Tripp 65

The stunning Sirona has a ballerina's grace and an Olympian's athleticism.

"Amazing. Absolutely amazing." I lost track of how many times I said these words to myself as I guided the Tripp 65 Sirona to windward at the relatively tight angle of 30 degrees to the apparent wind. I've sailed higher, but not at 8.5 knots in 12 knots of true wind speed. We flew the mainsail at full hoist and rolled out the 130 genoa. The helm was so well balanced, I could let go the wheel between wind speed and direction changes. She just followed her nose. In the puffs, I needed only a light touch on her twin wheels, and she never asked for more than a spoke to hold her off.

We motored from Portsmouth toward Newport, chasing the wind. At full throttle, Sirona easily reaches her theoretical hull speed of 10 knots, and she's very quiet, even belowdecks. We carried a boatload of people in the cockpit, including the builder Steve Marten, and the extra weight back aft immersed the transom at 10 knots. She left little evidence of her passage, though.

Under sail in the open part of Narragansett Bay, Sirona came alive, dancing in the freshening breeze as though she were a member of the Alvin Ailey troupe. This was sailing at its finest. Sirona may be the perfect size and weight. She's lively but not squirrelly. She's stable and sure but nowhere near sluggish. She tacks and jibes like a dinghy, quickly accelerating out of each maneuver.

None of her behavior is accidental. It is the result of Tripp's design skill and instincts combined with the building expertise of Marten Yachts in Auckland. An LWL of 3.4 times the overall beam makes Sirona relatively narrow for her length. This is a good compromise between useful interior volume and the slipperiness a narrow water plane permits. Her small footprint reduces wetted surface area for excellent ghosting, and it lets the designer maintain symmetrical waterlines at a wide variety of heel angles for easy, predictable steering. Her sections amidships form a modestly squashed semicircle, but because her overall beam isn't extravagant, she doesn't show the flare in her topsides that fashionably racier boats have. V-sections forward slice through the seas; the transition to nearly semicircular amidships gives her the buoyancy to rise over the remains. The waterlines converge aft in U-shape sections that provide a nearly flat, powerful surface for surfing. Although we didn't have anything close to a seaway during my trials, I'm sure her lines and weight distribution will provide a comfortable motion.

Helping to keep Sirona on her feet is a water ballast system of 450 gallons of potable water per side, the boat's rated water capacity. In light conditions or when you're short-tacking a channel, pump half the total into each tank. As the wind increases and you settle onto a tack, empty the leeward tank into the windward tank. According to ship's instruments, we didn't have winds of more than 13 knots, and with full sail set, Sirona felt reassuringly stiff without shifting ballast. A retractable stainless-steel keel with a ballast bulb at the tip adds to the stiffness. Down, it draws 11 feet, 6 inches; retracting it whacks 5 feet off the draft. This keel is meant to be all the way down or all the way up, and it requires a few minutes to complete a full one-way trip. A power takeoff from the generator runs the hydraulic pump that does the work, and the operation is barely audible from on deck. The retracted keel fits into a trunk that spans from the bilge to the coach roof, adding to the boat's structural integrity. Tripp's office computer-tested the boat running aground with enough force to bury half the foredeck, then engineered the structure in way of the keel to handle the loads.

Sirona has a powerful masthead sail plan, made easy to operate by the hydraulics, set on carbon spars by Marten. The mainsail has full-length battens and reefs/furls via a Marten Leisure furl in-boom system. Her sharply sweptback spreaders preclude the need for running backstays.

Stock head sails are a 130 percent genoa and a 95 percent jib. Each sets from its own stay and furling gear, one directly behind the other. Having a single head sail you reef by furling, Tripp said, seriously compromises the sail's shape. He specified two sails, fully deployed, to handle a variety of conditions. Each then operates at its optimum. For example, the 130 is good for reaching, passagemaking and moving upwind to about 15 knots true. Tacking this sail requires rolling it in to clear the inner stay-not a problem on passages because you rarely tack. When you have to short-tack, roll in the 130 and roll out the 95, which Sirona will carry to windward well into a breeze. When we began our beat up the bay toward Portsmouth, we furled the 130 and set the 95. Our speed dropped from 8 knots to 6.5, but tensioning the backstay increased our speed to 7.4 knots in the same wind speed. Tacking the jib is as easy as taking in a few feet of sheet. An asymmetrical spinnaker sets from a retractable carbon bow pole, but our tight schedule precluded our setting it.

Dividing the cockpit space between a working section aft and the guest section right forward is a great idea because it keeps inexperienced hands out of harm's way. Primary winches, on either side of the cockpit a little forward of the wheels, are dedicated to the spinnaker sheets; the mainsheet winch is in the center of the after cabin's coach roof. Both are within reach of the helm and are hydraulically operated. The two manual winches in the forward cockpit control the genoa sheets. The manual halyard winches are on the mast.

Marten Yachts built Sirona of carbon fiber, Kevlar and E-glass over a PVC foam core, all set in epoxy resin. The deck is carbon fiber and Kevlar over a Nomex honeycomb core in epoxy. Watertight bulkheads at the after end of the owner's stateroom and at the forward end of the guest quarters forward leave the rest of the hull watertight if a collision breaches the hull at either end. Also in the interest of light weight, all furniture belowdecks is made of cherry veneers over a foam core. Using veneers instead of solid wood also let the designer and builder round off all the corners-something you'll appreciate if you lose your grip in a serious seaway and come up against a piece of furniture.

In addition to her fine good looks outside, Sirona is among the most comfortable and welcoming below. Her décor is simple, practical and elegant in green leather, neutral fabrics and white ceilings and overhead. Curved, laminated glass windows wash the raised saloon in natural light and give the lucky diners a super view of their anchorage. The lounge area, a few steps down from the saloon and opposite the galley, would make me wish for a cold rainy day so I could hibernate with an engrossing book and a snifter of cognac.

I can't deny my affection for this boat, but I'm sure if I lived with her for a while, some thorns would appear. Nevertheless, when I'm ready to check out of the workaday world, I want to do so aboard a Tripp 65 like Sirona. So much to see, so little time.

Contact: Marten Yachts, (011) 64 9 573 2190; fax (011) 64 9 573 2199; martenyachts@clear.net.nz. Tripp Design, (203) 838-2215; fax (203) 838-2448; www.trippdesign.net.