C&C 40 Foot

If you're looking for a nimble handicap racer - or just a sweet sailing, comfortable cruiser - the Canadian-born C&C 40 wears its age well.

Boatbuilders often have checkered histories, but few can match the convuluted path of C&C Yachts, which once owned busy factories in Canada, the U.S. and Germany. Before a hostile takeover in 1981, followed by three subsequent owners in the same decade, the company produced a spectacular 40-footer that sold as fast as it could be built. An outgrowth of a custom boat that had great success racing, the 40-footer was built from 1979 to 1983. Exact numbers are vague, but probably about 200 were made. One late-model option had an aft-cabin interior, but its' still the same boat.

When the 1982-83 and 1987-89 recessions walloped the boating industry, corporate-crippled C&C was a casuality. A couple of years ago, the assets of the company (little more than the name) were bought by Tartan Yachts, and a new series of performance boats by Tim Jackett has resulted.

But the original boat is still a winner. With a beautiful sheer line, tall rig and lovely cabin contours, a C&C 40 still turns heads. Out on the water, you're more likely to see the transom than the bow, as it will outrun most other sailboats its size, especially in light air. It's easy to confuse this 40 with the later C&C 41 at first glance, but they are completely different designs.

Test Sail

Synchronicity, our test boat, is a 1979 model that owner Dave Guy found in a farm field in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., in severe disrepair after losing an encounter with a bridge. Guy has rebuilt the boat extensively to suit his liveaboard lifestyle but has kept all the basic qualities of the design.

I was not prepared for the boat's responsiveness and speed. In 8 knots of breeze, with thick clouds hovering over the Miles River, we accelerated quickly to about 5 knots while towing a heavy dignhy that easily dragged more than a knot off our potential speed. Buy says the boat is a light-air flyer, returning a boat speed equal to wind speed in zephyrs less than 5 knots. I believe it.

The helm was light, with just enough pressure to let the helmsman know how the boat was performing. The big wheel comes in handy when the wind pipes up and the boat surfs down the waves. Guy, his father and a friend had made a 10-hour spinnaker run from Hooper Strait to Harrison's on Tilghman Island the previous day in a booming southerly and reported grins all around on the fast passage.

It's a close-winded boat, tacking and jibing easily, and directional stability is solid. Only when running downwind in over about 20 knots does the autopilot get overpowered. The high-aspect mainsail (this was the optional tall rig) needs its first reef in about 10 to 12 knots of wind.

Another owner, Judi Mohler, says of her 1981 model, "This is a great boat. She is a great sailing vessel, still competes very well in club racing." Mohler's boat has a standard rig and 7-foot keel, with a rudder at least 5 feet deep. "The boat is a great performance boat. PHRF handicp is 93 with spinnaker. With both the deep fin keep and rudder, she sails exactly where you want her to go. That includes going in reverse! The lines are classic -- I get compliments all the tim."

Dough Workman, with a 1982 model, defines his boat as a fast cruiser/racer that still wins local PHRF non-spinnaker evebts, "A great boat, not easily replaced."

Synchronicity has a three-blade Max Prop and a Westerbeke 30 diesel, and control under power was excellent in both forward and reverse. Other 40's were equipped with 30-hp Yanmar 3QM engines that should give comparable performance. The 20-gallon fuel tank is too small for a cruiser, allwing a range under power of only about 14 miles.

On Deck

Although this boat is 40 feet on deck, its size is not overwhelming. Handrails along the cabin top make it easy to go forward, and this is one of the few 40-footers that allows an easy reach to the boom for furling. Our test boat had an anchor windlass; that's not standard, but all but the brawniest deckhand will need one to handle the 45-pound anchor that's appropriate for this boat.

Most owners also upgrade from the standard winches. From her racing heritage, the deck of our test boat was peppered with winches, including big Barient 32s on the genoa sheets and oversize three-speed winches for heavy conditions. I thin the big winches had a lot to do with the boat's easy sailing and recommend them as an upgrade. This will not come chear; each could easily set you back over $2000.00.

Mohler agrees; "The primary and secondary winches are huge, but they need to be. I have Barient 32s for the primaries. In heavy air with a big sail, it takes two women grinding and two women pulling on the sheets to get it around." (That's with a 155 genoa up in about 18 knots of wind, she says).

Cockpit seating is comfortable and the helmsman lives in luxury. The big steering wheel lets you sit either to windward or leeward and maintain visibility and control, and the contoured helm seat is shaped almost like a recliner for comfort. Only a large genoa will interrupt the sightlines on this boat.

Rod rigging is standard, and owners on the internet seem to spend a lot of time discussing that. The exact lifespan of rod rigging is unknown, but it may be shorter than wire; talk to a good, impartial rigger who is not bidding on the replacement for your boat. Replacing the rigging on the 40 will cost over $3000,00. Dave Guy replaced the bridge-bent mast for $10,000.00


The C&C 40 has one of the few true offshore cabin layouts to be found in a production racer/cruiser. Not only are there two excellent pilot berths amidships, but the settees have leecloths and there's a quarterberth abaft the nav station. With these five good sea berths, you can race this boat offshore with a crew of 10 and give members of the off-watch their own bunks.

The galley is pretty standard, with a gimbaled stove and oven, and the nav station to port has a table big enough for a standard chart book. Wiring on any 20-year-old boat is suspect and probably should be completely replaced (at least $3000.00), but there's space at the nav station for a big, modern electrical panel.

The keel version of the boat has a liquor locker built into the drop leaf salon table; the centerboard model does not.

Mohler suggest some changes. "I would have a little step up into the V-berth, because at 55 it is getting harder and harder to get in and out of there. It is also hard to get into the engine compartment, but I have heard of owners cutting through the aft panel to get access to the port side of the engine. I took the table out and I am still looking for something that would fold out of the way while we're not eating. The table is a nice piece of work, but just took up too much room. I also converted the sleeping berths above the sofas in the salon into a place for the TV, liquor, books, etc. There is lots and lots of storage."

Woodwork in the cabin is attractive. Guy, a former cabinetmaker, notes that the builder cut the drawer fronts for each area out of a single piece of teak, thus matching the grain for an expecially nice appearance. He has found space to install a reverse-cycle air conditioner under the port settee.

Hull and Engine

There are two basic hull configurations. The keel version draws 7 feet--Chesapeake sailors take note. The centerboard model is much better suited to the Bay with a 4-foot-9-inch draft (8 feet 6 inches with the board down). I inspected Russ Suneweick's centerboard model 40 and was impressed with the engineering of the trunk. I've found no complaints from owners about the mechanism, but the board is iron, so annual rust preventive cleaning and painting is a must.

Guy took a more radical approack, chain-sawing off 1 1/2 feet of the fixed keel and installing a new lead casting on the bottom. The casting alone cost just over $2000.00, but Synchronicity draws only 5 1/2 feet now and has regatta-winning performance. This bobbing operation seems like a worthwhile modification if you happen to find a fixed-keel model at a good price.

Engine access is fair. If you remove the steps and a small panel, the front half of the power plant is exposed, and most of the routine maintenance points are easy to reach. Reaching the stuffing box is awkward, requiring emptying the starboard sail locker and crawling into the bowels of the boat.


C&C was one of the first production builders to use balsa coring in hulls, and that's a mixed blessing for owners today. Balsa coree makes a very light, rigid hull as long as the wood does not get wet. C&C cores often get wet because they are underwater. This lesson has led other modern builder to limit coring to the topsides, using solid laminated below the waterline--instead of carrying the core all the way to the keel, as C&C did. Current practice also takes special care to bond the fibreglass cloth to the core and to impregnate the core thoroughly with resin during construction. Many builders use vacuum bagging or SCRIMP (resin infusion molding) to ensure complete adhesion and prevent water intrusion. All these techniques were unkown 20 years ago.

So wet balsa is this boat's Achilles' heel. The rest of the construction--lay-up, tabbing of bulkheads, joinery and finish--are better than most productions boats, then or now. If you find a boat with a dry core, it should be ready to cross oceans. You may want to barrier-coat the bottom to minimize water intrusion. If the bottom's already in decent shape, this could cost between $4000.00 and $5000.00. If it has blisters and needs to be completely peeled, it will probably be twice that. If you find a boat that's saturated, it will probably cost more to fix than the boat is worth.

That doesn't mean a saturated boat is useless, only that it is heavy and slightly weakened and probably not suited for extended ocean voyaging. You can sail a wet-cored boat for many years in moderate conditions and never notice the difference. Get a thorough survey before buying and adjust the price according to the findings. Incidentally, a University of Rode Island study found that freshwater boats are more likely than saltwater one to suffer from water migrating through the laminate, because osmotic pressure is higher in fresh water.

Lots of C&C boats are being renovated by their new owners. This seems less a reflection of the boats' construction and more of their age and hard use in racing.

Price and Availability

The C&C 40 is popular and I easily located seven actively cruising and racing on the Chesapeake. Prices vary widely according to condition and, to a smaller extent, equipment. The owner of Dave Guy's basket-case-in-a-field boat wanted $45,000.00 for it. Other listing show a range from the mid-$50s up through a top of $105,000 for a 1982 boat completely redone in 1998.

C&C boat owners were (and are) passionate about their boats, so several good sources of information are available. On the Chesapeake, contact the C&C Sailing Club, Chesapeak Bay, which sponsors cruises and other social events. Reach them at www.sailcanc.com/ or e-mail Commodore Don Ruthig at don.ruthig@baltsun.com

The C&C Sailing Association is based in New York, and its new website is developing leads to these boats and owners all over the contry; www.cnc-owners.com/. The C&C Photo Album and Resource Center is an excellent, thorough reference site for all C&C models, old and new; www.cncphotoalbu.com/. And by using the SailNet list server, you can sign up for daily correspondence from other C&C owners covering a variety of topics; www.sailnet.com.

The Annapolis Sailyard are dealers for the new C&C line, but with people wo worked with the old company. Charles L. Gomez and Scott Morrison know these bots well; 410-268-4100. Havre de Grace Yacht Sales was a top dealer for C&C when the 40 was in production, and Arvid Scherpf is an excellent reference person; 410-939-2161.


It's a shame that corporate manipulation and the recessions of the 1980s killed C&C; their designs were beautiful, the construction quality above average and the owner following nearly fanatic.

The C&C 40 remains a fine example of the racer/cruiser genre, and even with its balsa coring problems is likely to remain a desireable used boat for many more years.

Manufacturer C&C Yachts
Ontario, Canada
(out of business in 1990)
Designers George Cuthbertson and
George Cassian
Production 1979-1983
LOA 39'7"
LWL 31'6"
Beam 12'8"
Draft 7' or 4'9"
Displacement 17,100 lb fin keel
17,985 lb centerboard
Sail Area 743 sq ft (100% foretriangle)
Fuel 20 gal
Water 60 gal
Displacement/Length ratio: 244 (moderate)
Sail Area/Displacement ratio: 17.9 (moderately high)
Ballast/Displacement ratio: 0.46 (moderate)
US Sailing Screening Value: 1.9 (below 2.0 recommend for offshore sailing)
Comfort Vaue: 26.5 (moderate)