Hull Shape – Why so Beamy?

Hull Shape – Why so Beamy?

Sailboat design is going through another revolution, and it’s a beamy one. The modern sailboat seems to be skinny and upright with a fine entry up front, then carries her beam well aft. What do I mean by this?

Traditionally, the widest point of a boat had been near the center fore to aft. The stern wasn’t as narrow as the bow (except in “double-ended” or “canoe” style hulls) but it was often much narrower than the beam. Now that seems to be changing. 

For example the Beneteau Sense 57 pictured below you can see that there is only the slightest taper from the beam and even then the beam is aft of center.

Beneteau Sense 57

So why the change?

In one word…performance. If you follow the Volvo Ocean Racing Series you can see this trend in their boats over the years, as well as other smaller designs like the Viper 640, the Melges 14  (a competitor to the Laser), and even the brand new RS21. The wider transom, combined with a hard chine allows the boat to heel less in heavier air, which means it can carry more sail, which means it can go faster!

And faster is important even to cruisers (we want to get there…right?) But it also adds to the comfort level. When the boat hits that chine, it kind of sets in a bit and even with added breeze, it doesn’t keep heeling more as the wind increases, at least not in a linear curve.

On larger boats this change has allowed for some really innovative cabin designs as well. With a larger overall volume, additional staterooms or at least larger ones, are possible making living aboard more comfortable. Again, pictured below is one of the cabin configurations for the Beneteau Sense 57. I think I could handle living aboard this one…

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