Design Elements

The Sabre 42’s design is typical of the mid-late 1980s racer-cruiser era that produced boats with an uncompromising focus on sailing performance. The Sabre 42 was offered with either a deep draft fin keel or the highly desirable keel-centerboard configuration. Le Saberage was delivered with the centerboard.

A review of the hull form drawings in the Sabre 42 brochure here will show a comparatively fine entry, with maximum beam notably aft of amidships. That fine entry allows the Sabre 42 to cut cleanly through chop, reducing pitch and improving performance.

She carries the ideal amount of beam aft to the transom – enough to ensure stable tracking downwind under spinnaker but not so much that wetted surface grows undesirably large. The Sabre 42’s design was very similar to peer designs of the era from Baltic, Swan, and others, all of which represented a breed of yacht with very good performance and with outstanding handling characteristics.

For a more in-depth exploration of this unique era of yacht design, see the seller’s article on the topic here. The summary of the article is that the yachting industry may have put out some of its best designs during the 1980s, and the Sabre 42 is among the finest examples of the breed.

But Roger Hewson, the Sabre 42’s designer, clearly had a broader focus than pure performance when drawing the Sabre 42’s lines: he obviously intended for her to be comfortable and safe in the open ocean. A look at the Sabre 42’s forward underbody reveals this priority. Note the comparatively deep “knuckle” where the bow plunges straight down under the water line before turning aft when viewed from the side. This deep “forefoot” to the bow, and the relatively steep “rocker,” or curve to the underbody heading back to the keel (again, when viewed from the side), both serve one goal: to reduce or eliminate pounding when sailing upwind in steep waves.

By combining this deep forefoot and rocker with generous deadrise in the 42’s forward hull, Hewson succeeded in his goal: the 42 proves to be nearly impossible to pound when sailing upwind in the open ocean. For a more in-depth look at pounding and other vices in sailboat handling, see the seller’s article on the topic here.

The article argues that while all yacht designs represent tradeoffs, pounding when sailing upwind and poor tracking when sailing downwind represent two vices that ocean sailors will want to avoid whenever possible. On both points the Sabre 42 design scores extremely well. She is resistant to pounding, as we have seen, but she also tracks extremely well downwind. Two primary design elements serve this goal. First, the lead keel component of the keel-centerboard provides the longer-chord length, shallower foil desirable for excellent tracking when sailing downwind. Second, Hewson drew her underbody to include a long, shallow “rudder skeg” that smooths the flow of water and directs it aft to the rudder.

While a long-chord length, shallow keel form is desirable for downwind tracking, upwind performance is rewarded by the opposite: a short chord-length, deep foil that will allow the boat to turn nimbly down the back face of waves while offering a preferable lift to drag ratio. By allowing the centerboard to be lowered when sailing upwind, the Sabre 42’s keel-centerboard design offers the best of both of these worlds.

Best of all, the Sabre’s 8’6″draft can be reduced to a mere 4’8″ by winding up the centerboard when shallow anchorages are encountered.  Scroll all the way to the bottom of this page for an example of this shallow draft being put to good use when Le Saberage was anchored just off of the beach in Chub Cay in the Bahamas.


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