Surely that was Merlin at the controls as the Hinckley DS42 quietly eased away from the float and headed into Somes Sound. Only the faintest hum accompanied our progress, because an electric auxiliary propelled this slim sloop. Although our helmsman, Peter Smith, head of Hinckley's engineering team, seemed an ordinary mortal, the joystick control atop the steering pedestal revealed some pretty special powers: Simply moving the stick forward or backward created thrust, and the farther Smith moved it, the faster we went. Magical.
Only minutes beforehand, I'd been sitting in the conference room on the second floor of Hinckley's dock house in Southwest Harbor, Maine, admiring the many boats moored in the harbor and chatting with Sandy Spaulding, at the time president of Hinckley Yachts; Smith; Ed Roberts, vice president of production development and marketing; and John Correa, sales, about why the company decided to build and market this thoroughly upscale daysailer.
The company's research, Spaulding told me, showed that the sailors who can afford a Hinckley of any size no longer have the time to appreciate all the space and amenities of a cruising boat. Some of those folks have already bought a Picnic Boat, the lovely and wildly successful (300 sold) 36-foot dayboat driven by a single diesel and propelled by a robust high-volume water jet. The company's single-lever JetStick control had simplified operation and combined with great looks and spirited performance to endear the Picnic Boat to nearly everyone who tried her. In turn, the concept spawned a line of yachts from 29 feet to 55 feet.
Spaulding reckons that the DS42 will strike a similar chord with dedicated sailors and spawn a line of elegant sailing yachts. Hinckley turned to Bruce King for the design, an easy decision considering the stunning results of their prior collaborations. The design brief called for classic lines and lively performance; a special concern was ease of casting off, handling under way, and putting the boat to bed after the day's sail. King contributed the artistry, Smith and his engineering/design staff lovingly filled in the many details.
Love at first sight will go a long way toward choosing buyers for the DS42, because she is a glass slipper among hiking boots. Narrow for her LOA to reduce wetted-surface area and maintain the spirit of early 20th century designs, she extends her stem upward from the waterline like the arm of a prima ballerina performing "Swan Lake". In profile, the curve of the stem recalls that of N.G. Herreshoff's Buzzards Bay 25. The counter stern echoes the arc of the stem, providing a delightful aesthetic balance to the yacht's profile. Seen from either after quarter, the delicate tumblehome in the stern will interrupt your breathing. Painted nonskid on the decks gives the feel and look of the painted canvas common in the days of construction in wood. The substantial bulwarks should discourage owners from requesting lifelines, further reinforcing the classic theme.