ORIGINAL FRANCES DIMENSIONS
LOA: 25′ 10″
LWL: 21′ 3″
BEAM: 8′ 2″
DRAFT: 3’ 10″
DISPLACEMENT, 1/2 load: 6,800 lbs
BALLAST (lead): 3,500 lbs
SAIL AREA (100% foretriangle): 340 sq ft
DISPL/L RATIO: 316
SAIL AREA/DISP RATIO: 15.16
The FRANCES is one of recent history’s most famous cruising designs. Over 200 of the small yachts are now sailing, and they are well loved wherever they voyage. I decided to design this small but capable cruising boat in 1974. My boat was flush-decked, and I cruised it from Maine to Rhode Island. A more ambitious one is on its second circumnavigation! Many of the sisterships added a small house for full headroom, and a variety of sailplans have been fitted. FRANCESes were built in fiberglass by Morris Yachts in America and Victoria Marine in the U.K. Quite a few fine examples were custom built of cold-moulded wood using the WEST system.
I often ponder what it might be about the FRANCES design that makes it so popular. I think it must be the aesthetics first and foremost. It has the look of a boat that could take on the world. But the real surprise is how well it sails. Half of her weight is ballast, and it is made of lead. So despite her very shallow draft she is reasonably stable and surprisingly fast. Of the various rigs the ones with larger headsails and smaller mainsails proved to be the faster and more weatherly, at the expense of more work trimming, of course.
The original FRANCES hull is pared away in width below the points where the cabin sole needs width, the fairing radius between keel and hull is tight, and the waterline beam quite narrow. This is obviously a shape without a lot of form stability, so the FRANCES compensated with an unusually low center of gravity― nearly 6” below the waterline.
If I had it to do over again I’d change a few things, hence FRANCES II (Frances the second). The most significant improvement would be to replace the undulating profile shoal draft keel with a much more modern and effective one. With a slightly deeper keel and the “full flow aperture” I developed on the later of my offshore oriented custom designs, FRANCES II will stand up to a whole lot more sail and point much closer to the wind. The flush deck which offered sitting headroom only will give way to a nice looking but smallish deckhouse with full headroom.
I adored my little FRANCES. She was beautiful, well mannered, stable, and just plain fun. Narrow of beam, her sleek lines cut through resistance like a dreadnaught. Point FRANCES toward a destination and she was unstoppable. Her timeless virtues seem to have disappeared from the modern world. They just don’t build ‘em like FRANCES anymore.
But you could, and if you do it should be the slightly longer, wider, heavier, deeper, and more powerfully canvassed version I perfected in my retirement, FRANCES II.
FRANCES II DIMENSIONS:
LOA: 26′ 2″
LWL: 21′ 8″
BEAM: 8′ 4″
DRAFT: 4’ 3″
DISPLACEMENT, 1/2 load: 7,350 lbs
BALLAST (lead): 3,500 lbs
SAIL AREA (IMS): 357 sq ft
DISPL/L RATIO: 323
SAIL AREA/DISP RATIO: 16.76
HULL SPEED: 6.2 KT.
FRANCES II embodies all the improvements I could think up in 39 years. She carries a taller rig with a masthead genoa. Her house provides full headroom and has a neat extension aft of the mast for storing deck gear. The keel is a little deeper, much shorter fore and aft, and has a narrower trailing edge than the original one making it far more efficient. The rudder is deep and partially balanced, so helm forces are minimal. The ballast ends up deeper than the original version, making FRANCES II one of the stiffest designs for her size my studio ever designed!
The original FRANCES is an imperfect, classic design. She’s comparable in many ways to an MGTD or a J3 Cub. They spewed oil and weren’t very fast by today’s standards, but they were so cute and stylish that owners have enjoyed every minute of their use for decades. With nearly 40 years to think about an upgrade, FRANCES II approaches perfection!
Study plans are available for US$ 40.00, Full plans without loftings or offsets for US$ 675.00 and full plans including a full-size mylar hull lofting and right to build for US$ 2500.00
PDF Plans: $25
no shipping, sent via email
Printed Plans: $40
plus shipping: $6.05 in US
Further information may be obtained from:
Tenants Harbor, Maine 04860-0114