This, you understand, is my personal recollection of events and my take on Prouts and their history. If anyone knows better than I, and I expect there’s plenty out there who do, then please feel free to write and tell me where I’ve gone wrong. For those more interested in Prouts inglorious end rather than its better times then there’s a very good treatise to be found at: http://www.vonwentzel.net/Prout/Bankruptcy.html
To compare the 38 with the 37 – originally known as the Prout Snowgoose – is almost like comparing a elephant to an mouse.
And at least here I speak from experience as we bought our very own Snowgoose in 1978 and, from 1983 to 1986 lived aboard together with our two boys, then aged ten and twelve years, sailing first around the Med and then ending up in the Caribbean. Whilst every moment aboard was both exciting and enjoyable there’s no doubting that, as I have said on many occasions, had my wife and I not been really good friends there’s no way we could have shared the main aft cabin as we did on such a full-time basis.
Whilst in the mood to reminisce, I should mention how we bought our Snowgoose. I was keen on catamarans as I’d always had a ‘stomach’ problem sailing downwind in monohulls but not so my wife, she of the cast-iron constitution was more concerned by rumours that these boats turned over all to often. We did, as you do, visit the Boat Show at Earls Court, where it was held in those days and called in to the Prout stand in their normal spot at the head of the ‘lake’. In passing I mentioned my ‘problem’, of having a doubting wife, whereupon Roland Prout, in avuncular grandfather style came over to my wife, put his arm over her shoulder (touching was allowed in those days!) and just said
“Come and have chat with me my dear”
What he said I have no idea, I was never told but after that day I had a partner who now fully supported my choice of craft and it was not long afterward that, after a trial sail and a long negociating session with their then sales representative Sandy Munro in Southampton Water we placed our order.
Whilst both boats have similarities (four legs, and so forth, in the animal comparison) that’s about it. And that is how it is with these two yachts.
The 37 was, over the years, developed and re-developed but there were constraints that never could really be overcome; many due to the narrowness of the v-shaped hulls.
When I first saw a 38 I was taken aback; at first glance she had all the attributes I had dreamed of whilst living aboard the Snowgoose. Full standing headroom throughout – not just in the hulls. A huge master cabin with an only infinitesimally smaller guest double in the starboard hull. Stowage space everywhere. The difference in overall volume was tremendous which made living aboard a luxurious experience. By now the famous ‘nacelle’ of earlier designs had shrunk and the engines had more traditional saildrives but the Prout brothers ‘mantra’ that a cats’ beam should never being more than half the overall length was stuck to – unlike some, mainly South African it seemed to me, builders who were moulding cats’ almost as wide as they were long.
Performance is certainly not as scintillating as it was with our Snowgoose as she weighs numerous tonnes more and it does show as she needs a good wind to get up and run. I always had the impression she was under-rigged, that she often seems to be begging for more sail area. Perhaps a staysail as had the Snowgoose would have improved matters; apart from that the new dome over the entranceway would cause tacking problems with that as any track would have to go over the top of the dome itself, maybe a higher mast would have given more options. Its a guessing game it seems…………….
Being, possibly, somewhat under-rigged might, in its own way have advantages as I have never had to reef the main, she’s as stable in 40knots with a full main (obviously a well reefed genoa) as she is at any other time! In the right conditions though she certainly does sail – twice I’ve had her at over 10 knots and one skipper friend of mine swears he had her to 14 knots off Cabo de Gata (a well known windy spot) in southern Spain. But a light wind sailor she is not; what she is is a superbly stable, incredibly strong blue water passagemaker.
British yachtbuilding has always been a difficult business and history is littered with many ‘famous in their time’ names that no longer exist. Westerly is but one example, there are many many others. Now the Prout name is amongst them. There are many possible explanations as to why; the general economic difficulties of the time; the way the French in particular support their boatbuilding industry and the advantages that gives them; some questionable management decisions that no doubt seemed a good idea at the time but in hindsight maybe were’nt as brilliant as first thought. The 38 has been, to some extent, re-incarnated in the Broadblue 385 so, who knows, maybe – in disguise – the Prout ethos will live on to fight again in this new millenium.