The Motor Sailers
The Westerly Motorsailers – Vulcan, Riviera & Konsort Duo
(First published in WOA magazine No. 620, Spring 1999)
At the beginning of the 80’s Westerly had been building boats for 17 years. They had tried their and at almost every sort of pleasure craft, cruising yachts, cruiser/racers, racing yachts and even a powerboat (the Targa 32). The one thing they hadn’t tackled was a motorsailer.
Well, everyone makes a mistake sooner or later. Don’t get me wrong, it’s just that, although motorsailers are a good thing for those who buy them, they are definitely a bad thing for those who build them. The specialists (LM, Nauticat, Seafinn etc.) seem to be able to get it right, but woe betide any other builder who fancies a dabble.
The problem lies in a sort of Catch 22 spiral, which goes like this:-
To be successful a motorsailer needs to have lots of internal volume, a big engine and an inside steering position. This makes her expensive in terms of £s per foot, and precludes it from being a pretty boat. Because of her looks and expense she has a smaller market than the equivalent length cruiser. Therefore fewer boats are built. Therefore the initial costs (design, moulds, type approval etc.) have to be spread over fewer than usual boats. Therefore the price goes up again. Therefore fewer boats are sold…… You get the picture.
The Vulcan Westerly’s first dip into these dangerous waters was in 1979, when they commissioned Laurent Giles to design the Vulcan, first launched at the London Boat Show in 1980. Now this is quite a boat. If Scotty had beamed you into the forecabin, so that you could not see the outside first, your best guess at her length would be “over 40ft”.
Everything is on a grand scale. Her forecabin is roomy, the heads are spacious, the galley even has a wall cupboard (in addition to the floor standing fridge), and what’s this; another double cabin to starboard! Yes this is definitely a big boat. Now up the stairs to the saloon, with its steering position and a settee which converts to an enormous double (with room to stow folding bikes beneath it). But there’s more; to port of the saloon is a table with an L-shaped seat, and
a chart table, and yet another cabin. Finally, you step into the cockpit, where you find another wheel and a good deep Westerly cockpit locker. Step down onto the pontoon and it’s time for a double take – she’s only 34 feet long!
In 1980, this vast yacht was selling for a little under the price of a Conway, which although 2 ft longer is a smaller boat internally, and cheaper to build. This was Westerly’s usual tactic of selling cheaply to stoke the fires, before putting the prices up to more realistic levels.
17 were built in 1980. In 1981, with prices even further behind the Conways, 9 were built, and although they held up well in 1982 (price differential the same and 10 built), the market collapsed in 1983 when the Conway and Vulcan prices were roughly equal, so that only 4 were built in that year.
Unfortunately my records are incomplete, but I think I am right in saying that one last Vulcan was built in early 1984, and although it was given sail no. 45, my recollection is that only 42 were built over those 5 years.
So there is the dreaded Catch 22 in action. A super boat, available with fin and twin keels, a socking great 60 hp Volvo, and she really sails (no not upwind, silly, you motorsail upwind…………. but she reaches fast and handy). And what happens, unexciting sales in the first year, two years of worse takings, then a two year struggle before her demise. Contrast that with 7 times as many Conways built in two and a half times as many years.
You would have thought that the Vulcan lesson would have been well learned by the end of 1984, but that was just when the decision was made to try again. It has to be said that we went about it much more scientifically, as the process started with a questionnaire to all Centaur owners, that asked “what would you like to see in the boat with which you retire”.
The Konsort Duo The answers led to a new 29 foot motorsailer using the Konsort’s hull and called the Konsort Duo. This time the numbers all seemed right. The price was £3,000 more than the Konsort and the Duo outsold her cousin for three years. Then in 1988, the Duo’s price climbed dramatically, and sales crashed to a halt. Such a shame, because she was another really good boat.
The design brief for the Duo was that she should be a roomy and comfortable boat for two, with a few extra berths for emergencies, and that is exactly what was produced. The forward cabin has a double berth offset to starboard, with a walk-in wardrobe aft of it and plenty of room to wander round.
The mid section has a seaberth to port but is mostly occupied by a commodious heads. The compartment is all GRP and has a shower as standard. Up the steps into the deck saloon. Here is a long galley, with teak “kitchen units”, a fridge and hot and cold running water to port, with a wheel and a pair of bench seats athwartships to starboard. The seatbacks for the forward bench can be slotted into front or back of the bench, according to whether you are steering (and looking forward) or sitting at the table (and looking aft). The other bench’s back rest is the aft end of the saloon.
The cockpit is almost the same as the Konsort, with two big lockers and tiller steering. The first 9 boats were steered with a cable system which was a bit heavy, so that subsequent boats were given a hydraulic system from which the tiller could be disconnected to give back the feel when sailing.
The Riviera The final act in Westerly’s little motorsailing drama sees the advent of the Riviera. This 35 footer was designed to sail better than the Vulcan and to look a lot sleeker, which rather constricted her interior volume. Nevertheless, she is a good-looking motorsailer with vast picture windows, and good galley and a very comfortable forward end.
Like the Vulcan, she lasted 5 years, although this time with 71 boats sold to the Vulcan’s 40-odd. The 1988 Southampton Boat Show was her first venue, which was good timing as this was a good year for new boat sales. By the end of the following year 53 boats had been launched. Another 15 were built in 1990 but only one or two were sold, so that at one time Westerly had 14
Rivieras in stock. Happily Exports came to the rescue by selling 7 to Japan, but Westerly’s cash flow never really recovered, so that the Rivieras had a big hand in the eventual demise of the Company in May 1991.
As an interesting aside, something like 26 Rivieras were sold to the Japanese distributor (Mitsubishi) and a Riviera went to Tokyo Boat Show on at least two occasions.
Although I think that no Rivieras were actually built in 1991, three more were built in 1992, two of which were the Mark IIs. The Mark II came about as a result of feedback from the Sales team, who found that there was a groundswell of worry about the size of the windows in bad weather.
Once these things get going, no amount of logic will stop them, so that the Riviera’s great advantage (the un-interrupted view) was compromised by adding GRP pillars at the corners. In fact the matter of structural integrity had been taken care of by building a test rig which allowed us to put the windows under the same pressure that they would experience 1.5 metres under water.
Passed with flying colours.
As the coachroof was built as a cantilever (one sees some pretty heavyweight concrete structures using the same principle) and the Perspex is pretty tough stuff anyway, and the mast was forward of the windscreen and supported on its own bulkhead, there is no cause for concern about the strength of the windscreen.
If you are looking for a pigeonhole for her, I would say she is a sailing man’s motorsailer. As her owner, I would want to sleep in the forward stateroom as it is better than the after one and has a bigger heads too.
Facts and figures:-
Available with twin keels only. Standard engine was the Volvo 2003 28hp. Top speed under power is more than 7 knots. Water capacity 100 gallons. Fuel capacity 50 gallons. Sloop rig with roller genoa and slab reefing main. All lines lead aft to cockpit. Standard gear: Hot and cold water and shower, fridge, echosounder and log.
Available with fin or twin keels. Standard engine was the Volvo MD21B 60hp. Top speed under power is more than 8 knots. Water capacity 100 gallons. Fuel capacity 60 gallons. Sloop rig with slab reefing main and hanked working jib. All lines lead aft to cockpit.