Ocean Angel is a First 42, a boat designed by German Frers and built by Beneteau, a company with a boat-building history dating back to 1884 when wooden fishing boats were custom-built to order for their customers. Over the years, the company grew to employ more than 1700 craftsmen in the 1950’s; they built boats as large as the 40 ton, 18 meter “Le Belote et Re” in 1957. But fishing declined, orders for new boats dwindled, and Beneteau scaled back to 17 employees. The family owners realized that in order to keep the company alive they would have to make some drastic changes. Beneteau transitioned to producing pleasure boats for sailing built of fiberglass, a radical new material at the time. Designs evolved; major naval architects were employed, and an incredible array of fiberglass sailboats came off the drawing boards from men such as Jean-Marie Finot, Jean Beret, and German Frers.
Beneteau took the world by surprise when they commissioned Frers to design the flagship of the First fleet. One of the early models, “Lady Be Good”, represented France and placed first in Division 2 of that year’s Admirals Cup. That design, after successfully winning the Cup, was the largest boat in Beneteau’s fleet, the First 42.
And so, in December 1985, the keel was laid at St. Hilaire de Riez, France, for the First 42 that was eventually to become our “Ocean Angel”.
Ocean Angel Racing on Tampa Bay
The First 42 was designed to the IOR rule, but, as “Yachting World” said in their October 1982 issue, “Classic IOR, embodying all that is best without the extreme.” The yacht just looks fast, even sitting at the dock, and so she is. Even though her design is now more than 30 years old, she is truly a joy to sail with fingertip control in nearly all conditions as long as she is trimmed properly. The hull is extremely stout with massive stringers and frames glassed to the hull from bow to stern, and I can attest to the fact that she will sustain a grounding surfing off a big wave at more than hull speed with no damage whatsoever, other than the helmsman’s broken ribs, but that’s another story.
Flying Low on the Gulf of Mexico
But, going on, Ocean Angel is powered by the original four cylinder Perkins 4-108, a 51 hp diesel engine, and we fit her with a 3 blade folding Gori propeller. After 28 years, our engine, “Perky” has some issues, mainly oil weeping, but it is reliable, never fails to start, and runs smoothly. I’ve heard that a Perkins is so rugged they will even run on bunker fuel or perfume, but I have not tried either. We recently had to rebuild the injection pump due to fuel leaks, and at the same time we replaced the lift pump and the injectors, and the engine seems to like the new parts. She runs smoother than ever.
Ocean Angel’s New Rudder and Gori Propeller
Our Angel parts the water with hardly a ripple in the surface, in part due to her massive spade rudder. You’ll hear some nay-sayers spout that a spade rudder is not fit for a cruising yacht, but I’ll tell you more about the integrity of the steering system in a later section. When she passes by, all you’ll hear is a hiss; when a gale is howling outside, all is quiet down below. Everything about her speaks of her thoughtful design, her thoroughbred heritage, and her builder’s amazing history. We could not love her more.