Robert H. Perry
Interviews Rob Ball -
C&C Yachts
Chief of Design.

Robert H. Perry
Yacht Designer
Teacher and Friend

RHP: How about starting off with a brief history of the C&C design office; from the beginning, you know, back when you and Ted Brewer worked there.

RB: Well, I guess the operation stated officially about 1964/65. Before that there had been a couple of arrangements between George Cuthbertson and Dick Telford and also with Ted Brewer and I think in 1965 George Cassian joined him, having come from designing a Canadian fighter plane. They scrapped the thing when it was just about ready to go into production. Everybody that was involved was out of work all of a sudden, so George joined big George and they formed C&C and did a variety of boats. I guess 1966 was the most successful year, when Red Jacket went to the southern circuit and showed everybody a lot and I guess it was the following year she won it. That sort of started C&C being known outside of this are.

RHP: Yes, I remember that boat. Weren't they for awhile called the Canadian Northern Group?

RB: Yes. The company was called the Canadian North and they called some of their boats the same. There was a CN 35 and CN#) and a variety of boats.

RHP: I remember them as very interesting boats. How many designers or drafters do you have working in the office now?

RB: I started working part time in 1966 and I started full time in 1969. We had four people then, one of the four being a summer student. We've been as many as nine. We currently have six full time technical people and one student. One is only here for three months.

RHP: Does Mr. Cuthbertson or Mr. Cassian draw at a drawing board with mechanical drawing instruments?

RB: George Cuthbertson is currently the chairman of the board of C&C Yachts and also the active president of the company and he is involved quite a bit in the development of the product as opposed to being a business-type president. That's his strength. But he, in fact, does not push a pencil. George Cassian is in the design office. He spent a couple of years running a research and development arm of the company, but when the realities of finance came through we sort of recognized that we couldn't afford to have our own R&D department. George Cassian rejoined the design group.

RHP: I've always admired the consistency and the obvious breeding line of all the C&C designed boats, but one of them struck as having a different hand in it and it was a Landfall 42. Am I right?

RB: Well, I don't think it was that different. The hull had a close resemblance to the C&C 38 because the 38 had been such and easy boat to handle.

RHP: But was that designed by the same person that drew the other designs at that time?

RB: Not really, C&C produces maybe as many as 15 or 20 designs a year at times and all the lines drawings have not necessarily been done by the same guy.

RHP: Right, your sheers usually look really good; so do your C&C bows. I always thought the C&C 33 had about the prettiest bow. RB: The 33 was, I guess. I became in charge here in 1973 and that was the first boat that was all my design.

RHP: It's a great looking boat. I powered across the Straits o Juan de Fuca one day-a flat calm day, right alongside one and I watch it for a long time and it's a pretty design with really, really beautiful lines. Do you have one designer that lines, one that does decks, one that does keels, whatever...rigs?

RB: I guess we've tried a variety of ways. We've sort of been aware, I think, of what Sparkman & Stephens and others do. We have gravitated to a situation where I'm in charge of overall hull design and basic conceptional design and another guy is in charge of structures. George Cassian's expertise is in interiors. We've got a guy currently who is clever on computers and has now brought a lot of our basic design and keel design to a computer program. We've got one guy who is very much a non-boat designer, but he's a super draftsman and he does all our presentation ink drawings now. Each guy has a specialty, but he's also a project engineer because people fall asleep if they always do the same thing. This way we can keep tabs on a particular project and a guy can get a little more emotionally involved in that particular boat.

RHP: Back three or four years ago C&C did a whole series of designs that had highly swept back keels, Red Jacket was like that wasn't it? Then you stuck to that sweep angle probably longer than any other design group.

RB: Red Jacket started out with a Doug Peterson keel in 1966, so called, Doug Peterson Keel, and she had a vertical trailing edge.

We had a keel with a vertical trailing edge and a very small sweep angle and that boat showed super boat speed upwind and obviously the keel was doing a good job. The owner went down to the Southern Ocean Racing Circuit and blew everybody off the map. But he blew one race so he didn't win the Circuit but he was bitten by the Circuit bug and all year he kept bugging us to make the boat better. So we tried a swept back keel and put it in the tank at Stevens Institute. George came along and said, "Holy smokes! It's not a little bit better, it's a lot better!" So he changed the boat-put the swept back keel on and the owner won the Circuit. But that probably wasn't as significant as the fact that he sailed around here for a couple of years after that and sailed against the same boats he had sailed against with the previous keel on it and indeed the boat was faster upwind and that sort of confirmed what the tank had told us. The theory, of course, was that you can keep weeping the keel back, cutting drag and t really didn't cut lift that much.

As time came on and a new crop of boats came out with vertical keels everyone said that the Doug Peterson keels are what made the boats so fast. I was really under the opinion that it was the hull. But in hiss situation I'd be tempted to do the same thing. When you've got a boat that's really super fast, you don't go and tell everyone that the secret is the keel if you think the secret is the keel. I feel that his secret was the hull, not so much as the keel and I think he did a tremendous job at convincing everybody that it was the keel.

RHP: So, you think that the keel on the C&C 40 is more or less there for market pressure?

RB: No, over the years our boats have tended to gravitate towards the reputation of being fast off the wind and fast operating in light air-not so fast upwind in a breeze. I've been reluctant to change the boats to, let's call it, a boat that's at its best in stiff breeze because the majority of the people that buy our boats don't spend much of their time going upwind in a stiff breeze. If you sail the one-ton cup they sort of force you to, but not everybody that's buying C&C boats goes to the one-ton cup. The C&C 38 I think is a perfect example of a boat which performs its best in lighter air and I'm sure 90% of the people that bought that boat sail triangular races on Saturday. The major races of their season are overnighters or long distance races.


RHP: In the past C&C has had a variety of rudder shapes starting, say, with Red Jacket's really accentuated scimitar and now coming back with the Landfall 38, which isn't a whole heck of a lot different than the old scimitar.

RB: The scimitar rudder that you're familiar with from the olden days was an effort to try and allow the water to flow from one side of the boat to the other back there. As we changed the hull shape, this changed the direction of the water upwind. We've had some boats that have had water coming off the two sides of the boat at different speeds and causing turbulence. Blocking it up just makes that problem worse. However, if we can get the water coming up in a smooth flow then it doesn't matter what you do to the rudder. In fact, it's probably better to tuck it up to the boat.

We try to approach each particular project asking what the boat is being used for and certainly we think that a high aspect ratio rudder is more effective in turning a boar than a low aspect ratio rudder. But it's true that when you stall it it's a very sudden and catastrophic stall.

RHP: Let's go right to carbon fiber rudder stocks and Uni-directional fiver rudder stocks. Some builders are using that. Have you plans to use on production boats anything other than aluminum or stainless steel rudder stocks?

RB: We've been using stainless throughout. We've only used exotic stuff like aluminum, titanium, and carbon fiber on custom boats. I feel there's a future for fiber composite posts. We have not achieved it yet for our production boats, but I think that in time they'll turn out to be better and cheaper than the stainless ones. Heavy wall stainless pipe around here is like buying gold. Industry has stopped using it in favor of plastics and hence the price of the stuff is going out of sight.

RHP: Have you had particularly positive results with the carbon fiber rudder stocks?

RB: Well, certainly they do offer a weight advantage. So far they have been very expensive. The up side is they're super strong, the down side is when you do break them they just go instantaneously, whereas the stainless rudder failure will be a bend instead of a break.

RHP: Is there any other Achilles heel to the carbon fiber stock, such as inadequate engineering data?

RB: Certainly. The first one we built lasted without any problem but this winter we took it into a lab and broke it and it did not come up to the properties we had expected.

RHP: Who do you buy them from?

RB: From Exxon.

RHP: Can you tell me what does a 2 tonner carbon fiber rudder stock cost?

RB: The new one we're putting on evergreen costs $800 or $900 for tooling and then the rudder stock itself cost $2,000.

RHP: So, if you're doing a series of 2 tonners it gets dam near justified

RB: Close, we're trying to talk the guys at Baltic into making it standard on the new 51.

The problem isn't so much getting the post. The problem is that you've got to attach the rudder to it. Also, no one has solved the whole question of attaching quadrants very well.

RHP: Because of the notch difficulty? Is there a tremendous notch weakness with the carbon fiber?

RB: We haven't even suggested that we'd ever notch it.

RHP: Do you market different boats in different geographical areas?

RB: I think traditionally our major market place has been the Great Lakes and the Eastern seaboard including Long Island Sound and the Chesapeake. Those are the areas where we've been the strongest and where we hear a lot from our customers.

RHP: So it's a light-medium air market?

RB: The majority.

RHP: Well, we have light-medium air in Seattle and C&C has done exceptionally well for a long time.

RHP: What do you feel is the biggest advantage of the molded fiberglass interior?

RB: Well, we've done so many different types of molded fiberglass interiors it's hard to say. The C&C 24 is probably the most complete interior we did. I think we indeed built a boat there which, from my own personal point of view, is an awful lot of boat for the money compared to what we built previously. It allowed us to offer more boat for the dollar. But fiberglass interiors force more precision in building the mold. I'm really scared of it when you're talking to a builder who doesn't have a lot of experience because there are so many nooks and crannies that you can get mucked up in if the thing doesn't fit perfectly. We went to very complete glass interiors and then back towards more wood because of marketing pressure. Now we're going more towards the molded interior molding goes in and is cured and taped and foamed in place while it's still in the hull mold. So, when you take the mold off that liner is absolutely perfect. You don't have any flexing. Still you end up spending as much time putting in the rest of the interior as you would have if you didn't use the liner.

RHP: Can you give me a brief description of how you balance the criteria between performance and comfort in your boats? I know that could be a book but is there some kid of policy regarding the way you approach that?

RB: I don't think it varies from boat to boat. The premise for the C&C 40 was a big C&C 38. That defined the type of boat very clearly. On the Landfall 38 we went back and forth on how "cruisey" and how "racey" to go.

RHP: O.K., let's go back to the 38 and the 40 transition. Was this transition predicated on an increased interior or was it predicated around a faster 38? Was it the need for interior space or the need for speed?

RB: The guys kept hearing a lot of people wanting 40 foot size boats and a lot of owners of C&C 38s (there were 150 to 200 of them at that stage) didn't have any logical stepping stone up.

I.O.R. Considerations

RHP: You hinted before that your production designs have never really hit all the dots on the I.O.R. How about MK IIIa? Have you got to begin orienting your average cruiser/racer towards MK-IIIa?

RB: I think our feeling recently has been to get further away from the I.O.R.

RHP: Does the 40 reflect this? It doesn't seem so to me.

RB: No. The 40 was aimed at racing but we have as a general philosophy tried to develop and design and build a better boat as time goes on and sort of make short steps forward instead of big ones most of the time. Sailboat design is a pure science, I believe and no one's been able to bring it down to numbers because it's so complicated. We've tried very hard to balance the scientific with the gut feel part of it. I guess, and come up with boats that are good, wholesome, all-around honest efforts. And one of my strong efforts is to get more and more science into it but a lot of people have done that and failed.

We're not going to do it that way. We're going to use science but we're going to rely on gut feeling and try at the same time to keep producing a boat that's a good looking boat.

RHP: You do produce good looking boats. Probably one of the most influential boats in my life is the C&C 39. A friend of mine bought one. It was called Biscuit-Eater and I have always thought it was a beautiful, beautiful boat. Well, thanks a lot for sharing some of the interesting things that C&C has to offer.