The Varne 27 Sailboat

The Varne 27, designed by Duncan Stewart and built in the UK by Varne Marine Ltd is a good performer under sail.

A Varne 27 sailboat under sailA masthead-rigged Varne 27 close hauled in light conditions.

Published Specification for the Varne 27

Hull Type: Fin keel & skeg-hung rudder

Hull Material:  GRP (fibreglass)

Length Overall: 27' 9" / 8.5m

Waterline Length: 21' 0" / 6.4m

Beam: 9' 0" / 2.74m

Draft: 4' 3" / 1.3m

Rig Type: Masthead Sloop

Displacement: 6,200lb / 2,812kg

Designer: Duncan Stuart

Builder: Varne Marine Ltd (UK)

Year First Built: 1974

Year Last Built: ?

Number Built: 70

Many thanks to Phil Eccleston for submitting this photograph of his yacht.

Published Design Ratios for the Varne 27

Sail Area/Displacement Ratio: 16.4

  • Less than 16 would be considered under-powered;
  • 16 to 20 would indicate reasonably good performance;
  • Over 20 suggests relatively high performance.

Ballast/Displacement Ratio: 41.9

  • Under 40: less stiff, less powerful
  • Over 40: stiffer, more powerful

Displacement/Length Ratio: 299

  • Under 100: Ultralight
  • 100 to 200: Light
  • 200 to 275: Moderate
  • 275 to 350: Heavy
  • Over 350: Ultraheavy

Comfort Ratio: 22.3

  • Under 20 indicates a lightweight racing boat
  • 20 to 30 indicates a coastal cruiser
  • 30 to 40 indicates a moderate offshore cruising boat
  • 40 to 50 indicates a heavy offshore boat
  • Over 50 indicates an extremely heavy offshore boat

Capsize Screening Formula: 2.0

  • Under 2.0 (the lower the better): Better suited for ocean passages
  • Over 2.0: Less suited for ocean passages

read more about these all-revealing numbers...

The Varne 27: A Versatile and Comfortable Sailboat

The Varne 27, designed by Duncan Stuart and built by Varne Marine Ltd. (UK) since 1974, is a well-balanced and seaworthy vessel that can handle a variety of conditions.

The Fors:

The Varne 27 has many positive attributes that make it a desirable sailboat for recreational sailors and yachting enthusiasts. Here are some of them:

  • It has a masthead sloop rig, which is easy to handle and offers good performance in most wind conditions. The reported sail area is 344ft² (31.96m²), which gives it a sail area/displacement ratio of 16.36, indicating that it is moderately powered and can sail well in light winds.
  • It has a fin keel and a rudder on skeg, which provide good stability and maneuverability. The ballast/displacement ratio is 41.85, which means that it is stiff and has a good righting moment if heeled or capsized. The displacement/length ratio is 298.87, which means that it is moderately heavy and has a comfortable motion at sea.
  • It has a spacious cockpit that can accommodate several crew members and has good visibility and protection from the elements. It also has a tiller steering system, which gives more feedback and control than a wheel steering system.
  • It has a roomy interior that can sleep up to six people in two cabins and two single berths in the saloon. It has a galley with a stove, sink, and icebox, a marine head with a holding tank, and a chart table with instruments and storage space. The headroom is about 6ft (1.83m), which is adequate for most people.

The Againsts:

The Varne 27 is not without its drawbacks, however. Here are some of them:

  • It has a relatively shallow draft of 4.25ft (1.30m), which may affect its upwind performance and pointing ability, especially in stronger winds.
  • It has a small engine of 12 HP, which may not be sufficient to power the boat in adverse conditions or against currents or tides. It may also have a limited range and fuel capacity, depending on the tank size.
  • It has a dated design that may not appeal to some sailors who prefer more modern or sleeker sailboats. It may also lack some of the features or amenities that newer sailboats offer, such as more storage space, better ventilation, or more advanced electronics.

One owner tells us: 

"The Varne 27 is an old school classic in the mould of the Nicholsons, Contessas and Rustlers of her day. She is fast and formidable in a good blow while remaining impeccably mannered. Her motion at sea is supremely smooth, as you'd expect from a deep-veed hull with long overhangs, and she is built to withstand a storm at sea with little consequence"

Duncan Stewart, Yacht Designer

Duncan Stuart is a British yacht designer who is best known for designing the Varne 27, a fast and seaworthy sailing yacht that was built in Essex by Varne Marine in the 1970s and 1980s. According to the web search results, some of the sailboats designed by Duncan Stuart are:

  • Varne 27: A 27-foot cruiser-racer with a deep-veed hull and long overhangs. It was available in fin, lifting centreboard or bilge keel configurations. It was described as "the best secondhand boat you've never heard of" by Practical Boat Owner Magazine.
  • Varne 850: A metricised rebranding of the Varne 27 with minor modifications.
  • Weston 8500: A successor of the Varne 850 produced by Weston Yachts after they purchased the moulds from Varne Marine. It had a slightly different deck layout and interior.
  • Stuart 37: A 37-foot offshore cruiser with a flush deck and a spacious interior. It was built by Stuart Yachtbuilding Ltd. in the UK starting in 1978.

Varne Marine Ltd, Boat Builders

Varne Marine Ltd was a British company that built sailing yachts in Essex in the 1970s and 1980s. It was named after the Varne Bank in the Straits of Dover. The company was formed by Walter Standing in 1973 and liquidated in 1986.

The most notable sailboat model produced by Varne Marine was the Varne 27, designed by Duncan Stuart. It was a fast and formidable yacht with a deep-veed hull and long overhangs. It was available in fin, lifting centreboard or bilge keel configurations. It was later rebranded as the Varne 850, a metricised version of the same design.

In around 1980, Weston Yachts purchased the moulds from Varne Marine and produced the Weston 8500, which was essentially the same as the Varne 850. The Weston 8500 had a slightly different deck layout and interior fittings.

Another sailboat model produced by Varne Marine was the Varne Folkboat, which was based on the classic Scandinavian design of the same name. The Varne Folkboat had a long keel, a low freeboard and a fractional rig.

The company also built the MK4 Hurley Silhouette, which was a small trailer-sailer with a lifting keel and a transom-hung rudder.

The above text was drafted by using GPT-4 (OpenAI’s large-scale language-generation model) as a research assistant to develop source material, and believes it to be accurate to the best of their knowledge.

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