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RE: [southerncross] searching! - SC 39 Overview

From: Sellar, William E. <WSellar@brco.com>
Date: Wed, 18 Apr 2007 10:38:40 -0500
Message-ID: <LYRIS-540986-2024410-2007.04.18-11.39.23--public-qt-comments#w3.org@list.sailnet.net>
To: southerncross

I have owned a SC 39 for about 15 years.  Following are my personal
opinions about it (some of this has been posted before as this question
comes up every year or two): 

If you can find the book "Best Boats" by Mate there is a review of the
Gilmer 39 (aka Southern Cross 39).  In that review he extols the virtues
of the 39 as a deep water boat.  It is heavily built and was a wonderful
shape for heavy seas.  It is very similar conceptually to the Shannon
and the Valiant.  There is a Valiant 40 right next to me in the yard and
the similarities are striking.

It is not a stellar performer in air below 12 knots.  It is slow to
accelerate and definitely not the fastest 39 in light air.  But in heavy
wind it shines.  Carries a lot of canvass at 14 - 24 knots and really
performs.  Above 25, this is the boat to be on.  Proportionally slower
down wind as any boat is.  I use cruising spinnaker downwind for
performance.  Ok up wind, does not point as high as a modern race boat.
Boat is a cutter, but I sail as a sloop below about 22 knots.

Top speed is probably 7.4 knots (hull speed); average in a fresh breeze
is 6.5; I get good speed at 45 degrees to apparent wind; it slows down a
if I pinch up to 30 degrees.  Will point better with Genoa than yankee
and staysail (cutter rig).

The SC 39 is optimized to be a heavy weather offshore voyager.  It
strengths are sea kindly motion, good heavy weather performance, shape
and hull features for weather.  

It is difficult to handle in tight space - backup is bad; terrible prop
walk.  Harbor handing is the main weakness to me.  I owned a Catalina 22
& a Tartan 27 & used to bop around the harbor in those boats.  The SC 39
is big, heavy & lumbering in comparison.  Single handed docking is
difficult.  The high bow (an offshore feature) catches a breeze in a
harbor, making dock maneuvers difficult.  I am installing a bow thruster
this year to improve docking.
It is small inside for a 39.  It has a narrow beam (an offshore feature
compared to say a Benetau 39).  The canoe stern (also an offshore
feature) severely limits storage space.  At sea this boat is fantastic. 

I cannot compare it to the other boats that you mentioned as I have not
sailed them.  I once left port along with a Baba of about the same size.
Three hours later they were far behind me.

Keel is encapsulated into hull mold.  Different opinions about this.
Some feel it is a weak point if grounded on rock, as you will grind away
glass.  Others argue that this keel can withstand a crash into a rock

They are good looking, I love mine.  High bow and rising shear can
really take big waves, canoe stern good for running in seas.  Weakness
for a sea boat is large cockpit, I am adding additional drains this

Good anchor handling set up on most models.

I have not had any problems with the hull core and I have many through
hulls through the core.  I have put them in and taken them out myself.
I have a moisture meter and the hull is dry.  There is an argument that
cored is stronger.  The deck balsa core has been a big problem, but this
weakness is the case with most production boats and not unique to the

There are not a lot made (less than 50?) so sometimes hard to find for
sale.  Some were sold for owner completion so quality and design can
vary (both ways, some owner boats better than factory).

Sail to displacement ratio = 17.  Displacement to waterline length ratio
= 320.    Length on deck = 38'7".  Beam = 12'10".  Draft 5'4".  LOA +
43'4" ??
LWL = 31'0".  Displacement (without equipment) = 21000.  Ballast = 7700.

It is a cutter rig so basic "working" set up is Yankee = 300 sq ft &
Staysail = 183 sq. ft.  Main = 332.  We use Genoa however under 20 knots
for better performance.  Found in both a single and double spreader
version.  Single spreader does not point like a race boat.   947 sq ft
with 100% foretraingle.  I=51, P=45, J=17'3" E= 14'9".  Mast ht = 55'.

Engine is usually Perkins 4108 with "V" Drive, which I find adequate.
Hard to control in reverse under power.   Hull is airex core, deck is
balsa core.  Very sturdy fiberglass work.  Keel is encapsulated.

Very comfortable, sea kindly boat that gives one comfort and confidence
in heavy weather.  Storage limited by canoe stern.  Very attractive
lines. While I have put forth some negatives, I absolutely love the
boat, great in heavy weather. 

What else can I tell you?

Bill Sellar

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Received on Wednesday, 18 April 2007 16:37:55 UTC

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