Reviews

New technology, boats, and gear for the cruising sailor

BOAT TEST BY JEREMY McGEARY

All Bases Covered

For many sailors, the Island Packet 440 will fill the bill as a rugged, long-legged passagemaker

Brand loyalty,an accountant will tell you, is an intangible asset, but around an Island Packet display at a boat show, it's palpable: a living, breathing demonstration of how it can boost a company's balance sheet by contributing to the value of "goodwill." Among owners of Island Packets, brand loyalty verges on the cultish. Island Packet owners identify with the company and each other, most visibly at the well-attended regional rendezvous, notorious for their extravagant raft-ups.

The successful philosophy of Bob Johnson, IP's founder, president, naval architect, and swami, can be viewed through the lens of the new, aft-cock-pit Island Packet 440. From the light-ivory gelcoat to the Full Foil Keel, the boat embodies every tenet of the Island Packet creed.

Every builder makes choices, weighing sailing performance against the other attributes sailors find desirable and even necessary to a particular style of cruising. Johnson's view is that Island Packet sailors are looking for a shoal-

enough draft to give them access to regions like Florida and the Bahamas and a keel that offers protection to the propeller and the rudder. consequently, Island Packets are that rare commodity today—the full-keel cruising boat. The IP 440 w as the only full-keel cru i si ng boat in the B OTY 2006 lineup. It also stood out for its relatively heavy displacement of 32,000 pounds and twice the fuel and water capacity of many other new designs of similar size.

After an afternoon of sailing on Chesapeake Bay that included a couple of hours of broad-reaching, I left with the impression that the IP 440 competently covers a great many cruising bases. What's more, it relished the wind conditions that day, which averaged about 15 knots with odd gusts to 20, steadily eating up the miles at speeds from 6 to 7.5 knots, behavior that suggests that it would romp in the trade winds.

In Island Packet tradition, the 440 is cutter rigged, and the staysail sets on a Hoyt self-vanging boom. This configuration makes the sails more manageable, especially given that all sail controls lead to the cockpit. The Hoyt boom does an admirable job of controlling the staysail's leech, extending the range of wind angles in which the sail is useful. Its sole disadvantage over a conventional club is that it can't be topped up to clear the

Hoyt Stay Sail Boom

foredeck when in harbor.

The trade-off made with either type of boom is that you must avoid i ts swing when navigating a heaving foredeck during a maneuver or in unsettled winds.

Completing the headsail set is a yankee, cut high enough to allow good visibility. Measuring 110 percent of the fore-triangle, it works well with the staysail at many wind angles and is easily trimmed when tacking.

The standard mainsail is on an in-mast furler, complementing the convenience factor seen in the furling head-sails. Such a sail forfeits oomph when compared to its roachi-er, battened brethren, but sail-makers are investigating ways to regain that lost power, and the Island Packet we sailed features a good example of this—a mainsail with short, vertical battens supporting a small area of roach.

The jib-sheet tracks are outboard, on the caprail at the widest part of the boat, and

On a blustery fall day, the Island Packet enjoys the powerful reaching conditions. From the comfortable and practical saloon (above, right) to the no-nonsense anchor-handling arrangements (right), the boat checks off item after item on the cruising sailor's wish list.

the shrouds attach at the hull. This keeps the deck clear, but the yankee's sheeting angle is wide, and when on the wind, the IP 440 tacks through roughly 110 degrees. If home lies in the eye of the wind, many owners will roll up the yankee and motorsail with the 75-horsepower Yanmar.

When we simulated "tacking through the mooring field" under main alone, progress was deliberate, not lively, but quite appropriate for cruising sailors, who don't want this to be a high-adrenaline maneuver. In lighter conditions, the cutter rig would, we expect, prove its value again. The stay sail could be set to help pick up the pace without being a worry for the lookout or anchor handler on the foredeck.

Under power, performance is purposeful, the big Yanmar readily pushing the boat up to 6.8 knots at 2,500 rpm and 7.7 knots at 3,000. The noise-level readings taken during Boat of the Year testing were similar to or better than those of many other models, although at 3,000 rpm, the noise level in the aft cabin was higher than I'd expected.

Belowdecks, the IP 440 consistently reflects the standards on which the company has built its success. Throughout the cabins, the decor is Island Packet Traditional, with teak trim, louvered cabinet doors, and teak-veneered bulkheads and panels, all gleaming through several coats of satin varnish. Ubiquitous stainless-steel grabrails lend a modern touch and a welcome helping hand in all the right places. In most of the boat, the cabin sole is teak and oak laid on a robust plywood base, and openings and their drop-in boards are boxed to protect their edges. In the galley, and extending for-

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