Matthew Sheahan gets behind the wheel of the Westerly Ocean 37 to find out what she's made of and see how she stacks up against her closest rival from Jeanneau
Matthew Sheahan investigates a new mid-range cruiser, the Westerly Ocean 37, to find out what you get for your money
There’s one thing that needs clearing up from the start. Whether Westerly intended her parentage to be common knowledge or not, the cat’s now out of the bag.
The new Westerly Ocean 37 has the hull of the early 1990s Dubois-designed Westerly Typhoon.
I’ve a hunch that some may criticise her for this, but not me. Typhoons were popular boats, with the kind of good manners and reputation that gets them into all the best households.
And makes them difficult to find on the second-hand market.
Most are snatched up quickly for the same money as when they were new, something that certainly can’t be said for many of today’s plastic fantasties.
In my book, the Westerly Ocean 37 starts on even points for looks when set against the Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 37.
She may have a more mature appearance in parts, with her slightly more pronounced overhangs and the square section teak rubbing strake.
But the bottom line is that she’s one of those boats that just looks right and for some buyers that could be all that’s required to tip the balance.
Elsewhere she’s been tweaked to improve her performance, with a larger mainsail and taller mast, along with new keel and rudder foils.
When you compare her with the Jeanneau she sets more sail (33 per cent upwind) and is stiffer which makes her a more potent yacht all round.
But despite turning up the power, she doesn’t feel overpowered. In fact, quite the opposite, thanks partly to the ease with which you can handle her.
A big factor here is the conventional block and tackle mainsheet system in the cockpit which allows quick, simple and safe control by the crew or the helmsman.
Her deep narrow cockpit is good news. It feels very secure when you’re moving about or trimming, especially when heeled.
Under these conditions, and especially when you go to put in a reef, the long trough-like companionway, (a popular detail on the 33 and deliberately included aboard this boat), provides a very safe area from which to operate the reef lines.
Elsewhere her deck layout is similar to the Jeanneau’s although I’d give the Westerly Ocean 37 the edge when it comes to overall quality.
Where she might lose out, however, is in her on-deck stowage-she lacks an anchor locker in the foredeck and a few smaller rope lockers would be useful.
Accommodation and construction
You’d be hard pushed to find a bigger difference between two similar-sized production boats than there is between these two clown below.
Where the Jeanncau is open, spacious and seems more living room than saloon, the Westerly feels small, narrow and traditional.
Rich, deep-coloured teak joinery emphasises the cramped feeling and the steep companionway doesn’t help.
There is no getting away from it, this is a boat with old fashioned values – but don’t write her off just yet.
Within minutes my attention had been drawn away from her chunky looks and solid feel. Lift a few cushions, open a few lockers and you’ll find everywhere behind the scenes has been finished to a high standard.
There’s not a hint or Velcro, nor a single plastic retaining catch to wrestle with at the bottom of a door. Instead, simple pop studs hold cushions in place and brass hooks stop the doors from swinging at sea.
This is a boat that has been built to last, whatever you do with her.
The layout is pretty conventional and broadly mirrors the Jeanncau’s with two double cabins, U-shaped saloon seating with a bench type saloon seat opposite and a galley and navigation station either side of the companionway.
When it comes to the basic construction of hull and deck, she’s built with a solid laminate hull with the additional stiffening laminated into the structure in the normal way.
Even though the Westerly is undoubtedly better finished, there is little to choose between the two if you were looking to base your decision on layout and construction alone. But where they do differ is in their proportions.
The Westerly’s wider side decks make it very much easier to move about on deck but this does cramp her style down below.
In addition to this, more space is given to the dedicated navigation station, where decent provision is made for instruments, charts and general stowage.
The Westerly Ocean 37 has two heads, further reducing available space and, although she has similar saloon seating to the Jeanneau, the Westerly’s feels tighter, more upright and awkward to access.
Add to this the smaller galley worktop space, a considerably smaller fridge and fewer deck hatches, making her interior darker, the overall feel is one of a much smaller boat.
Westerly Ocean 37 under way
The Westerly has a simple bottlescrew on the backstay and pin stop genoa cars. The Westerly strains at the leash to show you just what she can do. But don’t get me wrong; she’s not a handful – quite the opposite.
The Westerly Ocean 37 is silky smooth, easily driven and quicker on all points of sail, easily slipping along at 6 to 6.2 knots in the same breeze.
There are some boats that just feel like they want to sail all day and night for as long as you like and the Ocean 37 is one of them. Present her with a few waves or a steep wash and she’ll simply slice through them.
She may only be 37ft but the Westerly Ocean 37 is a competent go-anywhere cruiser which is as happy pottering around sheltered waters as she is driving on when the going gets messy offshore.
It is at this point that her tighter-fitting accommodation comes into its own-she’s a far easier boat to move about in underway when pushed than its rival the more spacious Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 37.
But not everyone wants to pay for a boat with the kind of off-road capabilities that come as standard with the Westerly.
Indeed, many production builders have seen the opportunity to produce a cruiser that reflects the popular kind of cruising where overnight passages are an exception rather than the rule.
First published in the June 2000 issue of YW.