49′ 1961 Philip Rhodes Cutter
“Thunderhead fully lived up to her owner’s expectations for she proved to be tremendously comfortable, extremely handsome, and highly competitive… she collected a mine of silver and pewter mugs, which is remarkable when you consider that she is a heavy, comfortable cruising boat… a sample year illustrates the point: in 1966 she was first in class and second overall in the Vineyard Race: first to finish, first in class and first overall in the City Island Day Race. first to finish, first in class, and first overall in the Port Washington Two-man race…”
Richard Henderson, the author of Philip Rhodes and his yacht designs, describes the seeming contradiction of Philip Rhodes masterful 49’ 1961 Abeking and Rasmussen built mast-head cutter Thunderhead, she is at once a fast, pedigreed, highly successful race boat and a beamy, exceptionally comfortable family cruiser.
Designed in 1959 on commission from Paul Hoffman, the owner of 1938 double-ended Rhodes cutter Hother, Thunderhead was to retain many of Hother’s unique design features, be more spacious, comfortable, and (as Hoffman was a keen racer) faster. After extensive tank testing they settled on the hull shape that would be Thunderhead. It’s not just her beamy, keel centerboard, clipper bow hull shape that set her apart from her contemporaries, she has a number of innovative design features that feel commonplace today but were cutting edge in the early 60s.
Thunderhead has a mast head cutter rig with a removable inner forestay, proportionally large foretriangle for carrying big headsails, and a high-aspect mainsail with lots of roach. Her clipper bow adds foredeck space for sail handling and reserve buoyancy to avoid burying the bow when sailing offshore. She carries her beam quite far aft which adds considerable stability off the wind and creates more living space in the interior. Her hard dodger and deep, split-level cockpit offer good protection from the weather, great visibility from the helm and excellent sailing ergonomics. All the controls are perfectly at hand and the deck gear well spec’d.
Sacrificing no space to crew quarters or a cordoned off galley, Thunderhead’s interior is distinctly open and modern. The location of the curved primary companion way, forward of the aft bulkhead and offset to stb’d, allows for a large U shaped, full width settee around the centerboard trunk at the aft end of the salon. The galley is well equipped and laid out with a centerline sink, three burner Luke propane stove and ample refrigeration and freezer space. There’s a proper offset double berth in the owner’s cabin, three nice sea berths tucked under the side decks and loads of storage. Abeking and Rasmussen’s famous build quality and attention to detail is very much on display.
She was set up for a circumnavigation in the early 2000s. traveled to Ireland, Portugal and the Mediterranean before returning to Maine via the Caribbean and remains unusually well equipped for a classic boat of her size with two rigs (one carbon, one sitka spruce) a water maker, Espar heater, engine driven crash pump, a new electrical system and instruments… Under her current ownership since 2014 she’s been fastidiously maintained and systematically upgraded (detailed below).
Thunderhead is a favorite here at Rockport Marine because of her versatility, masterful design, exceptional build quality and unconventional beauty. She’s placed well in the Eggemoggin Reach Regatta over the years and has the potential to be a serious competitor in the increasingly popular Classic CRF (post 1950) division of the New England classic regatta series. 60 years after her build she continues to be, just as Philip Rhodes intended, a near perfect cruiser/racer.
-Draft: 5’6” up 9’11” down
-Displacement: 17 tons
-Significant bottom work at RMI in ‘95 – refastening, new hull strapping and re-planked from the tuck to the keel
Under current ownership since 2013
-Replaced all wiring, electrical panel and batteries – 2017
-New nav./electronics package – 2014
-Seafrost Fridge/Freezer – 2015
-Espar heater – 2014
-Major engine service – 2017
-Wooded all exterior varnish – 2016
-New prop, engine starter – 2021
-Topsides paint, exterior varnish and bottom paint – 2021
-mahogany planking above the water line, teak below
-white oak frames reinforce through the turn of the bilge with bronze strapping,
-white oak backbone
-Westerbeke 64A4 – 63 HP diesel engine – new in ’05, overhauled 2017, under 1000 hrs.
-dripless shaft seal
-1” stainless prop shaft
-3 blade bronze MaxProp
-1.88:1 reduction gear
2 x Raymarine HybridTouch MFD plotter (on deck and nav. station)
Raymarine wind instruments
Simrad VHF with deck repeater
Simrad auto pilot ST6001
Iridium Sat Phone
Mastervolt charging system 2017
Sinewave Xantrex inverter 2017
4 house 8D and 2 engine start batteries
BlueSea electrical panel
110v Hot water heater
4 burner Luke propane stove
Seafrost fridge and freezer 2015
Espar kerosene heating system 2014
Fusion Audio stereo system
12v freshwater pump
2 x 49 gal. Stainless fuel tanks
3 x stainless water tanks 100 gal. capacity
1 x 20 gal polyethylene blackwater tank
Sails (for 62′ wooden rig):
Main – Maine Sailing Partners – 2014
Genoa – Doyle 2020
UPS (Asymetric Spinnaker) – Doyle 2020
Spars, Rigging and Deck Gear:
1 x 70′ Carbon (2 spreader) mast and boom with rod rigging
1 x 62′ Sitka Spruce (2 spreader) mast, boom and spin pole with SS wire rigging
2 x bronze Barient #32 ST;
2 x bronze Barient #28 ST;
2 x bronze Barient #40 ST primaries (electric)
Mast winches : bronze Lewmar #16 ST; two Lewmar #22 ST
Engine driven crash pump
Sailing Photos by John Williams.
Mooring shots by Alison Langley.