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Cobra 850 - Real World Experience

nazarmuna

New member
Joined
11 Nov 2007
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11
In my continuing research into a suitable small bilge-keel family cruiser I’ve come across the Cobra 850, which seem to have a lot going for them. I am though curious as to how they handle, having something of an IOR shape to them – wide beam amidships, high freeboard and pinched ends.

In terms of performance, I have found lots of general comments such as “you won’t win any races” or “you’ll give up before the boat does” but I would really appreciate some more specific insight.

Any idea of:
  • Motion on different points of sail
  • Tacking angles
  • Typical max speed upwind/downwind
  • Ideal heeling angle
  • Wind strength before needing a reef
  • etc...
By way of reference, the other boats on my shortlist are: Sadler 29, Hunter Ranger 265/Channel 27 and possibly Moody 27/29.

Thanks!
 

geem

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27 Apr 2006
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Anywhere without Covid19
In my continuing research into a suitable small bilge-keel family cruiser I’ve come across the Cobra 850, which seem to have a lot going for them. I am though curious as to how they handle, having something of an IOR shape to them – wide beam amidships, high freeboard and pinched ends.

In terms of performance, I have found lots of general comments such as “you won’t win any races” or “you’ll give up before the boat does” but I would really appreciate some more specific insight.

Any idea of:
  • Motion on different points of sail
  • Tacking angles
  • Typical max speed upwind/downwind
  • Ideal heeling angle
  • Wind strength before needing a reef
  • etc...
By way of reference, the other boats on my shortlist are: Sadler 29, Hunter Ranger 265/Channel 27 and possibly Moody 27/29.

Thanks!
Go for the Sadler😀
 

nazarmuna

New member
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11 Nov 2007
Messages
11
Hi geem - the Sadler is definitely top of my list but (as with the others) it's case of finding one in reasonable condition at a sensible price.

Besides, no harm in knowing what else is around and keeping an open mind!
 

nazarmuna

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11 Nov 2007
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Thanks dgadee. I had a look on there and a trawl through their forum, lots of interesting technical stuff but not much performance info. The details page for each model is also very brief.

The Seawolf 30 looks much sportier than the Cobra.
 

dgadee

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13 Oct 2010
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2,112
Yes, the Seawolf 30 is well worth looking at. Always gets compliments on appearance. They did them in various keel formats. Mine is twin keel and it sails well - but when I have raced it points well but, of course, falls off with leeway. It has a big main which needs reefing early. Currently putting a new engine in and then the next task is to get the reefing lines back to the cockpit - too old for hanging on now.
 

slipknot

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28 Nov 2003
Messages
534
Location
South Coast
I had a bilge keel cobra 850 for about 10 years, 20 years ago. I loved it and still regard it as a good choice today. In my opinion....... better internal layout and space than the Sadler. Keels are pretty straight and can result in some slamming when close hauled into a reasonable chop (is this the same for most bilge keelers??) Fantastic safe access to shallow/drying harbours (unlike my current 2.1mtr fin keeler) My 850 had a heavy overpowered motor which didn’t help sailing performance so go for something with a modern, light 20hp ish if poss. You’ll need a good cruising chute/asymetric to get it moving downwind. As you have said, it isn’t fantastic to windward and quite heavy. My current boat is the opposite. Light, deep fin, points & tracks well, and sails in a breath of wind. But it won’t go where my old cobra 850 could go. Good luck with your search.
 

nazarmuna

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11 Nov 2007
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Thanks slipknot. Agree the accommodation is fantastic for it's size. I believe that all BKs slam if sufficiently heeled to expose the windward keel.

A couple of question on your comments about sailing performance:
  • When you say it's not great to windward, is that particularly: in light winds, in strong winds, over a chop, pointing ability?
  • For downwind sailing, doesn't the large genoa provide sufficient drive? I've read some people with similarly proportioned rigs say they often run downwind on poled-out genoa alone.
 

dgadee

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13 Oct 2010
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2,112
Thanks slipknot. Agree the accommodation is fantastic for it's size. I believe that all BKs slam if sufficiently heeled to expose the windward keel.

A couple of question on your comments about sailing performance:
  • When you say it's not great to windward, is that particularly: in light winds, in strong winds, over a chop, pointing ability?
  • For downwind sailing, doesn't the large genoa provide sufficient drive? I've read some people with similarly proportioned rigs say they often run downwind on poled-out genoa alone.
I suspect with older boats people are not that bothered about performance issues - perhaps that's why you are not able to find a lot of information? Anyone poling out a headsail is not performance oriented - though it certainly makes a big difference.

Also, I found that 25 degrees heel was the maximum I wanted on the Seawolf - anything more just slowed the boat. Not sure if that was related to the twin keels.
 

CJU

Member
Joined
30 Jul 2001
Messages
153
I suspect with older boats people are not that bothered about performance issues - perhaps that's why you are not able to find a lot of information? Anyone poling out a headsail is not performance oriented - though it certainly makes a big difference.

Also, I found that 25 degrees heel was the maximum I wanted on the Seawolf - anything more just slowed the boat. Not sure if that was related to the twin keels.
We did consider a Cobra 850 but ended up buying a bilge keeled Mirage 28, which is quite similar It did slam a bit and maybe didn't point as well as some but we were pleased with it and it did enable us to visit some of the less exotic places in the Solent.
They have an active club who would be willing to help if you decided on a Mirage 28
Home | Snapdragon Mirage and Invaders Association
 

dgadee

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13 Oct 2010
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Yes, I agree with the utility of taking the ground. I didn't buy the Seawolf because of its twin keels - quite the contrary, but I'm glad I did. I have a cheap half-tide mooring and it has advantages even up the west coast of Scotland (partially drying out inside mooring areas) but I am moving the boat over the the east coast so it should become even more practical. Of course, drying harbours need a black water tank ...
 

moondancer2

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28 Apr 2020
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495
Thanks slipknot. Agree the accommodation is fantastic for it's size. I believe that all BKs slam if sufficiently heeled to expose the windward keel.

A couple of question on your comments about sailing performance:
  • When you say it's not great to windward, is that particularly: in light winds, in strong winds, over a chop, pointing ability?
  • For downwind sailing, doesn't the large genoa provide sufficient drive? I've read some people with similarly proportioned rigs say they often run downwind on poled-out genoa alone.
What boat are you used to sailing?

If you're not used to sailing a boats that points well and sails well, then it probably isn't an issue. I can't imagine there are many people who have owned deep fin decent sailing boats who would then be happy with the manners of an 80s bilge Keeler
 

dgadee

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13 Oct 2010
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If you're not used to sailing a boats that points well and sails well, then it probably isn't an issue. I can't imagine there are many people who have owned deep fin decent sailing boats who would then be happy with the manners of an 80s bilge Keeler
Horses for courses. I have both and am happy with both.
 

nazarmuna

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11 Nov 2007
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11
My last yacht was a fractional-rig fin. Since then I have owned and sailed a variety of sailing dinghies as well as crewing for other people while raising kids, renovating houses, etc. I'm now in a position to get back to cruising which for now will be based around the Bristol Channel - hence the bilge keel.

It is definitely cruising not racing that I'm after and I realise that a late 70's BK isn't going to have speed or pointing ability of a lightweight modern racer/cruiser but I'm just trying to get a handle on how big a difference that is.

Also, some idea of sea worthiness and stability. I've heard the Cobra 850 referred to a bit tender but with 45% ballast and 3'6" draught I can see how that would be.
 
Last edited:

geem

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Horses for courses. I have both and am happy with both.
My last yacht was a fractional-rig fin. Since then I have owned and sailed a variety of sailing dinghies as well as crewing for other people while raising kids, renovating houses, etc. I'm now in a position to get back to cruising which for now will be based around the Bristol Channel - hence the bilge keel.

It is definitely cruising not racing that I'm after and I realise that a late 70's BK isn't going to have speed or pointing ability of a lightweight modern racer/cruiser but I'm just trying to get a handle on how big a difference that is.

Also, some idea of sea worthiness and stability. I've heard the Cobra 850 referred to a bit tender but with 45% ballast and 3'6" draught I can see how that would be.
If you want reasonable performance from a twin keel yacht then a Fulmar would be my choice. They will point surprisingly high and are good in heavy weather
 

nazarmuna

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11 Nov 2007
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If you want reasonable performance from a twin keel yacht then a Fulmar would be my choice. They will point surprisingly high and are good in heavy weather
It's not a case of trying to get the highest performance so much as trying to quantify what the performance and stability of a Cobra 850 actually are.

I like a good many things about the Cobra (styling, accommodation, build quality, price, etc) but would like some idea of how they behave under sail in order to judge if, on balance, they would be a good choice.
 

moondancer2

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28 Apr 2020
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If you want reasonable performance from a twin keel yacht then a Fulmar would be my choice. They will point surprisingly high and are good in heavy weather
Or one of the Hunter 26s or 27s. One used to race class 6 at Burnham week and did very well.
 

Esmerelda

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Joined
30 Oct 2009
Messages
122
We had a bilge keel one as our first boat, my main memory (apart from the good accommodation) was that it had a lot of weather helm. Our next boat was a bilge keel Fulmar which was in a different league...
 
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