The cover shot is my old Seafarer 31-1 yawl, a classic in her way. My new ride is an Ohlson 38, one of the best-looking boats ever built.
She’s one of those classics where the designer meshed form and function seamlessly and beautifully, like the Ferrari 250 GTO or Ticonderoga, the legendary ketch designed by L. Francis Herreshoff as a sedate daysailer but which turned out to be spookily fast and one of the world’s greatest ocean racers.
The Ohlson brothers of Denmark drew the O38 after establishing a reputation for designing Olympic winners in the 5.5 meter keelboat class. She has a sleek shark fin keel typical of the racing yachts of the 1960s, a stout fiberglass hull constructed by Tyler Boat Company of England and woodwork by skilled Swedish joiners. My hull was one of the first constructed and has been maintained in Bristol fashion. The immediate previous owner upgraded the sail inventory and added a removable carbon-fiber sprit, or prod, to carry asymmetrical spinnakers for sailing downwind. The installation of the wheel in the cockpit has inspired much controversy in O38 circles; the boat is extremely sensitive to fore-and-aft weight balance and moving a 180-pound helmsman two or three feet back might adversely affect performance. Having sailed the boat many hours now, I can state that being able to steer from the leeward side with a clear view of the sails upwind is worth any sacrifice in optimum weight distribution.
The Ohlson 38 is a physical boat to race, requiring a crew of at least six and in any kind of breeze the trimmer had better be below the age of 30 or in extremely good shape. The No. 1 genoa is a big sail and grinding it in the last three or four feet quickly becomes a fight against muscle fatigue and lactic-acid crapout. For cruising, however, she’s a comfortable, thoroughly seaworthy boat with elegant accommodations.