Now, that a handful days have passed after my first time sailing on the Omega 42 I think it is the right time to write about it. You may ask why I make such a big fuzz about it? Well, signing the purchase contract of that boat and finally launching this project is a huge thing for me. Not just because of the budget that goes into realizing such a big semi-custom built boat, but also because my voyage to fixing my decision was a tough one. Now I feel much better about it: No falter, no doubts. Just peaceful knowing and pleasant anticipation.
There are classics and there are legends. By chance an X-Yachts X-79 had been moored right next to the Omega 42 WINFAENGER, which I was about to sail. Both boats hat their inception in 1979 and both boats in their own way started something bigger. But one of them obtained the status of being an icon, an absolute legend. And that´s the Omega 42 by Peter Norlin. I found this picture so interesting because seeing both boats next to each other lets you clearly see, why the Omega 42 is such an outstanding design.
Getting to know the Omega 42 a bit more intimately
The hull #001 of the “Omega 42 evo” called (it´s my own working title, no official name) had been bought by a distinguished Berlin based businessman in his late 60ies who loves the boat and didn´t hesitated to invest in the venture. I had captured this amazing story some 5 years ago visiting his boat in the building shed, you might read the article here if you like. Since this meeting I was “infected” with the Omega-virus as well. Stefan, that´s his name, upon hearing me signing the contract, immediately invited me to sail WINDFAENGER with him.
I arrived a day early at the Island of Usedom, the lesser know of the big German Baltic Sea islands (the more famous one being Ruegen), so I went to the boat with his permission to just sit down, roam about and spend some time there. It was a sunny calm day and I was alone. A great occasion. No hurry, no time ticking down. Just pure presence, grounded.
Exploring the details
Many details of the boat I hadn´t seen up to this occasion. I am currently in a vivid exchange with Swedish rigging manufacturer Seldén. These guys had taken the original one-spreader mast and completely re-disigned and re-calculated the mast to live up to modern expectations. And above all, overcome the weaknesses of the old original mast.
Seldén made quite a nice piece of art here: A tapered mast with an adjustable backstay and flying backstays as well. I guess for my mast I will get rid of the classic Spinnaker gear as I am only interested in sailing the Gennaker and Code 0 lightwind sails. As nice as it looks, I also don´t need hidden lazy jacks.
I loved the feature of the big 16 reduction of the mainsheet. This is a loop line that can be tightened by taking both lines (which is kind of the fast gear) or just one of the ropes for fine tuning. The whole lashing is inserted into two loop eyes at the approximate position where on the classic Omega 42 the little mainsheet traveller is position. As well as on WINDFAENGER, my boat will also not get a traveller.
I am not sure if I liked the under-deck Jib furling. It looks great for sure and since I will only go for the originally intended self-tacking Jib and skip the Genoa, I welcome the extra sail area that comes with such a deeply cut foot of the sail, but this come with a price.
First of all, as I would a day later experience by myself, setting up the Jib and fixing it to the furler is quick a hustle. Working in the anchor chain locker that is quite narrow makes you bent and kneel that it hurts: If somethings breaks or must be done whilst on the open sea, well, that is where the fun (or danger?) will be added. On the other hand, having the outhaul/reefing line of the Jib running underneath the deck is just an awesome feat.
This line re-emerges back in the cockpit. You can clearly imagine by just looking at this picture of just how much friction is on that small line. And behold: The coming day our muscle man had to take in the Jib since it cost so much pulling power to overcome the friction and have the furler turn. Maybe the yard will come up with a clever idea of how to reduce friction here, but that nice looking detail was working rather unsatisfactory. Nevertheless, that´s just a minor detail and hey, this is what I was here for, right?
Not a boat – a yacht
Of course I went down as well. Sailing properties would be tested tomorrow and since there was time and I had never seen the finished saloon and cabins so far, I was keen on looking at it. The stairway down to the boat´s interior is very steep – just as it had been in the old days. This wouldn´t be acceptable in our modern cruising yachts where manufacturer try to be no steeper than 45 degrees, but on the other hand, such a steep entryway creates more space below.
The interior of the Omega 42 – although no 42 is alike the next one – is classic and timeless. White lacquered wooden surfaces dominate the furniture style. Since just the massive Mahogany structures are in the original dark tone of the timber, the boat is very light and friendly. My boat will be a bit different, less wood and lighter structures, but I guess the wooden furniture will look alike.
Stefan, the owner, went for a more conservative cushion style. Here, I am sure, my boat will be different. I like the more colorful and powerful approach although I am not sure. I had played around with blue/white stripes and even yellow/white stripes in my ideas for OLIVIA or the First 36 but maybe I will come up with something completely different.
What will make my boat definitely look different is the skipping of all doors (except for the bathroom). I will have an open boat where no door hinders the view. If the occupants of the fore peak or the aft cabin would like to have some privacy, there will be drapes or curtains (in fresh colors) – you get to hear every flatulence anyway, no matter if there´s a door or not. In this respect I guess my boat will have a different appearance than WINDFAENGER.
The crew arrives
I´ve spent some hours alone on the boat, taking notes, photographing every detail and writing down questions to Heiner, the yard boss, to discuss later. The next day Stefan arrived as well as Kai. Latter is the Chief editor of the German sailing magazine “Segeln”, which is after “Yacht” the second biggest magazine of my country. I know and appreciate Kai as a sailor but also as a fair, unbiased and accurate journalist. As we want to generate more Omega 42 sailors we of course are keen on getting as much attention as we can get – having “Segeln” magazine testing the boat is a great first step, publicity-wise.
As we met for the initial briefing, it turned out that Kai in fact wasn´t that much unbiased as I had thought. I learned that in his youngster-years he used to sail on the 42. Also, the former owner of “Segeln” was an Omega 42-owner himself and the first ever big cruising reports written on segelreporter.com (a digital branch of “Segeln”) took place on … you already guessed it … on an Omega 42. But since all these occasions took place on a classic built 42, now was the chance to test sail a boat built with modern day production techniques and therefor much lighter.
Gearing up for the sea trial
Before we could leave we had to re-stack the boat with her sails. Being fresh from the winter storage the boat had only been steamed around the pontoons from the crane back to her berth. We started with the mainsail, produce of Rolly Tasker sails. A big ass sail, heavy duty, let me tell you! The fine laminate sail cloth was shackled to the main halyard and put up step by step. I fitted the battens and secured the lashings.
During the process some wind freshened up and it was not easy controlling the sails. The mast of the Omega 42 is 15 meters tall, the sails area of the main alone are 39 square meters. This is a huge bastard of sail, awe-inspiring and not easy to control. The same goes for the Jib. We had discussed which fore sail we´d fix but I opted for the Jib since Norlin had intended the boat initially to be sailed with a self-tacking Jib.
As we had the mainsail completely up, I looked to the mast top. By chance, there was an aura forming around the sun, apparently up there in the atmosphere ice crystals had formed. It was just a wonderful view and a good omen for our sailing day out, I thought.
The Jib went up just fast – after I had attached the luff to the furler, fiddling down below deck in the anchor chain locker as I had initially anticipated, it was a no-brainer getting it up. The self-tacking Jib o the Omega 42 has 34 square meters (not too much smaller than the main, looking at the numbers) and features four vertical battens at the leech. With some fine tuning of the lazy bag we finished pre-works. Ready for taking off? Sure we are!
Casting off: A big ship indeed!
Stefan, Kai and another friend, Daniel, who is a regatta-hardened deck hand, casted off the lines and we left the berth. Wind was down to 8 knots TWS and it seemed as if it was going to be a not-so-exciting low-wind sailing day out, the way it has been so many times before. But soon wind freshened up, which was great.
Stefan left the box going backwards and I had the feeling that the 30 horse power engine was more than adequate powering the huge hull. I found it rather interesting to witness that the boat seemed to be turning on a dime. This is something I thought only flat-bottomed modern short-keeled hulls could do, but apparently, this is also valid for this 44 years old design.
We steamed out of the marina and even as we were still between the pontoons Stefan ordered to get up the main. Thanks to the electric winch (which I will surely have on my boat as well!) the mainsail was up in a matter of just under one minute. The high mast and the big sail area started to catch wind early and so Stefan was able to switch off the engine right inside the marina.
Jib unfurled in seconds and after sheeting in the boat jumped to life. She heeled over a bit and immediately accelerated. Kai, being the photograph, buzzed around right next to us in a small motorboat, taking pictures of the beautiful boat right against the colorful yellow backdrop of a rapeseed field and a steel-blue sky. Joyfully my heart jumped: Stefan handed me the tiller: “Your boat, Lars, try it out!”, he said: “And welcome to the Omega-community!”
At first it felt a bit awkward as everything suddenly was so new. I had been steering bigger boats, for sure, but this was something different, something special. The Omega sported, 8 to 9 knots in 11 knots or wind was a no-brainer. What really astonished me was the fact that we were going upwind! An exploit like this I up until this day only have on reaching courses in extra-light modern boats.
Dashing out, going forward, no brakes
The Omega 42 sails like a small dinghy. You feel the enormous size of the boat (and obviously see it), but turning the tiller needs so little effort. Sharp and energetic course corrections are translated to quick movements of the boat instantly. You can steer her like an arrow, no difference whatsoever to, let´s say, a small lightweight boat like my previous one, the First 27 SE.
I beared away a bit, broad reach, opened the sails and she went on accelerating. We didn´t had any waves at all at this day but nevertheless there was no significant motion of the hull in the seas. Amazing! Spotting other boats, I switched to race mode, wanting to test her speed in relation to other ships. We catched a gaff-rigged classic in no time and were able to gain distance fast on a modern day Dehler. The Omega 42 felt better the higher I pointed. She likes to be sailed with some pressure in the rigging and heeling – which increases her waterline and makes her fly. Definitely a difference to modern hulls were you try to avoid too much heeling. This, I will have to learn.
Tiller steered: Smooth as butter, direct and precise
When Kai had finished taking his photographs from the outside he returned aboard, relieving me from the steering. For his own article in “Segeln” he of course needed to get some impressions on the helm as well. I can say that I am happy that this boat comes with tiller steering. It makes so many things so much easier: In building the boat and of course in sailing it.
At the helm of the Omega 42 you directly feel the flow of the water and get instant feedback from down below. This is as sedated and suppressed in steering wheel-setups. Too many chains and lines, quadrants and idler pulleyes take away the ultimate sensation of the boat´s movement through the water. It takes minimum effort to turn the tiller of the 42 – instant reaction.
In maneuvers like gybe or tack, which due to the self-tacking Jib and the easy-to-use mainsheet I was able t perform solely by myself, the tiller helps to steer precisely. No overshooting, instant corrections, no loss of time or speed. Just perfect. In this respect, the Omega 42 can be sailed like a small dinghy. But that wasn´t all that day.
As I am still hoping that Kai, Chief Editor of “Segeln” perfectly capable of deciding this, goes for the Omega 42 as front cover picture in one of the upcoming issues of the magazine, I insisted that we´d unroll the Gennaker of the Omega 42 as well. Although Stefan was totally unprepared and we had to search the boat´s internals for the sheets and the bow sprit, we finally made it.
The Omega 42 is fitted with a quick mount bow sprit. As the classic design didn´t had such a spar because Gennakers hadn´t been invented that time and light wind sailing meant hoisting the Spinnaker, fitting a bow sprit would kill the fine lines of the boat. The quick-mount and de-mountable stainless-steel spar looked like a good idea.
Unfolding the huge blue Nylon with the large white Omega-logo print was a no-brainer thanks to the sleeve. The boat heeled a bit and retained her high speed. Unfortunately wind eased again and we already had reached the end of the inlet sailing area, so that we took the Gennaker down before I could perform a Gennaker-Gybe. Maybe next time …
One happy man, indeed!
Returning to our marina, just as if we had ordered it, wind indeed freshened up to a nice 13 knots TWS with very gusty 18 knots occasionally. When hit by a gust the boat is immediately heeling and judging by the loud growling in our wake she is accelerating too. We´ve had the Dehler back before our bow and I tried to reach her, but the crew wasn´t in race mode so we rather eased the main to sail a bit calmer. It was nevertheless such a fun day out!
For me, having titled my last article “A happy man”, referring to myself after signing the purchase contract, this headline was valid even more. The sailing capabilities of the Omega 42 are outstanding! She is a demanding, big boat. Fast and aggressive, so pure in her character and powerful in her style. But at the same time she is so smooth, so forgiving, so calm. Like an Orca: These mighty animals look so gemutlich, but they are fast swimmers, tight turners and sharp killers for sure.
Docking the Omega 42
I found it interesting how Stefan berthed the boat. As quick and as showing-off he casted off, wasting no time to get up the sails and kill the engine, as reluctant, well in advance and careful he acted when we came near the marina again. The sails went down well before the marina. Taking down the main, packing it into the stack and furling the Jib was a matter of minutes.
We fitted all four docking lines and all six fenders, Stefan started the engine. Well, the Omega 42 is a huge boat – not fitted with a bow thruster. When – as a joke – I asked Heiner, boatbuilder in the yard, if I could get one, he looked at me in a sour face: “I will fit you one when you hit 75. Otherwise the boat can be docked like a dinghy.” Well, we´ll see, I thought: Wind had a steady 16 knots breeze now, even in harbour.
Stefan steered the boat slowly but surely into the berth. Mooring the Mediterranean way stern first is possible, I guess, but of course the hull is more stable and can be steered better when going forward. Although wind came in from aside, the boat almost made no leeway. But I was happy we were a party of four as, upon standing still inside the box, she immediately went sideways. This, I am sure, will take me the most time practicing. It´s a completely new world landing and maneuvering a displacement boat of this size without any aid by thrusters.
My impression sailing the Omega 42 for the first time
So, all in all, what was it like to sail the Omega 42? A blast! Although most of my impressions are tainted in endocrines and happiness, I can say that sailing-wise the Omega 42 more than lives up to her legacy. And I am sure I haven´t seen 10 per cent of her capabilities now. She feels agile and light-footed, as well as stable and sturdy. It´s a mixture I would say you cannot get in modern, running-optimized or even in lightweight planning hulls. I felt safe, grounded, guarded. “It´s a different world”, says Stefan and smiles. And he is right.
I look forward to my next encounters with WINDFAENGER: Stefan invited me to return anytime I wish. To collect more impressions, to gain more insight and to get to know what will await me in my own boat. She is a ship, indeed, a real ship – and that´s probably what did impress me most of it: I might have found my master in her.
Thanks so much, Stefan, for letting me aboard, roaming about freely and test sail your yacht. I really appreciate your invitation and trust! Also, thank you Kai Köckeritz of “Segeln”, Ebner Media, for providing me with this fine selection of photographs of WINDFAENGER sailing.
You might be interested in reading these related articles:
All Omega 42-articles by clicking the hashtag #omega42
Decision making process: Which boat is good for me?