39BEN, CC: Bente Yachts
By: Andy Rice
How do you design a cruising boat that’s fast enough to get your competitive juices flowing, but without scaring the family? That’s been the challenge for German naval architect Alex Vrolijk, who has drawn the lines for the radical - but not too radical - 39BEN. Bjarne Lorenzen of sailmaker Doyle O’leu, has been closely involved with the project throughout, and explains the rationale of this exciting new 39-footer built by Bente and officially launched at Hamburg Boatshow, October 2018.
“Alex Vrolijk and his team have been able to create something a bit different, a cruising boat with sailing performance,” Lorenzen explains. “They have already produced the 24BEN, where they installed a dodger for the cockpit made out of Plexiglass. For the 24-footer the dodger proved very effective at creating more space inside and a large companionway. It means you can stand inside the dodger and cook in the companion way, which is very practical and comfortable. So they have done the same thing for the 39BEN, which also has a really large Plexiglass dodger.”
Lorenzen worked closely with Vrolijk in configuring the rig and sail plan.
“The complete mast and rigging package has been supplied by Upffront, and we’re very pleased with the end result.'' We had some conversations with Alex about deciding on the mast position, and some interesting thoughts about how to attach the staysail attachment, always keeping in mind ease of handling.
''Everything about the 39BEN is aimed at making sure the customer enjoys easy sailing and doesn’t get into too much trouble if something goes wrong.”
For this reason, the rig is fitted with swept-back spreaders, so it’s possible to sail safely without the backstay, although it’s still better to put tension on the headstay via the runners.
The mast has ended up quite far back in the boat, which helps to lift the bow downwind and contributes to its fast reaching performance. The 60sqm mainsail has a moderate square-top head measuring 1.80m across the top of the headboard. As Lorenzen explains, the aim of the 39BEN is to deliver the maximum performance for the minimum of hassle. “For the best aero performance, it’s good to keep a good width of the mainsail in the upper half of the sail. So, the foot is around 5m and the head is 1.80m, which is quite high aspect without being extreme.” The top three battens are full-length, while further down it’s up to the customer’s preference whether to go full-battened or to shorter battens. The sail is lowered into lazy jacks for easy reefing or lowering of the mainsail, again with the focus on simple handling for short-handed cruising.
Upwind sails consist of a genoa and a staysail,hoisted on a furler with an anti-torsion cable. The stay-sail also serves as the heavy-weather jib. Downwind sails will be developed as they discover more about the boat’s performance, and more importantly how the owners are choosing to sail the 39BEN. “For the first sail there will be a masthead asymmetric spinnaker of about 140 sq, and a fractional Code Zero 73sqm hoisted on a fixed bowsprit,” says Lorenzen. “Once we’ve tested the boat more, we’ll take a look at which will be the next best additional sail - maybe a fractional asymmetric spinnaker.”
Great attention to detail has gone into every aspect of the 39BEN. The result, according to Lorenzen, is a very spacious cruising boat, with stunning straight-line performance.
“It’s really light and sails really fast, along similar lines to the Pogo but not quite so extreme. For some families the performance of the Pogo is a bit too much, doing maybe 18 knots-plus in 20 knots of wind. So the 39BEN goes some of the way towards Pogo performance, and is certainly capable of fast planning but hopefully in a more sedate manner that won’t alarm anybody.”
About the author
Andy Rice is a UK-Based European and National Title holder for various types of Racing boats. He started his career in yachting journalism in 1992, writing for Seahorse Magazine. Rice now works as a journalist and copywriter for many different clients and magazines. In between his Sailing Intelligence commitments, he still manages to write regular columns for Seahorse, ShowBoats International, Yachts & Yachting and Boat International.