The Sparkman and Stephens 34 is one of the world’s most outstanding racing / cruising yachts of its size. It is also one of the most competitive, under any handicap system.
The S&S 34 was established as a class of yachts in 1967 following their design commissioned by British yachtsman Michael Winfield. The yacht was called Morningtown, apparently after a successful race horse. Morningtown proved to be a very impressive yacht and Mr Winfield decided to go into stock boat building, requesting Sparkman & Stephens to prepare detailed plans to enable commercial production of the SS 34. It was apparently at the strong request of Winfield that SS 34 yachts should have “Morning” in their name.
The S&S34 quickly built up an impressive race record with Ted Heath’s Morning Cloud winning the 1969 Sydney-Hobart race. The fact that this class of yacht performed so well in competition did not detract from its prospects as a cruising yacht. At the time it was deemed to have outstanding qualities with “remarkable speed to windward in heavy weather, while being roomy below deck with full head-room”. This statement remains equally true today.
Apart from the wonderful racing record, the S&S 34 has also a great cruising history. Two well known S&S 34’s “Bluebell” and “Perie Banou” were sailed to England prior to the 1979 Parmelia Yacht Race via the Suez and Mediterranean. “Bluebell” crossed France by the inland waterways, “Perie Banou” went via Gibraltar.
Many S&S 34’s have completed world cruises. Many are sailed solely by husband and wife crews. “Perie Banou” completed a non-stop, single handed double circumnavigation of the world. This yacht previously sailed around the world in 1976. David Dicks on “Seaflight” is the youngest to sail around alone and Jesse Martin the youngest alone & unassisted. Subsequently Jessica Watson has also circumnavigated alone and non-stop at the age of 16 (by this time “youngest” records were no longer officially recognised).
The S&S 34 has the ability to sail very close to the wind in heavy weather. This is a very important feature in any yacht that may be caught on a lee shore.
The sea kindliness of the S&S 34 is due to its well designed hull that also enables it to maintain a good speed under reduced sail, and to be driven to hull speed under a moderately powered engine. Its 2,400 kilogram lead keel makes it very stiff. It is roomy below with headroom of 6’1″.
PS How fast can she go? Azzurro skippered by Shane Kearns hit 18 knots in the 2016 Newcastle-Bass Island Race, see her web page for a photo of the speedo.