By Thom BurnsS2 Yachts was started in 1974 by an experienced fiberglass builder. The company grew rapidly, building a successful fleet of race-oriented cruisers by the mid 1980s. They diversified into a few blue water cruisers with good performance. The 9.2A and 9.2C are examples of these boats. They have more of a cruising three quarter keel than their deeper fin keel, racer-cruiser sister ships such as the 9.1 and 7.9 which are both highly competitive today. By 1989, the company converted totally to powerboats, although it did build a run of its popular 7.9 models a few years ago. The company is still prosperous and has been rumored off and on to be considering a return to the sailing market.
During the eighties, S2 earned a strong reputation for good quality boats. The company was founded by Leon Slikkers after he had sold his powerboat company, Slickcraft. As part of the sales agreement, he was precluded from the powerboat market for a number of years. There were no restrictions on sailboat building. So he built a new plant which was, at the time, a model for production-line efficiency. Among other things, the hulls were laid up in an enclosed, climate-controlled room, and they remained in molds until most of the interior was installed. This ensured that there was as little deformation of the basic hull molding as possible.
In the late 1970s, S2 did start building powerboats again, and soon established its Tiara line at the top end of the market. Slikkers business acumen, insight and bit of luck allowed him to buy his old powerboat line, Slickercraft, back from the conglomerate that owned it at a time of declining sales in the early 80s, at a fraction of its original sale price. Shortly thereafter S2 enjoyed the boom in powerboat buying which accompanied the decline in sailboat sales during the mid and late 80s.
From the start, Slikkers assembled an experienced crew of builders and sellers from the local area. At the time, Holland, Michigan, was the home of Chris Craft as well as Slickcraft and several other smaller powerboat builders.
The company continues today with a strong crew, according to former dealers. Company personnel and a strong dealer network established a reputation for good relationships with S2 owners, a reputation which continues, even though the company is no longer in the sailboat business.
Former area dealers, such as Gary DeSantis at Sailors World on Lake Minnetonka swear by the product and love to deal in used S2 boats.
The Boat and Builder
S2 Yachts was one of those few American companies willing to commit to the metric system when the government said it would be a good thing to do. The 9.2 stands for 9.2 meters, as with the companys other boats(7.3, 7.9, 10.3, etc.) S2 stuck with the classification for a long time, only advertising the 9.2 as the S2 30 after it had been in production for years (not to be confused with the later S2 30 designed by Graham & Schlageter). The boat overall is 2911", the most common length of 30-footers in those days when one of the popular racing rules--the Midget Ocean Racing Club (MORC) --required boats to be "under 30 feet."
The boat was built in two configurations, from 1977 to 1987. The 9.2C was a center-cockpit version, and the last one built was hull number 427. The 9.2A was the aft-cockpit version, and the last one built was hull number 520.
The 9.2 was designed by Arthur Edmunds, who was S2s "in-house" designer. Beginning in 1981, S2 built a number of racing-oriented cruisers designed by the Chicago naval architects Scott Graham and Eric Schageter, but all of the earlier cruising boats were done by Edmunds. Edmunds also contributed engineering and design detail to Graham & Schlageters hull designs.
The 9.2 design has short overhangs, a relatively flat sheer, a long fin keel, and spade rudder. The boats are attractive, and the aft-cockpit model has pleasing proportions. The center-cockpit model is a little boxy looking because of the relatively short overall length for the center cockpit aft cabin design. It is better looking than some other smaller center cockpit boats because it has three levels of deck and cockpit.
The conventional looks of the 9.2 keep it in style which along with the builders reputation seem to keep the boats holding their value pretty well. Shallow-draft keels were a popular option, reducing the draft from 411 to 311. According to DeSantis, most models sold in the midwest were the deeper keel which he personally prefers. The deeper keel doesnt seem excessive for most waters.
The rigs were identical on all versions, The lead ballast is internal. S2 did a good job of embedding and sealing the lead in the keel cavity which can be a source of leaks on older externally mounted keels. According to DeSantis, this was a major difference between builders of that era.
This boat is the cruising, small, bluewater model and shouldnt be confused with the 9.1 which swept the MORC nationals with a first, second and third finish when it was introduced. Another well sailed 9.1 won its division in the Trans-Superior. This boat has a much longer fin keel which is not as deep. It also makes it more seakindly for cruising. The 9.2 came with a deck-stepped Kenyon spar and North sails as standard, later with Hall or Offshore spars. The rigging and other sailing hardware was good enough in quality that little re-rigging or upgrading is likely to be needed.
The 9.2 typically came with internal halyards, reef lines and outhaul, a good Harken mainsheet traveler, Lewmar #8 halyard winches, and two-speed Lewmar #30s for the jib sheets. A boat this well equipped needs very little in upgrades. The bad news is that 1999 buyers are unlikely to find extensive upgrades to sails, furlers, winches, etc. done by previous owners. As this equipment approaches the middle to end of its second decade some of it will have to be replaced. It wont last forever.
The boat I sailed performed very well on close, beam and broad reaches. It was a cruising boat close-hauled and it feels a little tender sometimes. Reef early when the wind builds.
Shes not a fast boat by contemporary standards but when compared to some other cruisers shes quick. The 9.2 carries a PHRF rating around 180 seconds per mile (six seconds slower for the shoal-keel), which is six seconds per mile slower than a Pearson 30 and 12 to 15 seconds per mile slower than the Catalina 30 with a tall rig. In contrast, the 9.2s racing-oriented sister, the S2 9.1, a 30-footer, rates 50 seconds per mile faste at 140. The important thing is that both boats will sail to their numbers.
The boat is easy to sail, with a balanced sail plan. The running rigging, deck hardware and overall deck layout are convenient and functional. The deck is easy to move around. Attention to detail in the deck, anchor well, bow fittings, cleats, and halyards runs are well done.
Performance Under Power
A few of the 1977/1978 boats were sold with an Atomic 4 gas engine. After 1979, diesels were installed. Through 1984, the engines were 12 hp or 15 hp Yanmars, or 12 hp Volvos. In 1985, a Yanmar 23 was optional.
The Atomic 4 was a good engine for the boat, as was the Yanmar 23. For a 10,000 pound boat, 12 to 15 hp should be adequate by traditional standards, but many sailors seem to want a little more. The Yanmar 23 in the boat I sailed seemed like alot of engine. In calm water it would hit hull speed at 1800 or 1900 RPMs. For some, the optional Yanmar 23 will make the later models more desirable.
The interior was undoubtedly the strong selling point of the boat. The below decks finish is attractive. Theres about as much usable room below as you could get without making the hull significantly larger.
S2 was one of the first sailboat builders to use fabric as a hull liner, and it became almost a trademark of S2 interiors. The fabric is a neutral-colored polypropylene, treated to be mildew resistant. Having looked at several used S2 models, I believe the fabric works well. Many of the 90s builders have copied the approach. It is contact-cemented to the hull, and it holds up amazingly well, absorbing virtually no water. It is quite resistant to mildew and stains. It is maintained with a good, compact wet/dry vacuum cleaner.
The rest of the interior has teak veneer plywood, Formica, and solid teak trim. The workmanship is good. Layouts changed little throughout the production of the boats. The aft-cockpit model is conventional, with a V-berth, a large head and hanging locker, a large dinette/settee with a settee opposite, and an L-shaped galley with a chart area/quarter berth opposite. Theres adequate stowage under the berths and decent outside stowage in the lazarettes.
The center-cockpit model moves the main cabin forward and the head aft, near to and partially underneath the center cockpit. The galley is opposite the head, running lengthwise down the port side of the cabin and partially under the cockpit. The aft-cabin is roomy, with an athwartship double berth and good locker space. The shortcoming of the center cockpit is that there is virtually no outside storage.
Choosing between the center and aft cockpit is largely a matter of personal preference. With children, or two couples cruising, the aft cabin is hard to beat for livability.
The interiors are well designed and executed. Little major work or upgrading should be necessary on most used boats. Many people will want to replace the alcohol stoves on earlier models, perhaps add refrigeration and perform the normal long-term maintenance or re-upholstering. The interiors should need little major attention.
The S2s were well-built. Whereas other production companies frequently cheapened or upgraded models from year to year to find a marketing niches, S2 made boats to sell near the high end of the production boat market, and kept the quality at a consistent level. I would avoid the shallow draft version on both performance and likely tenderness grounds unless I was going to sail a great deal in shallow areas such as Florida Sound, the Bahamas or Belize.
The 9.2s have maintained their value about as well as any 30 footer according to local brokers. S2 owners generally believe they have a good product, and theyll probably be harder to dicker with than many eager sellers of other boats in the used market.
Thom publishes Northern Breezes and SailingBreezes.com. Thanks to Gary DeSantis, Sailors World, Lake Minnetonka, S-2 Company and Practical Sailor for information for this article.
Sailors World: 612-475-3443
Practical Sailor: 800-829-9087
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