C&C 33: A successful design with a unique blend of performance and livability
When I first met Bruce Massey, the owner of the C&C 33 I was to test sail, he had just won PHRF Division I at the C&C Owners Regatta in Oakville, Ontario, in mid-July, finishing ahead of C&C 34s and 35s on elapsed time. He was one happy guy! I imagine most of us would have second thoughts about buying a design before it was fully established in our area, even from a proven design team such as C&C. This early performance convinced him that he had made an excellent choice and that the design was destined to be an outstanding one. The first boat was launched in August, 1984.
Surrounded as I was by hordes of C&C enthusiasts at the Owners Regatta, I felt a little intimidated. How could I say anything negative? The feathers didn’t frighten me but the thought of hot tar and the rail made me mind my manners. Fortunately for me, my impression of the boat was positive. With her sexy reverse transom and double-spreader rig, she looks clean and aggressive. This design is one of a new breed of dual-purpose boats that are performance-oriented without sacrificing comfort.
The design is conservative enough to make fast, safe, comfortable coastal cruising possible. I don’t mean conservative in a negative sense. To appeal to a larger market, C&C has avoided bendy fractional rigs with runners, preventers, jumpers, huge mains, excessive beam, ultra-light, and all those other neat things that tend to intimidate less-experienced sailors. Having said this, I must add that you can still buy a racing package with enough strings to pull to satisfy all but the most fanatical “sandwiches on the lap” racer. The C&C 33 certainly has the potential to win in any fleet. In the world of automobiles, it would be labeled a high-performance sedan; in the world of yachts, C&C has aimed for a design with a unique blend of performance and livability, and succeeded.
The hull design shows IOR influence. The reverse transom, flattened centerline sections and relatively shallow forefoot are all modern design features to make her fast. A high-aspect-ratio fin keel and a partially balanced spade rudder on a small skeg make handling under power or sail easy and positive.
If you opt for the standard keel, you will have a fairly long-legged lady. The C&C 33 draws six feet, four inches, which means you’ll have to stay out of thin water. However, if you insist on going where the bottom is close to the top, you have the option of a keel-centerboard, which draws four feet, four inches with the board up and a healthy six feet, six inches with the board down. This should help you go to windward while still allowing you into your favorite gunkhole.
The general quality of construction is first-rate. C&C has always set standards in the industry for production yachts. Like General Motors, they “sweat the details.” The hull is hand-laid with balsa core in the forward topsides for strength in the bow area. A unique floor pan or “spider” glassed to the hull takes the loads from the rig and keel, and the full hull liner along with a molded fiberglass head unit results in a strong, light assembly. The deck is balsa-cored and inboard-facing flanges on the hull-deck joint are secured with stainless steel bolts through the traditional C&C toe rail. Solid! A full deck liner completes the assembly. C&C employs a new style of rubbing strip around the deck, which is not as robust as the old one, but the advantage is that it can be replaced by the owner with a screwdriver. An anchor locker is located in the fore-deck.
The clean, small-section, keel-stepped mast is supported by double spreaders and Navtec rod rigging. All the shrouds terminate at the deck for convenient adjustment. And finally, after a thousand years, chainplates that don’t leak! Gone are the slabs of stainless steel pushed through holes in the deck and gooped up with silicone only to leak for the life of the boat. I never did understand why cap plates weren’t welded right onto the tang to prevent leakage. Now, the deck fitting is a plate that bolts to the deck and the chainplate continues via a stainless steel rod down onto a tang fastened and glassed into the spider assembly. Solid, neat, clean and best of all, waterproof. Yes, Fred, this means you will be able to keep your books dry on the bookshelf. The chainplates are also placed well inboard to provide close sheeting angles, which makes crew movement fore and aft easier. The mast has an internal conduit for wiring to prevent it from chafing and to prevent that ancient form of cruising torture – wire s lapping loosely inside the mast while at anchor. Halyards and sail control lines are led aft to two banks of stoppers mounted on the coach roof on each side of the companionway.
The self-bailing T-shaped cockpit has been given some attention; the rear coaming has been cut away so you can see that sexy transom leaving a smooth, undisturbed wake. The side coaming is canted to allow comfortable seating when heeled. It really works. The helmsman can snuggle down in the leeward corner and make himself a nest. A recessed traveler runs the width of the bridgedeck and is complete with traveler crosshaul lines and a Harken ratcheting mainsheet block. Standard equipment includes wheel steering with brake and guard, welded steel pulpits and double lifelines. Two inboard genoa tracks mounted on the coaming are optional. Looking aft, I see something that offends my traditional eye: a stainless steel flagpole! With no flag flying it sticks up like some rude symbol. I know it’s nitpicking: but a yacht this elegant surely deserves a varnished teak flagstaff and a proper-sized flag to adorn that lovely transom. The deck layout is ideal for racing or cruising and the cockpit with its sculpted aft coaming and canted side coaming is functional and handsome.
Below, the boat is light, airy and modern. The layout is fairly traditional with the head forward and a double quarterberth aft and to port. A nav table at the head of the quarterberth with drawers underneath serves as the nerve center for electrics, electronics, instruments and navigation. This makes an efficient setup with everything close at hand.
A single galley sink with standard pressure water is on the starboard side, aft, along with a good-sized icebox and storage cupboards outboard. The icebox lid will not open fully because of the bridgedeck; some sort of hatch opener to hold the lid would allow you to use both hands and make life easier. The test boat had an optional propane stove and oven complete with gimbals and safety bar. The owner was pleased with his decision to go with propane rather than the standard alcohol. Personally, I would rather drink it than cook with it. The main cabin is wide, roomy and comfortable. The port settee can be made into a double and the cabin is served by a drop-leaf table with wine stowage built in. Classy!
There are V berths forward, with shelves for stowage and a built-in bureau. This area is vented by an opening hatch in the forward cabin trunk. Coming aft, the single-unit molded head and shower stall are on the port side. Hot and cold pressure water are standard as is a telephone-type shower with grate and electric sump pump. Under-counter, overhead stowage and a laundry bin complete the head area. The standard boat has no opening port in the head but one is available as an option. Where do I pay?
All the traditional bronze seacocks in the boat have been replaced by plastic ones made of a glass-reinforced nylon of the fluoroplastic family of polymers. The trade name of the material is Marelan and it is completely resistant to the ravages of electrolysis and galvanic corrosion. This eliminates the need for bonding. To obtain the required strength, the seacocks are built larger but they are lighter and cheaper and will probably require less service and last the life of the boat. Watch for them to become a standard in the industry.
The electrics on the boat are well organized. A double-battery installation is standard and all circuits are protected by circuit breakers mounted in a high-tech control panel. The battery master switch has an on/off toggle as well as a selector dial, though its location makes it vulnerable to the feet of anyone getting in or out of the nav station and quarterberth. A switch guard might eliminate this potential problem.
If I were pressed to find fault with the main cabin area, it would be with the lack of ventilation. The small overhead hatch is not nearly as efficient as opening ports in the trunk would be in admitting a nice cooling cross flow of air.
For our test sail, conducted appropriately during the owner’s midweek race series, the breeze was offshore at about 15 knots, gusting occasionally to 20, so there was plenty of wind and still a smooth sea. The boat was loaded with electronics, hydraulics and sails – all first-class equipment.
We fired up the 15-hp Yanmar two-cylinder, four-cycle diesel, which lives under the cockpit sole and clucks away at idle while the lead liner soundproofs to a comfortable level. the Yanmar is a fresh water-cooled unit. A nice feature is the inlet water strainer that comes as standard equipment. Access to the engine compartment is through the companionway steps and the cockpit lockers.
We powered out of the harbor, hoisted a full main and heavy #1 Mylar, and sheeted to the inboard coaming track. There was a very competitive mixed fleet out, providing a good opportunity to compare boat speed. The boat accelerated quickly and got into the sixes immediately. When a puff hit, the boat felt stiff – not stiff like the older C&C 30s but with that “under control” feel about her. You could sense what she was going to do. When overpowered, she didn’t lie down and die but continued to power upwind.
The full-width traveler in the cockpit was efficient in the conditions, and the moderate beam on the boat meant that she didn’t have to be sailed as flat as some of the more extreme designs. She showed no tendency to skitter off to leeward when pressed, thanks to her deep draft and high-lift keel. Going upwind, the boat was well-balanced and stayed in the groove with very little coaxing. She maneuvered well, tacked well and boat speed was impressive on all points of sail. She was really a very easy boat to sail and, according to the owner, is also extremely good in light air. I’m sure this design will collect her fair share of silverware.
The owner commented that his family and crew decided when he bought the boat that they would go out on the race-course and have some fun. They’re having their fun while still winning races, and when they feel like a change of pace, the family can sneak away for a few weeks and enjoy some comfortable, fast, performance cruising. What more could you ask of a beautiful lady?