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(Jan/Feb 2006 issue)
Boat test review by Dick Phillips and Peter Goad

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Note there is a small error in the Cape Cutter Specification in this extract-  the displacement should have read 1475 kgs (loaded weight including engine and crew)

Trailing Weight should have read 1550 Kg (Excluding engine) These have been omitted from this review

(Sept 2003 issue)
Boat test review by Daphne Morgan Barnicoat

South African designer Dudley Dix is known for designing high performance, yet uncomplicated, yachts in a range of anything between 8ft to 80ft. Cape Cutter 19 Quest is one of these, and when I first saw her lying at Haslar Marina she certainly stood out from the vast array of other white plastic boats moored there.

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The concept for the Cape Cutter 19 was initiated by Nick and Lindsay Voorhoeve. They  had been running a charter business in the Caribbean aboard a Dix-designed Shearwater 39 (a traditional-looking GRP gaff-rigged schooner with a modern under-body) when they were taken with the idea to produce a trailer-sailer. Selling the charter business they approached Dix with a brief: design a boat with a traditional workboat image, shallow draft and high performance. Also, the boat should be capable of fitting into a 20ft (6m) shipping container in order for the company to tap in to the international markets.

Following the brief, Dix arrived at the Cape Cutter 19 which came off the drawing board with a plumb bow and straight transom to maximise waterline length and therefore hull speed ?under sail she punches to windward with ease and her traditional full bow resists burying. To complete the traditional picture  she comes with bowsprit, gaff mainsail and a cutter rig, which can be put together or dismantled, with a few tools, in around 15 minutes.

Nick’s concept stemmed from the belief that while many sailors want to enjoy boats with classic lines, not everyone can afford the time or expense of maintaining a timber classic. With 40 Cape Cutter 19s afloat already and 17 more on order, after only two years in business, the boat is certainly appealing to many people.

Under motor

In a bid to catch a glimmer of sun through the otherwise forboding Solent sky, we quickly got aboard Quest and were soon making for open water. With the outboard (not included in the package price) fired up straight away, Nick handed the tiller over to me to leave the Haslar pontoon. In common with many outboard powered sailing boats, the engine is fixed and to steer under motor, one uses the tiller.

In a boat of this size an engine is always going to be intrusive and while acknowledging that iron topsails are a necessary part of boating life, it would be an improvement if this one was seen and heard a little less. The engine’s arrangement on the Cape Cutter is a let-down, sitting in the cockpit to steer under motor is like sitting on a washing machine doing a spin cycle. To compound the problem, the motor sits high at the aft of the cockpit and would benefit greatly from being tucked into some sort of casing.

Despite these gripes, few people would want to be bobbing about in the Solent shipping channel without the ability to fire up the donk and get to safety quickly, so these issues must be taken in context. Under engine the Cape Cutter shifts impressively, the 5hp four stroke Mariner that she was fitted with for the test day, gave us about 5knots. Having a 4ft (1.22m) centre-plate rather than the long keel that perhaps her lines might hint at, means that Quest has a tight turning circle, making her very manoeuvrable under engine. But, Nick was keen to point out that with the centreboard raised she becomes a tricky boat to handle under motor.

As many modern outboards have a 12Volt output socket for charging batteries, Cape Cutter provide the conduiting to allow cables to be run up the mast for powering electric navigation lights.

Under sail

Nick made short work of hoisting the sails, the main’s gaff is high peaked so there is no topsail to consider, and things are further simplified because the jam cleats for the throat and peak halyards are placed side by side, on the coach roof next to the cockpit, allowing them to be hoisted simultaneously.

Tensioning the main is easy with the Lewmar winch fitted just abaft the jam cleats. Locked off at the jam cleats, both halyards are led into the cockpit.

Those sailors used to working boats might be surprised to find that all of this hauling and cleating is done from the safety of the cockpit, in fact the Cape Cutter 19 is designed so that there is rarely any need to leave the relative safety of the cockpit at all.

Deploying the Genoa is also straight forward, as a South African made Ronstan roller-furling system is installed at the end of the bowsprit. The furling line is eased out while sheeting in and it’s set.

Even hoisting and dowsing the hanked-on staysail can be performed from the cockpit. There is a downhaul fed up inside the bronze hanks to its head, so it’s a matter of hauling on the halyard while paying out the downhaul to raise it and reversing the process to lower it. If it’s necessary to tie the sail down, this can be done by going below and reaching up through the forehatch ?this boat is all about being user-friendly.

If it does become necessary to change headsails, the system employed means that this is not easy while underway. The process involves leaning out to the end of the bowsprit where a snap-shackle on the furler has to be released, which would be unpleasant in any kind of rough sea.

With all of Quest’s 295sq ft (27.4m2) sail area up and a light 5-8knot breeze we reached out of Portsmouth harbour. On this point of sail, the gaff rig and Genoa came into their own in the light airs and we made around 5knots through the water. Quest responded quickly to the helm, in fact steering her is much like handling a big dinghy, the 5:1 advantage of the main sheet makes sheeting easy enough even for the fairer and less macho sex, though that main, with 129sqft (12m2) of area, is a powerful sail.

Quest’s creator, Nick has had her out in 25 knots of wind under the staysail and triple reefed main ?from his account it seems that she handled these conditions well. It’s understandable why in this heavier weather Nick choses not to use the 100% Genoa. Even in the stronger gusts on the test day it was easy to get a taste for what Quest is really capable of, and being so close to the water makes the 5 knots hull speed feel quicker still.

However, these factors do not conspire to give an intimidating boat for first-time sailors or those new to the boat, the cockpit is deep and spacious  and everything is easily to hand. Which is just as well because the Cape Cutter has no lifelines. OK she is not designed to be taken offshore in bad weather, but if something comes adrift or there is need to go forward for any reason you have to rely on handrails. At the very least this makes the boat unsuitable for children, however rigging jackstays for short harnesses would solve this problem.

For our test the Cape Cutter was rigged with a Genoa and staysail combination, which has to date been the only configuration on offer. However, Nick is contemplating offering a yankee and staysail combination as standard with the Genoa as an option, the idea being that reducing the sail area will help the boat to tack more quickly.

Down below

Below decks the Cape Cutter 19, is surprisingly spacious and simplicity is the essence of the layout. The forepeak is taken up with a 6ft 3in (1.92m) long V-berth under which is a removable Thereford Portapotty. This item seems well sealed so nasty smells shouldn’t be much of a problem, but with no bulkhead and no privacy it’s probably only ever going to be used if you’re caught short. On the port side, aft of the forepeak is a cupboard and sink with a tap that pumps water from a 10 litre flexi-container stowed under the forward bunk. To staboard is a unit which can take a camping-style cooker or a small nav-station. Amid-ships the centre-plate casing robs  any floor space between the two side bunks, which are long enough to accommodate someone six-foot-three tall (1.9m). These double as comfortable seats, but the centreplate box is crying out to have table fitted to it.

On deck

On deck, modern and traditional blend together. The glass-fibre and balsa-core deck, which joins to the hull with an over-lapping lip to reduce the risk of water getting between the laminates, is off-set by African mahogany trim and handrails. All spars are made from clear Oregon pine. The mast is hollow.

The choice of deck gear would not suit the staunch traditionalist, as it is a mixed bag of items. Some fittings are custom-made stainless steel, others are made from black plastic and there are  Spinlock jamming cleats. But the deck layout is undeniably well thought out and un-cluttered.

Unlike some other trailer-sailers the Cape Cutter 19 does not take long to rig and derig ?it takes about an hour from trailer to sailer, in the water. We rigged the mast and bowsprit in the space of 20 minutes (see panel). The boom’s gooseneck fits onto the tabernacle, so you can leave it there, and the forestay attaches to the stem, rather than bowsprit, which is safer. Getting the boat on and off the trailer requires two people though. A medium sized car can tow her.

The Cape Cutter 19 has the clean and un-cluttered lines of a traditional boat, her rig is balanced and performs well. She is a comfortable and well thought-out weekend coastal-cruiser that can turn her hand to racing ?Quest won the modern gaffers class in this year’s Round the Island race ?yet only requires minimal annual maintenance.

She will appeal to many sailors and can nurture first-time owners from the safety of her cockpit while they gain confidence and skills, but she can also show exhilarating performance for the more daring and experienced.


(June 2003 issue )
Boat Test Review by Mike Kopman - www.yachtingmonthly.com

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First published in Yachting Monthly: June 2003

Cape Cutter 19

As we ghosted along the upper reaches of Portsmouth Harbour near Fareham, driven by no more than a breath of wind, the only sounds were the water chuckling along the waterline and the occasional call of a Curlew. The hostile shores of South Africa's Atlantic coast are not the cruising grounds that spring to mind when thinking of small, lifting centre-board cruisers. Yet this is where this pretty little gaffer hails from. She was designed by well-known South African naval architect Dudley Dix. In a previous life her creators, Nick and Lindsey Voorhoeve, ran a gaff-rigged day charter boat of Dudley's design out of Saint Maarten. They liked the boat so much they went straight to him with their idea of building a small, simple, traditional trailer sailer. 31 Cape Cutters have been built since, with orders taken for 43. Much of the Voorhoeve's experience has gone into the Cape Cutter, and she is full of clever innovations and attention to detail.

Her deck is simple and uncluttered, with smart custom made polished stainless steel fittings. In line with traditional gaffers, halyards are kept away from the mast by turning blocks on deck. This makes it easy to see what line does what, reduces chafe and should be quieter at anchor too. All lines are led back to the large cockpit, which feels deep and secure. Her rig has been designed so that it will stand up supported by the tabernacle alone. This allows one person to step the mast - simply pivot it up in the tabernacle and secure it with a pin. You can then walk around the boat attaching the shrouds and forestay at your leisure. The substantial tabernacle also means the gooseneck can be attached to it rather than to the mast, reducing the strain on the spar and further simplifying derigging. The forestay is secured to the stem, rather than to the end of the bowsprit, meaning that the bowsprit can be raised to reduce her overall length in marinas without affecting the stability of the rig. Another bonus is that a collision would not bring the rig down.

Hoisting the large main was easy work. There is a single set of lazy jacks that hold the boom up while the sail is hoisted, while also preventing the sail and gaff from falling off the boom. The gaff peak and throat halyards are right next to each other so that they can be easily hauled up at the same time. The large genoa, which is tacked to the bowsprit, flies loose-luffed on a roller-furler. The smaller working jib is a simple hanked on affair, avoiding the additional complication, expense and weight of another furler. It also simplifies things when it comes to lowering the rig. To avoid a crew member having to leave the cockpit to drop the sail, there is a thin downhaul line that runs down from the head, through the hanks to a deck block at the tack, and then aft to a cleat in the cockpit. Drop the halyard, haul on the downhaul, and the sail is held securely on deck. Reefing the Cape Cutter is simple and she has been carefully designed so this can be easily accomplished by one person standing in the companionway. From here it is easy to reach forward to the gooseneck and slip the next tack ring over the bullhorns. The leach reefing pennants are led forward to boom-mounted cleats that are also well within reach. The peak and throat halyards are led to jammers on the coachroof alongside the companionway, as are all other controls.

Spars are all constructed from Oregon pine. The boom, gaff and sprit are solid, while the mast is hollow. All other woodwork is in African mahogany. This extends to the cosy cabin down below. The Cape Cutter has a simple but effective interior. There are no hull linings; rather a smooth stippled finish is applied to the inside of the hull. This is light and easy to clean and maximises interior volume. There is a large double berth up in the bow (with room for a Porta-potty beneath) and two long (8ft) pilot berths either side of the companionway. The forward ends of these form the settees and are separated from the double berth by a small galley module on each side. Canvas pockets provide useful stowage space and give a traditional nautical feel.

The Cape Cutter's outboard is mounted in a well at the aft end of the cockpit. The prop acts directly on the rudder, which assists with manoeuvring under power. Also, being in line with the keel it is protected from grounding and impacts. A stainless steel strip extending aft from the foot of the keel to the heel of the rudder keeps lines away. One criticism we have is that there is no cover for the outboard. Nick said this was to keep things simple and avoid the problem of where to store such a cover when the engine is needed. We would be inclined to install remote throttle and transmission controls for the outboard and have a cover that remains in place. This would offer additional security and soundproofing too. There is no option for an inboard engine.

Unfortunately, on the day of our test we experienced predominantly light breezes up to eight knots, so were unable to assess the boat in tougher conditions. However, several Cape Cutters are sailed regularly in and around Cape Town and have proved able to stand up to the blustery conditions there. The two deep reef points on the main and the small working jib should make a good, easy to handle sail plan in a blow. Last year Cape Cutter owner Jo Sinfield sailed his boat Bandoola on a 3000 mile four month voyage from Yangon, Myanmar, to Singapore, including a non-stop three-day passage. In the light airs of Portsmouth Harbour she was a joy to handle and accelerated in even the lightest puffs. Tight reaching in 8 knots we recorded just on five knots through the water. Sitting in the comfortable cockpit, the mainsheet close to hand at the transom and the semi-balanced rudder tugging gently on the laminated tiller, she imparts a sense of easy serenity, while still feeling like a solid, capable boat. She responded quickly to the smallest movements of the tiller, and came about smartly, although the genoa occasionally needed a helping hand to clear the inner forestay in the light airs.

The Cape Cutter represents very good value in this sector of the market. She's pretty, she sails well, and clearly a lot of thought has gone into her. She benefits from modern design and thinking yet she's got just enough charm for most traditionalists. Add a quiet sunset over a shallow river estuary and what more could you ask for?

(Sept 2001 issue )
Boat Test Review by David Harding 


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What happens if you take years of boat-building, sailing and chartering experience, and put them into creating a brand new, gaff-rigged trailer sailer? David Harding finds out?br>
Nick and Lyndsay Voorhoeve are not the type of boat-builders you'd expect to find at the top of a creek in Fareham. For a start, they're South African - and the boat they're building back home is unlike anything that's ever come out of Cape Town before.

Down there, it's mainly deep water, steep, inhospitable shorelines, and winds that tend towards the lively side of boisterous. Consequently, there's little call for small boats with centreplates; hopping along the coast, anchoring in a shallow harbour or drying out on the beach for the night are things you rarely have the chance to do. As for traditional rigs, most sailors have only seen them in photographs. "When people saw us rigging this boat, they came up and asked whether it actually sailed!" said Nick. "They wanted to know whether it was intended to be used, or kept in a museum."

The boat in question is the Cape Cutter 19, a pretty 19-footer with a vertical stem, simulated lapstrake hull, jaunty sheerline, 4ft 6in bowsprit, wooden spars and tan sails. She's a looker, make no mistake - and, at first glance, not dissimilar to the Cornish Shrimper. Yet there's something slightly racy about her lines, and she sports a cutter rig. What's more, largely thanks to the value of the Rand (a major factor in the strength of South Africa's boat-building industry) she costs less than ?5,000 including VAT and a custom-built trailer. Drop an outboard in the well, and you're ready to go.

So, she's a budget-busting head turner that looks as though she ought to sail. But can a traditional-style trailer sailer from a nation where there's only the faintest stirring of interest in classic boats or shallow draft really be a match for the likes of the Shrimper, Tamarisk and Norfolk Gypsy? Is it all just a front? How well is she built - and, in any event, what possessed a couple of South Africans to produce a boat like this (they did much of the tooling themselves) and sell it over here, where we're steeped in tradition and already well endowed with boats that reflect our maritime heritage? Whichever way you look at her, the Cape Cutter begs a lot of questions. But I soon found that Nick and Lyndsay had answers to all of them.

Their inspiration for the design came while they were chartering their own 44ft gaff schooner in the Caribbean, having earlier sailed across from South Africa in a 29-footer that, as Nick put it, 'sailed like a dog'. "Big boats are so much hassle," he said. "I promised myself that after finishing with them, we'd have something small that we could take out at weekends and actually sail for the fun of sailing, without electronics, an inboard engine and all the other complications."

A timeless appearance was another essential - they'd both worked for a large charter company in the BVI, where new models of mass-produced yachts arrived every other year and each season's style became pass?almost before it hit the water. Their subsequent experience with the schooner - which they'd bought in a hurricane-damaged state and restored - reinforced their belief that a traditional style of boat would be the right choice, and so the idea for the Cape Cutter project began to take shape. First, though, they came to England for six months, where Nick ran a charter company from Gosport and they were both inspired by the modern gaffers, the likes of which they'd never seen before. "People were beginning to talk about building boats like that in South Africa," Lyndsay told me, "but nobody had actually done it. So we decided we'd do it, making sure the boat performed well and looked really pretty."

Gaffers galore

Given the number of 19-footers with bowsprits and tan sails already available, you might think it would be hard to come up with anything appreciably different. But Nick and Lyndsay had researched the market, and reckoned there was plenty of scope. Most boats of this type, they pointed out, were designed some time ago - the Shrimper, for example, dates back to the late '70s - so a more modern hull design should offer greater volume and better downwind performance. 

Although sailing ability was more important than accommodation, they were keen to fit in a good-size double berth - something few small boats can offer. A big, comfortable cockpit was on the list too, together with an outboard engine (to keep everything simple) in a central well.

To make sure they got what they wanted in terms of hull and rig design, they commissioned Dudley Dix, the South African designer responsible for their Caribbean schooner. Known in his home country for his fast boats, Dix is also establishing a reputation overseas following the success of his Shearwater 45, which won the Cruising Boat of the Year award at the recent Annapolis Boat Show.

He gave the Cape Cutter a finer entry and more powerful stern than most gaffers, kept the displacement down to just over a ton, and piled on plenty of sail in a choice of gaff or bermudan rigs. She comes as a cutter in either configuration, the halyard of the free-flying yankee being tensioned by a bronze Lewmar 6 winch on the coachroof.
The idea, explained Nick, was to produce a boat with plenty of get-up-and-go in light breezes that could, under reduced rig, also cope with anything a 19-footer would be likely to encounter. "You can always tuck in a reef if the breeze builds," he observed, "but it's harder to put more sail up if the boat's designed without enough in the first place."

Traditional authenticity was of less importance, since few died-in-the-wool gaffers would give a boat like this a second glance - hence the high-peaked gaff, the modern deck hardware from Lewmar, Spinlock and Ronstan, and the unusually broad stern. On the other hand, she sticks to tried-and-tested configurations with her centreplate and long, shallow keel, together with a low aspect-ratio rig which keeps the centre of effort down and allows most of the ballast to be bonded inside the hull. A boat like this is unlikely to out-perform one that's unconstrained by the desire to present a traditional image but, as gaffers go, she should be quick. A cutter rig opens up plenty of options, too; while others are labouring to windward under inefficient reefed genoas, you can roll away the yankee and continue with a small but perfectly formed staysail.

We had no need to shorten sail during our test, but were lucky enough to come across two comparable boats in Southampton Water to pace ourselves against. One was a popular 19ft gaffer which we out-pointed, out-footed and left 100 yards astern in two short tacks. His handicap was not paying attention, while ours, we realised afterwards, had been sailing with the centreplate only half way down. Next we homed in on a 24-footer, sailing straight through his lee on a broad reach.

What we really needed was a well-sailed Shrimper or Norfolk Gypsy, neither of which presented itself. Even so, our upwind speed of up to 4.6 knots in around 12 knots of wind was more than respectable. It dropped slightly as the wind built to around 15 knots, suggesting that tucking in a slab would have been a good idea. Even so, the Cape Cutter never felt pressed; she was an enjoyable boat to sail, combining the directional stability and slightly muted feel you'd expect from a long-keeled gaffer with a spirited approach that made you want to get the best from her. For me, the pleasure of sailing was enhanced by being able to sit well forward and outboard on the wide cockpit coaming, watching the luff of the yankee (often difficult with a cutter) and steering with the tiller extension in true dinghy style. 

My only criticism was the unbalanced rudder blade - a common feature with transom-hung rudders and long keels. The weather helm was far from excessive even in the fresher spells - as demonstrated by the boat's ability to sail herself upwind with the mainsheet eased a few inches - but the tug on the tiller was slightly more than I'd have liked. Nick is conscious of the lack of balance and is toying with ways of doing something about it, though the feel of the helm is a very subjective issue. I also wondered whether, given the broad transom, the blade would provide enough grip in fresh conditions downwind; a Shrimper-style extension was avoided in the interests of simplicity.

All decked out
Despite being competitively priced, the Cape Cutter comes with good quality hardware and nicely cut sails from no less a loft than North (South Africa), set on spars of Oregon Pine.

Should the wind die, a short-shaft outboard up to 6hp lives in the central transom well. The aperture around the prop is filled with a rubber flap to minimise turbulence, while the blades themselves are largely hidden behind the deadwood. Since there's no room for the engine to hinge up, you have to remove it entirely to bring it out of the water before storing it down below - the shallow, rinse-through cockpit lockers with their smooth linings were never intended for outboard stowage. I couldn't help wonder whether there might be room for a dedicated locker built into the cockpit sole, as Hunter designed into their 707 - there seems to be plenty of space between the feet of the quarter berths.
While there's probably scope for minor refinements here and there, on the whole I was impressed by this thoroughly modern gaffer. Practical, pretty, fast, roomy, and fun to sail, she's also simple, unpretentious, nicely finished, apparently well built, and excellent value. I'll be surprised if she's not an outstanding success.

Opening up
Internally, the Cape Cutter differs from most new gaffers in two major respects. First, the broad-sterned hull provides an enormous amount of space - the 6ft 3in by 5ft 8in double berth in the bow (bigger than the one he had on a 50ft charter boat, said Nick) is separated from the pair of 8ft quarter berths by galley modules each side.

Second, you find no headlining or hull-side panelling; the inside is given a white textured finish which is bright, neat and easy to clean. It also maximises the interior volume. Just as important is the easy access to the hull/deck joint and fastenings for the deck fittings. Some people might think it looks a little stark and unfinished, but it's infinitely more attractive than shiny mouldings and made me wonder why so many builders insist on covering everything up. In any event, you can always add some panelling if you feel so inclined.

The principal interior moulding forms the bunk and galley modules, and is bonded to the hull mid way between the turn of the bilge and the centre-line. As for the centreplate case, it's hard to ignore but not as intrusive in practice as you might imagine at first glance - and the after end forms a useful step down into the cabin. Sitting headroom is a comfortable 35in.

The Cape Cutter is built in Cape Town by Manuel Mendes, a well-known sailor and builder of the J/22 one-design keelboat who exports much of his production to Europe and America. The hull is a solid laminate of 8oz (2,400gsm) in the topsides and 11oz (3,300gsm) below the waterline. Extra reinforcement is provided in the bow by a stringer each side running roughly one third of the way aft from the stem. 

A balsa core stiffens the deck, which is bolted to the hull at 16in (400mm) centres by fastenings that also secure the iroko toerail. The joint is then glassed over internally.
Most of the ballast is provided by lead shot bonded into the bottom of the hull; the mild steel centreplate - with its pivot bolt above the waterline - adds a further 220lb (100kg) and is raised by a line led to the forward end of the cockpit. A 6:1 drum purchase makes it easily controlled with one hand.

Annotations for drawings
The hinge-up bowsprit is tensioned in its normal position by a 2:1 purchase on the bobstay.
Mini bilge stubs protect the bottom when drying out.
A collision bulkhead is bonded into the bow.

The cockpit drains through the outboard well.
A Porta-Potti can be fitted under the V-berth.
Powerful stern sections should encourage good downwind performance.

Practical Boat Owner: DAVID HARDING

(Sept 2001 issue)
Article by Annie Hill 


Nick and Lyndsay Voorhoeve have been knocking around boats for a while. They sailed to the Caribbean a few years ago, in a Fred Parker designed 29 footer, which had been built in Zimbabwe by a man with more enthusiasm than money. So she was steel fastened and had some features that almost certainly were not in the design. Like most impoverished young people, they stopped to work in the West Indies and served their time with The Moorings before investing in a run-down day charter boat. Traditionalists at heart, they resisted the advice to buy a catamaran, having fallen for a lovely 39ft gaff schooner, designed by Dudley Dix, for the job. They spent time and money on her to bring her back into shape and spent several years sailing between the British Virgin Islands and Anegada. 

One of the things that all this sailing had brought home to them, was how much work and effort goes into sailing and running a big boat. How much subliminal worry there is each time you bring her alongside, or anchor in less-than-perfect conditions. How much energy there is expended in simply raising sail and putting her to bed. Wouldn’t it be fun to have a little boat that you could pop onto a trailer and take wherever you fancied? And one that was lively to sail, but pretty to look at, with sails that you could just whistle up and down; a boat so light that if you blundered, bringing her alongside, you could stop her with a bare foot; a boat with shoal draught so that if you dragged anchor you could just push her off and, indeed, because you could get into the tiniest of bays, you’d be able to find shelter when the bigger boats had to go back out to sea. A short stay in England introduced Nick and Lyndsay to the small, gaff-rigged working boats and their descendents, which are still seen in quantity around the coast. And so the idea was born. 

Back in South Africa, the Voorhoeves did their homework and realised that with careful planning, they could build a boat that would not only fill a gaping void in the home market, but could also appeal to the European one. South Africa has a long and honourable yachting tradition, but over the past ten years, the production of new boats has reduced substantially, with the exception of catamarans for the foreign charter market. However, the skills are available and the comparative weakness of the Rand means that a high quality product can be produced, taken to Europe, commissioned and still be competitive with European boats. Obviously it would be necessary to take in the swingeing safety laws imposed on European yachtsmen, but this should not prove an insurmountable problem. With less-than-fond memories of maintaining their first yacht, fibreglass was the material of choice, but it was important for the boat to look the part. 

Nick and Lyndsay took their ideas to the versatile South African designer, Dudley Dix. Dudley’s passion is for lightweight, high-performance yachts: not perhaps the obvious choice for a ‘traditional gaffer? but the whole ethos of the design was that she would be fast and fun to sail. Dudley undertook the challenge with enthusiasm and working from Nick’s outline, tweaked a traditional-looking hull to its best advantage. The 5.8 metre Cape Cutter has a plumb bow and a long (5.5m) waterline, but underneath is a shoal-draught (0.45m) centreboarder. There is a long keel for directional stability, her 2.2 metre beam, combined with 230 kg of lead ballast, keeps her upright and her fairly flat sections, aft, combined with a narrow entry, make for a slippery little boat. The shoal draught also means that she is able to explore the creeks and backwaters and with optional bilge runners, she should dry out at a fairly comfortable angle. 

That the Cape Cutter 19 works as a trailer sailor is apparent ?I’d already seen the boat at harbours up and down the West Coast and noted the ingenious arrangement for the tabernacle, which hinges above the gooseneck so that the boom can be left in place when lowering the mast. Then I saw her sailing in and out of the marina at Simonstown (and I mean ‘sailing? and I couldn’t resist the temptation to wangle a sail. It was very rewarding. 

The 6 hp inboard/outboard motor was used for just a few seconds to get us out of the berth and in spite of her long keel, the boat seemed quite docile in astern. The outboard is situated forward of the rudder, so that the wash impinges directly upon it, giving the manoeuvrability of an inboard engine. The mainsail and staysail were soon hauled up and the jib rolled out. Everything leads aft and can genuinely be handled ‘from the cockpit? With her high-peaked gaff gathering the breeze, the boat leapt into life and bowled quickly out of the marina. We stayed in the lee of the harbour wall for ten minutes or so, running, gybing, reaching and beating around the moored yachts, the boat proving lively and positive with no apparent vices. Leaving shelter she was somewhat over-canvassed in the rapidly increasing breeze. The initial concept had both foresails roller furling and working independently, but Nick and Lyndsay have come to realise that the boat actually functions best as a true cutter and that the inner sail was inefficient. They have now put hanks on this and a row of reef points for boisterous conditions. The boat was definitely becoming overpressed and hard-mouthed, so Nick rolled in the foresail and, standing well braced and secure on the centreboard in the companionway, proceeded to reef the mainsail. This has a well set-up system and the sail was soon reduced to a more sensible size. With gusts that I estimated were touching F6, the Cutter had as much sail as she needed but was stiff and dry. The Cape has more than its fair share of strong winds and the rig is such that she can handle an honest gale. She is not intended to go offshore, but in sheltered waters can take anything that most people would ever want to go out in. She carried her way well and was sure in stays, but the staysail could always be backed, at a pinch. There are sheet winches, probably unnecessary for many people, but likely to be appreciated by the less strong. 

Coming back into harbour she handled in a well-mannered fashion. The staysail is rigged with a downhaul and (after Nick remembered to cast off the halyard) it came down neatly and without fuss, the mainsail dropped into its lazyjacks and everything was clear and simple for going alongside. Insofar as sailing is concerned, the boat certainly complies with the Voorhoeve’s desiderata. 

Another afternoon saw me on board again, this time in Table Bay. We were hoping to get some good photographs of the boat and having cast our photographer adrift in a kiddies?rubber duck, Nick and I sailed around for the best shots. Back and forth, tacking and gybing, I came to appreciate the excellent little jamming blocks that Nick has fitted. Unlike the previous generation, toothed Tufnol arrangements, these natty little devices unlatch at a flick and lock at a tug. With lots of action and three sails to handle, they really proved their worth. Admittedly they don’t quite look the part, but that is easily forgiven for their efficiency. The photo call really tested the Cape Cutter and all I can say is that it was great fun. What more could you ask? 

The accommodation is a simple camping layout. In order to keep the boat light and sporty, there is no affectation of ‘tradition?below. The companionway hatch has an ingenious lifting and sliding arrangement, which increases headroom and ventilation. The accommodation consists of a double berth forward, small sideboards and two quarter berths aft, which also serve as saloon settees. At present the only concession made to convenience is pumped water, ingeniously plumbed in from a ten-litre jerrican under the head of the double berth. A bucket and chuck-it serves for the heads, which would probably be acceptable to most couples, but a porta-potti could be fitted under the double berth, perhaps on a sliding platform for ease of use. In anticipation of the colder climate and more testing pilotage of Northern Europe, Nick is working out ways of fitting a permanent cooker and a removable chart table. The reviewer should point out the lack of space for instruments, etc, but is in total accord with the spirit of the boat ?a simple boat for sailing pleasure, in which less is more and lack of complication will give increased satisfaction. 

In my opinion, the Cape Cutter is a great little craft. She will look after you more than you deserve from such a small ship, give endless hours of fun, tempt you away to new cruising grounds and, assuming you choose the beautiful wooden spars, need just enough maintenance to reward your efforts. Should you wish to purchase one, Nick and Lyndsay will take care of everything from putting her in a container - for which she was designed - in Cape Town to rigging and commissioning her when she arrives in the UK. 

Ocean Sailer: ANNIE HILL 
(Author of "Voyaging on a Small Income" and "Brazil & Beyond"

(February 2001 issue)

CAPE CUTTER 19 SAIL TEST - by Steve Meek 

When I was invited to test sail the the brand new "Cape Cutter 19" by the builder, I jumped at the opportunity as a small gaff cutter is a new concept in South Africa. This extremely handsome yacht was designed by Dudley Dix and built by Cape Yachts. She was designed as a classic looking boat but modern features make for easy and safe sailing. At first glance one notices the large flush deck and huge cockpit for a boat this size. there is no boxy coach-roof so often seen on small boats.

The halyards all lead aft to jammers within reach of the cockpit. The companionway is large and incorporates a hinging hatch to improve headroom in the cabin. The cockpit is about 2 m long and has a lovely coaming which serves as a backrest or a seat for crew to sit on whilst sailing. Aft in the self-draining cockpit sole is a well for the outboard engine. 

A clever feature of the gaff rig, is the way the bowsprit is used to help lower the tabernacle mounted mast. This is a one man operation. The beautifully laminated spars are made of flawless oregan pine and compliment the boat well.

The underbody of the Cape Cutter has a shallow keelson which is at it's deepest aft. The propeller is well protected by the keelson, a steel centerboard swings out of an unobtrusive housing in the cabin. It is very easy to raise and lower the centerboard due to a 6 to 1 purchase drum winch. 

The test day in Table bay was a perfect one for sailing - there was about 15 knots of westerly wind and a large swell. Upwind we quickly tucked one slab reef and tried the genoa and staysail. The boat heeled moderately despite being slightly over canvassed. the boat speed seemed great but as we had no log, this could not be confirmed. The reefing system worked well as one could safely stand in the companionway and reach everything including the tack horn. Sailing up wind, our pointing angle was fair despite the loose luffed genoa which always carry a slight sag to it. We experimented with stability by raising the centerboard up totally whilst hard on the wind. Amazingly, the boat did not lean further but purely made more leeway with a very light feel to the helm. off the wind, with full sail, the boat tracks well and was stable. 

The Cape Cutter is boat for the yachtsman who likes sailing in most conditions not only in fair weather. It barely took any spray on deck and I would not hesitate to sail it around our unforgiving coast or in our many lovely inland waters.

It is obvious that much thought has gone in to the design and building of this yacht. they are available complete or in hull deck and bulkhead stage for home completion.

(Steve Meek is a well known yachtsman in South Africa, S.A Navy Sailing Instructor, 8 Atlantic crossings, Cape Provincial Sailing Colours. Steve represents North Sails in the position of Repair and Accessories Production Manager.)

c l a s s i c  s a i l i n g . . .   m o d e r n  p e r f o r m a n c e