Intoduced as a replacement for the Fulmar 33 this was the last new yacht ever made by Westerly in 1997 as they finally went out of business in 2000.
As with all Westerlys a safe fast comforable easily handled boat.
Ocean 33 Statistics
The Ocean 33 and GK 33 Definitive Guide
(First published in WOA magazine No. 64, Spring 2000)
The Ocean 33 looks like a Collie. Nose in the air and dying to get cracking. And crack on she does. There wasn’t much wind when I took her out, but that didn’t hold her back. In a F2, seconds after setting both sails, she was making 3 knots on a close reach, climbing past 5.5 knots as I trimmed the sails and edged up to the wind. Now before you say another word (you old cynic, you), yes the log was over reading by around half a knot, but the speedo was showing 6.2 knots, so 5.5 is probably being mean to her. This is a seriously quick boat. If you can go that fast in a capful of breeze, think what you can average in fresh conditions on a long haul.
At this stage I suspect that many eyes will begin to glaze over ….”Oh no, not another raceboat, this is a magazine for cruising sailors”. Yes, yes, but fast boats and cruising should go together like tack and clew. Do you really want to take 15 hours crossing to Cherbourg when you could do it in 9?
Handling is the thing for a cruising boat. The Ocean 33 is truly a delight. She tacks easily, accelerates well, moves where you want her to (straight lines when you need them, wriggly ones when berthing is tight) and generally behaves as if butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth. In short, a worthy successor to the Fulmar.
With near faultless handling such as this, everyone who sails her can have fun. Small children can manage a soft mouthed and reliable boat like this, and helming makes them feel 10 feet tall. Nervous neophytes will be reassured by such predictability. However, her skipper can put his foot down when he likes, picking up the heartbeat as only speed can do and bringing a grin to bare the teeth.
A true cruising boat needs more than sailing ability alone, however, so let us turn to practicalities. First impressions are intriguing. She has that odd nose-up stance, which translates into good headroom forward. Two other obvious traits are her fractional (15/16ths) rig and wide side decks. The 15/16ths rig is, I presume, there to lower the centre of effort (makes her stiffer) while allowing a runner free rig by using swept back spreaders, which can nevertheless hold the luff straight with a roller genoa (and you can’t do that with a Fulmar without fitting jumpers).
The decks are not only wide, but have just the right camber. Not so much as to feel odd in port, but still enough to make an apparent reduction in heel when under sail. Safe and reassuring, her cockpit is straight out of the Fulmar/Storm/Typhoon book. The right width to cope with long and short legs, the winches high and forward where they can be used most easily, the seats long for sunbathing. Best of all though is the “passage” forward. This allows you to sit under the sprayhood, keeping dry, warm and a good lookout while the autopilot gets wet and cold. It’s a safe place for small people when the action is hot. It’s where your hot crew stands when he wants to squeeze the last half knot out of her (sail control lines to right and left).
Below starts with a big improvement. On the Storm the first step is just under the lip of the companionway. The Ocean 33’s first step is a foot down, which saves you from ghastly contortions when the sprayhood is up. The rest of the interior is pure Westerly – solid teak, lovely joinery, comfortable cabins.
Just in case you think that the old firm are getting complacent, there are a number of serious improvements. The surface of the chart table is enormous (it extends under the instrument surfaces). The Corian style work surface in the galley is wonderfully practical, but in the heads it curves round behind the loo to give throne-like comfort. Wonderful! Also, there is a special rack and bin behind to let the oilies drip.
The layout is practical too. The forward cabin has a double berth (not Vee berths with an infill) but best of all, the port side has a cunning extension which will allow a 7ft man to lie flat out. The after cabin is light and airy, two ports (one opening) and an escape hatch help, but the headroom over the bunk and under the coamings is the real reason it seems so lofty. In the saloon, there are two good seaberths, and low and behold, a decent cooker at last!
Another “at last’’ is the engine. The standard engine is a 20 hp Yanmar saildrive. Good reliable beasts, these Yanmars, and the log was reading 7.5 knots flat out (7knots duly adjusted). I am very glad to see the saildrive firmly in place as the benefits are clear; almost no paddlewheel effect and no wasted space behind the gearbox and over the shaft. This allows the hot water tank to hide where the shaft used to be, leaving the under bunk lockers useable.
Now there must be something wrong with her, after all, nobody’s perfect. There are just two niggles to my way of thinking, which are a lack of lockerage in the saloon and the feeling that the joinery doesn’t flow harmoniously into itself or the worktops, so that there is a slightly unsophisticated feel about her interior.
So there we have it. Fast, yet handy and well mannered. Well-made, strong, sensibly laid out on deck. Below, comfortable and really practical (the most practical seagoing interior ever). Thank you Westerly, now can we have a new 36ft centre cockpit boat?
The GK33 Before I leave you, I must just mention her sister, the GK 33. Good to see the old GK name again providing hot racing with cruising comfort. Although built with the same hull and deck, she looks a lot different. This is partly due to the lost teak rubbing strake, which has been replaced with a rounded deck edge, partly to the lack of a teak deck, and partly to the 7/8ths rig in lieu of 15/16ths on her cruising sister.
There is one major technical difference, which is that her hull and deck are lighter than the Ocean version by virtue of “scrimping” (the process of controlling the resin/glass ratio using a vacuum bag during moulding). The result is at least as stiff as her cruising sister, whilst weighing half a ton less.
She also has a lead keel with 6ft 6in draft (a foot more than the iron version on the Ocean), and a simplified interior. On deck you will find roller bearing blocks, a nice bendy rig and all sorts of subtle improvements. Sadly, there wasn’t time or crew to take her out, but with all those differences she must accelerate like a whippet.
Although I didn’t sail her, the results speak for themselves: in the Hamble Winter Series, with nearly 40 hot competitors, the two GK33s were a tad behind the two top X332s (taking one race from them), and way out in front of the rest. Well done chaps!”