The History of Alerion Yachts
In 1912, Nathanael Herreshoff designed and built a 26-foot mahogany planked daysailer and named it Alerion III. At the time he was wintering in Bermuda, but Alerion III was the personal sailing yacht he used when visiting his summer home on Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay.* Some 75 years after it was launched, this daysailer became the inspiration for the modern Alerion Yachts.
In the late 1980s businessman Ralph Schacter became enamored with the idea of combining the traditional aesthetic of the Herreshoff-designed Alerion 26 with the performance of his Express 37. He contacted Carl Schumacher (designer of the Express 37) with the idea of building a custom daysailer around this concept, and the Alerion Express 28 took shape. Detailed drawings by Schumacher are dated from late 1988.
Schumacher’s Alerion Express 28 design pays homage to the Herreshoff “traditional” look topside but is completely modern in rig, underbody, and construction detail. The desire for increased performance dictated a modern underbody with a semi-elliptical fin keel and spade rudder. Tiller steering was retained from the design inspiration, along with the form of the sheer and the cockpit coaming shape. Schumacher added a coachroof with a basic interior to provide Schacter overnight sleeping accommodations.
Hull number 1, christened Moonrise, was built in Florida by Harbor Boat Co.** and launched in 1989. The 28’s impressive performance and stunning good looks turned heads in all harbors she visited, and shortly after launching the Alerion Express 28 was named “Boat of the Year” by Sailing World magazine (Feb. 1990 issue). Moonrise was so unique – it was the first “gentleman’s daysailer” on the market – that people starting asking about it and a production version of the Alerion Express 28 soon followed.
Schacter joined with Holby Marine of Bristol, RI, for a production run (in fiberglass) and seven boats were built in 1990-91. The Alerion Express 28 molds were then acquired by TPI, also located in Rhode Island, and by 1992 25 additional boats were built utilizing the patented SCRIMP method (Seeman Composites Resin Infusion Molding Process) for which TPI was known.
Garry Hoyt joined the TPI team in 1994 and quickly added the Hoyt Jib Boom to enhance the Alerion 28’s singlehanded sailing capability. A bulb was also added to the keel to increase stability.
As the 28 grew in numbers and popularity, the Alerion line began to expand. Soon two more Schumacher designs were added. The Alerion Express 20, an open day boat, was introduced in 1996 and the Alerion Express 38 was added in 1997.
With the sudden passing of Carl Schumacher in 2002, overall design responsibilities were taken over by TPI’s in-house design team, which at that time included Hoyt and Clive Dent. In 2006 the Alerion Express 33 was designed as a natural product bridge between the 28 and 38. The 33 keeps the heritage of the 28 with similar exterior aesthetics and performance underbody, and features overnight accommodations, including an enclosed head. In 2011, TPI (now known as the Pearson Marine group) began work on the Alerion 41, the first Alerion with a full cruising interior. This boat was designed by an in-house team led by Ben Stoddard.
After more than 20 years of building Alerion Yachts, Pearson Marine Group closed its doors shortly after designing the Alerion 41. The Alerion brand was acquired by USWatercraft in late 2012 and in 2013, USWatercraft built and introduced the Alerion 41, which received design awards from Cruising World and Sail magazines in 2014. In 2015, the new USWatercraft design group, led by TJ Perrotti, worked in conjunction with Lagan Design Partners to introduce the Alerion Sport 30. The Alerion 30 is the first Alerion offered with a fixed bow sprit for an asymmetric downwind sail.
In 2016, Perrotti redesigned the interior of the Alerion Express 28 to take full advantage of the resin-infusion construction process used by USWatercraft, adding a structural grid to improve hull stiffness and longevity.
In late 2017, the Alerion brand was purchased by Peter Johnstone, second-generation of the well-known sailing family. In February 2018, the first hull built by the new Alerion Yachts was removed from the mold — hull number 471 of the Alerion Express 28. This Alerion Express 28 model is the cornerstone for the Alerion Yachts 30th Anniversary, being celebrated in 2019.
The common theme throughout the history of Alerion Yachts is each builder’s unwavering belief in the pure joy of sailing a beautiful yacht that is uncomplicated, swift, and a delightful experience for everyone aboard. Each new model builds on the legacy of the brand, resulting in a cohesive product line that endures today.
Alerion Yachts Timeline
1989 – Custom Alerion Express 28 (hull no. 1), designed by Carl Schumacher, is launched
1990 – Sailing World magazine names the Alerion Express 28 “Boat of the Year”
1991 – Alerion Express 28 first production run by Holby Marine
1992 – Alerion Express 28 molds purchased by TPI. Hulls are resin-infused
1994 – Hoyt Jib Boom and bulb keel added to Alerion Express 28
1996 – Alerion Express 20 designed by Carl Schumacher
1997 – Alerion Express 38 designed by Carl Schumacher
2002 – Passing of Carl Schumacher
2006 – Alerion Express 33 designed by TPI design team
2011 – Alerion 41 designed by TPI design team
2012 – TPI, now known as Pearson Marine Group, closes its doors. Assets purchased by USWatercraft
2013 – Alerion 41 hull no. 1 launched
2014 – Alerion 41 named “Best Boat” by SAIL magazine; Boat of the Year special mention by Cruising World magazine
2015 – Alerion Sport 30 designed by USWatercraft design team with Langan Design Partners
2017 – Alerion 28 interior design updated by USWatercraft design team; USW closes its doors in mid-2017. Alerion Yachts brand purchased by Peter Johnstone in December
2018 – Production resumes in Rhode Island. The first boat out of the mold is Alerion Express 28 number 471. Alerion Yachts prepares to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the brand in 2019
*Nathanael Herreshoff’s original boat can be seen in the collection at the Mystic Seaport Museum. Re-creations of the original design were produced by the Sanford Boat company in the 1970s, and are currently available from the Herreshoff Design Company in Bristol, RI.
**Hull no. 1 of the Alerion Express 28, named Moonrise, was restored by a private owner in Connecticut in 2017.
For example, the cockpit must be exceptionally large and comfortable because that’s where you will spend most of your time. Since long ocean passages are not part of the plan, the interior is simple, but still stylish and fully functional. To assure single-handed capability, all sail control lines are led to the skipper so he or she can hoist, reef, trim, and lower the sails. This allows you to welcome guests of every skill level, and to singelhand with ease. Once free of the confining logistics of traditional racing or cruising, “Alerion Sailing” enables the discriminating skipper to savor the full flavor of sailing, and still be back in time for a hot shower, good meal and comfortable bed ashore.
Sail More Often with More Enjoyment
The Alerion Yachts are designed for a single purpose – to deliver the highest performance in a daysailing package. From the keel to the masthead, design and technology decisions have been made solely to embody the principle of Alerion Sailing.
Hoyt Jib Boom
The Hoyt Jib Boom is standard on the Alerion 20 and is offered as an option on our other models. Upwind, the self-tacking feature is a fantastic convenience when short-tacking in a narrow passage or sailing in a fresh breeze. Downwind, the jib boom acts as a whisker pole for sailing wing-and-wing – but it’s even better because it holds the clew in the proper position to present maximum sail area to the wind. The jib boom is also spring loaded, so it remains fully extended forward downwind, even in light air.
The Alerion 30, 33, and 41 are equipped with a swept-spreader, carbon-fiber mast. This eliminates the need for a backstay and allows for a full roach or “fat head” mainsail for maximum speed and performance. This is a big advantage in light wind conditions when the better breeze is actually higher up off the water. In heavier air, the full roach mainsail simplifies reefing and provides for the optimal center of effort, sail shape, and boat balance when reefed.
All Alerions are designed with a maximize cockpit size to accommodate your guests. Every ergonomic detail is considered, from the height of the seat back to depth of the cushions. With all the lines led aft, belowdecks, to the skipper’s position (30, 33, 41) the cockpit and seats are free from clutter and wet lines, and singlehanded sailing is effortless. On the 20 and the 28, all lines are also well within easy reach of the helmsman.