The story of C&C Yachts is a boating industry epic. The company was founded when designers George Cuthbertson and George Cassian got together with three boatbuilders in 1969 to capitalize on their joint racing success (Red Jacket, a C&C design built by Erich Bruckman and the first balsa-cored racer ever, won the 1968 SORC). Ian Morch and George Hinterhoeller were the other originals. Few sailboat manufacturers have ever achieved such dominance.
Focusing on the racer/cruiser ideal, a reputation for fairly sophisticated construction, and continued race course success (their Redline 41 Sorcery was the last production SORC winner until the late ’80s), the Canadian aggregation grew to own manufacturing plants in three countries and an estimated 20 percent of the US sailboat market. Along the way it offered up a flotilla of well-accepted dual- purpose designs (plus one or two “anomalies” like the ugly-duckling Mega 30) and brought corporate purpose and polish to the “cottage industry” of producing sailboats.
However, recession in the ’80s, competition from a used-boat market (very much of its own making), unfavorable currency fluctuations, and finally a hostile takeover which removed Cuthbertson, last of the founding principals, sent the giant on a downward spiral. Through ownership changes and even receiverships the name (and curtailed production) limped on. Then a fire in 1994 destroyed 40 molds and three near-complete 51-footers. Finally Fairport Marine, the parent company for Tartan Yachts, bought “the name and a few molds” in 1997. Says Tim Jackett, chief designer and general manager at Tartan, “It was an opportunity to take advantage of C&C’s reputation for performance.” He has since introduced two new C&C boats of his own design. “We’re excited that we’re going to have a separate start for a fleet of our C&C Express 99s at Key West this winter,” Jackett reports. (For a review of the new C&C 99, see Practical Sailor’s June 2003 issue.)
From beginning to end (with the exception of its “pure cruising” Landfall series) C&C put racing potential first. That led to hull forms colored by various rating rules, but it has also meant boats with healthy sail area for their displacements; weight-conscious construction; efficient, controllable rigs, and optimized hydrodynamics. Some, like the 30, 35, the 40, and the most-popular C&C 27 (over 1,000 built) have become “classics” and remained remarkably competitive. Others, the C&C 29 among them, were less popular.
The problem with the 29 may have stemmed from difficulty of replacing winners like the 27 and 30, or from being a “transition” between the CCA archetype and the IOR hull form, or from her departure from the “all-round boat” performance model. Whatever the causes, however, they led to a Mark II version that was, in reality, an entirely different boat. The original 29, introduced in 1976, was 29′ 7″ overall. The new boat, launched in 1983, was over a foot shorter. This wasn’t the result of a chopped transom or a plugged mold: The MK II version was narrower (by 11″), lighter (by 800 lbs.) and carried considerably less sail. Thus, while used boat listings will all say “C&C 29”, the distinction between MK I and MK II is much more important in this case than with most other manufacturers and models.
The MK I version of the 29 grew out of a management directive to “make our little boats more cost-effective to build.” The resulting 29 was a lighter (by 500 lbs.) and cheaper (700 lbs. less ballast) alternative to the 30. Says Hank Evans, one-time C&C sales manager, “The thinking was to take some of the volume out of the underbody and put it in the topsides, thus reducing wetted surface… This volume was placed above the waterline in rather extreme topside flare. This produced a beamy and roomy interior above the waterline where the space was used for living and storage.”
The “rather extreme” topside flare noted by Mr. Evans is now fairly commonplace.
The new boat was virtually as “liveable” as the 30 that she was meant to replace. However, Evans remembers, the 29’s hull shape “produced a boat that was ‘tender’ at the dock and initially under sail. As the boat heeled the flare became immersed and the boat stiffened markedly. It is actually hard to get the windows of the MK I wet. Unfortunately, as the boat heeled and immersed all that topside flare, the unwanted drag not only slowed her down, it tended to push the bow to windward. That, combined with the rudder becoming less effective (even coming out of the water at times) at greater angles of heel, caused unintentional and undesired round-ups.”
Evans says that the original 29 was one of Cuthbertson’s least favorite designs. “While the 29 was a great success (over 600 sold) with many one- design fleets, and is a pretty good-looking boat, it left a lot to be desired from a design standpoint. It was very fast and nicely balanced in light and moderate air, but the only way to sail her in a breeze is to ease the traveler all the way down and carry the main almost fully aback. Racer/cruisers are not generally intended to be sailed like dinghies.”
A common modification to the MK I 29, especially in heavy-wind areas like San Francisco Bay, is a C&C-designed, 500-pound “shoe,” permanently affixed to her original keel.
“The 29 MK II is a totally different boat,” says Evans. “The two boats have nothing in common but their names.”
The MK II version relies more on ballast than shape when it comes to stability. Though her lead fin weighs the same 2,700 lbs. as her predecessor’s, it’s thicker, straighter, and attached to a deeper stub. In addition to a ballast/displacement ratio improved from 36 to 40 percent, the new boat thus has a decidedly lower center of gravity. Though she is narrower (9′ 5″ beam vs. 10′ 4″) the MK II offers effective form stability due to relatively hard bilges that are carried well fore and aft of her midpoint. U-shaped sections in her forefoot, smooth waterlines, and a “skeg/bustle” leading into the rudder also give her an underbody that helps to smooth out the “crankiness” that characterized the MK I’s performance in a breeze.
Some of the other differences reflect racer/cruiser evolution over the decade separating their design. The MK II has a larger mainsail which, says chief designer Rob Ball, “makes her more effective in puffy conditions.” Her keel is a retreat from the shark-fin profile evident in the MK I, toward a higher-aspect/more vertical planform. Ball explains: “The theory is that you can keep cutting drag by sweeping the keel aft without affecting lift that much. The tank said the shark fin was the way to go. Our boats have always done well off the wind and in light air, but when the ‘Peterson-style’ (vertical trailing edge) foils came along, they proved very fast upwind in a breeze. We moved in that direction to stay competitive, but we did it before we explored the swept-back keel as much as we wanted. Still, there’s no doubting that you can make a straight-edged keel thicker and thus have room for more ballast.”
The MK II’s rudder is also deeper and has a higher aspect ratio than the less effective blade on the first 29.
C & C yachts have been distinguished by a sharp, aggressive, and functional aesthetic from the outset. The two 29s are good examples of the “look of speed” that was a C & C hallmark. But there are subtle differences: With a longer bow overhang, boxier transom, and “scattered” window treatment, the first 29 clearly dates from an earlier time. With a curvier sheer and higher bow, a jaunty counter, and house windows streamlined for effect, the MK II looks much more modern.
Both C&C 29s were built of solid fiberglass with balsa-cored decks. Part of C&C’s pioneering (in addition to balsa coring) was in the use of fiberglass “pans” or structural grids built into the boat to both locate furniture and help distribute working loads. Says Rob Ball, “We’ve used many different forms of grid. We began with a combination of fiberglass with wooden furniture, went more toward an all-glass structure, went back to wood due to market pressure, and finally arrived at inserting the grid and taping and foaming it in place while the hull is still in the mold. Grids, in any case, demand a lot of precision in both molding and assembly.”
The two 29s have very similar grid systems. They extend above the waterline to seat level. Additional furniture is built in and bulkheads are taped and tabbed in place. These bonds, though they may be hidden behind furniture or beneath a headliner, are critical. Checking them should be a first priority with any used boat survey. One owner of a 1979 boat, in fact, reported separation between his hull and the bulkhead supporting a chainplate.
Over the years, laminates have gotten thinner as builders have come to trust more in the properties of their materials. Still, in 1982 the MK II exemplified the sort of robust lay-up that could make interior reinforcing grids seem almost irrelevant: Behind the gelcoat are two 1.5-oz. layers of chopped matt. That is backed by Fabmat, a bi-axial blend of 1.8- and 1.0-oz. matt. Over the “impact area” of the forward third of the boat are arrayed 4-mm plies of Coremat. Additional 1.5- oz plies and another layer of Fabmat are added in the way of the keel, and further layers of Fabmat are used to counteract local loads. Enough MK I owners reported blistering to suggest that it was a significant problem with the older boat, though none reported the pox as catastrophic. A single owner reported “just a few” blisters with the MK II.
Decks on both boats were also built in much the same way. They were cored with 1/2″ end-grain balsa. In areas where hardware is attached, the coring was 1/2″ plywood. A flange of solid glass 6″ wide encircles the deck molding and facilitates the hull/deck attachment. That is done by placing the deck on an inward-turning flange of the hull, sealing the joint and inserting a vinyl rubrail, then bolting the two parts together through a full-length slotted aluminum toerail—another C&C hallmark.
A problem with the MK I has been the mast step. It’s a wooden block, and many owners report having to replace it due to rot.
C&C glasswork has generally been rated above average, but owners of both models have registered complaints about gelcoat crazing and small cracks on the cockpit sole and in the area of winches.
Though they have been cruised widely, neither 29 approaches “liveaboard” standards of comfort. The MK I layout is straightforward—a quarterberth and nav station to port, galley to starboard, saloon amidships, a full-width head, and a forecabin that, according to one owner, is “somewhat cave-like.”
Most owners find their boats ideal for a couple and say that space becomes more of a problem with each additional shipmate. Recognizing the limits of a boat under 30 feet and one designed primarily for racing, the majority of early 29 sailors say things like, “We love our boats and cruising in them.”
Still, there are various specific complaints: “The table’s in the way.” “The guy who designed the head door obviously never had to use it.” “What the hell do you need the sink forward for?” “The berths are too short and the overhead is too low.” “There’s no hanging locker.” “The ports leak.” “The deck leaks.” “She needs more tankage.”
The shorter, narrower MK II has no nav station (though a clever swing- down cutting board might be a suitable substitute). The galley is cramped by the companionway stairs, but a bulkhead table opens up the saloon, and there is a hanging locker.) Ventilation (via an overhead port just aft of the mast) is improved, too. Siting the forehatch in the forward slope of the house also improves airflow.
The early 29s were powered by Atomic-4 gasoline engines. The switch to diesel came well into the MK I’s production run. Even using the tidy Yanmar 2 GM, space in the engine compartment is tight and access inconvenient on both boats. While sound insulation appears adequate one owner calls his engine a “clunking, vibrating annoyance, to be used as little as possible.”
The combination of a balanced spade rudder, fin keel, and standard two-bladed prop gets poor reviews for backing with control, and several owners complained that similar-sized auxiliaries were “much faster than we are under power.”
In summing up his feelings for his 29 (MK I) Hank Evans says, “Quality and design pay over time.” That’s a catchy mantra, and many owners indeed report that their ancient 29s are “faster, better-looking, and more admired” than more modern competitors.
It’s certainly true that, amidst a host of very similar-looking boats churned out by many builders during the high-volume production years of a couple of decades ago, both the MKI and MK II versions of the C&C 29 stood out from the crowd. They didn’t, in our opinion, stand out entirely on their own design merits, but partially because of the reputation established and trails blazed by the C&C company. Even after all these years, that name commands respect—Tim Jackett and his fellows at Fairport/Tartan were wise to acquire it.
Between the two different versions, more than 1,000 C&C 29s were sold. That’s a success story for any production sailboat.
At press-time, there are 31 listed at www.yachtworld.com, in both versions, by brokers countrywide. Asking prices vary widely, between about $15,000 and $30,000. There doesn’t seem to be a strong correlation between version and price, or even engine type, although listings show several boats that have been converted from the Atomic-4 to Yanmar or Universal diesels.
Also With This Article
“C&C 29 Owners’ Comments.”