Jimmy Cornell gives his expert analysis of the essential features that any offshore cruising yacht should have



Whenever I am invited to express an opinion on a yacht, I always start by looking at the boat primarily from the safety point of view. Very few boats satisfy me on all the following questions:

  • How well protected is the cockpit?
  • How exposed is the person at the helm?
  • How safe is it to work at the foot of the mast or on the foredeck?
  • Are there sufficient handrails provided?
  • Do stanchions and lifelines look strong and reliable?
  • How dangerously low does the boom pass across the cockpit?
  • How easily accessible is the main bilge and is it provided with a pump of adequate capacity, as well as an emergency backup?
  • How accessible is the steering mechanism and what provision has been made for an emergency?
  • Is the liferaft stowed in an easily accessible place from where it can be launched by the weakest member of the crew?
  • How can the dinghy be stowed safely while on passage?
  • How easily accessible is the anchor chain?
  • How easy it is to board the boat from the water or retrieve an overboard person?

Jimmy Cornell

Decision time

“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new” – Albert Einstein

This is why it is so important to learn not only from your own mistakes, but also from those made by others. At one recent rally it struck me that many of the participants’ boats were well prepared, yet they themselves were not.

Too much seemed to have been neglected or left until the last minute, from onboard email capability to essential spares, not to speak of a backup for the autopilot.

I discussed this subject with an old friend whose comments perfectly echo my own views: “We have the great advantage of having started off by sailing on simple boats with no sophisticated equipment. Once you have sailed on such a boat you can easily adjust to a more sophisticated boat, but not the other way around. ”

There is certainly a bewildering choice of yachts and equipment available today, but if you consider the essential features listed here and then prepare yourself and your chosen yacht as thoroughly and as early as possible, you will be in better shape for completing long voyages in greater safety and comfort than we were when we first started off.

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  1. 1. Hull, keel and rudder
  2. 2. Sails, deck gear and rigging
  3. 3. Creature comforts
  4. 4. Safety
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