The Konsort Story
(First published in WOA magazine No. 52, Spring 1994)
The Konsort was Laurent Giles last design project for Westerly Yachts and also their most successful, excepting the Centaur of course.
She was introduced in the Spring of 1979, using the all-wood interior that Westerly had pioneered the previous Autumn in the 31s. Although she was advertised as a boat to fill the gap between Centaurs and Berwicks, she had actually replaced the 31s by the beginning of 1980, by virtue of having much the same interior volume as her longer cousins. Mind you, the introduction of the Fulmar that Spring may also have had something to do with it as well.
The Konsorts interior is the pinnacle of the development of what I call the "British Standard Layout", with its forecabin/heads/ saloon/galley and chart-table arrangement that is so well suited to our way of sailing. I am sure I am not alone in thinking the modem "French" layouts are basically unsuitable for the British way of sailing.
The advantage of the B.S.L., as found in the Konsort, is that there is plenty of lockerage and the berths are good and wide. This suits our national approach to cruising, which is to move on board lock, stock and barrel from Friday to Sunday nights. We also tend to spend the nights tucked up at anchor or on a mooring, so that the saloon becomes important during the evening. The new style, aft cabin layouts squeeze the saloon into a narrower part of the boat, so that both lockerage and space are restricted, while the aft cabin causes the cockpit to be shallow and uncomfortable during the day. Why does anyone ever buy the things?
The first Konsorts had a table, which, like the Griffon folded up against the main bulkhead. This was superseded in 1980 by the standard Westerly fixed table with flaps and bottle stowage, which also doubles as a heavy weather crew support. Initially one could choose between the 25 hp Volvo MD11C, and the 20 hp Bukh DV2OME, but the Volvo was withdrawn in 1980 when Westerly chose to fit the Bukh in all boats up to 33 feet.
Some of the early boats had a problem with the bonding of the foredeck, and the early fin keelers suffered the same problem as the GK29s, i.e. the keel floors (cross-members) were not up to the boat resting on her keel. Apart from this there are no endemic problems, barring those caused by misuse, that I know of.
The next important change was made in 1982, when Konsorts were given an all teak interior finish, and a small Perspex fronted locker at the aft end of the saloon, above the bunks on either side. The 1983 Southampton Boat Show saw the saloon being given three lockers on either side of the saloon (a la Fulmar), with open shelving above, and this is the interior with which they finished their days in July 1992, with Sail No. 704, which went to Holland.
The rig is fairly small by modem standards which can be a bit of a hindrance in light airs, but allows one to carry full sail at the top end of force 4, without griping. She is a stiff boat, and given a decent wind can see off a good few cruiser/racers as she proved in the Yachting World 29 foot rally in 1985, when she came third out of nine in the race from Poole to Yarmouth. Most cruising yachtsmen profess to ignore boatspeed, but remember that an extra half a knot gets you into Cherbourg an hour and a half earlier!
Handling under power is as good as all the modern Westerlys with their big spade rudders and powerful engines. She is almost as easy to handle backwards as forwards, which makes her a delight in crowded Summer anchorages.
The final engine change was in 1986, when Westerly reluctantly fitted the 18 hp Volvo 2002, in place of the Bukh. The problem was that Bukh's parent company threatened to close them down due to lack of profits over a ten year period. This resulted in a management buyout, which in turn saw much increased engine prices, which Westerly could not afford.
The design has been extraordinarily long-lived. 1979 to 1992 is two more years that the Centaur's reign. The first 600 were built in the first six years, but it took another eight years to build the next 100, largely because the price escalated sharply in 1985 and continued to do so right up to the end. She has appeared on a pricelist at the London Boat Show 1993, at which time they were asking £54,000 for the basic boat. The price in 1979 was £16,000.
It is worth remarking that little or no advertising or marketing effort was expended on them after 1986, and certainly it has been many years since one appeared at a boat show. Yet still Westerly sold a dozen a year, mainly to people who were fulfilling a lifetimes' ambition, by buying new at a show.
Generally speaking, second-hand ones in good order will fetch between £23,000 for a 1979 example, up to the mid forty thousands for an early 90's one(1994 prices, Ed.). However, it must be admitted that some early ones are pretty tatty and so will fetch less. I feel that prices have nowhere to go but up, since, like the Centaur, there is nothing to touch them.
In 1984 Westerly sent out an enormous mailshot to Centaur owners and others, asking what they would like to see in a motor-sailer. The result of their replies was the Konsort Duo, built on the same hull, but with an entirely different deck and interior.
As a result of this exercise she was designed to provide ultimate comfort for two people. She had a very large and commodious forward stateroom (one could hardly call it a mere cabin). Just aft of this an enormous heads, complete with H & C water and shower. Opposite that is a single seaberth, and aft and above is the deck saloon with galley. Because of the vast quantities of fuel and water carried beneath the deck saloon (50 and 100 gallons respectively) she is as stiff as the Konsort when fully tanked up, and so is no mean sailer. Her greatest advantage lies in one being able to see out, whether from the wheel under way, or when in harbour.
As with most motor-sailers they were a great success at first but petered out very quickly, because of the dreaded motor-sailers Catch 22. The problem is that they attract only a small niche market, and are more expensive to build by virtue of bigger engines, tanks etc. This means that one knows one will build fewer than is usual from a design, hence the development costs being laid off against fewer hulls, hence they are more expensive, hence fewer buyers, etc., etc....
However, Westerly did build 108, and few and far between are the designs that allow real comfort for two, rather than trying to cram 6 or 7 bodies in one small space.
So there you have the story of the Konsort, 812 hulls in 14 years. Quite an achievement for Westerly, quite a boat.