This long-established, yet little known, Swedish yard believes it has the perfect formula in the Linjett 39 for a contemporary yacht with timeless appeal
Linjett 39 review: Contemporary interpretation of a traditional design
How quickly will today’s new yachts date? A handful are surely destined to become design classics, but many will be quickly forgotten, becoming the floating equivalent of an ageing mass-market car. Part of the reason is many big boatbuilders see sales volumes tail off only a few years after each model is launched, necessitating its replacement. So is the Linjett 39 destined for longevity?
Smaller yards, by contrast, can take a different approach, emphasising the long term. Linjett is a family firm in the Stockholm archipelago, building 10-15 boats a year across a three model range from 34-43ft. It enjoys outstanding customer loyalty and looks after 220 Linjetts every winter – a quarter of all boats built since the brand’s inception 50 years ago.
The small production numbers of new yachts means design and tooling costs must be amortised over a long period – each model is expected to remain in production for up to 15 years, which in turn leads to different ways of thinking. From a distance this Linjett 39 has echoes of classic early 1990s designs such as Stephen Jones’ Sadler Starlight 39. Closer up, and especially once you start sailing, it’s very clear this is a contemporary design in many respects, with performance and handling to match.
Broad reaching under the cruising gennaker in 16 knots of true wind the Linjett 39 clocked 9 knots boat speed, with the true breeze a little aft of the beam and the apparent well forward. The boat was very powered up at this stage and lacks the rock solid feel in gusts of today’s twin-rudder boats that also have full forward sections and therefore extremely high form stability.
Nevertheless, it is still much better in this respect than earlier designs, partly thanks to a hefty keel bulb and a fairly deep 2.15m draught. This gives a good compromise for the Stockholm archipelago – it doesn’t restrict where you can go, but is sufficiently deep for good sailing performance and stability.
The powerful 1.85m-deep rudder is set well forward, away from disturbed water at the transom. Single-rudder yachts tend to offer more feedback than twin rudder designs and this one is no exception, with a positive feel on the helm that builds in a predictable fashion as the rudder becomes progressively loaded.
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Even when heavily loaded the rudder retains so much grip that our first few attempts to broach the Linjett 39 failed. Eventually the blade aerated as the stern lifted on a bigger wave and the flow stalled. But there was no great flogging or drama – just ease the spinnaker sheet, wait a few seconds for the rudder to regain grip, then bear away and sheet in.
At the same time, a boat with plenty of curvature on the fore and aft rocker shape and without maximum beam carried right aft, can be surprisingly quick in light airs. This translates to less time spent under power and frequently brings forward the blissful moment when the engine can be switched off.
Sailing the Linjett 39 in light airs
Immediately after leaving La Rochelle’s Port Des Minimes marina, we hoisted the main, deployed the furling nylon cruising gennaker and sailed out the narrow channel at decent speeds, despite having only 7-8 knots of true wind.
When we headed upwind with the 107% jib, in search of more breeze accelerating through the gap between Ile de Ré and the mainland, we made a useful 4.7 knots boat speed, reducing to 3.8 when the breeze eased to 5 knots.
Deploying the gennaker a second time, at a true wind angle of around 80º, with the true wind just forward of the beam, we maintained a very respectable average of 6.5 knots in only 8 knots of true breeze. The only drawback at this stage is that when well heeled it’s hard to see the luff of this sail from the windward helm station, as it’s not set from a sprit as standard.
This is partly down to the nature of cruising in the Baltic, and especially the Stockholm archipelago, where you tend to anchor bows-to with a shore line on a convenient rock. Linjett’s experience is that fixed sprits get in the way, thinking that also explains the boat’s raked bow profile. This helps keep the hull clear of rocks, while making it easy to step ashore off the bow. However, among the many options is a choice of bowsprits, including an 80cm carbon version.
As the wind increased, we dropped the gennaker and luffed back to close-hauled with the jib. At a 39° true wind angle in 14 knots of breeze we made 6.5 knots of boat speed, still carrying full main and jib and nowhere near being overpowered.
Cockpit benches are close enough to brace your feet even when the boat’s well heeled. This gives a much more solid feeling of safety and security than most of today’s very wide cockpits, yet there’s still space for a removable cockpit table with folding leaves. Instruments and a small MFD under the sprayhood make this a good watch-keeping station when the pilot is steering.
All control lines are taken along the cockpit coamings to control stations ahead of each wheel, with 10 clutches and two pairs of Andersen winches each side. The latter are manual as standard, but to date every boat has been fitted with at least two electric winches. The mainsheet is led to a coachroof traveller with all controls led aft, which generally works better than boats where you have to go forward from the helm to the companionway to trim the sail.
Big cockpit lockers are under the helm seats, plus liferaft stowage and additional space for a couple of sails or a dinghy in the centre of the cockpit sole. All have neat catches – press a button on the side deck and the lid pops up on a gas strut. The foredeck sail locker has a separate section for warps and fenders, as well as space for a windlass and chain locker for the optional bower anchor.
Linjett 39 accommodation
The interior blends solid woodwork with lots of light and space in a semi open plan layout, which uses double doors to close off the forward cabin when required. A combination of generous hull windows, two overhead hatches in the saloon and the light oak finish of our test boat make this a very pleasant area in which to spend time and gives it a contemporary feel.
On descending the companionway there’s a separate shower compartment to starboard, which doubles as a giant stowage space for foul weather gear. It’s an excellent solution, but the downside is the toilet is forward of the saloon, which is less convenient at sea. There’s also a useful, large dry hanging locker forward opposite the heads.
The saloon has a big folding table offset to port with C-shaped seating around it, plus a straight settee to starboard. Both could make good sea berths. The L-shaped galley at the foot of the companionway has reasonable fixed worktop space, twin sinks, two fridges, four drawers, four big lockers as well as a pan locker and space for bins. The substantial stainless steel crash bar doubles as a handhold.
The test boat lacked a conventional chart table, instead there’s a small, square cabinet with deep fiddles on the top and four useful large drawers, though a common customisation is to put a chart table here.
Aft cabins are comfortable, with 130cm-wide double bunks but less volume than other boats of this size. The 50cm-wide space between the aft cabins has shore power chargers, batteries, retractable stern thruster and so on. Most examples sold to date have the same three cabin layout as our test boat, although a handful have a two-cabin arrangement, with aft heads and a much larger forecabin with a peninsula bed.
Construction is of vinylester and Divinycell foam sandwich, primarily using woven rovings and is infused in one shot to create a stiff yet light hull structure. Structural engineering is based on ring frames made of unidirectional rovings, with furniture glued and bonded in place, creating a very stiff structure that proved quiet under way.
Our test boat was a prototype used as a test bed to trial a variety of new technology, including a Vetus joystick docking system in which the 50hp motor is married to retractable bow and stern thrusters.
Tankage, which is of a reasonable size, is mostly to starboard, although there’s also one water tank in the bow, the weight of the tanks being offset by the weight of the galley furniture and also provisions.
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This is definitely not an old fashioned boat, yet there’s nothing faddish about it that will date quickly. Instead, it’s an impressive execution of a contemporary interpretation of traditional, thoroughbred qualities. The Linjett 39 sails impressively well in light airs, yet will reassure less experienced crews in a blow. Equally, it’s a lot more comfortable upwind than many of today’s yachts and has a generally good setup for short-handed sailing. Around a quarter of Linjett owners race their boats occasionally – 28 competed in last year’s Round Gotland Race, for instance. However, first and foremost this is a fast cruiser, geared around the qualities needed for that role. It could be an excellent choice for anyone looking for a premium quality yacht that’s a bit different to those offered by the better known brands.