Symbol Yachts - no replacement for displacement

Symbol 59
Symbol Yachts has launched a new range of Classic power boats designed by Jack Sarin. With their deeper keel, semi displacement hull and long waterline length, the boats are specifically designed for extended passages or ocean crossing.

Powerboat-World spoke to Symbol’s Jamie MacPhail about why the new designs were ideally suited to long distance cruising.

‘Symbol, through Jack’s involvement, is building comfortable offshore passage boats. They’re not the sort of boats that you’re likely to buy because you want to go from Rose Bay to Manly, or across Port Phillip Bay…not to say that they won’t do that job quite well.’

‘But they are specifically designed for long distance passages, and are for customers who want to spend extended time on their boats. They’re more like a home away from home.’

Symbol Yachts was founded in 1982 by CEO Jimmy Cheng. Based in Taiwan, the company prides itself on putting craftsmanship, quality and skill above cost cutting measures. Their 110,500 square ft yard is well known for its production of large luxury power boats, trawlers and pilothouse yachts.

Jack Sarin teamed up with Symbol in 1998 and became their exclusive designer.

‘If you look at Jack’s history and his design portfolio, its probably fair to say that if he’s not the most prolific and most popular US based power boat designer, then he’s certainly in the top two or three. He developed a reputation as being one of the principal designers of passage boats, for both family and commercial use.’

Symbol’s new Classic range includes 51, 55 and 59ft passage cruisers. Jamie MacPhail says that it is Sarin’s hull forms which make the boats so comfortable, sea kindly and stable. He identified three key features of the hull that significantly contributes to the boat’s ease of handling, and comfort at sea; displacement, keel shape and depth, and waterline length.

‘The principle feature is displacement. The term ‘there’s no replacement for displacement’ is a bit of a cliché, but it’s very accurate when it comes to boats that are comfortable and safe offshore. Light displacement boats get thrown around a lot, particularly when you’re going through breaking waves or if the seaway is very confused.’

‘Obviously the more a boat gets thrown around the less comfortable it is for any passengers inside that boat.’

‘So heavy displacement boats, certainly from an ocean going or passage making point of view, are a much more comfortable boat to be on in most offshore conditions.’

Symbol 59 saloon


The second feature of the Classics that MacPhail identified as important to handling was the long keel.

‘It certainly helps the boat track. Tracking on the boat, when you’re talking about a boat of 60ft length, is probably not that crucial because the waterline length of the boat, and the chines of the boat, tend to assist the boat in its ability to track in a straight direction.’

‘The long keel gives the boat more stability, because it adds displacement and weight lower down. If you compare it to a yacht, the more lead you put on the bottom of a yacht, and the lower the lead is… the more stable and the more sea kindly the boat becomes.’

‘And it works exactly the same way on a powerboat. If you’ve got two storeys of powerboat above the water, then proportionally, without calculating it, you probably need half a storey to ¾ of a storey below the waterline together with suitable displacement.’

‘The deeper the keel, and the more surface area and displacement that the keel actually generates, the more comfortable the boat will be.’

The keel performs a secondary function of protecting the propellers and drive shaft in the event of an unforseen grounding.

‘Certainly on sand or coral, unless you’re unlucky enough to have something miss the keel and hit the props, that’s always possible, but if you run aground on a relatively flat surface, the reality is you’re not going to damage the boat all that much.’

‘You’ll bounce up and down on the keel, and the keels are structured to take a grounding, but you’re not going to damage props and shafts, which of course are the crucial to the operation and safety of the boat.’

The third important feature is the boat’s actual waterline length as a proportion of the overall hull length.

‘A lot of powerboats nowadays have got long raking bows and extended transoms, where the structure of the boat extends way past the true hull length of the boat.’ This is typical of a planning design where wetted surface is designed to a minimum because of performance demands.

‘That’s not necessarily a good thing for a displacement, or a semi displacement or a passage style boat. The reason being is that the longer waterline you can present to the sea, the more sea kindly the boat becomes.’

Symbol 59


MacPhail is critical of the number of planing hulled designs being marketed as comfortable long distance vessels in the power boat market. He was particularly critical of boats which looked like traditional cruisers above the waterline, but have a shallow displacement planing hull below, referring to them as ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing.’

‘The planing boat hull forms are not generally accepted to be particularly good passage or offshore boats. The reason being the hull forms are designed to perform at speed, (approximately) 18-25 knots. When the weather gets rough…it can be pretty much impossible to achieve those sort of speeds.’

‘Planing hulls rely on the pressure that the speed generates on the chines to give the boat stability. And when you back off to a point where you’re actually at displacement or semi-displacement speed, the boat’s not going quick enough to generate pressure on chines, so it can’t generate the stability that the designers have designed into the hull form.’

‘A planing boat that gets caught in very rough conditions that has to slow down to maybe 8-10 knots is inherently a very uncomfortable place to be because they get thrown around so much. And because of the weight of the boat, there’s very little resistance in the hull form or inbuilt stability to stop the boat getting thrown around or rocked excessively.’


The clear thinking that went into the hull design has extended into the ‘people first’ philosophy of the interior layout. MacPhail says that the way the internal space is arranged makes the boat a safe, comfortable and social place to be.

‘The layouts of our boats provide access and passage ways and levels that allow the whole of the family to get to the bridge of the boat. The bridge on our boats is only 4 or 5 steps from the pilot house. So access to the bridge is not only very easy, but it’s also very comfortable.’

Behind the pilot house is the galley, with the saloon a few steps down and aft.

‘When the weather gets rough you can drive the boat from the 'Pilot House', a position that’s lower to the water, it’s fully protected, and you’ve got close to 270 degree view. It’s also an area of the boat where the rest of the family can be alongside the person that’s steering the boat.’

‘So when it gets really rough, everyone’s in the same place…It becomes a conversation pit, as distinct from sending someone somewhere to drive the boat where they’re remote or they’re out of the way.’

He points out that proximity of the skipper to the rest of the crew is also an important safety consideration.

‘You’re still in a place where people can see you. So if you fell over and hit your head, or hurt yourself, you’re going to get seen. It’s not going to happen remotely somewhere where your family or your partner or whoever is not going to see you.’

Symbol 59 galley


The Classic galleys are well appointed with granite or Corian bench tops, flush mounted twin stainless steel sinks, German made Liebherr fridges and Kleenmaid induction cook tops.

‘The galleys are set up pretty much like mo
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