By Jack Hornor
Revised by BoatUS editors in October 2012
Photo by Stephen Lee
For those of you who feel that sailing is just too complicated and that you'll never be able to master all its intricacies, here is an alternative to conventional stayed rigs that offers old salts and new sailing enthusiasts alike ease of handling, solid construction and performance that is likely to surprise more than a few.
Although the origins of unstayed cat rigs date back hundreds of years, this simple rig had fallen out of favor with cruising sailors until Freedom Yachts popularized it once again with its Gary Hoyt-designed series begun in 1975.
Photo by Stephen Lee
This slightly more performance-oriented evolution was designed by the late Gary Mull and introduced as the Freedom 30 in 1987. The transom was redesigned to include a boarding platform, the overall length increased from 29' 11" to 31' 6" and the model renamed the Freedom 32 in 1989. It should not be confused with an earlier Hoyt-designed Freedom 32 which was more than a foot longer and nearly a foot wider.
As are all Freedom models, this 30/32 was built by Tillotson Pearson International (TPI). Both the hull and decks are built of fiberglass composites with balsa wood core and the mast is built of a carbon fiber composite. TPI was a pioneer in both cored composite as well as carbon fiber construction and there are few, if any, in the industry with more experience and knowledge. The quality of construction is well above average for production boatbuilders. System installations are well done and typically equal to or above industry standards of the time. The oldest of these boats are now nearing 26 and I know of no builder-related, significant problems.
Although some feel the jury is still out on the longevity of carbon fiber masts, after more than 25 years in service I see no reason this technology should be shied away from. Most carbon fiber masts of this age will show some age and flex related crazing on the surface but I know of no greater incidence of failure of older carbon fiber masts than of aluminum.
A chief advantage of free-standing rigs is that there are no rigging shrouds to clutter up side decks and a secondary advantage is that there are no chain plates to maintain or worry about leaking. Unlike many boats of this size and age, there is no foredeck anchor locker. Instead there is an extended anchor davit/roller and hawse pipe leading to below deck rode storage. This arrangement means that a second anchor and rode must be stored elsewhere and that wet nylon rode is stored below deck where it can cause rather unpleasant odors in the cabin.
There are three opening deck hatches; the mainsheet traveler is on the cabin top forward of the companionway and the side decks are free of any obstructions. The cockpit is more than six feet long with comfortable seating and no necessity for cockpit-mounted winches to interfere with seating or comfort. All Freedom 30/32s have solid transoms but post-1988 models have a "sugar scoop" step that improves boarding.
The interior arrangements of both models are identical. It features a V-berth cabin forward, a head along the port side followed by the main saloon. There is a settee/pull-out berth along the port side of the saloon and a small (not large enough for sleeping) settee to starboard. A large table folds against the forward bulkhead when not in use and the galley is aft to port with navigation table to starboard. There is a quarter berth cabin aft to starboard touted as a double but, in reality, it's a bit small and confined for two adults.
Auxiliary power is provided by an 18-hp Yanmar 2GM engine which has pretty much become de' rigueur for boats of this size. Engine access is reasonable by removing the front half of the engine box which doubles as a companionway step.
The free-standing mast tends to make some sailors a bit nervous. When once asked by a skeptic if the lack of rigging wasn't dangerous, designer Mull responded that "Orville and Wilbur [Wright] used wires but Boeing doesn't"'. In fact, the lack of rigging actually reduces or eliminates many loads associated with stayed rigs and it could be argued they are safer. Sailors more accustomed to traditional rigs with overlapping headsails only need to tack up a narrow channel once or go through one accidental jibe in which the boom wraps itself around the lee shrouds to recognize some of the other advantages of this rig.
The Freedom 30/32s sail area/displacement ratio of 20, displacement/length ratio of 208 and huge mainsail pretty much ensure good light air performance, particularly reaching and running. In order to improve windward performance, Freedom has added a small self-tending jib, and as the wind picks up, reefing is easily accomplished without having to leave the cockpit.
Used Freedom 30/32 prices are typically higher than similarly sized models of the same age, from larger builders. Interior joiner work and finishes are noticeably better than those of some higher production builders accounting, to some degree, for the higher prices.
This is an easy, fun boat to sail and although storage is a bit limited for liveaboard or extended coastal cruising she is an excellent choice for sailors, new and old, looking to simplify their sailing experience.
Naval architect Jack Hornor was the principal surveyor and designer for Marine Survey & Design, Co., based in Annapolis, MD. He was on the boards of the American Boat and Yacht Council, the National Association of Marine Surveyors, and the Society of Boat and Yacht Designers. He and his wife sailed their Catalina 42, Legacy, based on Maryland's Eastern Shore.