We were finally able to take our stock boat out for a sea trial in Buffalo recently. We had Kris Werner of Quantum Sails in Rochester along with Tim, Dave and me. Kris made the sails, and we were all very pleased with them. We set up a base tune on the rig and went out to Lake Erie in maybe 13-14 knots of breeze. The yachting press has raved about the First 36 but here are our impressions in our own words.
All new boats are nice, but once in awhile you find one that is really a step ahead, and that is how we felt about the First 36. The cockpit feels really large on land, but once you are under sail you realize just how easy it is to move around in the cockpit. We are used to twin wheels on our Beneteau cruising boats but this is the first time for us with a cruiser/racer with twin rudders and twin wheels. The Jefa steering system is feather-light and the wheels are far enough outboard to allow better forward sightlines than you would have on a single wheel. The boat has removeable cockpit seat lockers. When they are in place the seats are very long for lying down. When they are removed, a simple lift-out, the cockpit really opens up for racing. Overall, the cockpit gets a high rating from us.
We started with the mainsail as we checked the rig tune. Once we unrolled the jib the boat just took off. We close reached at 8 knots plus and upwind we were in the upper 7s. All the while the boat tracked beautifully due to the twin rudders. The jib on this boat is large due to the placement of the mast further aft. This also allows for larger spinnakers, even with the relatively short, fixed sprit. We then bore off and set the Code 0. The tweakers weren’t yet rigged but once we did a work-around and got the sheet better trimmed we were hitting mid-9s, once 10.1 in a small surf. You can tell the boat has buoyancy forward so there should not be any tendency for the bow to dive, in fact it lifts.
The mainsail is trimmed with a two-part sheet with winches port and starboard just forward of the helm. You can single-hand trim the main from either side. The traveler is on the cockpit sole, full width. We have the hydraulic backstay option, the standard configuration is a cascading tackle. The jib is furled with a Facnor flat-deck furler that gets the drum, and hence the jib tack, much closer to the deck. The high-clewed jib is trimmed with a floating sheet for easy adjustment in and out, fore and aft. All lines lead aft on the coachroof to winches P&S. There is a lot of spaghetti but all the lines are nicely color-coded.
The overall feeling when sailing is that of a much larger boat. The feel is very solid, the deck and cockpit area are huge, and the steering is always light. It goes where you point it. Our boat has a full set of Garmin electronics, really easy to read, but unfortunately our anemometer came broken so our wind speed was a guesstimate. With four experienced sailors on board we agreed on the 12-15 wind speed range, and in those conditions the boat was a delight. We were all quite impressed.
The First 36 is a dual-purpose cruiser/racer, and it benefits from such a large volume hull. The interior is extremely roomy throughout. Twin aft cabins with double berths, a
large forward cabin with another double berth, an enclosed forward head, and spacious salon. The galley has a stove with oven and the icebox, with refrigeration, is in its own separate island as you come down the companionway. There is a double drop leaf table with settees port and starboard. I took immediate notice of the salon cushions, they are thicker than what is typically found. Headroom is exceptional throughout. Interior fit and finish is very nicely done.
We were expecting a lot, based on the reviews the First 36 has garnered so far, but I think we all agreed that the boat was even better than we had hoped for. We find ourselves trying to be careful not to overhype the boat, because that is typically the tendency today in everything. However, in this case we have probably understated how good this boat is overall.