Boat Review August 2006 Issue

C&C 115

The nimble C&C 115 offers good value for the racing sailor.

Ever since they started molding fiberglass production boats, it’s been possible to win a race in one. Think of Burgoo, a Pearson 39-footer that won the 1964 Newport-Bermuda Race. Then there was Psyche, leader of the Cal-40 revolution (the Bill Lapworth phenoms not only won overall, but took six of the top seven places in the 1965 Transpac). A bit more recently, J/41 Smiles came "off the shelf" to win the old Southern Ocean Racing Conference (SORC) in 1985. However, over the more than four decades of the fiberglass era, winning big with a stock sailboat has remained the exception rather than the rule. Enter the C&C 115.

Computer-assisted processes during wet-out and curing keep the C&C 115’s hull strong and light.

The marriage between "hot" racing designers and mainstream builders is hardly new, and some companies today (J/Boats and X-Yachts for example) have done well by developing lines of race boats in which cruising capabilities are almost vestigial. However, the old chestnut, "only one in 10 boats sold ever sees a starting line" seems as valid now as ever. Rating rules have come and gone, one-design has become the new Grand Prix, and the "racers’ look" is in vogue throughout anchorages and marinas everywhere, but the vast majority of today’s new boats, even those styled as racer/cruisers, are not destined to compete.

Bucking that reality is Tim Jackett, in-house designer and CEO at Novis Marine (C&C’s parent company). His designs for Tartan have been performance-oriented, but he welcomes the chance to draw on his lifetime of racing to make the 115 a boat that can and will be raced to the max. Fairport has committed to techniques (machine-monitored wet-out, vacuum bagging, computer-controlled curing, etc.) and materials (epoxy resins and carbon fiber spars among them) in both lines that are born of the custom shops and the top-level quest for strength-to-weight supremacy. The boat, so far, has been warmly received. In the first year, the 115 has sold 45 boats.

On deck, aloft, and below the water, the 115 shows an uncompromising focus on what’s fast. Unlike some more Spartan competitors, the boat carries a fully functional cruising interior, but it’s hard to imagine this will keep the 115 out of the winners’ circle.

The Design

Modern racing boats are more similar than different in hull form. The 115’s maximum beam of 11 feet, 11 inches puts it in the middle of other similar boats (see "In Context"). On the other hand, the waterline length (33 feet) gives it a theoretical top-end speed that exceeds all but the largest (the 40-foot J/120) likely competitors. "She is sort of long and lean," says Jackett. "Her entry is considerably finer than other boats in this class. Her mid-sections are more veed than rounded. That helps with sea-keeping, especially in punching through the sort of short chop that we get on the Great Lakes." Jackett increased the boat’s overhang aft "to have less boat in the water and help minimize wetted surface for light air."

While hardly a radical departure from the raceboat norm, the 115 incorporates its designers’ best solutions (with computer-aided design, Jackett often tries over 100 iterations) into a conservative, all-around design that takes maximum advantage of how it is built.

The 115’s carbon fiber (blade and post) rudder is balanced, elliptical, high aspect, and located as far aft as possible to provide the maximum steering leverage. Retaining control in broaching conditions and maneuvering crisply even at low speeds were the objectives. Our test sail, along with reports from regattas, confirm that those goals were met. The bulbed, 4,200-pound lead keel has a very low center of gravity (achieved in part by attaching the lead casting a foot below the canoe body to a glass keel stub). In addition, the boat’s generous (39 percent) ballast/displacement ratio, pound-saving carbon spar, overall beam, and pronounced turn in the bilges make it noticeably stiff. It takes 1,200 pounds to incline the boat one degree, a creditable righting moment of 10 percent of displacement. Jackett gave the keel a slightly-raked planform with the idea of minimizing drag (and maximizing acceleration out of a tack).

The 115’s mainsail is considerably larger than the fractional (15/16) 108 percent overlapping jib. Despite his worries that in smooth water and light air, boats with big genoas would run away from his design, Jackett has found the sailplan works well: "In worst-case conditions, the boat holds her own, but the majority of the time, she has plenty of power and benefits from this being controllable rather than having to reef or make sail changes."

The C&C’s sailplan pushes the keel-stepped mast into the middle of the saloon, requiring some creativity with main cabin layout. The head is spacious and well situated, but the forward-facing nav station is a bit detached from the action for a racing boat.

Small spinnakers have been an Achilles heel for fractionally rigged racers. Jackett thus gave his design an oversized chute.

On Deck

The boat’s deck layout, spars, and hardware are all designed for racing efficiency. An oversized cockpit not only provides room for all of the posteriors and elbows involved in takedowns and spinnaker jibes. It also gives the main trimmer a well-chosen spot forward of the helm where he can work with efficient Harken "gross/fine" sheet controls tools. The helmsman enjoys excellent visibility plus a wrap-around seat and 60-inch wheel. Rail riders should appreciate a radiused rail that takes some of the pain out of hiking. (A full-length toe-rail is optional.) Two hatches, the forward-most sized right to accept a doused spinnaker, break up the foredeck.

The tapered carbon spar promotes better airflow over the main. "Puffs and chop do not affect headstay tension and max energy from the puffs is transmitted to forward motion," Jackett reports. Barber-haul adjustments that permit varied sheeting angles are a big part of making the most of the boat’s tall jib. The full racing package includes six winches, any of which can accept spinnaker controls.

Like the C&Cs of bygone days, the 115 looks proportional and balanced. "Slash" portlights offer an aggressive touch, and the open, big-wheeled cockpit is racy, but neither the stem nor stern angle calls attention to itself. What you notice are an effortless transition from house to deck, a pleasingly nimble treatment of the boat’s hindquarters, and just the suggestion of a hollow between midsection and entry. Belying the comfortable arrangements below decks, the 115 presents a relatively low-freeboard profile. More classic than "in your face," the 115’s appearance seems an expression of its no-nonsense speed potential.

Accommodations

The seeming contradiction between livable interiors and boats that sail fast has long been a fact of waterfront life. However, saving weight by means of composites, innovative structure, and intense computer analysis has helped "built for comfort" and "built for speed" become almost reconciled. It’s hard to find compromise and/or sacrifice when you look below aboard the 115. Both fore and aft staterooms are large and private, but both berths will take some getting used to: The taper is severe in the forecabin and clearance over the aft berth is slight enough to make for knee-knocking. Though there is an opening portlight overhead, ventilation aft will not be sufficient. Stowage outboard of the berth seems hardly adequate, but the hanging locker is commodious.

The head/shower-stall compartment is big and nicely designed. Stowage throughout is generous. The galley is well-sited and its L-shaped island affords a good mix of counter space and security for working underway. You would need to modify the interior (grab rails, lee cloths, gimballed table, etc.) to race the 115 offshore, but that sort of racing is not the boat’s prime mission. For living aboard between day races (or two-couple cruising), the 115’s six-berth capability seems right and the saloon seems big enough. The nav station, however, is a bit removed from the cockpit to be ideal for day racing while it is too small to work well as a cruiser’s nerve center/office.

Taste and tradition are served well throughout the interior. Solid cherry furniture, locker fronts, doors, and fiddles, cherry-veneered bulkheads, and a teak-and-holly sole add warmth. We would have preferred it to be oiled rather than varnished to minimize slipping.

Performance
We tested the boat in Coconut Grove, Fla., just south of Miami. Powering out of the channel from Dinner Key Marina to Biscayne Bay, the 28-hp Yanmar diesel saildrive was acceptably smooth and quiet. Once in open water, we were able to put the 115 through a full range of power iterations. At 2,800 rpm, its speed was above 6.7 knots. Maxed out, the boat touched 7.9. Powering created just minimal torque on the helm, The gap between the prop and the rudder, however, gave the boat more forward impetus than we’d bargained for when we tried to use the prop wash to kick the stern around and turn her in her own length. Access to three sides of the engine (sited beneath the companionway steps) is straightforward. Even reaching the after side of the powerhead is relatively easy.

We liked the ease with which the main (riding "no-friction," low-profile slugs in its luff groove) went up. The small jib was a snap to deploy. One of the keys to success on the race course is sailhandling efficiency, but you don’t have to be racing to appreciate sails that are easy to set and handle.

The sparkling morning produced an 8- to 10-knot norther that made us feel more laid-back than fired-up. Still, we took the helm and felt at once a positive, nimble response that moved us to see what the boat could do. Sailing up the breeze in relatively smooth water, the boat kept its pace to less than 30 degrees apparent wind angle. Shooting into the breeze we were amazed at how far the boat carried. ("head-reaching" is a rough test of clean lines underwater.) The 115 seemed to glide farther faster than most of the modern hulls PS has tested.

It was easy to tack through 80 degrees, and it took very little time to accelerate back into a 6-knot-plus groove out of each turn. Spinning the boat was effortless, but the helm was positive enough to let us know when we were over-steering and killing way unnecessarily. Off the wind, we were surprised at the pace (6.7 knots and better) achieved in relatively light air without a big genny. The boat is slippery, and the main is big. Even sailing as low as 150 degrees apparent without a chute, it was surprisingly fast.

We’ve had the thought before, but it occurred to us that a boat that’s set up to sail fast is a boat that’s fun to sail. Far from being overbred or finicky, the 115 is predictable, rewarding, and responsive. To fall back on the oldest of clichés, we found the boat’s "sports car handling" one of the most attractive things about Jackett’s new racer.

Reports from the race-course have all been good: Victories in the Chicago NOOD, Northstar Sail Club Fall Series, and Charleston Race Week signal that the boat goes well in differing conditions. Says Jackett, "She’s at her best in a breeze, but has been able to run away from people downwind in light air. We had a five-boat start at Annapolis NOOD this spring. I think we hit our targets with this one."

Conclusions

A production boat that delivers "custom" performance, design intensity, and quality is an achievement. At $200,000, the C&C 115 is not cheap for a 37-footer, but combining genuine speed with workable comfort is no mean feat. It comes much closer than most. Given the extremely competitive numbers and initial track record against all comers, this boat appears a racer to be reckoned with. In our estimation, the boat is a remarkable value.

Contact -C&C yachts, 440/354-3111, www.c-cyachts.com/.

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