Best Boats Nominees 2006
If you’re in the market for a new boat, this could be the year you’ve been waiting for. This year’s new-boat fleet is over 50 boats strong and includes all the usual suspects—oceangoing voyagers over 40 feet, voluminous catamarans, and a host of performance cruisers. Last year’s trend toward building big (35-to-45-foot) daysailers continues with several new models, and cruisers will benefit from new approaches to making pilothouse, deck-saloon, and center- and aft-cockpit cruising boats more comfortable, seaworthy, and fast.
What’s really new this year is that almost 40 percent of the fleet is under 40 feet. There are 20-foot weekenders with cozy accommodations for four, lots of new 25-to 35-foot cruising models, raceboats, trimarans, trailerboats, beach boats, and even a boat specifically designed for 11-to-14-year-olds.
Consider the following list of new boats as the coming attractions. As part of Sail’s Best Boats 2006 program, we’ll be inspecting the fleet at the shows in Newport, Rhode Island (September 15–18), and in Annapolis, Maryland (October 6–10), and reporting back on the best and most innovative features we find.
The Big Fish, built by Island Packet, is a 16-foot flat-bottom beach boat designed to take two adults on summer daysails. Its moderate-weight fiberglass construction and easy-to-handle lateen rig keep things simple.
Designed with family overnight cruising in mind, the 20-foot Com-Pac Eclipse is a trailerable shoal-draft center-boarder (1 foot, 6 inches with board up) equipped with four bunks, a house battery, a small galley, and all the essentials for a comfortable night aboard. This beamy pocket cruiser won't set any speed records, but it does advertise a one-person rigging system that will have the mast stepped and you sailing in record time.
Hunter 25 and 27 (left)
The Hunter 25 and Hunter 27 pocket cruisers are both aimed at bringing a big-boat feel to cruisers under 30 feet. The 25 sleeps four and features a fixed shoal-draft keel, enclosed head, and mini galley. The 27's 6-foot, 2-inch headroom and almost 10 feet of beam swallow a large saloon, a V-berth, an enclosed head with portable MSD, an L-shaped galley, and a private aft cabin with queen-size berth.
Alerion Express 38
Designed by the late Carl Schumacher, the Alerion Express 38 is an elegant daysailer that blends classic looks, a comfortable cruising cabin, and a performance-driven sailplan. Its 870 square feet of sail area - a heavily roached mainsail with a self-tacking jib on a carbon-fiber Hoyt Jib Boom - can be easily managed by a singlehander.
Preliminary info on the Glenn Henderson-designed Hunter 31 is that it's comfortable and, with a balanced spade rudder, fast and forgiving. The saloon has over-6-foot headroom, for cruising there are two cabins, a galley, and a fully enclosed head. Options include Hunter's arch-mounted mainsheet traveler system, a 13-inch flat-screen TV with DVD player, and a stereo with CD player.
Bavaria 33 (left) and 39
The Bavaria 33 is billed as an entry-level cruiser that is designed to provide good bang for your boat-buying buck. The interior is large enough to accommodate two couples or a small family on a weekend (or even longer) cruise in two private cabins. The Bavaria 39 expands on that idea with three cabins. Both boats were drawn by J&J Designs and built using an interior grid system. Kevlar in the bow sections, and Airex core in the deck and the hull above the waterline to reduce weight and increase stiffness. Look for a responsive and forgiving ride.
With a displacement-length ratio of 147 and sail area-displacement ratio of 24.1, designer Tim Jackett's 33-foot C&C 115 is sure to be a powerful performer on the racecourse. Down below, the well-laid-out accommodation plan provides all the comfort you'd expect of a cruising boat, including decent stowage and cherry veneer woodwork. The standard boat is built with a lightweight cored epoxy hull and carbon-fiber mast.
Grand Soleil 37
If impressive results on the European racing circuit are any indication, the Grand Soleil 37 appears to be a full-on raceboat that also has a full-on accommodation plan. Not only has it performed well in its class, it's been able to compete with stripped-out IMS raceboats.
Elan Impression 384
Some new boats expand successful design concepts, but the Elan Impression 384 goes the other way. It's a 38-footer descended from Elan's successful Impression 434. As he did with the 434, designer Rob Humphreys has given the 384 a distinctive blister coachroof, a bright and airy saloon, and a powerful, easily driven hull. It's designed for fast, comfortable offshore passagemaking with sturdy construction, high-quality systems, and a well-thought-out deck layout.
The Swedish-built Malo 40 has an impeccable pedigree. Designed to replace the successful Malo 39, this 40-footer has increased waterline length, sail area, stability, and beam to make it quicker and roomier than its predecessor.
Maine boatbuilder Morris Yachts has a reputation for building traditionally styled, meticulously crafted boats that offer superior sailing performance, and the Chuck Paine-designed Morris 42 should live up to that reputation. This offshore passage-maker has an efficient lead keel to provide maximum stability and minimum drag. The rudder is a fiberglass foil with a stainless-steel post. And the hull form should be sweet to drive. Then there's the solid-cherry woodwork and the drawers with handcrafted dovetail joints.
The new and enthusiastic owners of Najad, the Swedish builder, are dedicated to maintaining both the high quality associated with Najad-built boats and a long relationship with designers Judel/Vrolijk. The relationship continues with the Najad 440 center-cockpit sloop, whose lines have been drawn to maximize both upwind and downwind performance. It has two large double cabins, and the main saloon gleams with richly polished and varnished mahogany joinery.
Island Packet 440
The Island Packet 440, an aft-cockpit variation on last year's 45-foot center-cockpit cutter, shares its conservative values: an underbody that's oriented toward safety and good seakeeping and a full foil keel that provides good tracking ability and protection for the propeller and rudder in case of an accidental grounding. Large heads and showers as well as walk-around berths are prominent features in both the forward and aft staterooms.
The aft cabin of the Hunter 45cc fills almost one-third of the boat's usable interior space. The rest of the interior appointments - galley, nav station, and forward stateroom with its own head and shower - have not been slighted. The signature traveler arch and coachroof profile have been restyled, while a B&R rig continues to provide all the necessary sail power.
Dufour Yachts has redesigned its entire line over the past four years. Its newest and largest model is the fractionally rigged Dufour 455, which was designed to be a distance cruiser. Pertinent features are a standard water tankage of 140 gallons, twin steering stations, and lots of deck hatches for good ventilation below. Three- or four-cabin versions both have heads forward and aft.
Rob Hymphreys's fresh look at Oyster's 45-foot center-cockpit sloop has resulted in the Oyster 46, which has a longer waterline than its predecessor, a touch more beam, and carries about 17 percent more sail area. The superstructure is sleeker and the headroom below is more generous. The three-cabin layout has the owner's cabin and ensuite head aft and two cabins forward. And if you're in the market for a truly big boat that's ready to go, Humphreys's new Oyster 82 lies at the top of that line.
Cabo Rico 47 Pilot
Bill Crealock, who has had a long association with Cabo Rico Yachts, has designed the new Cabo Rico 47 Pilot. The pilot-house profile matches the sheerline beautifully, as do the traditional windows Crealock has placed on either side of the house, increasing both overhead and light in the main saloon and galley. A center-cockpit version is also in the works.
FastCat 305 Vector-K
The FastCat 305 Vector-K, built in South Africa, is only 30 feet long, but its 18-foot beam provides sufficient interior space to accommodate three cabins and a six-seater saloon settee. Free-board is high enough to provide nearly 6-foot headroom in both the saloon and the hulls. It's built light and stiff using epoxy infusion.
The Broadblue 42 has the large saloon, bright, airy interior, well-designed galley, and four private cabins you'd expect on a cat that's 42 feet long and over 20 feet wide. Watertight bulkheads (both fore and aft) and increased buoyancy in the bows provide a safer, drier ride. End-grain balsa core is used to save weight and increase stiffness in the hull above the waterline, but the hull is solid glass below the waterline to provide superior impact resistance.
Lagoon 500 (left)
Like the successful Lagoon 440, the new Lagoon 500 is a 50-foot cruising catamaran that has more than just the mainsheet traveler up on the cockpit roof. The entire steering station is up there to improve visibility and free up space in the cockpit for unencumbered entertaining. Not only is the cockpit equipped with a fridge and sink; large sliding doors provide seamless access to the bridgedeck saloon. The new 38-foot Lagoon 380 S2 may have a more conventional steering station but has also been designed for maximum efficiency and comfort.
The Melges 17 scow was designed by Reichel/Pugh for an optimum crew weight of 265 to 350 pounds. it's loaded with new technology - for example, an extruded aluminum rudder and bilgeboard foils. And the deck is clean; the bilgeboards don't protrude through it.
The Kevin Dibley-designed Dibley 23 is a trailer-friendly sportboat with simple parameters: 23 feet LOA, 8-foot, 2-inch beam, and a maximum sail area of 368 square feet. The hull form has a slightly hollow entry to reduce drag, a flat run aft, and wings to supplement the righting effect of crew on the rail. The top section of the lightweight carbon rig is flexible enough to depower itself in gusts.
Corsair Sprint 750
A direct descendant of the Corsair 24, the Corsair Sprint 750 is 100 pounds lighter for the same length. The cockpit has been lengthened at the expense of some interior volume in the cuddy cabin. It can be easily trailered (the other hulls fold up to a street-legal 8 feet, 2 inches), easily rigged (the mast can be winched up with a gin pole), and then log speeds over 20 knots.