Historical Material of and about the Boston Whaler Harpoon
Excerpts from The Harpoon News 1977, Vol. 1, No. 1
Excerpts from The Harpoon News 1978, Vol. 2, No. 1
Learn to Sail - An Educational Publication by Sail Magazine
Links to Pages that are relevant to Harpooners
Down Pamlico Sound in a 17-foot Open Boat
by Tim Lemmond
This article [from the Small Boat Journal No. 59 Feb/Mar 1988] recounts an
exciting adventure on a Harpoon 5.2 in the Carolina Outer Banks and features a
fine painting by Bert Petri.
Available Download Files (Just click to open with Acrobat or initiate download )
OFF TO A GREAT START
FROM THE OFFICE:
Harpoon 5.2 Class off to a great start
(Please, click original images for bigger view)
Since we first announce the Harpoon 5.2, the enthusiasm for Boston Whaler's first sailboat
has been nothing short of overwhelming. We're very excited, and,
this being the fist issue of our class newsletter,
we thought perhaps you all would enjoy hearing how this whole thing got started.
It all began with a good, close look at ousrselves. We knew that at Boston Whaler we had
a truly unique approach to boatbuilding in our foam sandwich construction technique...
... if we were going to build a sailboat, the standards would be no lower. We, therefore,
established a complete set of requirements which any sailboat built by us would have to meet.
Once this was done, several leading yacht design firms were contacted and asked to submit
a proposal. In the end, the Cassian and Cuthbertson Design Group [C&C],
know for some of the finest sailing yachts in the world, was selected to design the first
Boston Whaler sailboat. A number of key design features were to complement those that
already made the Boston Whaler name famous. The basic specifications were to be:
1. Performance - It would have to be good, without the need for acrobatics, trapezes, etc.
achieved primarily through a very broad beam of 7'6".
2. Cockpit - it would be large, very spacious, with a relatively small
amount of shelter/storage space up forward. In essence, a daycruiser.
3. A Family Boat - The boat would be designed for families first and foremost.
Easy to sail, trailer, rig and maintain.
4. Safety - Because of its family appeal, the boat would have to meet the high safety
standards of Boston Whaler. This would mean utilizing our foam sandwich technique along
with a foam-filled mast and sewn-in masthead flotation to reduce turtling.
5. Self-bailing - Unlike most boats her size, the Harpoon 5.2 would be self-bailing
at rest as well as underway.
Once we had agreed on a design, a wooden prototype was built in the late winter of 1976
to be ready for April sailing trials. Initially, we spent 10 days sailing the boat
against other competitive daysailers. The results were surprising. The Harpoon 5.2, a prototype,
consistently out-accelerated and out-pointed all of them.
Throughout the summer the boat was extensively sailed. This was our chance to experiment
with the Harpoon. To look for subtle and not-so-subtle changes in rigs, sails, equipment -
anything to improve the total performance of the boat. We even got some advice from
people like Peter Harken, Bob Bavier, Steve Taylor and Jim Crance - some of the
sport's very finest sailors.
A particularly interesting story is the way the Harpoon 5.2's sails were developed.
Ten sailmakers were approached and asked to submit bids for the project.
Five were asked to produce prototypes. Each suit of sails was sailed and carefully
inspected (we even tested some Hong Kong sails - low in quality - to determine
how these stacked up against the others. Such sails are commonly supplied as standard
equipment on many boats of this size, and are generally referred to as "cookie cutter"
sails after the cookie cutter fashion in which they're produced.)
The problem was that arriving at a fair comparison was surprisingly difficult since each
suit was constructed according to widely varying specifications. Our solution was to
go back and ask that two of the companies put together another suit of prototype sails
- this time to equal specifications, i.e. the same number of reinforcing patches, the same batten
picket construction, etc. With this common denominator base to help in the selection process,
North Sails finally came out on top.
The selection of a sail, of course, is a matter of pure function. Aesthetics play virtually
no role since all sails lootk pretty much alike. But there were other areas where
shape was a key consideration.
A good example of which was the boat itself. We wanted it to perform well, be safe, durable
and all that, true but we also were very concerned with how the boat would look; how
attractive an image it would present. To help us, we went to Gregory Fossella Associates,
industrial consultants, whose job it was to thoroughly study the boat and recommend a
total design approach according to human engineering concepts. Three examples of their
contributions were the cuddy, the sunken walkways forward, and the smooth, flowing
lines of the centerboard trunk.
Paralleling these efforts, we then had a research team of
Harvard business students do an in-depth survey of the
daysailer market. Our feeling was that if the boat was to be the success we expected it to be, it
would have to appeal strongly to a specific group of sailors. Out of the study came
several changes which we then made on the boat - details as the pintle gudgeon and rudder head
design, centerboard pivot and mast step assembly just to mention a few.
Finally the big day was ready. All the efforts we'd made to make our first sailboat a big
success would have to prove themselves. In the Fall of 1977, the Harpoon 5.2 was finally
introduced to the public, and we needn't have worried about how well it would be received.
already, the Harpoon is catching on all over the country.
It couldn't have happened to a more exciting boat!
Inaugural Regatta in Dallas, TX
The Debut of the Harpoon 4.6
FROM THE OFFICE
Harpoon 4.6 Joins The Boston Whaler Sailboat Line
In the last issue of the Harpoon News we told you the story of how the Harpoon 5.2
sailboat came to be. This is a continuation of the Harpoon story. Here in chapter
two you'll meet our second "main" character... the Harpoon 4.6. This character,
if you haven't already seen her, can be seen today in all her glary at your
local Harpoon dealer.
The 4.6 was developed because we at Boston Whaler saw that an acute need existed
for a versatile "club" sailboat.
Look in at ten different yacht clubs and you are likely to find ten different
boats being used for teaching and racing. Look more closely and you are also likely
to find that the boats in question will be ideal for one function but completely
impractical for the other. The 470 or 420, for example are fine high performance
Olympic racing machines. But for teaching they can instill fear rather than confidence.
Likewise such yachts as a Beetle Cat make fine teaching boats, but don't provide too
many thrills to the competition racing enthusiast.
The Harpoon 4.6 has been designed to accommodate both the teaching function and the
racing function required of today's "club" sailboat. To achieve such an accommodation was
not easy. But after two years of design, testing, and evaluation we're excited about the
end product and think that you will be, too.
Before building the 4.6, we visited numerous Yacht clubs, schools and universities.
We asked questions. We enticed debate. We received first-hand advice from some of
the nations's best teachers and sailors. And from all of this we formulated some
- The boat must have a main and jib, for how else is the young learner to truly
appreciated the relationship between main and jib.
- The sails must be easily and fully adjustable for trimming in various wind conditions.
- The boat must be absolutely safe...unsinkable, self-bailing and easily rightable.
- The boat must be forgiving under sail to allow the less experienced sailor room
for error without a capsize.
- A highly resilient rubrail is a necessity.
- The potential buyer must know that this boat will keep a high resale value.
- The 4.6 must be roomy, sleek and uncomplicated, yet able to accept all the
abuse of exuberant youth.
- The boat must give the helmsman a good feel of action and control.
- Sails must be carefully designed to suit the boat instead of the other way around.
- Spinnaker packages should be included as optional equipment.
- They must have storage area without cluttering or taking away from the sailor's comfort.
- Blocks, fittings and bailers should be correctly placed and guaranteed to last.
- The boat must be competitive in a wide spector of winds.
- She must be easily trailerable or dry-sailed.
- There must be an aggressive fleet development program to assure keen,
competitive fun away from one' home base.
We approached the C&C Design Group with our requirements. With their design in hand we
then produced the prototype. Like the 5.2 prototype the 4.6 was extensively sailed and evaluated
over many months.
Finally the mold was made and early this year the first Boston Whaler Harpoon 4.6 left
Rockland, Mass for the New York Boat Show and her inaugural showing. The boat is of foam
sandwich construction reinforce at critical stress points. She's completely unsinkable,
self-bailing, and so durable that she carries a 10-year hull warranty.
The sails are specially designed by North. And, like her 5.2 sister, the gear is first class,
Harken blocks, Elvstom bailers, Kenyon spars.
One interesting innovation to the 4.6 is the seat angle. Seats are angled 7 degrees in an
opposite direction to the heeling angle. Thus, when the boats has a 7 degree heel,
you are sitting at a neutral angle on the seat. This feature adds comfort and security to
the beginner while making hiking easier for the racer. Now only eight months after her
inauguration, the Harpoon 4.6 is "joining the club" all over the nation.
And there's every indication that when the collegiate racing year begins in
September, she'll be well represented. What else would you expect from a member
of the Harpoon family?
The Development of the Harpoon 5.2 Sails
North Explains Harpoon Sails
In our sail development program for the Harpoon, we required that we be able to
sail the boat for a number of days to become acquainted with its handling characteristics,
stability, centerboard and rudder efficiency, and the ease with which the hull moves through
the water. This information enabled us to determine the most efficient camber depth for the main
and jib as well as the position of camber.
The main and jib both tend to be quite full sails with their draft built in quite far forward.
The deepness of the sails makes the boat perform extremely well in light to moderate air and the
forward draft position enables the boat to accelerate quickly after tacking. The modern shape of
the centerboard and rudder is also a contributing factor in selecting the fullness of the sails.
The shape of the Harpoon centerboard and rudder is a modern airfoil section which can tolerate fuller,
more powerful sails. This means the Harpoon can sail with fuller, more powerful sails than boats with
poorly shaped centerboards and rudders. This greatly enhances light air performance.
The North main has three lower battens and a compression batten at the top of the sail. By
making these battens extra long, we are able to put a large smooth roach on the sail and
keep a nice uniform cross-sectional shape right up to the floatation patch at the head.
If a compression batten was not used in this sail, a very bumpy and irregular leech would develop
because of the weight and size of the flotation patch. A second use of the compression batten,
one that is seldom taken advantage of, is to vary the camber depth of the sail for various wind
velocities. If the batten is fastened extremely tightly with the velcro closure, the sail will
develop a deep round shape in the upper section. Likewise, if the batten is fastened loosely,
the top of the sail will assume a much flatter profile. In effect, what you can do is to match
the depth of the sail to the wind conditions.
The main also comes standard with a set of reef points which greatly enhances the versatility
of the boat. On those windy days when you might hesitate to take the family out sailing due to
the difficulty in handling the boat, by putting in the reef you are able to reduce the sail
area enough to sail safely and comfortably where you otherwise couldn't. Most boats in this
size range do not have reefs as standard equipment, but in an attempt to realize as much of
the Harpoon's potential as possible, it was felt a reef should not be an extra but a standard
part of the sail.
Finally, other characteristics that set this sail apart are the heavily reinforced patches at
the head, reefs, clew and tack. Also, at the head and clew, the bolt rope is reinforced with
a Teflon cloth that reduces chafe and permits the sail to slide easily along the mast and boom.
A cunningham also comes standard. The cunningham's function is to allow ease in adjusting the
luff tension of the sail without having to move the boom up or down. The luff of the sail
should always be tensioned to the point where the luff wrinkles just disappear.
The main obviously is the work horse of your two sails and receives the most attention. The
jib of the Harpoon, however, is also important. Notable features of the jib are the extremely
large patches, brass jib hanks and the addition of a sighting window that allows clear
visibility to leeward of the boat. Most sails today, including our own, are constructed with
a "stretchy luff". That means that there is no constricting wire in the luff of the sail.
The advantage of this is you are able to change the shape of the jib for different winds strengths.
In light air, the halyard should only be tight enough to keep horizontal wrinkles from appearing.
As the wind velocity increase, you should constantly increase the tightness of the halyard to
keep the sail properly shapes. At no time should scallops appear between the hands.
North Sails' involvement in Boston Whaler's Harpoon project has been a very rewarding
experience in that Whaler has developed a boat that is truly a quality product. The same
quality that went into the design and construction of the boat has been carried into the
sails and sailplan. While this would seem only natural, it is really a unique experience for
us as sailmakers as most production boats builders tend to supply the cheapest sails available
for their product in the hope of keeping the price of the package as inexpensive as possible.
What happens, in fact, is that a good boat is often compromised in the last stages of
development. What could be a good boat turns out to be a poor performer. Boston Whaler,
on the other hand, came to us and asked us to develop a main, jib, and spinnaker that would
realize the maximum potential from the 5.2 and at the same time incorporate features that
would make sailing for the family oriented yachtsman as simple and safe as possible.
James R. Crane