BOAT TEST: SEAWIND 1000XL2
Seawind has produced 218 Aussie-built 1000XLs. New detail changes and a Vietnam factory mean the evergreen model should keep on going, reckons ALLAN WHITING…
The latest Seawind 1000 development comes against a backdrop of significant change for this most successful Australian sailboat maker. The test boat was the last of its kind to roll out of Seawind's Wollongong factory, as all new 1000XL2s will come from the recently acquired Corsair Marine plant in Vietnam. The newest section of the Australian plant will continue to produce locally-made 1250 models, but all other Seawind/Corsair production will be based in Vietnam.
Seawind's iconic 1000 model was launched in 1994 and remained largely unchanged until 2008, when the 1000XL was introduced. The principal changes were at the aft ends of the hulls, where an 850mm extension was built into each hull moulding. The idea sprang from waterline-increase mods by some North American Seawind owners who were looking for more speed when racing. According to Seawind's marketing and sales manager, Brent Vaughan, a cat-racing buff, the additional waterline length added a potential knot to boat speed.
When Seawind altered the 1000-model mouldings to incorporate the extended hulls a portside folding swimladder was incorporated into the design. Other 2008 changes included forward-opening coach house windows, a self-tacking jib, 2:1 main halyard purchase by means of a block at the headboard, single-line mainsail reefing and a boom cradle on the cabin roof.
Early 1000XLs weren't approved for survey with the hull extensions, but that situation was quickly resolved.
The XL2 looks externally the same as the XL, except for the aft section of the cockpit, where the cabin roof has been extended almost to the fall of the mainsheet. On the 1000XL the cockpit 'roof' consisted of zip-on canvas panels, between the saloon and the targa structure, for protection from sun and rain. That design worked fine at cockpit level, but the crew needed deft footwork when standing on the cabin top, folding the mainsail, so as to avoid putting a wayward foot through the canvas.
Because the new XL2 hardtop is a 'floating' design, there's a compression post in the centre, to take crew loads on the roof and, in the case of the test boat, this post was made removable by way of internal spring, providing unrestricted cockpit space when at anchor.
The roof is indented above the steering stations, to give the helmsperson the option of steering from behind the wheel or sitting on the cockpit coaming, in the fresh air and with better vision. A zip-in canvas cover is available for this roof cut-out.
Another advantage of the new design is the ability to attach clears all around, enclosing the cockpit space in inclement weather.
The test boat's cockpit was further enhanced by the inclusion of swivelling chairs - powerboat style - at the steering stations.
This last-of-the-Aussie-line test boat tipped the scales at around 5600kg, but offshore-manufactured 1000XL2s are expected to come in closer to 5100kg, thanks to Corsair Marine's vacuum-bag construction, using woven fibreglass materials. This technique is acknowledged to add strength, through more even resin penetration, while saving weight. Imported 1000XL2s will also sport North sails.
Although the bridgedeck saloon mouldings are much the same as the XL's, there are a couple of changes that make the saloon more of a living room than previously. The central table is now more adjustable, with two drop leaves that fold over the centre section when a full-size table isn't required. In addition, the central post telescopes, allowing height to be varied from coffee table to dining table convenience.
Like the previous arrangement the table can form a double-bed base for additional sleeping capacity, or as a saloon day bed.
The finishing touch in the saloon is a servery between the downstairs galley and the saloon. This has been made possible by replacing the former galley ceiling with a sliding hatch and incorporating an indented shelf above the stove. With the panel slid open the cook is no longer isolated from the saloon and it's easy to pass items back and forth. If a saloon TV is mounted on the convenient pad on the portside wall the cook can see it quite easily from the galley.
WHY DIDN'T THEY?
While the Seawind design team was pencilling in such useful modifications to the original 1000 layout, why didn't they do something about the positioning of the mainsheet traveller? We've had a longstanding issue with the traveller's location on the aft structural beam, right where the cockpit seat occupants sit. An accidentally-freed traveller car and mainsheet bundle can cause mayhem.
Above the transverse beam there's a relatively light, tubular targa structure that currently serves only as a seat frame, a base for the dinghy davits and platform for a pair of solar panels. Maybe, if this structure were linked to the enormously strong transverse beam and made robust enough to handle mainsheet loads, as it is on Hunter yachts, the traveller could be relocated to the top of the targa frame, getting it out of the cockpit completely.
PERFORMANCE & HANDLING
Our test sail of the new boat coincided with Seawind's annual Pittwater Regatta, but rather than jostle for wheel room with the inevitable media scrum, we chose to help ferry the boat up the coast from Sydney Harbour.
Getting the new Seawind XL2 out of a tight berth at Birkenhead Marina reminded us how manoeuvrable this broad craft is. With twin outboards working forward and reverse it was easy to spin it in its own length. Ditto when we arrived at the Royal Motor Yacht Club at Newport, where the boat had to be positioned pride-of-place for its official introduction to the Regatta attendees.
Not surprisingly, the XL2 felt the same as the 2008 XL model under power and sail. Making sail was a low-effort operation, thanks to the double-purchase main halyard. It was a relatively quick job if a crewmember bounced the halyard at the mast, but could be done singlehanded from the cockpit winch; it just took a little longer. The little self-tacking jib rolled and unrolled with no effort.
As we've discovered in the past, the conservative Seawind sail plan means the boats like a bit of breeze to get them mobile, so we motorsailed until the nor'easter kicked in.
There are some definite advantages in the Seawind 1000XL2's outboard-motor power choice: no potentially troublesome through-hull water inlets and strainers, heat exchangers and exhausts, and the big plus of being able to lift out a motor for maintenance and repair. There's also no need for the complication of folding props.
In 10kts of wind on the nose, the XL2 drove through the chop at 6kts and tacked through 90 degrees without feeling strangled. Naturally, it picked up its twin skirts with the wind on the beam and 15-knot puffs had us up around the eight-knot mark.
The delivery sail was made more interesting by the fact that this boat's proud new owner, Col Somerville, is a powerboat man who's done a lot of offshore tripping with an iron spinnaker, but is a sailing novice. Seawind's David Renouf took Col through all the necessary steps and pretty soon he was handling the boat with some assurance.
With plenty of sea-room, the sit-flat nature of the catamaran and an optional autopilot doing the helming, this introduction process happened without drama. Col's landlubber mum, Jan, also seemed totally relaxed as he learnt the ropes.
The XL2's rig and deck layout are unchanged from the XL and even the characteristic slight moulding fault in the starboard hull's anti-skid surface continues! Plusses include wide trampolines, bow seats and a foredeck boarding ladder.
We took the opportunity to slip below and check out the roomy interior, which proved to be almost identical to that of the 1000XL - if it ain't broke why try to fix it. We noted the roomy head/shower, ample sleeping and storage space and the ease of moving around the boat. Although we never found the old-style galley claustrophobic, the new open-roof design is much airier and less isolated.
Sail stowing was made easier by the new cockpit roof, allowing the crew to walk aft safely if required, although Seawind's deep sail bag, lazy jacks and clever lanyard zipper arrangement means that shouldn't be necessary most of the time.
With its new build location, lighter weight and proved pedigree the XL2 evolution seems assured to continue the success of the Seawind 1000 model.
MULTIHULLS (ABOUT TO) RULE
There's no doubt that the choice of catamarans for the America's Cup has caused much rethinking about the place of multihulls in racing fleets around the globe. With America's Cup crew and skipper aspirants looking for multihull experience in their youth there's bound to be more emphasis placed on multihull competition.
The Cruising Yacht Club of Australia's commodore, Garry Linacre, is canvassing interest among this Club's hallowed membership. "There has been a lot of talk around the club about multihull racing and its possible place at the CYCA," said Linacre in a letter to CYCA members.
"This subject has been widely discussed at Board level and recent focus has been precipitated following an approach by a member to form a multihull division to race in our Grant Thornton Short Ocean Point score series.
"Following the usual process of our sailing committee bringing information to the board, it was unanimously resolved to proceed in a manner which involves a process of investigation and gaining of knowledge," he said.
The CYCA's Sailing Committee and Audit Planning and Risk Committee are currently investigating the possibility of integrating multihulls into the CYCA's program.
AT THE HELM
Seawind's boss Richard Ward sums up the success of the 1000 models this way: "What's worked for Seawind is that we identified our market niche and stuck with it. We build high-quality, good performance cruising yachts that are family friendly.
"We don't try to be everything to everybody," he adds.
This philosophy needs to be remembered when helming the 1000XL2, which is not a racing multihull. It's an easily-sailed, safe-handling boat that has proved its inherent strength in numerous long-distance endeavours. As a value or money home on the waves the Seawind 1000XL2 offers unbeatable value.
PRICE AS TESTED
Electric anchor winch, midship deck cleats, shorepower and battery charger, stereo system, VHF radio, 175W solar panels, barbecue, LPG hot water, electric-flush toilet, transom shower, dinghy davits, mast-adjustable batten cars, jib roller furler, cockpit side clears and aft shade cloths, BEP digital panel upgrade, saltwater deckwash, solar regulator upgrade, barbecue shelf, Masthead TV antenna, upgrade to four 105amp/h batteries, MPS deck fittings, Raymarine autopilot, i70 multifunction display, and speaker upgrade
$341,133 sail away
MATERIAL: FRP foam sandwich hulls
LENGTH OVERALL: 10.85m
WEIGHT: Approx 5600kg (imported models expected to weigh-in around 5100kg)
BERTHS: Four cabins, plus dinette bed
HOLDING TANK: 90lt
MAINSAIL: 41.9m² fully-battened (optional 51.9 to 54.4m²)
HEADSAIL: 16.9m² furling, self-tacking jib
SCREACHER: 37.7m² furling, set flying (optional)
MAKE/MODEL: 2 x Yamaha High Thrust T9.9
TYPE: Four-stroke petrol outboard
RATED HP: 9.9
25 York Place,
Russell Vale, NSW, 2517
The best-selling Australian-made cruising catamaran just got better, with a new hardtop over the cockpit, revised saloon table design and an innovative sliding roof panel in the galley. Although economics have forced manufacturing offshore the plus is the weight-and-cost control that should keep the Seawind 1000XL2 at the top of the Australian cruising catamaran sales charts.
From Trade-a-Boat Issue 421, Nov-Dec, 2011. Photos: Allan Whiting, Seawind Catamarans.
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