At the time of introduction in 1983, the largest Westerly and hence the flagship of the company was the 36' Conway so the Sealord was commissioned from Ed Dubois to be the company's new flagship. The initial success of the Sealord was eclipsed in 1986 by the equally roomy but cheaper 36' Corsair. In fact it nearly stopped production of the Sealord.
However, whereas the Corsair was good in light winds, the Sealord really enjoyed heavy weather and can be pushed quite hard. The Sealord has proved to be a very popular blue water, long distance cruising yacht.
Sealord 39 Statistics
The Oceanlord and Sealord Definitive Guide
The Oceanlord and Sealord
(First published in WOA magazine No. 58, Spring 1997, this updated version was published in WOA magazine No 68, Spring 2002)
By 1982 the Conway was looking a little long in the tooth to be the flagship of the new Westerly range, so that a 39 and a 36 were commissioned from Ed Dubois. The first to be built was the Sealord 39, exhibited for the first time at London 1983.
At the initial asking price of £55,000 she was very good value when compared to the Conway at £46,000 and sold well. However, when the new 36 (Corsair) arrived on the scene in time for the Southampton Show that same year, the Sealord faltered in the face of such fierce competition. The Corsair had much the same internal volume and was priced £16,000 below the Sealord.
By the end of 1984, the bulk of Sealords had been built, whereas the Corsair was just getting into her stride and passing the 69 mark. However, this is missing the point, as the Sealord is a very different sailing boat. The Corsair’s forte is light airs performance, whereas the Sealord revels in heavy weather. You can push a Sealord far further than her little sister in tough going. In squally conditions she will take the gusts in her stride and always come back for more, feeling stiff, manageable and wonderfully powerful.
Still, the lack of sales had to be addressed, and since there was nothing wrong with the boat, Westerly turned their design team on the interior in search of an inexpensive solution. Production of GRP boats is only cheap if one can sell a lot. The cost of making the plug and moulds, not to mention the work that goes into designing the manufacturing process, is prohibitive. My guess is that the Sealord cost £250,000 to develop, so building 42 in 4½ years is simply not enough volume.
Happily for Westerly, Mike Parham, their chief designer at the time, is an imaginative and experienced man. He came up with the idea of enlarging her after cabin by cutting the mould just behind the cockpit and adding 15" in length. This allowed this barely adequate cabin to become a stateroom, with more room in the heads, a better berth, and more standing room.
In addition, Westerlys first ‘sugar-scoop’ was attached to the stern. There are two good things that such a seemingly unimportant appendage gives. One is easy and safe access from a dinghy, and for bathers; the other is waterline length. The safe access is no small advantage in a high-sided modern yacht, especially as those who can afford such luxuries are rarely in the first flush of youth. Waterline length, of course, gives more speed, directional stability and improved motion in lumpy seas.
Thus was the Oceanlord born. For the Company, the improvements meant more than 100 sales over the next 14 years, thus reducing the development costs from £6,000 a boat to under £2,000. The customers got an enduringly popular yacht with world girding ability, which will wriggle into the tightest berth, and can be managed easily by small and inexperienced crews.
Although there have been tweaks to such things as the woods available for interior trim (with cherry becoming an option in 1994), the only serious modification was made in 1992, when Oceanlord 63 was held back to be given a centreline double berth in time for the 1993 Earls Court Show (actually the 1992 Earls Court Show; Ed.). Nos. 64 and 65 were already building to order, so that the next of the series with this arrangement was No. 66.
The rig has remained the same since the first Sealord with a simple sloop rig and a pretty well bullet-proof single panel mast (one set of spreaders). However, at least one of my customers converted to a cutter, which is not difficult so long as you are happy with a strut between the forecabin berths. Cutters are terrific with modern furling gear, as one can roll away the genoa altogether in windy weather, leaving a nice low self-tacking staysail in place. This is well back from the bow in the event of work being needed in a gale, and more effective and easier to handle than a storm jib.
As to power, the Sealord started out with the indomitable 36hp MD17D, which was quickly replaced by the new 28hp Volvo 2003 and, when this proved unpopular, by the turbo charged 42hp version, the 2003T. I suppose the Sealord’s top speed under power was well over 7 knots, and the Oceanlord can put 8 knots behind her with empty lockers and a clean bottom. Handling in crowded marinas is calm and precise for both boats, with plenty of acceleration and stopping power provided by the 3-bladed prop.
For a number of years Sealords proved slow to sell on the secondhand market: the current £60,000 asking price is very good value for a good one. Oceanlords have not proved quick sellers of late, with some changing hands at bargain prices. As always, the best way of getting a good price is to keep your boat in immaculate condition. Expect to get from £70,000 to £125,000 according to year and condition.
If you have always owned Westerlys, then this is the one to aspire to. For those looking for that elusive combination of performance, handling and interior volume, there are only three boats to consider. According to the depth of your pocket, you should buy a Griffon, a Fulmar or a Sealord/Oceanlord. These are the Three Peaks of Westerly’s achievements on behalf of the cruising yachtsman.”