Precision 23 Reviewed
By Thom Burns
As you approach the Precision 23 at the dock, you notice that the white hull is neatly trimmed in teak and accentuated by light gray non-skid. This boat has nice lines which welcome you aboard. In new cruising boats, I immediately look for cockpit size and comfort, visibility, and a light, open airy feel in the cabin. The Precision 23 will not disappoint, nor will the friendly folks at Dream Sails located at Bertha Boatworks on the Whitefish Chain just north of Brainerd, Minnesota.
Dream Sails is owned by Craig and Ruth Witrock, two nurses from St. Cloud, Minnesota. Dream Sails rents some boats as well as sell new Precisions and some used sailboats. Craig started in the sailboat business
back in the early 1970's on Lake Pepin where he did boat demos for the Chrysler sailboat dealership in Winona, Minnesota owned by Bill Gernes.
Craig and Ruth Witrock were proud to show off the new Precision 23 as well as their personal boat, a five year old model.
The Precision 23 is a large, cruising trailer-sailer. At 2,450 lbs it is not light, but it has a low trailering profile and can be handled by most sport utility vehicles and many mini-vans. The 23 was designed by Jim Taylor who has designed the entire Precision line. The builder, Precision Boatworks of Palmetto, Florida requested from Taylor and has built a relatively large trailerable sailboat in the older school tradition of shallow lead-ballasted keel with a centerboard for performance.
Taylor claims to have designed a “maxi-trailerable” boat. With the 23’ 5” length and 8’ 6” beam, he may be right at least in term of practicality. The boat, trailer and 500 lbs of gear will put the trailer weight at about 4,000 lbs.
The boat has a fine entry, substantial flare in the topsides forward and wide quarters that taper to a relatively small transom. This combination gives a smooth ride when heeled underway.
The high lift NACA foil sections of the centerboard and rudder are one of the more efficient foils in a boat this size. The alternatives which offer a low profile are a heavy bulb on a retractable keel which saddles the design with a large centerboard trunk, water-ballast with centerboard or a variety of winged keels. I’ve never seen a winged keel perform well on a boat in this size range.
The hull is hand laminated with ISO/NPG gelcoat finish and a vinylaster resin skin coat. The hull to deck joint is bonded and through bolted. The deck is a sandwich around closed cell PVC foam with plywood inserts under the mast and any other place where through-bolts are used. It has molded in non-skid. There is also some poured-in-place foam stiffeners added in the seat back coamings.
Performance and Handling
The Precision 23 carries a PHRF rating between 225 and 231. This is about the same as the bigger swing-keel Catalina 25. It is lower than the O’Day 25 and 26. The sail area is close to a high performance J-22. When I sailed the boat the winds were light, three to seven knots, with some windless holes. We rigged the boat with Craig's cruising gennaker for added power. The boat sailed quite well on all points of sail.
Craig said he reefs at about 15 knots when cruising.
Later, I met a sailor who trailers his Precision 23 to Florida and sails to the Bahamas regularly. He told me that he went through 10 - 15 foot seas with 25 knot winds and gusts to 40. He said the boat held up well although he was beat up a little. The passage obviously got his attention since he sat in his inflated liferaft in the cockpit until he finished the trip. Precision doesn’t recommend offshore passages with this boat.
The hardware is Harken. The deck is clean with the chainplates placed well inboard, a vital ingredient for upwind performance. The single lifelines open at the 7’ 3” cockpit. The cockpit is roomy with seats built into the stern pulpit. These seats are standard, but they are such a great addition if I had an older model Precision 23 I’d retrofit them. The weakest link from a performance point of view is the lack of a travelor. You might add one initially rather than retrofitting later. The large cockpit has comfortable seats. There is an anchor locker forward, a separate ventilated gas can locker aft as well as a deep and a shallow lazarette for cockpit storage. Seated cockpit visibility is excellent.
The Precision 23’s is well designed below. The interior is open and airy. It has high quality Lewmar opening ports and hatches. There is no compression post breaking up the interior under the mast. The compression post is replaced by a reinforced beam. The forward bulkheads do not compartmentalize the interior. There is a standard porta potti forward port and a galley starboard aft.
The galley has a stainless steel sink with manual water pump, an ice chest with teak step and a two burner alcohol stove.
The cushions and backrest cushions on the shelves seemed to hold up pretty well. I visited Craig and Ruth’s Precision 23 which is five years old. They stay on the boat alot and the cushions look good.
The simple franctional rig features one set of spreaders and chainplates placed well inboard. This allows for better upwind performance and smaller sails to handle forward. The tall aspect main provides most of the power. The main sail has one set of reef points with jiffy reefing. The backstay is split with a short bridle. This rig provides for easy, simple handling while delivering the power for good performance.
The Precision 23 is a mainstream trailerable with plenty of room for camping out for the weekend. The lead ballasted keel and centerboard for performance is a proven design. It is well built and designed with many modern improvements such as the stern perch seats, ergonomic cockpit cowlings and Lewmar opening ports. If you can pull 4,000 lbs around, it’ll give you many trailering options. If you leave it in your marina, it’ll provide a fine small sailing yacht with adequate weekend accomodations. I would add a bigger genoa or a gennaker and a travelor.
The bottom line ... good value in a new boat.
Thom Burns publishes Northern Breezes.
For more info:
Bertha Boatworks, 800-450-4500, 218-543-4100
Hoopers Yachts, 612-436-8795, 800-377-8795
Precision Boat Works, 813-722-6601
Sailboat House, 608-849-9200
Sail Iowa, 800-7281301, 515-842-2301.
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