There are inventions that change the course of history, others that pass by quietly. The latter is certainly not the case with the Bertram 31, the first hull of the yard of the same name and the boat that changed the world of motor boating forever.
Bertram 31 (9.4 m), the first real Bertram, a cult Classic Boat
Cabin and just under nine and a half meters long, innovative and marine like few others, the Bertram 31 is indeed a boating legend, a resounding success, and the first mass-produced demonstration of the goodness of deep-V hulls. Signed by the great Ray Hunt, it was actually born somewhat by coincidence, the child of a chance meeting between Richard Bertram and a small 23-footer gliding in the Newport formed sea.
It all starts in 1958, with Richard Bertram’s sailing commitments. In Newport, Rhode Island, they were, in fact, undergoing trials for the America’s Cup, in which Bertram was taking part with the 12M Vim. Here, on a day when wind and sea gave no one peace of mind, he happened to see a small 23-footer parading alongside, as fast as few and with a seaworthiness never seen on a powerboat.
It was a small tender designed by Ray Hunt (the same as Boston Whaler) for his other project, Easterner, one of the contenders for the trials of that America’s Cup. Bertram cannot resist and, back at the dock, questions Hunt about it. From the conversation he realizes the genius behind this design, a deep V hull that continues starry toward the stern, and commissions a 30-foot wooden 30-foot deep V hull from Hunt. Thus was born the Moppie, Bertram’s personal boat.
If Bertram had been exclusively a sailor the story would have ended here. But Bertram was also a great offshore racing enthusiast, winning the 1956 and 1957 editions of the Miami-Nassau. Crucial detail for the birth of our Bertram 31. In fact, chatting with his Offshore partner, Sam Griffith, they explore the goodness of Hunt’s new hull designed for the Moppie, realizing how much such a design would pay off in just such a racing context.
The Moppie is thus entered in the 1960 Miami-Nassau, characterized by rough seas and winds between 15 and 20 knots. He comes out far and away the winner, far beyond pure competition. Indeed, the success is such that everyone wants a Moppie. Bertram took the long view, founded the Bertram Yacht Company and, using the Moppie as a male, created molds for a mass-produced version, now in fiberglass. Thus was born the Bertram 31, first unveiled in 1961 at the New York National Boat Show.
Bertram 31 – Project
The offspring of Hunt’s original design, the Bertram 31 is made of molded fiberglass, a material in its infancy in boating in those very early 1960s. The advantages are obvious: weight containment, high structural strength, resistance to water and corrosion, and finishes capable of not only high hydrodynamics, but also of being molded down to the smallest dimensions.
In terms of water lines, the V-deep hull has an innovative 23° deadrise because it is not limited to the forward section, keeping the hull starry all the way to the transom, rather than flattening past the midsection. The addition of longitudinal skids, another novelty, then offered greater lift to the volumes, also helping to keep the boat dry by deflecting spray externally. All qualities that, combined with brilliant weight distribution, were able to contribute to the hull’s incredible marine success.
Looking at the exterior, the 31 was also an innovative boat in terms of space and versatility of use. The cockpit is large and spacious, ideal for both family and friends outings as well as fishing trips, so much so that among its various versions, it also has models intended for the latter use specifically, complete with live bait tanks, rod holders and, optionally, a tuna tower.Overhanging the cockpit, an open cabin structure provides shelter for the wheelhouse and convivial areas, thus covering the table, various seats and the settee.
Innovative was the decision to surround the space by large windows, a solution that, however, needs a smaller fly to contain the weights that this open structure would have to support. Of course, as the years go by, the various configurations and modifications also vary, seeing different flybridge as well as furniture solutions appear.
In terms of interiors, the layout includes a central dinette, protected in the cabin, which was accompanied to starboard by the wheelhouse and, toward the stern, the galley, complete with sink, stove, and refrigerator. Proceeding toward the bow, however, was a separate toilet, complete with shower and sink, and beyond that a V-shaped cabin for two people. Depending on the specific configurations and vintages, the dinette itself was itself convertible into a cabin for two, thanks to a system that takes advantage of the table and double sofas.
Bertram 31 | Data Sheet*.
|Length Over All (LOA)||9.32 / 9.45 m|
|Baglio Massimo (B.Max)||3.4 m|
|Dive||0.82 / 1.1 m|
|Displacement||4.5 / 5.5 t|
|Maximum Speed||34 kn|
*During production over 20 years, specifications vary with various updates and/or according to the versions under consideration. Indicative data are provided here
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