C&C 33 MK I
A classic Speedster

By Pat Sturgeon

There are many boats with the same shape and size as the C&C 33 MKI - such as the Viking 33 and 34, which are both excellent club racers. But there are very few that can boast its well-rounded package. With all the interior comfort a small cruising family needs and a performance record that guarantees pure exhilaration on the race course, this is a classic that effortlessly strikes the racer/cruiser balance.

The first C&C 33's were designed by the original C&C design group and made in the C&C custom shop in 1974 as custom, three-quarter tonners. But after producing just three boats, C&C yielded to market demands and began building the C&C 33 in the factory. One hundred and sixty five C&C 33s (MK I) were built in production, according to C&C expert, Rob MacLachlan from Southshore Yachts. Construction continued right up until 1977, when the C&C 34 came along to replace it. (Note, this generation of C&C 33 is not to be confused with or compared to the post-80s, Rob Ball-designed C&C 33 MK II, which was a totally different design.

On the Water

The C&C 33's instant popularity isn't that surprising to those who have sailed it. The design is a dynamo on the water and a strong example of why C&C gained a reputation for high performance - a reputation that lives on today. The sail plan is a high-aspect rig, which carries a good amount of sail for its size and the boat weights in at 9,800 pounds with a draft of 5'6". This results in a boat that is remarkably stiff and points exceptionally well. Not surprisingly, the 33 goes to weather wonderfully. Its deep-chested hull shape and large stern angle guarantees a smooth ride even in heavy chop. Off the wind, it behaves almost as well. Much like its big sister, the 34, it is a great spinnaker boat off the wind although despite its generous beam (10'6") the 33 tends to yaw a bit in a lumpy following sea due to its pinched ends.

The C&C 33 MKI is constructed as a solid-glass laminate hull with a balsa-cored deck. It was one of the first fibreglass boats to be built with the new uni-directional woven roving, as opposed to the traditional square weave that was popular at the time. This enabled the manufacturer to build a stronger, lighter boat, which is what performance construction is all about. The hull-deck joint is also very well crafted. The combination of butyl tape and a vinyl, L-shaped rub rail sandwiched between the anodized aluminum toe rail and the hull-deck flance provides a long-lasting seal. C&C was one of the first vuilder to use this method, and it keeps the maintenance of deck leaks down to a minimum. No re-beading with messy compounds is necessary, simply tighten the toe rail bolts to recompress the butyl tape and you will be good for another few years.

The deck has a smart layout and all of the deck fittings can be accessed through deckhead panels. The bilge has the traditional C&C fibreglass bands that run athwartships through the keel bolts to act as floor members. This type of support will flex a bit if you ever run aground, thereby minimising any damage to the hull.

The shrouds of the C&C 33MKI are attached to stainless steel chainplates, which are volted to substantial knees glassed to the hull. The base of the chainplate knees has been known to separate or pull, and therefore should be checked carefully on used boats, as it is a good indication that the boat has been stressed. However, this problem can be repaired quickly by re-glassing the knees to the hull.

C&C used deck ties to attach the bulkheads to the deck. These T-shaped pieces of stainless steel are fitted through the deck and bolted to the bulkheads to prevent the movement of the deck relative to the hull. This arrange minimises, but does not eliminate the problem completely; consequently, it is common to see deck cracks and deck delamination on this vintage of boat.

Down Below

The layout of the C&C 33MKI is roomy for a mid-70s 33-footer. There is about 6 feet of head room and the berths are a good size. The forward V-berth is just over 6'4" and the infill cushion will allow two adults to sleep comfortably. There is a forward hatch overhead that provides great ventilation, a shelf along on each side to stow things and a small door closes off the V-berth for privacy.

The quarter berth is a bit awkward to get in and out of, but once you are in, it works, provided you don't stand any taller than six feet. An opening port into the cockpit offers some ventilation for this snug cabin.

The head is a moderate size with all of the necessary storage space and a small sink. Across from the head is a hanging locker, approximately 18 inches wide, with a zippered, canvas door commonly found on C&Cs. A sliding door separates the head area from the main cabin and offers mutual access if there are guests on board.

The main cabin is bright with a molded deckhead liner and fibreglass modules around the settees. The table, on the starboard side, is fixed on stainless steel pipes which, when removed, allow the table to drop down to form a good-sized double (approximately 6.5 feet long). On the port side, the berth is a single, but is just as generous in length as the starboard bunk. A shelf runs along the entire length of both sides of the main cabin and, with four-inch comings, there is ample provision for storage.

The best feature of this boat is the enormous chart table situated just ahead of the quarter berth on the port side. The 26"x 24"chart surface has a lid which opens to provide chart storage underneath. The C&C 33 offers a full navigation station with room for electronics and plenty of storage for all the portable toys that have become must-haves for today's sailor.

The galley is on the opposite side of the navigation station and is equipped with a three-burner alcohol stove with oven. While there are those rare indicividuals out there who actuall like pressure alcohol stoves, most of us find that these beasts take some getting used to. The sink is shallow, but large enough to get the job done, provided you are not in any heavy seas and the C&C 33MKI offers lots of counter space, which is often a high priority for today's gourmet sailors.


MacLachlan assures me that the only engine ever installed in a C&C 33 at the factory was the good, old Atomic Four 30 horsepower. It uses a 2:1 reduction gear V-drive and pushes the boat along at just over six knots. Access through the locker or behind the steps is not ideal, but typical of most boats of this era. The engine is mounted on glassed-in plywood stringers, and over time, you may see some delamination at the base of these stringers, but not very often, as the Atomic Four is known for smooth operation and is still a great engine today. Parts are also readily accessible as these engines are used to power so many boats.


The C&C 33MKI was orginally designed to have all the halyards controlled from the base of the mast, which was common for that time and, in some ways, still a preferred location for speed hoists. However, it is not unusual to find boats which have been retro-fitted to lead all lines aft and position the halyard winches near the companionway.

The coach house has a curved surface and C&C has always used a good nonskid pattern, so you can move about the decks safely, even when the boat is heeled over. The stanchion bases are inboard on the C&C 33MKI, and as a result, the deck around them is susceptible to delamination and cracking. If you are a 33 MKI owner, I recommend you change to the newer C&C stanchion bases, which incorporate the toe rail and minimal deck area for support.

The T-shaped cockpit is long and has good-sized coaming to keep the water out. Most 33s have a wheel, even though the standard boat was drawn with a tiller. This is a good option, as I find that the tiller comes too far forward out of the cockpit sole, occupying too much cockpit space.

The average cost of a good C&C 33MKI is between $35,000 and $40,000 making it an excellent buy for a 33-ffoot performance cruiser, Interestingly, the 1976 base price of the C&C 33MKI was $33,500. I consider the C&C 35 MKI a great family starter for the sailor who knows how to sail and wants to savour the exhilaration of moving through the ewater at a good clip and a few creature comforts while on the hook or at the dock.