BOAT TEST: SALTHOUSE CORSAIR CABRIOLET
Classic design and seagoing practicality meets modern technology and fresh, crisp, styling in the latest Corsair Cabriolet from the yard of Auckland’s Dean Salthouse. STEVE RAEA soaks it up
Eligo is the seventh new generation Corsair Cabriolet off the floor, and with orders for three more, Dean Salthouse is one of few top-end motoryacht builders finding a market at a difficult time for boatbuilding in New Zealand.
With each new boat comes minor modifications, and his latest build project is a case in point with a number of refinements that, on their own, are not overly significant but collectively add up to a greater good.
This is the third Corsair Cabriolet we've looked at since Dean (son of iconic yacht and launch designer Bob Salthouse) formed his own business in 2004 under the Next Generation Boats banner and started building the Cabriolet.
If you're confused about the use of Corsair, the family name Salthouse, and Next Generation Boats, then the following might help:
As old salts will know, the original Corsair Mk I was a 1970's design by Bob Salthouse and it was a boat that became synonymous - some would go so far as to say set the benchmark - for easy seagoing characteristics and liveaboard comfort afloat. It went on to become one of NZ's biggest-selling designs with about 170 Corsair Mk I and Mk II boats built.
Even today, the enduring Corsair design and quality construction inherent in the Salthouse brand make them hot property on the secondhand market, and brokers can't get enough of them. Interestingly, one Auckland broker recently commented that old yachties don't retire - they buy a Corsair.
And it is not too hard to see why. One of Bob Salthouse's most capable boats was the Cavalier 32 - a nuggety little keeler from the 1970s that put offshore voyaging firmly in the grasp of the family man. Powerful, sea-kindly and extremely forgiving, the Cav' 32 is still, by my reckoning, the best value, budget cruiser on the market today.
Anyway, back to the Corsair. Corsair production ceased in the mid-1990s until 2004 when Dean, the youngest of Bob's three sons, set about resurrecting the design with a thoroughly modern makeover.
Mindful of the trust in his father's original design, Dean was acutely aware that change for change sake could do more harm than good with the potential to alienate scores of Corsair owners who would scrutinise his every move.
Sensitivity and discretion, says Dean, was paramount because the one thing over and above everything else that Corsair owners enjoy about their boats is the blend of proven seagoing practicality and onboard comfort.
"Trading on the Corsair name carries responsibilities because it is those existing Corsair owners that we need to win over with the new Cabriolet and wholesale change was not going to do it," Dean told <I>Trade-a-Boat</I>.
"The reality too is that there are some things that can't be improved. Sure, you can tweak things one way and another, but they've all largely been tried before. Boats are all about compromise. Sales tell us that retaining the original spirit of the Corsair is by far the safest course," he said.
This, however, does not mean that today's Corsair Cabriolet is merely a reincarnation of yesterday's Corsair. The most significant changes are those you can't see. First and foremost, the new Cabriolet has seen the introduction of a full-length keel and a single rudder on the centreline in place of the original twin-rudder installation.
Further hull design changes have resulted in a raised chine rail and the relocation of engine-cooling air intakes and additional internal bulkheads to create greater stiffness and to cater for minor proportional changes to the internal layout.
Dean says a lot of effort has gone into improving the Corsair's handling in a following sea with the new keel aiding the hull's ability to track easily with less risk of broaching in awkward, quartering seas.
"The Corsair has always been a class leader in her windward performance, but motoring downwind in following seas has required a certain level of concentration. The improvements gained from adding the keel and widening the aft chine are considerable," Dean says.
"As a consequence, the boat is far less demanding on the helm in quartering and running seas and well within the capabilities of today's modern autopilot.
"Another benefit from the single rudder is a cleaner, less disturbed run aft and less prop wash on the rudder blade, which in turn means longer intervals between Propspeed applications," he said.
One of the nicest things about the new Corsair Cabriolet is that it remains true to its heritage. It is a classic boat that, through the process of technology enhancement, has maintained all its classic appeal. Classic does not mean olde worlde, because the onboard systems and engineering in the new Cabriolet are as sharp and advanced as you would find on any modern cruiser.
Quality is where it is at and quality is what you get with time-proven boatbuilding practices and an attention to detail often lacking in modern production cruisers.
While there is no shortage of style and sophistication in the new Cabriolet, it's a boat designed and built to be used; a boat for the entire family - from sticky-fingered kids through to grandparents in their golden years. It is a look, touch and try-me boat built to take the knocks that come as part and parcel of family living.
"If you can't relax in your boat and enjoy a sense of familiarity and comfort in your surroundings then there's little point owning a boat. Corsair has always been about family and this is what we do best," says Dean. "It's about balancing style with ease-of-use and low maintenance."
This goes a long way to describing the Cabriolet perfectly, with its large, clutter-free cockpit, expansive boarding platform and foredeck, well laid out galley, full-size shower and toilet, and comfortable private accommodation.
Dean said improvements in boat No.7 include new, toughened, one-piece safety-glass windows in the saloon and new overhead hatches. Changes that cater as much for charter survey requirements as they do for reduced long-term maintenance from failing aluminium window framing.
The other notable interior improvement is at the helm station where the step-through access hatch/door to the starboard deck has been made considerably larger by recessing the step to deck level. This not only makes getting in and out a whole lot easier and faster, it also looks smart finished in stainless steel plate.
"It's the little things that make the difference," Dean says. "We get some people onboard who don't notice change much beyond the finish and furnishings, and that suits us fine. We've achieved our goal of modernising the Corsair without changing it. It's a fine balance."
The Cabriolet hull is handlaid GRP with an end grain pre-sealed balsa core with a vinylester barrier coat to ward against osmosis.
To accommodate the higher speeds of the Cabriolet (compared with the original Corsair), Salthouse has added extra strengthening below the forward sole and added an extra engineroom bulkhead to strengthen the saloon sole and reduce hull flex.
Salthouse describes the hull as a fine entry with a long, clean, run aft and moderate 11o deadrise for economical cruising. The upgraded spray rails provide additional lift, reduce drag and do a good job of deflecting the extra wash generated by the additional horsepower.
POWER OF TWO
Eligo is powered by twin MTU 6R700 M94 common rail diesels rated at 345hp, which Salthouse says are perfectly matched to the Corsair, being both relatively light yet delivering impressive torque. Top speed is a credible 33kts with the engines sitting at 3800rpm sipping 4.63lt/nm. At a 22-knot cruise consumption is just under 3lt/nm giving a potential range of 272nm from the 900lt tank.
More impressive, however, is the Corsair's low speed economy. Cruising at a stately 7kts, the MTUs sip a miserly 0.54ltnm making the Corsair an ideal proposition for extended coastal cruising.
At the twin-bench seat helm, steering and throttle fall nicely to hand with the Raymarine instrument package nearby and not dominating proceedings or detracting from the expansive views through the windscreen.
If you can't be at the helm then the next best place is the cockpit with its sumptuous leatherette lounger, dining table and spacious cockpit area leading to a wide swimplatform with built-in livebait tank and wraparound stainless steel transom railings and twin gates for easy on/off access. The flow between cockpit and galley/saloon is well thought out, providing a harmonious indoor/outdoor living area.
This is further enhanced by a large window between the galley and cockpit that opens out on gas struts to create a large serving hatch that allows the chef in the galley to chat with those in the cockpit while rattling the pots and pans.
Step inside and the open-plan theme continues, revealing a sophisticated yet practical layout and exemplary handcrafted joinery in cherry timbers and veneers, complemented by generous leather settees and colour-coded carpeting throughout. The galley and saloon are on a single level and designed in such a way that they meld into each other to maximise internal volume.
If cooking is your thing then you're well served with a large U-shaped galley equipped with everything you could possibly want, including eye-level microwave, oven and hob, top-loading stainless steel freezer, separate fridge and masses of counter space.
The pantry and drawers are a work of art with whisper-quiet rollers and vacuum push-lock latches to keep everything in place when the going gets rough.
The wraparound leather settee to port surrounds a handcrafted drop-down dining table that lowers to form an extra double berth if required. A second leather settee stretches across the full length of the saloon to starboard and is the ideal spot for an afternoon siesta.
Eligo sleeps two couples comfortably in twin cabins, the master forward featuring a large, full-size island-style double with everything you need for a extended stay. The second cabin immediately aft and to port, is configured so that it can be quickly transformed to provide two singles by removing an infill squab. The cabins are light and airy with overhead hatches, quality lighting and excellent storage options under the berths.
Sensibly, Salthouse has stuck to a single head in the Corsair but it is a beauty - big, light and airy with a large separate shower stall - all perfectly moulded for easy cleaning. Fittings include a domestic-size electric head and basin, overhead hatches and quality fittings.
The Cabriolet has remained loyal to its heritage yet presents as a thoroughly modern cruiser with the performance and handling to match. This is very much a family boat with the wherewithal to be many things - a capable offshore fishing platform for boys' weekends away, a sophisticated and stylish haven for Friday night cocktails, and a fabulous retreat for extended family weekends pottering around the coast.
Moreover, the Cabriolet's miserly low-speed fuel consumption and proven heritage make her an ideal boat for extended offshore/coastal cruising with genuine liveaboard potential. The complete package.
Specifications - Corsair Cabriolet
PRICE AS TESTED
Bowthruster, rod locker, Satmar satellite TV dome, cockpit freezer, Shorepower unit for refrigeration, electronic package upgraded to Raymarine C120, hinging stern gates, and diesel heater
Approx $A608,764 w/ 2 x Cummins QSB5.9 330
Length overall: 13.5m
Displacement: 8 to 9.5 tonnes
Holding tank: 95lt
Make/model: 2 x MTU 6R700 M94
Type: Common rail diesel
Rated HP: 345
Max. RPM: 3800
FOR MORE INFORMATION
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