Differences by the numbersThe following information came from two Columbia brochures. One is likely for the original model, which was offered as with a fin keel or with an abbreviated fin and swinging centerboard. The MkIII specifications came from a general Columbia brochure (circa 1974) which included the C-43 MkIII.
KEEL KEEL/CENTERBOARD MkIII LOA 43'3" 43'3" 43'9" LWL 32'8" 33'0" 32'8" BEAM 12'4" 12'4" 12'4" DRAFT 6'11" 4'11"/10'3" 7'0" DISPLACEMENT 22,200 23,500 22,200 BALLAST 10,300 11,600 10,300 SAIL AREA 810 sq ft 810 sq ft 852 sq ft OPTIONAL POWER Palmer M60 50 HP Perkins 4-107 Diesel WATER 48 gal 48 gal 50 gal FUEL 50 gal 50 gal 50 gal VERTICAL CLEARANCE 58'4" 58'4" 64'4" DESIGNER Wm Tripp
Keel differencesThe big difference between the three Marks is in the keels. The Mark I has a cast-iron keel with an intricate shape when viewed from fore or aft. The Mark II has a keel stub, which houses a centerboard. The Mark III has a fiberglass and lead keel the same depth as the Mark I, but with a much shorter chord (the length between the front of the keel and its aft end).
|A Mark I keel viewed from the stern.|
|Mark III. Notice the shape of the keel and the skeg-hung rudder.|
When the Mark III came along in 1973 (four years into the production run) it had a new keel with lead ballast and a shorter chord. The lead ballast was necessary because the keel was smaller, which gave it less wetted surface. It also put the ballast lower to accommodate the six-foot taller mast with its higher-aspect rig and 5 percent more sail area.
|Standard Mark I and II rudder.|
|The optional, skeg-hung rudder on a Mark I looks different|
from the Mark III.
The Mark III rudder was redesigned as well. Instead of the scimitar-shaped balanced spade on most of the Mark I and II models, it has a skeg-hung rudder. I say "most" of the Mark I and II boats because Columbia offered a skeg-hung rudder as a option for the earlier models. Some owners of these boats assume, because it has a skeg-hung rudder, it is a Mark III. It ain't necessarily so.
|The Mark I bow on my boat Oceanus.|
The Mark III carries this line to its logical conclusion, thus lengthening the base of the foretriangle (and the total length of the boat) by six inches. While this improves the aesthetics of the boat, the real reason was to increase headsail area, thus making the Mark III more competitive under the new (at the time) IOR (International
|The bow of Magic Woman, a Mark III based in Monterey, Calif.|
The rigThe rig on the Mark III is closer to an early IOR rig than a CCA rig. The headsail area is larger because of the six-inch extension of the bow and a six-foot taller mast. Columbia shortened the boom on the Mark III to give the mainsail a higher aspect favored by the IOR rule. The total rig change increased the sail area of the Mark III from 810 square feet to 852 square feet, or about 5 percent. The lion's share of the increase was in the foretriangle.
|Distant Dreamer, a Mark III based in Japan, shows the two portlights on the cabin sides.|
What remained the same?Just about everything: Same deck layout, same interior, same construction methods (except for the lead keel), same hull shape, same headroom, same cockpit configuration, in short, all the things that made the Columbia 43 the best selling of Columbia's big racing boats.
|Encore heading for the finish in the 1971 Transpac Race where it was the overall winner.|
Now that most sailing competition is handicapped under the PHRF (Performance Handicap Rating Formula) the boats are again winning silver. The Mark I has a PHRF rating of 102 and the Mark III has a rating of 96.
Which of all the three models makes a better boat? It depends on its intended use. Since most Columbia 43 owners use their boats primarily to cruise I would venture to say the Mark I gets the nod because of its smaller headsails, shorter mast and the longer, stronger keel. But many owners love cruising in their Mark IIIs. All three variations are on the mark.