This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
An Experimental Daysailer
— Design by Henry Scheel —
Commentary by Joel White
enry (Harry) Scheel is no longer with us,
but what remains is a 50-year legacy of
designs (and boats) that came from the
drawing board of this most creative man.
Scheel was an early hero of mine — his designs
always stood out from the pages of the boating mag-
azines over which I misspent so many youthful hours.
His boats had a flair, a bold profile, a youthful zest, so
much like the man I later came to know. His early
career was based in New York City and Connecticut,
but later years were spent here in Maine. Before he
died, his design work had begun to reach international
circles, and three large designs were built at the Royal
Huisman Shipyard in Holland, necessitating many
(rips abroad to oversee construction. To my eye, these
arc among the loveliest of his creations. They repre-
sent the culmination of a lifetime of design.
The Scheel keel, with its cross sections shaped like
the profile of an axe head, is another reminder of
Harry's inquisitive mind. Designed to concentrate bal-
last weight low and to reduce tip eddies to a mini-
mum, the Scheel keel is offered by many stock builders
around the world — especially where draft reduction
Always an innovator, at the time of his death he was
working on a series of designs for a new hull shape
(hat he believed would make a better, faster boat —
one in which wave-making would be suppressed by
the addition of a chine in the after sections of the boat.
He pursued this idea with a series of sailing models,
most of them radio-controlled, and it was a common
•■ight around Rockport, Maine, to see Harry fooling
A ith his models. He even made one that had the usual
round-bottomed hull shape on the starboard side while
;he port side had the added chine. Sailing this model
in first one tack, then the other, demonstrated to Scheel
the value of the chine, and he was able to photograph the
different wave patterns coming from each side.
Several years ago, a 25-foot daysailer was built to
this idea — the boat illustrated here. Scheel had named
the new series Bestyet, and the boat in question was the
A look at the Bestyet's plans will show that inno-
vation did not stop with the added chine. The boat has
a most interesting drop keel combined with a trian-
gular fixed fin amidships. The sail plan shown is con-
ventional, with a self-tending jib trimming to a track
just forward of the mast, but Scheel was experiment-
ing with more radical mainsail shapes — fully bat-
tened, and shaped much like windsurfer sails.
The lines plan, especially the body plan, shows what
Scheel was doing. A light-displacement shape with
long, straight buttock lines and a nearly flat bottom
has been modified by starting a chine near the mid-
ship section. The chine runs to the stern, where it dies
out between the last station and the stern itself. The
effect of this in the body plan is to widen the LWL in
the after sections, to straighten the buttocks even more,
and to produce a shape that will handle higher speeds
without too much quarter-wave production. I suppose
the idea of drawing the chine at the stern is to elimi-
nate drag when the corner of the transom is immersed,
and perhaps for looks.
The displacement is 2,200 pounds, and the dis-
placement/length ratio 125 — very much on the light
side. The sail area/displacement ratio, a sort of horse-
power rating, works out to 25, which is very high.
Anything over 20 gives sports car performance to most
boats. The plans we have do not show how much the
drop keel weighs, but judging by the light construc-
tion of the hull, I would guess that it is perhaps 40 per-
cent of the displacement, or nearly 900 pounds.
An Experimental Uaysailer
The only thing I find surprising about the lines is
the large amount of forward overhang. I would have
thought that in a boat of this type, Scheel would have
gone for more waterline length and less overhang. But
this overhang does make for nicely V'd forward sec-
tions and a drier boat.
The boat is quite beamy for her length, but the sec-
tions have considerable flare in the topsides, and the
waterline beam is moderate. The boat is light enough
and small enough to gain some of her stability from
the weight of her crew sitting to windward. With the
lead drop keel down, and a couple of crew on the rail,
her stability should be good enough to handle the large
sail plan shown.
The boat is built of cold-molded wood — a nice job
by Steve Van Dam. This 25-footer has a light, multi-
layer veneer skin over a framework of bulkheads and
longitudinal stringers, and a thin plywood deck cov-
ered by teak strips. This type of construction produces
a stiff, strong boat with minimum weight, but it cre-
ates an interior that is very much cluttered up with
Scheel elected not to have a cockpit in the strict sense
of the word, drawing instead two footwells separated
by a bridge deck for the main traveler, and letting the
crew sit on the wide side decks. When I sailed the boat,
I did not find this a very comfortable arrangement and,
with four of us aboard, felt that we were unduly crowd-
ed in a 25-foot boat. But we must remember that the
boat has very little depth of hull — she reminds me
most of an overgrown Lightning — and to expect a
deep, comfortable cockpit with seat backs is probably
unreasonable. After all, what we are pursuing here is
a new and faster way of sailing, not creature comforts.
There is a hatch in the forward deck for access to
the forepeak and for storing sails. On each side of the
cockpit, a section of the side deck hinges up to allow
stowage of smaller gear items. The drop keel trunk
comes through the deck just forward of the cockpit,
and there is a winch and two-part tackle arrangement
for handling this heavy unit. The mast is stepped just
forward of the trunk.
When I sailed the boat the day gave us only light
airs. The mainsail on board seemed to me to be about
half size, reaching as it did only two-thirds of the way
up the mast and halfway out the boom. These ho
facts combined to make for a less than satisfactory
chance to try the boat's potential abilities.
I am used to day sailers with lots of lateral plane ami
a good grip on the water. By comparison, the Bestyet's
minimal keel area and small expanse of sail made h«
very sluggish, and caused her to make a lot of leeway
when beating out of the harbor. Outside the lighthouse
we lay off on a longer reach, looking for more air, but
never found it. The best sailing of the day came just
as we returned to her mooring, when the wind picked
up a bit and we zigzagged amongst the closely packed
boats and she began to pick up her heels just a bit. I
had the feeling that I had saddled up a racehorse that
never quite got out of a trot, but might someday answa
the trumpet with a charge that would take yourbreatfi
What about the new and improved underwater
shape, and the claims of better performance from it!
Had there been 15 or 20 knots of wind that day, I might
have an answer for that question.
Having been an interested observer of boat design
for more than half a century, I know how little comes
along that is truly new and revolutionary. Design evo-
lution is inevitably a series of very small steps forward,
interspersed with backslides and side excursions. But
Henry Scheel was always a man eager to take any trad
that offered promise, and he was undiscouraged when
left floundering in the puckerbrush. I suspect that with
this boat he was on the threshold of one of those very
small steps. Whether it will develop into a large gain
remains to be seen. But, bless the man for stepping for-
ward. Good sailing, Harry!
The original drawings for the Bestyet 25 are now at
Mystic Seaport Museum, Ships Plans Division, P.O. Bra
6000, Mystic, CT 06355.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?