How to choose an engine for a regatta and cruise sail boat

Author: Mónica Lorenzo

Many boats have two lives: On summer they are a cozy apartment and transport vehicle for the whole family amusement, but on winter they have an exciting job that is to help owner to participate and win the social and off shore regatta.

Like, for example, this boat that did participate at the Catalan Regatta Cup at Club Nàutico de Vilanova. (video with english subtitles)

Sometimes this boats need to change the engine, need a repower. This sailboat repower is a very good opportunity to optimize the boat and get the most of it. Most of the repowered boats (boats that change her engine) are from the 70, 80 and 90’s, boats that were far bellow the power they really needed to ensure its performance. Today we can access to lighter and more powerful marine engines on smaller designs.

How to choose a new engine for a cruiser – racer sail boat.

The boat’s design

The first we have to consider to choose the new engine for the sailboat is the waterline length and displacement. The longest, or heaviest, we will need more CV (power) on the engine. We must consider the weight difference between winter and summer (or between use of race and use cruise ) and always opt for a power that allows us maneuverability, power and control at the time when the ship goes loaded.


The engine for a cruice – race sailboat

The main thing is that the engine for the racing boat suits the bench, that is, we must look for manufacturers of marine engines with kits to adapt to the bench or that they have the ability to design them. Thus, besides reducing by 80 % the cost of installation of the engine, we keep the lines and proportions of the original ship.

It is likely that the new engine provides us more power with less weight (the new designs of marine engines are lighter ), or the same weight as the original gets more power. Is it worth sacrificing power by putting a lighter engine? The first issue is that we will modify the original floating line of the boat and we will have to analyze how does that affect the polars. Also, sometimes the boat will go loaded of water, fuel, food… So the new engine must be able to respond to any weather conditions or complicated maneuver in port when our family is on board. And when racing the engine must be able to pull the strength of a working sail, if necessary on an spinnaker emergency for example.

A very easy maintenance marine engine ensures navigation hours and less investment to the mechanic. We should choose easy repair engines with little electronic and easy access to main components ( impeller water pump , oil filter , belt … )
Make sure the manufacturer has a wide network of technical services, mainly in our navigation area. Also confirm the delivery times for spare parts and accessories. To avoid missing the race by a minor engine maintenance.
Find providers also that can provide the full line of accessories for the fuel line, gases line and water line… That way you will hace compatible pieces with a high quality level and will keep the budget low.

If we will mainly sail by sail, the working hours of the engine will be at low or medium loads, so if we choose an engine without turbo we may find less functional problems and fewer breakdowns. Although engine like the Mini -55 that are specially designed for sailboats, are able to reduce the size and provide more power precisely because of the marine turbo.

Also it is probable that our engine is turned off most of the time, but when we need it it must immediately react, so an engine with little electronic will have les maintenance.

An engine with an even cylinders number, it will be more stable, and if it is a low vibration engine it will damage less the hull and rigging. To reduce vibrations is important to choose good silenblocks, better steel and synthetic rubber, as it has better capacity for absorbing vibration frequencies than natural.

We must choose a marine engine manufacturer that is able to personalize the engine’s design during the fabrication process and marination, since we will have special needs. A manufacturer that is able to respond to our peculiarities and adapts to us, keeping the budget low.


Propulsion line

If we have a Saildrive boat, it can be a heavier transmission. We might think at this point to change it for a shaft.
If we are using shafts, the new steel AISIC329 shafts are much stronger, which allows reducing the shaft’s diameter obtaining the same performance. Less weight.
It is wise to do the tightness with rubber stuffing box Volvo type  that does not need adjustments. You avoid having to replace and adjust the rings.
Choose foldable propellers, that we must have always as clean as possible.


Electrical power

Big alternator. We want to be able to charge the batteries as fast as possible, with little time with the engine on. This batteries are the ones providing power to all the electronics we use for sailing, the light for the night shifts… A bigger alternator is little weigh added to the engine and allows us to faster load the batteries, also saving fuel.

We can think about installing an analogical – digital conversor NMA2000 to be able to monitor all the engine’s information on any multi-purpose screen.



You might be also interested on:

How to prevent emergencies due marine engine damage
DIY marine engine maintenance
How to paint a propeller
When to repower a sailboat?

Visit the catalog on marine spare parts and accessories for the engine maintenance in our web


This post is also available in: Spanish

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *