Yesterday my colleague and I arrived at the Lake of Constance, the big Southern German hotspot where we meet our fellow Austrian and Swiss sailing friends and one of the biggest inshore sailing areas of Germany. There´s a small boat show upcoming and since we have a lot of customers here, attendance is a matter of course. This time I am able to show the Oceanis 30.1, which is a great boat for this big lake, and the small First 27. Not the First 27 SE that I sailed 2 seasons but her “sister”.
I´ve been looking forward to finally getting to sail this boat since I want to finally get the answer to the often raised question if this is just a “downgraded” or (as some put it) a “castrated” version of the rocket First 27 SE or if this boat is in fact a whole new boat as a whole.
The inboard Diesel on the First 27
As we´ve had to sail her around from one neighbouring harbor to the boat show venue, a perfect occasion to get a personal feel for the boat and also, most of all, compare the First 27 “Alu” as many call her to the “real one”, the 27 SE. As I went to her berth I heard the engine bubble in idle. The brand new freshly commissioned engine should run for a few minutes.
That´s the one biggest difference between First 27 and SE: The inboard Diesel engine with 15 horse power is to my knowledge the smallest Yanmar engine. Utilizing this powerhouse is so much easier than getting down/up the outboard engine or electric engine as I had it in my GEKKO. You just punch two buttons and it comes to life. Of course, sound-wise, odor-wise and vibrations-wise the Diesel engine is more like the “black sheep” of the family compared to the wonderfully low-noise, smell- and vibrations-free electric engine in the SE. On the other hand, those 25 liters of Diesel fuel will have a much wider range than the roughly 25 miles on the First 27 SE with Torquedo propulsion.
I found the engine lever somewhat notchy and at first unwonted, but I got accustomed to it quickly. The two blade folding propeller does have quite a nice drive although I would as well say that the Torqeedo blade (as a fixed blade) was more efficient. But it is a common sense that folding props don´t have quite the efficiency as fixed propeller. Well, we steamed out of the harbor and I quickly noticed that the (wonderfully precise!) steering properties of the First 27 are in no way different from those of the First 27 SE.
Sails up! Sailing the First 27 “Alu”
Out of the marina my sailing mate brought her upwind and I unrolled the jib. This was done quickly and effortlessly and seconds later I had her sailing upwind. We killed the engine, opened the mainsheet and I got up the mainsail. Well, it was no problem either but here´s the first but: Our particular boat is equipped with the standard Dacron sails. The mainsail comes with standard plastic slides which you can see on almost every standard production boat.
Although it goes up very fast and also comes down easily, it is a difference like night and day compared to my GEKKO´s mainsail. I had invested in those high grade ball-bearing slides by Ronstan, some 200 to 250 Euros each, and especially when taking the sail down this is no match. Once sailed with better sliders, you will never want anything else.
The standard First 27 (like ours) comes with a mast by Seldén, which is a nice thing. This mast has – a difference to the First 27 SE, an adjustable backstay so that with an easy pull or easing the forestay of the Jib may be trimmed. This is so nice, something I had missed dearly on my GEKKO. But for all owners seeking the comforts and pluses of the fixed keel/inboard Diesel-version, here´s good news: You can get this boat with the performance carbon-rigging and laminate sails too. And this boat will be a rocket, I am sure!
Same keyboard as on the Seascape Edition
Unce under sails, I felt at home immediately. The running rigging is no different from the Seascape edition. All clamps and lines are where I still know they were on my GEKKO and as such fine-trimming of the boat was a no-brainer. Of course, the quality of the lines has been downgraded by the yard, on the SE-version lines are from Robline and sometimes even Gottifredi Maffioli, but of course, a lower price on the 27 was one of the aims by the yard when they developed the First 27 out of the 27 SE.
And in fact they´ve reaching their coal: This boat is roughly 10 to 15 per cent cheaper than the SE-version, depending on the specs. Aside from this, you get all the nice stuff and possibilities your fellow SE-racer will have as well. There is also 3D-jib trimming, the reefing lines and Dyneema-Cunningham. Together with the surplus trim-instrument in the backstay, there is always something to do on board.
The First 27 weighs in at 1.770 kilograms. This is just 200 kilograms more than her sister, the Seascape edition displaced. The fixed keel and the whole Diesel-engine setup need their toll. But, honestly, you do not really feel this extra weight. I found her extremely light-footed on the twin rudder helm, something I absolutely loved about my GEKKO: Precise, fast and accurate steering. Very responsive, direct feedback in the tiller. Now, how is she sailing?
A bit of wind would be nice …
Well, just like the week before when I sailed the Oceanis 34.1 for the first time the Lake of Constance was pampering us with a clear deep blue sky and a breathtaking view over the Alps – but there wasn´t hardly any wind. In peaks we´ve had puffs of 5 knots TWS, during our time out it averaged 3-4 knots. Nevertheless, we managed to sail whereas all the surrounding boats (if there were any) either went with engine or just floated around.
With 2 knots speed I cannot say that it was a particularly exhilarating experience but, and that´s a true saying, the real sailing qualities of a boat can be best seen when there is no wind. Everything will sail in strong winds, but only good boats sail in light winds. With the SE-rigging (and the larger square top mainsail) the 27 would sail even better, but I cannot say that I was disappointed by the Dacron performance.
Bright, spacy interior
As sailing did not really required my full attention up on deck, I handed over the tiller to my colleague and went down below deck. I have said this in one of my earlier articles and I will repeat this here: I am not so sure if I had sold my GEKKO if I had been sailing this version instead of the SE. Why? Because the interior comfort of the boat is a huge leap forward!
Just look at this bright and light suffused interior! This is largely due to the fact that the First 27 now has big windows in the cabin roof (just like the First 24 SE) and it lets in so much more light. It is a completely new experience that sets this boat apart from the SE. Of course, the SE is intended to compete in races, but judging from my customers, only a fraction are all-out-racers. And I myself was a more cruising-oriented guy too that is why I created the term #microcuising, at which this boat is a true master.
A second big win is the fixed keel. I´ve made an article about the elaborate procedure of attaching the keel to this boat, maybe you check it out here. Since this boat does not have the swing keel of the Seascape Editon, there is also no need for the large keel house. The win in interior volume is gigantic! You can stretch out your feet, the feeling of the salon is totally different. This is absolutely a big plus.
Color-wise, well, the beauty lies in the eye of the beholder: For this boat I chose the nice green cushion but of course you can have it grey, blue or otherwise. All in all, I had this strange – but wonderful – feeling of “returning home” somehow, as I kind of felt like I knew every nook and cranny aboard this boat. On the other hand, she was so different and so good in being so different, that I kind became honestly very excited about her. She indeed is a very, very, very nice little-big boat.
A marina-magnet for sure
And apparently I wasn´t the only one feeling that way: The minute I had tied up the boat to her preliminary berth before we will put her in her designated berth for the boat show, a family, by chance strolling the marina, saw our First 27 moored at the opposite side of the basin. They came over and asked me if they could take a closer look onto this boat. And of course I agreed.
It is always such a nice feeling to see how this “Seascape-factor” works: Somehow these boats seem to attract people, draw them in, make them smile and wave. I cannot remember a single occasion when I was sailing with GEKKO back in the day that I haven’t been approached by people who like the boat and wanted to know more about it. With the First 27, this secret seem to work as well. In the end I hope that on Monday, when we bring back the boat after the show, we will get a bit more wind: It is so much fun in these boats!
You might be interested in these related articles:
New version? New boat! The new First 27
First 27 in the making: A visit at Seascape in Slovenia
Attaching the fixed keel on the First 27