steering control then lower the mizzen to the deck and sail under double-reefed main alone. This is the smallest sail area I have gone down to when caught offshore in 30 knts+ and 2.5 - 3m. breaking seas. In hindsight, a 3rd reef would have given better control in these conditions but as it was I reached down to Sydney Harbour and she smoothly rode the seas like a cork. When picked up by the wave the weather chine lifts before the stability of the hard lee chine takes effect. She levels out to surf down the wave with the full bow not tending to dive.

I was impressed with her ease at handling rough conditions which greatly increased my confidence in rough weather capability of a sharpie. AS29 gives a comfortable ride downhill in rolling swells and if you must sail to windward in a short, steep chop it's better to steer a bit freer for boat speed rather than pinching for pointing ability. Keep her heeling to avoid any slamming. Given time and resources (in short supply!) I would feel confident in attempting extended ocean crossings in this boat. The essence of it all is that an easily driven hull form requires very little sail to make good speeds. In my view, reef down when the wind is up and maintain responsive steering control.

The spinnaker is great in winds up to 15 knts. Most of my sailing has been singlehanded and you have your hands full if you are crazy enough to attempt to sail alone with the kite up. In moments of reckless enthusiasm for the extra speed of the spinnaker I almost came to grief when the wind increased and I attempted to douse it with shoreline looming up and no-one to steer. I reckon spinnakers be set only with a competent crew at the helm. Also, keep an eye on the whip of the oregon mast, especially when close-reaching. The mast built to plan is strong but 430sq.ft. of dacron can exert tremendous forces on an unstayed stick of 6" diam. hollow wood. Don't be hesitant to ease the spinnaker sheet if it looks like it might explode into splinters! N.B. To avoid a broken boom, simply tie a figure 8 knot on the mainsheet before the boom goes past 90 degrees....otherwise it will meet the mainmast tabernacle and snap about 1' from the gooseneck. I learnt this one the hard way.

AS-29 has the advantage of being anchored in knee-deep water and beached on any protected rock-free beach. I have found instant mast-lowering to be a big plus as I am based about 20kms upstream of a low bridge and overhead wires... hence Leyenda is the only boat this far up river anchored in shallow water. Slamming is only of concern if you are anchored or moored in an exposed anchorage in chop... better to choose a sheltered anchorage. I have lived with the advantages of this boat for 8 years and have no intention of going back to the less practical conventional alternative.

So, why sell? Primarily because I am land based now and need to build up the business. Work tends to get in the way of cruising and to continue to live I am compelled to work (!!). A client wants me to build another MicroNavigator which will require one more builder (possibly for all those !~ #* jobs?). The Navigator in the photos is constructed of cedar/silver ash/teak and (finances pending) may be touring the Wooden Boat meets next year. I have a modest ambition of sailing to the outer islands of the Great Barrier Reef to dive on the coral before the Crown of Thorns starfish devours it completely!

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