For the simple pleasure of sailing
Practical Boat Owner|March 2021
Looking for performance, elegance and impeccable manners from a weekender? Then the Rustler 33 is your sort of boat, says David Harding

I read a fascinating article recently about relationships. It was a distillation of the guidance offered by over a thousand people who had been with their spouses or partners for more than 10 years, and one point, in particular, recurred time and time again: be together for the right reasons.

A partnership formed for the wrong reasons (and there are a lot of very common wrong reasons) is almost certainly destined to fail – or, at the very least, not to thrive as it might.

And it’s the same with the relationship between an owner and his or her boat. You need to buy a boat for the right reasons; for the sort of sailing you’re going to be doing. That means actually doing. There’s nothing wrong with a little future-proofing or with having dreams, but you need to be realistic. A 50-footer with 10 berths is being wasted if used by a couple for overnighting or coastal pottering. Perhaps more importantly, it’s unlikely to be the best boat for the job.

Buying such a boat for that sort of sailing would be like buying a camper van for going to the shops – or, heaven forbid, buying a big black 4x4 to take the kids to school around the corner (not that anyone would do such a thing, of course).

As Adrian Jones of Rustler Yachts puts it, “Why have accommodation if you don’t use it? Why not have a boat that’s nicer to sail and easier to look after? So many cruisers just go day-sailing and weekending, and buy the wrong boat because there’s nothing else.”

About 10 years ago, thoughts like this prompted Rustler to develop ‘the right boat’ for people who wanted a stylish weekender but couldn’t find anything. Some years earlier the Falmouth-based company had taken on the moulds of the Piper – a sweet-lined daysailer in the style of a miniature 12 Metre – and renamed it the Rustler 24. Both the builder and a good many customers rather fell for it.

Weekending in style

Almost inevitably, the market for open daysailers over 6m (20ft) or so is limited – especially in the UK. To broaden their appeal, keelboats of this nature need some accommodation to turn them into weekenders, and that’s exactly what Rustler had in mind when creating the 33 back in 2011.

Adrian came up with a one-page list of essential features. “It had to be fast and pretty and big enough to house a loo,” he said. “And it had to look absolutely gorgeous. We didn’t want the boat to be designed around the accommodation.”

Stephen Jones was commissioned to draw the lines. Jones has a long-standing relationship with Rustler and a knack for designing good-looking boats, especially when unconstrained by rating rules or accommodation requirements. As well as a loo, a boat of this length would nonetheless provide space for a basic galley, four decent berths and somewhere to hang waterproofs, so life on board would be perfectly civilised for a few nights at least.

This page of ‘must haves’ led to the birth of a real stunner: 10.36m (34ft) of elegance with low freeboard, a graceful spoon bow, a hint of sheer and a well drawn-out counter stern, topped with a short, well-proportioned coachroof. Below the waterline we find a smooth rocker and, principally for downwind performance, subtly fuller stern sections than on similarly slim and shapely boats of yesteryear. They’re so well hidden by the long counter as to be almost undetectable – but, together with other aspects of the Rustler’s design including the modest weight and bulbed fin keel, they mean that sailing a modern boat with classically beautiful lines reminiscent of a bygone era no longer means being limited to the performance of a bygone era.

Classic lines are often associated with narrow beam by modern standards, and this is an essential element in the Rustler’s looks and performance: it’s just 8ft (2.44m) overall and appreciably less at the waterline. Given that many 22-footers are beamier than this, and that a typical modern 34ft cruiser will measure nigh on 3.65m (12ft) between the gunwales, it places her in the distinctly slender category.

Given her lack of beam and her narrow waterline, the Rustler has little in the way of form stability. She has no need for it, because 35% of her weight is slung low down in the keel. Wide beam and a hard turn to the bilge in high-volume cruising boats often lead to very distorted waterplanes when they heel, resulting in a heavy helm through lack of balance and, ultimately, to loss of control. At the opposite end of the spectrum, a hull that’s semi-circular in section presents the same shape when heeled as when upright, and the narrower the hull the less the asymmetry whatever its shape.

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