Valiant 40 Review: The Original Performance Cruiser

Valiant 40 PDF Brochure (Click to Download)

The Valiant 40 is known as the first performance cruiser. Valiant started when Bob Perry, Nathan Rotham, and the Dabneys met. The Dabneys were looking for a fast cruising design instead of the Westsail 32 genre. The Westsail 32 is a great cruiser but also a “wet slug” – slow in light airs. Perry was an up and coming designer, and Rotham an ambitious business kid. In 1972, they stumbled together at Jay Benford’s Ferrocement boatyard. Soon later, they were talking design. The Dabneys had an Islander 36, a fast sloop. Their dream boat was a cruiser with the performance of their Islander. Perry had been thinking along the same way for some time. Why do all cruising boats have to be slow? Dabney, Perry, and Rothman struck across a Scandanavian boat “Holga Dansk” in Soundings magazine. Perry started drawing the lines with the Dabneys input. By 1974, Perry was ready. The Dabneys wanted one built. And Rotham was looking for resin.

Rotham went on a trip to talk to all the local Seattle boat makers. No one was interested in selling resin. It was the oil embargo. Finally, Rotham stumbled into Uniflite. They had resin and would even build the Valiant 40. They were finally on their way. And quickly she was a hit. They launched her at the 1975 boat show in Seattle. “People said you are so cute. You’ll never make. Now we’re still around, and they’re gone,” notes Sylvia Dabney. By 1978, they sold fifty a year. In 1980, two Valiant owners, Sam Dick and Dane Nelson, bought Valiant. They had asked Rotham to build a pilothouse version. Because he would not, they said “well, we’ll make one ourselves.” So, they bought the company and made ten.

In 1984 the Uniflite went out of business due to the well known fire retardant resin issues. A class action lawsuit brought down the building. Texas Valiant dealer, Rich Worstell, moved production to his yard on Lake Texomas where it continues to today. He built 200 V-40’s until 1992. In 1992, they added a 2-foot bow sprite and offered the V-42. She has the same hull design and about 70 have been built on a semi-custom basis.

Valiant 40 Pilot

First Impressions
She is the classic looking cruiser, a double-ender. Perry always liked canoe sterns he says. The buttocks lines extend well aft compared to less aesthetically pleasing sterns. Perry carried the buttocks as flat and far as he could and then tucked and rolled them abruptly upward into the sheer. She has serious tumblehome. The bow is based on Garden’s Bolero design, Perry says. It is a sharp entry that broad opens making for a very dry boat. The cabin trunk is a little uninspired “the shoebox on a banana look.” Her cockpit is all the way aft sunk into the canoe stern. While stylish, the real difference was the radical new lines below the water. They combined the classic Norwegian folkboat look with the best ideas in racing – a fin keel and skeg hung rudder. The keel and skeg are low aspect, the forefoot deep. The pilothouse evolution added large, fast looking windows. and not too high a cabin trunk. She has single spreader mast with two lower and one upper shrouds. A single back stay attaches aft. Valiant 40’s were built on a semi-custom basis so some have teak handrails while others stainless. There’s a cowl vent forward and two more on the trunkcabin amidships. The 42’s have a 2-foot bowsprit and more modern looks like aluminum toerails and stainless handrails.

Valiants have external lead keels and solid, heavy fiberglass hulls. As one surveyor sought soft spots, a broker laughed, “Good luck. These things were built like tanks.” Clients sometimes explain their preferences saying, “I’m looking for heavy layup boats like the Valiant 40.” The Valiant 40 is almost a standard in itself of tough offshore quality construction. The frames, floors, and stringers are formidable. The deck is balsa cored with solid glass around the fixtures. The keel is external lead. The skeg is separate steel frame encased in fiberglass and fastened to the hull. And that reputation is despite probably the worst construction mistake made by any builder. Uniflite built her between 1975 and 1983. All the pilothouse versions are between 1980 and 1981. These 10 pilothouse versions are rare and prized but all unfortunately blister boats. Boats built between 1977 and 1981 have a fire retardant resin which badly blisters. As one owner says on repairing these boats, “Never ever do it.”

Valiant 40 Construction Details

What To Look For
Of all boats, Valiants from 1978-1981 are perhaps the only to be so badly blistering to be worthless. To blame was a fire-retardant resin and fiberglass sizing. Whatever the reasons, the Valiant name took a hit. Over the years in the early 1990’s, many owners decided to attempt to redo the hull of their beloved blister boat. Mark Lennox is a yard in Annapolis which did many. Another yard in Vero did a couple. But, they all will tell you, “It is a thing you should never do.” Buy another V-40. It is less expensive. The redoing process consists of undoing the hull until you can “see though it like a pane of glass.” Then, you let her sit for 9 months in the hot sun to dry out. Then, you relay up fiberglass and preferably, vinylester resin. Finish it off with a gel coat. The deck is the worst part. Along with redoing the hull, make sure the hull has also be relaid or that will continually blister.

Early V-40’s had the traveler aft of the cockpit. This arrangement tended to increase weather helm, and Valiant moved the traveler to in front of the cockpit. If you are looking at a mid 1970’s, this has probably been changed. Other 1970’s V-40’s have an inferior partially foam keel. The pilothouse versions are rare prize on the market. These came with optional inside hydraulic steering. Uniflite built all ten in 1980-1981, and all ten were blister boats. It is unknown how many are left. They have interesting single stateroom layouts without the common aft cabin. Instead the galley is aft while the saloon settee pulls out into a tremendous king sized berth. The 40/42’s come in shoal and deep versions. The shoal is 5’6″ while the deep is slightly over 6′.

On Deck
V-42’s have a two foot bowsprit. Some late model 40’s have this as well. One such owner whispered, “Don’t tell anybody but this is really a 42. Then the marine will charge you for another two feet.” This bowsprit is the only real difference. Perry’s biggest regret is the mast location on the V-40’s. He says that the mast on the V-40’s is too far aft and creates excessive weather helm. On the pilothouse versions he had a change to fix this issue. “I’ve always felt that the pilothouse version is easier to balance than the original 40,” Perry says in his autobiographical book Design According To Perry. He moved the mast on these 2 feet forward essentially substituting a sloop rig for the cutter. The V-42 completed this change with her bowsprit.

These aft cockpit boats with a cockpit molded into the canoe stern. That makes for a roomy and dry cockpit aft that comfortably seats eight. The oversized rigging attaches to the outer sidedecks. This makes for a secure but tight walk forward. The genoa tracks go well aft and are easy to adjust although mounted along the deck and annoying to step on. There is not a single lazarette on deck. In the cockpit the combings open in four different sections for storage and engine access. Perry says he made an error on the pilot version, and this might be is “the most difficult-to-build cockpit in the history of fiberglass-production boats.” He did not take into account the need for locker hinges on the pilot to match the regular V-40’s locations for easy construction.

Valiant 40 Pilot Layout (Note: Single Stateroom)

Down Below
Valiant 40’s came in different interior layouts. One has an aft cabin design with a portside Pullman. The galley may be forward or aft the saloon. There can be two heads. On another version, the design has the galley aft an enlarged saloon and single head. The saloon steps down into the forward head and v-berth. According to Stan Dabney, “None of the pilothouse versions have the aft berth.” Instead the galley is aft with an enlarged raised saloon. These are one stateroom boats. Clients ask, “Well what do you if you have guests?” The settee does fold out into a king size berth. Perry’s original drawings show a starboardside captain’s berth and the head forward as a never produced layout for the pilothouses. Headroom in the V-40’s is not tremendous. Even in the pilothouse, it is only 6’3″ in the center tapering to 6’0″ at the sides. Forward with the step down, headroom goes up to 6’4″ in the master stateroom. If you are tall, V-40’s are not that comfortable.

Engine and Underway
Some or all of the original engines were 50 HP Westerbekes. These had aluminum heads and according to a yard manager, “Are worthless now and were worthless when they came out.” Hopefully, a V-40 has a Yanmar. These are V-drives engines, and the access is disappointing. From down below, access is minimal from the starboardside and through the companionway. Access from the cockpit lockers is available. Perry mentions that the V-40’s bow is too broad. She is known to hobby horse. Always critical, Perry talks at length is his book about the problems of the V-40 design. He says the bow is were he went wrong and should have made finer although this would make her wetter. Another problem is the mast location being too far aft which creates unbalance. On later version, he corrected this fault while all have the same bow. “This flare and fullness in the bow makes the Valiant a fast-reaching boat when it heels and begins to immerse those meaty, high-volume forward sections.”

I was out recently on a seatrial of a pilothouse V40. We went out the Port Everglades cut with light winds steady at 6 knots. Upwind at a close reach of 60 degrees, we held 3 knots with a comfortable motion. “Oh yes, these boats will surprise you” another broker mentioned. She performed surprisingly well in light air, proving herself as the performance cruiser. Downwind we motorsailed at 6 knots with just the jib out. In heavy weather, the owner mentioned that, “I have been in rough weather with nigh but a handkerchief out on the jib and cruised along a 7 knots.” The waterline speed of a V40 is about 8 knots.

The V-40 is one of the most influential designs of our time – the original performance cruiser. One of the best resources for Valiant information are the Dabneys, nowadays with their own yacht brokerage, Offshore Atlantic, in Hobe Sound, FL. They have always have a couple V40’s for sale which usually range from $80,000 to $140,000.


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