Daysailer Review: The Hinckley 42

The elegant Hinckley 42 Daysailer sails past the competition with its classic beauty

Hinckley Daysailer 42

Hinckley Yachts

Surely that was Merlin at the controls as the Hinckley Daysailer 42 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 Daysailer 42 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 Hinckley Daysailer 42, 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.

Classicism usually equals restraint, except in the grand gestures-and the DS42's seemingly excessive crescent-shape rocker profile certainly qualifies. Sacrificing a significant chunk of waterline length is worth such an elegant overhang. The other compromise-if you hope to provide comfortable sitting headroom in the accommodations and a low profile in the trunk cabin and topsides-is a deep canoe body amidships. The deep underbody of the DS42 and the wave-making resistance it creates limits her top speed. Will anyone care? I'll wager not, at least among the seriously interested buyers, because the DS42 is all about the pleasure of hassle-free sailing-of slowing one's frenetic life for an hour or two (or more) of sailing in peace when the mood strikes. Truth is, the mood will strike more often than not. One look at the Daysailer 42 will set a sensitive sailor's fingers tingling with the feel of the wheel between them.

Hydraulically powered, sail-handling gear makes the DS42 a genuine solo machine. Pressing a button hoisted the mainsail from its Leisure Furl boom. Pressing another button unfurled the non-overlapping jib. A row of six buttons, three each side of the steering-wheel well, control the main sheet via a substantial hydraulic ram, tucked under the side deck on the port side of the cockpit. Each button wears a guard to prevent the helmsman from accidentally trimming or easing the main as he moves around. A reasonably dexterous big toe can open each of the guards; if shod you'll need a hand to open them. Hinckley could have chosen only three buttons and placed them on the centerline, but having three each side places them a most convenient reach away, whether you're helming from the high side or low. One of the buttons eases the main, one of them trims it, and the third provides a high-speed trim, which is great for quick jibes.

Main hoisted, we bore off a bit to let the wind fill the jib as Correa fingered the button that controls the primary winch on the starboard side. We selected a port tack in a true wind of 10 knots, and Smith motioned me to the helm. The Daysailer 42 gracefully heeled to the wind and accelerated to her hull speed. Oh my, the steering was superb, about as creamy and accurate as you're likely to find in any yacht. Befitting her style, the 42 likes gentle inputs from the wheel. Although the lifting keel (a stainless steel fin with a lead bulb at the tip) has limited the depth of the rudder to about four feet, well-chosen sections and surface help the helmsman keep the yacht in her groove.

Narrow sailing yachts generally behave very well in all conditions, and the DS42 is no exception. A narrow hull maintains fair waterlines as it heels, which balances the yacht and discourages unpleasant steering characteristics. Their minimal wetted-surface area also makes them ghost well in light air. Combine this light-air ability with a responsive helm, and you can forget about the auxiliary until the wind stops altogether or you have to battle a current to get to your destination.

Belowdecks, the accommodations are tight by the standards of a 42-foot cruising yacht, but well in keeping with the Daysailer 42's role as daysailer/overnighter. Once you're seated on one of the settees, though, the saloon grows to a cozy sanctuary. I'd be perfectly content to spend a few nights aboard the 42, cooking on a two-burner propane camp stove, lounging in the huge cockpit or snuggled into the V-berth with a book and a single-malt Scotch. Yes, the trunk that houses the lifting keel intrudes on the saloon, but this hardly matters. I predict that its presence will become one more thing to fall in love with aboard the DS42, a truly captivating personality under sail.

Contact: Hinckley Yachts, (207) 244-5531; www.hinckleyyachts.com.