Talking to a man about a Hustler.
By Ian Cartwright
I was talking to a man a few months ago. He had been sailing a half-decker for a day, and had some time to spare, so we decided a pint would round off the day nicely.
He asked me what it was like to sail a Hustler – a cabin yacht. Our conversation spread over two pints, but this is broadly what I told him. He must have believed me, because he has booked one for a week.
He said he had sailed dinghies, and I had seen him sailing a half-decker, so I knew he knew something about sailing. I would never suggest to someone who had never sailed before that he should start on a Hustler; it would be like learning to drive in a Porsche – or at least a BMW.
My first thought was that a Hustler is bigger and heavier than dinghies or a half-decker. Hence, she will run on further when you luff, and go further into the bank if you forget to turn in time. A dinghy will spin on a sixpence; a Hustler has a long straight keel and won’t. But her weight will let her shoot several yards between tacks, and keep enough way on to turn onto the next tack. A Hustler won’t heel over so far or so quickly – and won’t capsize and dump you in the river. She will accelerate quickly, for a cabin yacht, but not as quickly as a dinghy – although, short of planing, she will be just as fast – given a decent wind.
With a Hustler, you don’t need to do things in so much hurry; you have time to think – even to have second thoughts, as long as you don’t wait too long to have them .
A Hustler has a gaff rig, with a gaff extending the sail above the height of the mast. That has the advantage over a Bermudan rig that the main driving part of the sail is just the right height to make the most of the wind over the reedbeds and bushes, while keeping the centre of effort nicely low. It also means that, when you get the mast down to shoot one of Broadland’s few bridges, you haven’t got the embarrassment of yards of mast sticking out over the transom. Motor cruisers always fail to see an extra ten feet of mast behind a yacht – and also don’t appreciate how much that extra length restricts a yacht’s freedom of manoeuvre. Another advantage at bridges is that a short mast is easier to raise and lower than a long heavy one.
People who have only known loose-footed jibs worry about a self-tacking jib with only one jib-sheet. Granted, there is a knack to it. You can’t haul it aback to turn the boat’s head through a tack by sheer brute force. What you can do is let it blow across as the boat turns, harden in the single jib-sheet and hold it to help the boat’s head round – and then slacken the sheet off an inch or two to get the jib drawing nicely on the new tack. Unlike a high-aspect Bermudan rig, where the foresail does most of the work and hence needs winches and often a muscular crew to work them, a gaff rig gets most of its drive from the mainsail, which is much more easily controlled by the mainsheet. Granted, a gaff rigged boat generally won’t point as high as a Bermudan, but that’s rarely a problem on the Broads – and it’s surprising how high a Hustler will point.
A Hustler isn’t hard work to sail. Going back a few years, some of the old hire boats were brutes; you needed muscles like Popeye, and if you didn’t have them to begin with, you soon developed them! They were deliberately unbalanced, to encourage hirers to reef early. A Hustler is much better balanced – although this requires a hirer to know when to reef in good time. (The answer is: “If you are wondering about a reef, you should probably put one in”. The boat will sail better for it, especially on the wind, and nature being what it is, the wind is seldom far enough behind you to make sheer acreage of sail an advantage for long!) If you start to think helming is hard work, you’re probably doing something wrong – generally, the mainsheet is in too tight.
People do wonder about the lack of an engine. It depends on what you want to do. If you turn up to the Broads with a long list of “Places I must go to this week”, you probably do need a boat with an engine. If your approach is more on the lines of “It might be nice to go to these places, but they will still be there next year. What I really want to do is relax, enjoy the sailing, watch and listen to the wildlife and not add to my carbon footprint”, then a Hustler is probably a better answer. Yes, it might need a bit more thinking and planning about where you are going to go, but you will have the virtuous feeling, at the end of each day, of having outwitted the winds and tides!
permission to publish given by Ian Cartwright Jan 2014