Sparkman & Stephens 34 Sail Plan
Of all the Sparkman and Stephens production yachts, the S&S 34 has become the most celebrated and perhaps the most successful; no small feat given Sparkman and Stephens’ status as one of the world’s most prestigious and long lived yacht design offices. At the time, designer Olin Stephens (1908-2008) said, “We hope and believe that the S&S 34 will make a good all-round boat, so as to demonstrate in a fairly small package that a good boat for offshore racing will also be a good boat for cruising.”

The words were quite prophetic, the S&S 34 had a successful career as an IOR racer before becoming the boat choice for single-handed record breaking, and eventually earning a great reputation as a blue water cruising boat. The boat has legendary seaworthiness and is a joy to sail being beautifully balanced and easy to single hand.


The S&S 34 was conceived shortly after Olin Stephens designed the 1967 and 1970 Americas Cup victor Intrepid which interestingly was the first 12 Metre to have a separate rudder and keel, an innovation the S&S 34 retained. The design was commissioned in 1968 by a British yachtsman by the name of Michael Winfield. His boat Morningtown was a 36 foot wooden one tonner designed for RORC racing, it impressed him so much he asked Sparkman and Stephens to prepare plans for a production boat. The S&S 34 was the result. The first boat produced was Morning Cloud which went on to win its class in the Sydney Hobart in 1969.

Stephens recounts Winfield, “He set up shop in England, I’m not sure how many he built, a dozen or so, but he was not an experienced boat builder, and he didn’t continue the work. The moulds and tooling were sold to some other builder there, and they built a few more there.”

Thus Winfield & Partners sold one of its two molds to a boatbuilding concern called Aquafibre who continued production until 1974. These hulls were often finished by other boatyards. Some boats found their way to the US where they were sold as the Palmer Johnson 34.

However it was in Australia that the S&S prospered. Downunder, the second set of Winfield molds were owned by Swarbrick Brother Yachts in Western Australia and between the years of 1969 – 1984 the three Swarbrick brothers Tom, Terry and Harley built 34 boats. The company eventually failed under bankruptcy and the molds were then sold to Maybrook Marine of NSW in 1986 who produced a further 4 boats over the following three years. The molds were then stored until 2003 when they found their way back to Western Australia by way of Mike Finn of Cottesloe Yachts, and under consultation with Sparkman and Stephens, boat production was adapted to use the latest in foam sandwich with vacuum infusion technology. These new “Constellation” class boats sold by Cottesloe Yachts were introduced in 2004 and are in current production, built by an all new Swarbrick company called Swarbrick and Swarbrick, owned by Tom Swarbrick’s son Glenn. These new boats are 25% lighter in the hull, are physically stiffer, and exhibit better impact strength.

In total, between 50 – 100 boats were built in the UK and Glenn Swarbricks reports 126 boats coming off the mould in Australia, of which 3 are of the latest “Constellation” class boats built with the latest foam-sandwich GRP technology.

Record Breaker

The boat raced successfully, quickly notching up race victories including future British prime minister Ted Heath’s Morning Cloud winning its class in the Sydney Hobart in 1969, before it became the boat of choice for solo circumnavigation attempts.

In 1981 Jon Sanders set out in his S&S 34 Perie Banou to complete a double-circumnavigation via Cape Horn. Sailing non-stop and solo he set 12 world records including longest distance sailed by any yacht, covering 48,510 miles and longest continuous voyage at sea totaling 419 days.

At age 17, David Dicks set out in 1996, to successfully claim the youngest to circumnavigate solo non-stop via Cape Horn, sailing his Mum’s S&S 34, Seaflight. Jesse Martin bettered the record in Lionheart, completing in 1999 aged 18. Inspired by Martin’s journey, Jessica Watson between 2009-2010 completed her own circumnavigation in Ella’s Pink Lady claiming the youngest solo unassisted at age sixteen (a record that held for only 20 months before Laura Dekker’s sailed home in her Ginn Fizz 37 in January 2012, also at age sixteen).

Boat Configuration

The boat has a remarkably modern shape for a design conceived in 1967. Looking down from above, the hull has a definite diamond shape with a fine bow and a narrow stern. The lines show a short waterline, long overhangs, generous tumblehome and for its era, a relatively high freeboard. Below the waterline is a short fin keel, with nearly all the ballast right in the middle of the boat and a skeg-hung rudder near the very aft. In all a very innovative configuration for its day.

The S&S 34 has a relatively tall masthead rig with a high aspect mainsail and an enlarged foresail, a configuration that became popular in racers in the years to come.

Down below, the headroom in the standard Australian cabin is 6′ 1″ which tapers an inch lower at the main bulkhead. There’s a sea-going berth located on the port aft quarter, with a navigation station slightly forward. To starboard is a the galley. Hanging lockers and a head is forward of the saloon and there is a rather tight V-berth at the forepeak with headroom of 5′ 10″.


MkII versions introduced improved hydrodynamic efficiencies with changes to the keel and rudder. The new keel was deeper with a straighter leading edge and an improved aerofoil section, while the rudder changed to a curved spade rudder hung from a smaller skeg.

Rigs came in two options; a cruising rig, and a racing rig, 2ft taller. In the British boats as well as the early Australian boats had the forestay terminated aft of the bow but on the later Australian boats it was taken right to the end of the bow. There were also variations in the rig during the 1980s, where some boats had a keel-stepped mast and others a deck stepped mast with a much larger cross-section.

The standard engine position is located amidships which provides optimal weight distribution helping seagoing motion, some of the later cruising focused boats, after the advent of lighter engines had the engines located under the cockpit.

The original deck moulds from Winfield had the deck recessed below the sheerline which created a toerail, and the cabin was shaped with a doghouse with a lower forward cabin trunk. When Swarbrick Bros acquired the moulds, they opted to build their own deck mould to improve forward headroom. This has resulted in the Australian boats having a flush cabin trunk, and the sharper observer will notice the deck has been raised flush to being level with the sheerline. Another minor change was a slightly truncated bow to fit the forestay tang.

Under Sail

Over 40 years on, the S&S 34 is still a quick boat. The hull is easily driven and by the numbers only 20hp is required to drive the boat at hull-speed, however owners report less in practice.

When the boat was introduced the S&S 34 was regarded as having exceptional speed to windward and in heavy weather. Even today the boat is hard to beat to windward in more than 10 knots, in fact owners have reported throwing in tacks of 80 degrees.

Her 50% ballast ratio results in a stiff boat, with the first reef thrown in at hefty 25 knots of wind. As the boat heels, the waterline length increases significantly; according to Olin’s design spec, the optimum angle of heel is 23.5 degrees, but don’t expect a dry ride, the S&S 34 is a wet boat like most Sparkman & Stephens designs of that era.


LOA: 33′ 7″ (10.23 m.)
LWL: 24′ 2″ (7.37 m.)
Beam: 10′ 1″ (3.07 m.)
Draft MkI: 5′ 10″ (1.78 m.)
Draft MkII: 6′ 0″ (1.83 m.)
Displacement 9,195 lbs. (4180 kg.)
Ballast MkI: 5220 lbs. (2450 kg.)
Ballast MkII: 5081 lbs. (2305 kg.)
Sail area 483 sq. ft.

AS PER SWARBRICK & SWARBRICK (variations dependent on weight of fit-out options)
LOA: 33′ 3″ (10.13 m.)
LWL: 24′ 5″-25′ 3″ ( 7.45-7.7 m.)
Beam: 10′ 1″ (3.07 m.)
Draft MkI: 6′ 1″ (1.85 m.)
Draft MkII: 6′ 4″ (1.92 m.)
Displacement: 11,000-13,000 lbs. (5000-6000 kg.)
Ballast MkI: 5,450 lbs. (2480 kg.)
Ballast MkII: 5,214 lbs. (2365 kg.)
Headroom: 6′ 1″

Designer: Olin Stephens
Year Introduced: 1968
Builder: Winfield & Partners, UK / Aquafibre, UK / Swarbrick Bros, Australia / Swarbrick & Swarbrick, Australia

Buyer Notes

There is an active market for the S&S 34 in Australia, no doubt aided by an active owners association. It’s recommended prospective buyers contact them via their online discussion forum when researching. As of 2010, the asking price of boats is in the range of:
1968-1980 $55k-90k AUD

A new Constellation class boat from Cottlesloe Yachts and built by Swarbrick and Swarbrick, depending on fitout, is in the range of $226k-$330k AUD. Hull and deck kits start at $79k.

Similar Boats

SHE 36

Links, References and Further Reading

» Sparkman & Stephens 34 Association, discussions, articles, news and more.
» Australian Sailing Magazine, Jul 2005, “37 Years Young” by John Roberson, (a historical look at the S&S34)
» Sail Magazine, A Century of Excellent by Peter Nielsen, (a celebration of the S&S 34)
» Wikipedia, Jesse Martin’s circumnavigation
» Sarwick & Sarwick, company website for the new S&S34 Constellation


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13 thoughts on “Sparkman and Stephens 34”

  1. Ken Davis says:

    I’m looking for info on the 1983 Prestige 36 and any comparisons to the great S&S 34 that may be appropriate.
    Thank you.

    1. Frank Gibney says:

      Greetings. I may be able to help out with info on the Prestige 36. Friend of mine owns one built in Fremantle in 83…one of around a dozen. He’s always looking for more background as well. Thanks much and best, Frank Gibney

  2. michael kildea says:

    The Duncanson 34 is an excellent Sea Boat. It is very sturdily built. If you are looking for a safe cruising boat with a good turn of speed I can recommend the Duncanson 34. The later designed Duncanson 34’s have more room inside the cabin area than the S&S 34. The deck is wider. The cockpit area has been designed to take wheel steering and there is a genuine feeling of being snug and secure with easy access to the winches. The Duncanson 34 is a beautifully balanced boat, it hunts down the wind when sailing to winward. When going downwind it tracks well. All in all the Duncanson 34 is a great alternative to the S&S 34.

    Michael Kildea( Phoenix 7)

    1. KEITH VASS says:

      I love your site and especially the info on the S&S 34 which mentions my boat but sorry that the Duncanson 35 does not feature on your site in it’s own right.

      My Duncanson 35 is different in that it has a similar coach roof to the S&S instead of the usual flush deck versions.
      I would be very interested in the history of the Duncanson 35 hull moulds as there are obviously more than one hull shape.
      The attached Excel file shows two boats which are both “Duncanson 35’s” but have obviously come from different moulds?

      My hull was built by Barry Quin Marine of Port Adelaide (in 1985) after John Duncanson had reportedly gone broke. The only point of difference I can find between my boat and an S&S 34 is the position of the Rudder which on my boat is right aft and flush with the transom. Otherwise the hull shape is closer to the S&S 34 than the traditional Duncanson 35 with a flush deck?

  3. Dan Ger says:

    Obviously a man of fine taste and distinction 🙂

  4. Nicholas says:

    I want one!

  5. John Cove says:

    Very interested to find this site. I bought S&S 34 ‘Buran’ K2498 in about 1972 and owned her for 14 years, cruising extensively in UK, N.France and Biscay areas. She was built by Aquafibre and I thought the hull was very strongly constructed. I never had any osmosis problems.
    Normally my wife and I were the sole crew and we never came across any boat of that size that could outsail us to windward in a strong breeze. With a single reef in the main,the no.2 genoa and 30 knots of apparent wind on the indicator she simply flew.
    I see on your site the comments about being a wet boat but that was not really my impression as the shape of the bow sent the solid stuff well clear and what came aboard was mostly spray whipped by the wind off the bow wave.
    The only time she took solid water on deck was in mid Channel in the middle of the night doing about 8 knots with the wind dead aft and the indicator fluctuating between 45 and 50 knots of wind. I had to sit down in the water which was washing over the foredeck to get the jib down and decided there was no way I was going back up there to set the storm jib so carried on under double reefed mainsail. She was very heavy on the helm like that but we carried on into Cherbourg without incident.
    Buran had the MD2 engine amidships and because the prop was well forward of the rudder there was no turning effect on the rudder when you engaged gear. You had to have steerage way going ahead before you could do anything with her. Consequently I found that if there was a beam wind and you wanted to come out of a marina berth into a narrow approach channel and turn to windward it was impossible to achieve steerage way before the wind had taken your bow down to leeward so you were back in your berth again. The solution to this was to exit the marina in reverse as she was totally under control all the time that way.
    I only sold her because of business commitments and later when I had more time I nearly bought another but someone beat me to her. So now I have a Catalina S&S 38 which is a very similar sort of boat but bigger and has the same sailing characteristics.

    1. Andy Dell says:

      Buran now belongs to a good friend of mine Brian Greenall. She winters at Glasson Dock Marina near Lancaster and has a summer mooring at Loch Aline on the Sound of Mull. Best pointing boat I ever sailed!!!

  6. Tony Hegedus says:

    I sailed in my late teen and early 20’s and now that i am approching my 60’s i am looking for a good solid 30+ft yacht that will be suitable for crusing the pacific and further afield,you mentioned a couple of different 34’s and i will research these is there anywhere else you could suggest i start looking. Thanks Tony Hegedus 0417 551 301

  7. Simon Torvaldsen says:

    The boat was originally designed under RORC rules (ie pre IOR). However, Olin had a hand in designing the IOR rule proclaimed in 1969 and so knew what was coming, and the S&S 34 was designed with this in mind.  Some IOR features have been left behind over the years – the mainsail was originally very short footed and there was a 160% genoa option – the IOR rules favoured this but it is not as efficient and over time the 11′ boom has been lengthened to 12’6 and no-one uses more than a 150% genoa.  In winds over about 18-20 knots true (less when cruising) we use the #3 which has a 105% overlap

    Unless racing hard, most owners would in fact consider a reef in less than a steady 25knots, but it is true that the gung ho racers can hold on and sail very effectively in up to 25 knots (or even more) before reefing.  There is always a debate about whether to reef with a #3 jib or got to a #4 before reefing – most seem to reef before changing to the #4 (perhaps it’s less work!)

    It probably takes less than 20hp to get to hull speed on smooth water.  The original Volvo MD2 engine was I think rated at only 15 hp.  Perie Banou III seems to get around fine with on 13hp, although Col Sanders says it is hard work powering into a seaway or stiff breeze.

    The bow is fine (compare to say a Tartan Classic 34 also designed by S&S) as the boat was originally designed as a racer not a cruiser. The fine stern makes a well balanced boat, unlike a similar sized Beneteau/Bavaria etc if overpowered the 34 does NOT round up, but just heels over further. However, we don’t get a whole lot of aft cabin room/double beds etc.

    The waterline length also increases when going downwind – the stern drops down so the the waterline length effectively extends to the very tip of the transom. They do tend to be a bit wetter than modern designs – due to finer fore section and lower freeboard – the trade off is that they don’t pound to windward as most comparable modern flat bottomed designs do.

    It is correct that they are still quick boats.  After 4 days of racing in the 2007 Hobart the new Farr designed “IRC optimised” Beneteau First 34.7 (actually a longer and bigger boat) was only 6 hours ahead over the line and about 3 hours behind on handicap.  The conditions particularly favoured the Farr design. Under more favourable conditions the 34 can actually beat the Beneteau over the line, although on balance the Beneteau is more often slightly ahead.  We regularly beat a well sailed Bavaria 34 over the line on the river.  We can’t beat lightweight planing boats downwind though, at least on smooth water.  Speed hard on the wind is about 61/4 knots.  It is hard to get more than 9-10knots downwind in smooth water without an awful lot of wind, but an S&S 34 has been clocked at 17 knots surfing downwind in the ocean.

    As a matter of interest the comparison with the Tartan 34 Classic is interesting one, this was designed just before the S&S 34, and was built with the USA East Coast in mind, more of a cruiser/racer.  Hence the fuller bow and centerboard.  They have good speed and are reasonably seaworthy I think, but are not as fast or bulletproof as the S&S 34 (but we can’t moor in 4′ of water either).  It shows the same designer designing quite different boats for different purposes.  The offset engine is also of interest as this was a feature Olin used on a number of his designs to improve the interior layout, including the original S&S 34 design.  I think he said the shaft could be offset up to 8 degrees without causing problems under power.

    The closest similar boat is probably the UFO 34 designed by Holman & Pye.  The dimensions and performance are almost identical, they are perhaps slightly quicker than the Mk1 S&S 34 but slightly slower than the Mk2, however, close enough that they can and have raced at times as a combined class.  They were never as popular and didn’t gain quite the reputation for seaworthiness as the S&S 34, but perhaps this is more an accident of fate than reality.

    The Brolga 33 is also very similar,as this was designed as a direct competitor to the 34, with the aim of retaining seaworthiness and increasing internal space at the expense of some sacrifice in performance.  Most would agree that this was achieved.

    The Duncanson 34 is somewhat similar, but never achieved the racing success (I think because it was basically slower and/or didn’t rate as well) and likewise never achieved the same popularity as the S&S 34.  However it has a good reputation as a tough easy to sail cruising boat.

    The Contessa 32 built (still) in the UK is very similar, but slightly smaller and slower.  It has not been updated over the years like the 34 (which makes for a very strong Class Association in the UK).  It has a similar reputation for being seaworthy and bulletproof, backed up by an impressive record.

    There are not many specific points to watch for in buying a second hand boat, just the fact that many are old and tired and need cleaning/painting/refurbishing.  Many were fitted out internally by owners and the standard can vary enormously.  Watch for osmosis (usually relatively minor and fixable) and perhaps loose rudder bearings, as well as the usual mechanical things with old engines, prop shafts, rigs etc.  There have never been any serious structural failings (despite numerous accidents and groundings) and all the boats made are still afloat (although I think one sank after hitting a reef it was subsequently refloated).  One suffered cabin top damage being flung upside down from the top of a wave in a cyclone (later repaired) and one lost a mast in a rollover in the 1998 Hobart race (est wind strength 80-90knots, their instruments were jammed on the stop at 75) and had to motor back to Eden. It is interesting to note that most boats in reasonable condition now sell for more than what they cost to build new.  Not many second hand boats can boast that!

    There is plenty of info and opinions re the 34, I guess it is one of the most influential and significant yacht designs of the 20th century.  I don’t think any other has set so many records or probably sailed as many miles.

  8. John Ayliffe says:

    I own an S&S34, Morning Gold.

    With reference to the Association question of a comparable boat I would suggest the Duncanson 34. I suspect they are a little faster, have more room and perhaps a little more controlable down wind. Similar price on the second hand market.

    I have sailed more miles on the Duncanson and they are good boats of that design era.

  9. John Ayliffe says:

    I own an S&S34, Morning Gold.

    With reference to the Association question of a comparable boat I would suggest the Duncanson 34. I suspect they are a little faster, have more room and perhaps a little more controlable down wind. Similar price on the second hand market.

    I have sailed more miles on the Duncanson and they are good boats of that design era.

  10. Allan Bruce says:

    just read your article on S&S34 website.
    Under specifications:
    Swarbrick & Swarbrick:
    “LOA 31’1″ (10.08m)”

    Suggest needs to be rerchecked, LOA longer than 31’1″ AND 31’1″ is not 10.08m.

    enjoyed article
    best wishes

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