The Valiant 40 has perhaps influenced modern blue water cruiser design more than any other boat. Prior to the Valiant 40, cruising sailboats we synonymous with heavy and slow. The genius that designer Bob Perry brought in the Valiant 40 was to put a what was then a modern IOR racing shape under the waterline and match it with a cruising hull above. He built this concept into a boat with the look of a Scandinavian double ender and in doing so help further the American love for traditional double enders that exists to this day.
Winning multiple single handed ocean races, it quickly gain a reputation of being a fast and serious ocean going passage-maker. The boat is a regular circumnavigator, some claiming perhaps no other cruising boat has logged as many open ocean miles, and in 1997 the Valiant 40 was inducted into the American Sailboat Hall of fame. Quite an achievement for what was essentially a partnership of friends with a dream to build their ideal boat.
Sylvia Williams Dabney writes an entertaining first hand account retelling the story of how a collective of good friends including a then unknown assistant yacht designer called Bob Perry, energized by the boldness of youth, managed to dream, scheme, and build a legendary boat that changed the face of cruising boat design and has spanned a production run of 47 years thus far.
The driving force behind the Valiant 40 came between a friendship between Nathan Rothman and Perry, forged while working together in another company building ferro-cement yachts. Through the years they dreamt about building their own boat and “being their own bosses”, as Perry recalls in his book Yacht Design According to Perry. Rothman found financial backing and approached Perry for working drawings of a 40-footer. Valiant Yachts and the Valiant 40 was the result.
“The Valiant 40 became an instant success and we had eight boats on order by the time the first Valiant was launched. It is said that the Valiant 40/42 has been in non-stop production longer than any comparable yacht, a true testimony to its timeless design.” – Sylvia Williams Dabney
The company accelerated quickly and their boats became a hot item for cruising boat customers in the 1970s. By 1978, Dabney recalls selling 50 boats a year from their range of three boats, the Valiant 32, Esprit 37, and Valiant 40.
The most infamous episode to taint the reputation of the Valiant 40 came sometime around 1976 when Uniflite who built the boats for Valiant changed to a questionable resin called Hetron which resulted in severe blistering on the hulls of the boats above and below the waterline. It was commonly thought the fire retardant in the new resin was the culprit but yacht surveyor Jack Horner writes “Later research has shown that a combination of sizing used on fiberglass strands chemically reacts with the fire retardant resins resulting in the blisters.”
Ownership of the venture passed hands to Sam Dick Industries and then to Uniflite, who declared bankruptcy in 1984 shortly after Valiant owners won a class action lawsuit over the blistering episode. The Valiant operation was picked up by Rich Worstell, a Texas based Valiant dealer, who after building a few boats in Washington eventually moved production to Texas, under the new leadership the blistering problem was permanently solved in 1984 by switching to isophthalic resin.
In 1992, with some degree of consultation with the Valiant 40 owner community, the design evolved into the Valiant 42 which is essentially the same boat with further refinements. The rig has been tweaked with an addition of a 2ft bowsprit and the keel has evolved. Manufacturing was adapted to offer multiple berthing configurations, and the traditional offset entry into the companionway now has an optional center entry. Thus the Valiant 42 was introduced as a low volume semi-custom built boat.
In all, exactly 200 Valiant 40s have been built. Production of the Valiant 42 ceased in January of 2011 due to an economic downturn, we know 70 had been built up to 2010.
One look at the Valiant 40 and there’s no mistaking it was conceived to cross oceans. There’s a proud bow, with a fine entry, a beautiful sheerline, and what was considered a long LWL for its time. The cabin truck looks distinctly boxy without even a hint of a rake. Further back is a cockpit that is suitably non-spacious for blue water operations and there’s a handsome canoe stern to round the look off.
Hidden under the waterline the traditional Scandinavian look gives way to something that’s much more modern. A fin cruising keel with a skeg hung rudder and an underbelly that’s designed to minimize wetted surface area.
The rig is of cutter configuration and, with a mast located quite far back. It supports a relatively short boom and mainsail that’s smaller than the norm making it easier to handle. Early boats had sheeting control lines attached to the end of the boom. This tended to increase weather-helm and also proved to be a dangerous nuisance before later models moved to a mid-boom sheeting system.
The Valiant 40 has a very strong and thick hull made from hand laid fiberglass. The fiberglass deck has a balsa core. The hull-deck join is described as being robust and forms a box section with the molded in bulwark, which is through bolted and covered with a teak caprail.
The ballast is externally cast lead and is bolted onto the keel stub. This was later revised to make it less expensive to build and also resulted in a lower center of gravity. The last revision improved the foil shape. Interestingly, the skeg protecting the rudder is not part of the hull molding, instead it is constructed separately in steel and encased in fiberglass before fastening to the hull.
Rather than the usual one piece interior pan lining favored by most production designs, the Valiant 40 interior is traditionally built by fiberglassing bulkheads and interior fixtures directly to the hull giving excellent access to check on hull and deck leaks.
Under sail, balanced and well mannered in all sea conditions are the types of comments you’ll hear from Valiant 40 owners.
Mark Schrader writes in Cruising World Magazine, Oct 1997, “In over 30,000 miles of singlehanded sailing I never needed to worry about the integrity of my 40; it handled an amazing and sometimes overwhelming variety of conditions. Rumbling along on a deep reach with a big following sea is something to experience from the Valiant’s safe cockpit.”
Although not particularly close-winded by modern standards, the Valiant 40 tracks well to weather and there is just enough flare in the bow to keep the low freeboard boat relatively dry. Expect consistent 150 mile days without requiring a lot of exertion or discomfort, more if the breeze is fresh.
John Kretschmer, author and boat delivery captain who has logged over 200,000 miles reports on delivering a Valiant 40 from West Indes to Massachusetts, “The winds were fresh on the first leg and we reeled off consecutive 160-mile days on a beam reach. We ran into a gale in the Gulf Stream on the second leg. I was impressed with the Valiant’s easy motion as we gradually shortened sail until we were down to a double-reefed main and the staysail. I was forced to hand steer for days, but the helm was balanced and I was able to tie it off when I needed a break. The sailing characteristics are the prime reason for buying a used Valiant 40.”
Blisters developed on nearly all Valiant 40s built between 1976-1981 with hull numbers 120-249, hull numbers 250-266 are less blister prone, the switch to isophthalic resin came in 1984 and hulls 267 onwards are Texas built.
Many boats have had blister repairs with varying degrees of success, some reappearing after only two years while others have not had the problem resurface after ten. It’s generally agreed that the outer layer of GRP needs be peeled and replaced to permanently fix the problem. Warmer climates have reported to have a detrimental impact so be wary of buying a seemingly blister free boat that has lived entirely in higher latitudes that have not yet made for tropical waters.
Looking beyond the blistering woes, there are a few other common areas to check for in older Valiant 40s. John Kretschmer writes, “The aluminum water and fuel tanks have not aged well and may need to be replaced. The chainplates on early boats were on the light side and should be upgraded. Occasional delamination in the subdeck is a problem, particularly around the chainplates, but this of course is common on any old boat with a balsa or plywood core.” He recommends checking the standing rigging and replacing any of the original fittings and notes on boats that had optional rod rigging its worth getting in a rigger to inspect the terminal end.
Buyers willing to deal with blisters can find real bargains on the market, particularly ones built between 1976-1981. The earliest boats being less blister prone can often fetch higher prices and the Texas-built Valiant 40s are much more expensive. As of 2010 the asking prices are in the approximate range of:
Valiant 40, 1973-1975 $80k-$110k USD (hulls #101-119)
Valiant 40, 1976-1981 $60k-$110k USD (hulls #120-249, most blister prone)
Valiant 40, 1981-1984 $100k-$175k USD (hulls #250-266)
Valiant 40, 1985-1992 $140k-$280k USD (Texas built hulls #267-300)
Valiant 42, 1992-2010 $250k-$600k USD
» Boats.com, feature on the Valiant 40 “A Legend in its Own Time”
» Buying a Used Valiant 40, review by John Kretschmer, Apr 1999
» The Birth of the Valiant, article by Sylvia Williams Dabney, Oct 1998
» BoatUS, review by Jack Horner
» Valiant Owners Yahoo Group, information, photos, records, and more
» Cruising World Magazine, boat review by Mark Schrader, Oct 1997
» Valiant Sailboats, company website