Classic Boat Magazine Review: Storm 17

This review for the Storm 17 appeared in Classic Boat magazine in November 2005 and is reproduced here as it appeared on Swallow Boats’s original web site.

Storm Warning

Safe, but also spirited. And very pretty. Swallow Boats’ new Storm 17 gives Martin Castle much to enthuse about

Early on the morning of the final day of the Beale Park boat show, I had one of those rare, quite emotional moments when I thought life doesn’t get much better than this. I was sailing my Port Isaac Lugger in beautiful surroundings, with a good breeze and warm sunshine, when I was asked by the Editor if I would like to do a report on the Storm 17. What, go sailing again? Does the Pope have a balcony? OK then.

I had often seen the pretty Storm 17 sailing around the lake with Matt Newland, her designer and builder, at the helm, showing off the boat’s abilities. This gave me plenty of time to study her at close quarters and to informally race her, trying to cover Matt’s every move. From these manoeuvres I could see that the Storm 17 was an easily handled, capable little boat.

She was already rigged, so I didn’t have the opportunity to see how long it would take to get her ready, but everything looked straightforward with not too many bits of string, so it shouldn’t take long to set up. As we pushed away from the bank Matt took the helm and lowered the rudder and I lowered the foil-shaped, weighted centre-board, with its simple block and tackle. As I relaxed he explained to me the concept of the design. The Newland family has been building a range of smaller boats in kit form for the last 10 years, and the design brief for the Storm 17 came from existing customers wanting a larger boat that would take up to five adults; be easy to launch, recover, sail and row and take a small outboard. She must also be able to sleep two under a suitable tent, with enough dry storage for all their gear and, as with the other designs from Swallow Boats, be available in either kit form or as a complete boat.

The pretty double-ended hull is 17ft (5.2m) long with a beam of 6ft (1.8m), though the waterline beam is considerably less due to the flared topsides. There is a lovely strong sheer that should give a dry ride in choppy conditions and provide plenty of reserve buoyancy forward when the going gets tough. She is constructed with 6mm marine ply using the stitch-andtape method with the planks joined with two overlapping strips of glass tape and the whole of the inside epoxied. In addition the outside of the hull is sheathed with two layers of 200g cloth and West System epoxy. This, together with the bonded-in bulkheads and tanks, provides a very light but strong construction – all-up weight is only 180kg. The hull is painted inside and out. Gunwales and seat slats are usually finished with either oil or varnish, but on this particular boat Matt had painted them as a rebellion against such yachty things!

The rig consists of a small mizzen, a gunter main and a small jib, which on this boat was set up on a roller-resting stay and self-tacking club boom. This rig enables the three sails to be of manageable size, giving a good sail area of 120sqft ( 111112) within a low aspect ratio sail plan. If conditions become too fresh or you need to manoeuvre in a controlled manner at close quarters, then she sails well with her main lowered, under just mizzen and jib.

Spars arc Douglas fir, with the main mast and spar hollow to reduce weight. The heel of the boom, unusually, is attached a little way up the mast with a snotter, allowing the tension of the loose-footed sail to be adjusted, and allowing the boom to remain clear of your head whilst coming about.

The sails are made by Steven Ratsey. Other rigs are available at the customer’s request, including a bowsprit from which could be flown a large genoa-style jib, a second flying jib, or a large asymmetric spinnaker. Hold on!

The interior layout is spacious and very comfortable, with the curved coamings forming a natural backrest. The built-in side seats double up as buoyancy tanks, with additional buoyancy and storage under the fore and aft decks. A sprayhood provides a wonderful place to sit back out of the wind and spray and a tent can be added to create a sleeping area for two. An engine well will take a small outboard of 2-3hp, or she can be rowed, with the oars stowing neatly alongside the centreboard.

It was now my turn to take the helm and although the wind had eased there was still a steady breeze. Compared to my heavy 600kg boat, her much lighter displacement and finer waterline made her more sensitive and alert to every little change of wind strength aid direction. At no time, however, did she feel tender or unstable even in the stronger gusts. She would heel over so far and the buoyant flared topsides plus the weight of the two of us would hold her up and she would just accelerate away. We sailed back and forth, effortlessly tacking and gybing. She didn’t appear to have any vices, though she may prove lively for an inexperienced singlehander in strong conditions. Once mastered she would provide a safe, fast, easily handled boat suitable for family sailing, however she remains spirited enough to satisfy an experienced crew.

To meet a wider market, the Storm 17 is also available in glassfibre, differing from the wooden version in several areas whilst maintaining the good looks and practicality. There is a smooth round-bilged hull as opposed to clinker ply, and the waterline beam has been increased to provide more buoyancy, particularly aft. She will weigh considerably more than the wooden version, which would make her a little more difficult to handle on and off the trailer, but more able once afloat.

The Storm 17 is a welcome addition to this size and type of family boat of which there are several that are at best mediocre, and just a few that deserve to be considered. The Storm 17 is definitely one of the latter.