Boats

Best Boats Nominees 2007

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If last year was the year of smaller boats, this is the year of bigger boats - almost 50 percent of the fleet launched this year is above 40 feet. But this year's fleet has more than just big boats; it includes a 16-foot sailing proa, a healthy list of cruising monohulls in the 30-foot range, and what has been a rarity in the past, sub-40-foot cruising catamarans. As with years past, performance cruisers continue to proliferate, more and more equipment that was once optional is now standard, and builders continue to build bigger, faster, more comfortable ocean passagemakers with one hull and two.

What makes this year's fleet really stand out is fresh thinking across the board. Two very different boats were designed specifically to fit in a shipping container. One allows you to economically maximize cruising time by shipping your boat to an exotic destination on a container ship; the other, built in China, is designed to provide affordable high-performance as well as be easy to ship.

One cruising cat come standard with electric motors that run off batteries and the generator rather than two heavy diesels in the sterns for propulsion. There's a motorsailer designed to keep people sailing instead of turning to trawlers, and several new pilothouse boats provide owners with maximum protection from the elements. Maybe the biggest surprise of all has been the increased number of high performance/race boats. These include trainers for kids, one-design racers that can legitimately double as family weekenders, and a few eye-popping full-carbon weapons. Maybe more than in years past, there is truly something for everyone.

Head out to the boat shows and see for yourself. That's what we'll be doing as part of SAIL's Best Boats 2007 program. We'll be inspecting all the new boats at the shows in Newport, Rhode Island (Sept. 14-17), and Annapolis, Maryland (Oct. 5-9), and reporting back on the best of what we find.



UNDER 40's

Bavaria 30, 37 (left) and 40 Vision
Bavaria Yachts has updated its line with these three new models. They continue to capitalize on the economics of scale and high-tech construction techniques that this German company is known for. The hulls are solid hand-laid fiberglass below the waterline, with Kevlar-reinforced bow sections. All three boats are beamy with a full hull shape to maximize interior volume. These models also have light-mahogany joinery that should feel more open and airy than the darker interiors found on previous Bavarias.

Delphia 37 and 40 (left)
The Delphia 37 and 40 both straddle the line between modern and traditional. Their lines are sleek but not aggressive. The galley, head, and settee are where you'd expect to see them on a well-appointed coastal cruiser, but the boats' large, curved ports, light mahogany veneer woodwork, and multiple layout choices achieve a fresh, modern look.

Dufour 325
If the new Dufour 325 is any indication, it appears that Dufour Yachts designer Umberto Felci is firmly committed to performance cruising. And why shouldn't he be? The 32-foot 325 brings the style, comfort, and performance of its larger sisters down to a size range many sailors want. Its fast underbody and powerful sailplan will not be out of place on a racecourse, and accommodations are spacious.

Etap 28
How much boat can you get in 28 feet? The Etap 28 is the newest model from the company that builds "unsinkable" boats, but there's more to this boat than a buoyant foam second skin. It has an efficient bulb keel, should have good sailing characteristics, and its stylized accommodations appear much more open and airy than most 28-foot accommodation plans.

Far Harbour 39
Wouldn't it be nice to have your boat spirited off to remote cruising grounds without having to take the time to sail it there? The folks at Container Yachts in Middletown, Rhode Island, asked themselves that very question and came up with the Far Harbour 39. Bob Perry designed the long, narrow pilothouse motorsailer so it can be derigged and loaded into a standard shipping container, then transported safely and economically virtually anywhere in the world. Then you can fly to the boat like a gentleman, have a yard step the mast, and away you go.

Hallberg-Rassy 342
You can call most 34-footers coastal cruisers, but the 34-foot Hallberg-Rassy 342 appears to be more than just a coastal cruiser. Certainly its signature glass windshield, solid woodwork and construction, and practical layout will be welcome on a short cruise in protected waters, but this boat should also be able to comfortably gobble up miles offshore. The craftsmanship is typical of Swedish workers who have been building boats for generations.

Harbor 25
Family-owned California builder W.D. Schock is celebrating its 60th anniversary. The new Harbor 25 is aimed at sailors who are looking for a new "modest-size" cruising boat. The cockpit of this 25-footer is spacious enough for six. The interior includes an enclosed head, four berths, and a small galley sink. The sailplan (with self-tacking jib) is big enough to keep you moving in light air; a 12.5-horsepower four-stroke outboard is all you'll need to motor into the marina.

Nauticat 385
The Nauticat 385 is a pilothouse cruiser that boats sturdy construction, a good-size sailplan, gorgeous joinery, and a cruising range under power of approximately 500 miles. With its full interior helm station, teak railings instead of wire lifelines, and considerable fuel tankage, you may be thinking "motorsailer," but not so fast. It appears to have the sail area and hull form that could respond well to a breeze, even with the motor turned off.

Ovni 395
The Ovni 395 is an aluminum-hulled cruising boat that combines the strength and durability of aluminum with the warmth and comfort of a well-constructed wood interior. If you're going offshore and want to be sure your boat can stand up to almost anything, it's hard to beat the durability of a metal boat. The Ovni 395 aluminum is lighter than steel and should be able to handle an impact that would turn a fiberglass hull into splinters.

Salona 37 (left) and 40
The Salona 37 and 40, built by AD Boats in Croatia, are performance cruisers designed to be comfortable, quick, and easy to handle, and the advance billing suggests just that. They have such speed-friendly features as a shallow underbody, a bulb keel, and an aggressive sailplan, as well as an oversize balanced spade rudder and large, sensitive wheel that could make for a forgiving helm. Comforts should be totally attainable in the accommodations plan, which provides a choice of four different layouts.

Sun Odyssey 39i
Jeanneau builds more than just deck-saloon cruisers. Designed to replace the successful Sun Odyssey 37, the 39-foot Sun Odyssey 39i is a more conventionally styled cruising boat with a not-so-conventional construction process. Instead of hand-laid-fiberglass deck construction, the deck is injection-molded. The Prisma process, according to Jeanneau, results in a better finish and decreased weight. The accommodations plan is available with two or three cabins. Dual helms provide good visibility and a walk-through stern, and the Marc Lombard-designed hull should slip quietly through the water.



MULTIHULLS

Broadblue 385
When you think cruising catamarans, the U.K. is not the first place that comes to mind. But Broadblue cats are built there, and the Broadblue 385 is designed for fun in the sun, along with beating into rough weather if necessary. The interior layout is like that of many cruising cats, with berths in the hulls and in the galley up in the bridgedeck saloon. Instead of using molded-in furniture, though, the 385 incorporates lots of teak cabinetry to give the interior a warm feel.

Mahe 36
Fountaine Pajot's Mahe 36 is the first cruising catamaran under 40 feet the French builder has launched recently. It has all the distinctive features that have made Fountaine Pajot one of the leading catamaran manufacturers for the last 25 years. The hulls have a fine entry and good load-carrying ability. The helm station provides good visibility over the coachroof, and the large cockpit blends seamlessly into the saloon.

Lagoon 420
Lagoon made a big splash last year with the Lagoon 440, which has the helm station built into the cockpit roof, but the Lagoon 420 marks a return to a more conventional helm. Lagoon focused its innovative thinking this year on the engines. Standard propulsion consists of two electric motors powered by a single generator and six sets of batteries.

Lightspeed
The first pictures of the Lightspeed 32 give the appearance that the boat is aptly named. It's built of carbon fiber, the hulls have a futuristic refined shape, and a powerful sailplan is sure to translate into pure speed under sail. The design is not weighed down by a bridgedeck saloon, so while it will not be the most spacious cruising catamaran around (it has rudimentary accommodations in the hulls), it may be one of the fastest.

Moorings 4600
The Moorings 4600 takes the successful Morrelli & Melvin-designed Moorings 4000 and stretches the concept out to 46 feet. An additional 6 feet of waterline makes a huge impact on both performance and interior space of any boat; the effect is even more profound on a catamaran. South African builders Robertson and Caine have worked to keep the boat light, and over 1,500 square feet of working sail should provide plenty of horsepower.

Nautitech 40 (left), 44 & 47
Nautitech is not a new name in the world of cruising catamarans, but the company had faded out of the U.S. market until the introduction of these three new models late last year. Built in France, the cats have a slightly different profile than similar-sized catamarans because each has an integrated cockpit roof that sweeps back directly from the coachroof. It's a subtle difference, but effective in creating a sleek low profile.

Raptor 16
The Raptor 16 is one of the coolest new ideas (it's actually a really old idea) to come along in a while. It's an outrigger/proa kayak that sails. Ancient Polynesians were probably the first to come up with the proa design, but the Raptor is a proa that can tack through the eye of the wind and continue to sail even with the outrigger to windward. This is possible because the outrigger is equipped with a foil that will raise the outer hull and reduce drag when it's to leeward and will pull the outer hull back to the water's surface when it's to windward. It's got great speed potential, is light enough to cartop, and no hiking is required.



OVER 40s

Bavaria 46
The Bavaria 46 is one of the largest this German company builds. The result is a boat with a spacious interior volume, and the waterline length translates into speed under sail. It's available in either a three- or a four-cabin layout. Whichever layout you choose, the boat will have a large, airy saloon and many of the bells and whistles you'd expect on a 46-footer.

Beneteau 45, 49 (left) and 50
The lines for the 45 and 49 are designed by Berret Racoupeau to be clean and provide serious interior volume without adversely affecting aesthetics. For the accommodations, Beneteau enlisted the expertise of superyacht interior designer Nauta Yachts. The 50 is the largest of Beneteau's performance-oriented First series. That means a narrow-chord torpedo bulb keel, a carbon-fiber mast option, and a wide-open transom, plus substantial beam and waterline length that translates into good speed potential and allows room for a stunning interior.

Finngulf 46
This company prides itself on craftsmanship and attention to detail, and the Finngulf 46 appears to be up to snuff. The accommodation plan is purposeful rather than radical. Seats double as long, comfortable seaberths right in the middle of the boat. The galley provides good stowage, plenty of counter space, and tall fiddles. The master cabin has its own head and excellent ventilation, and the entire accommodation plan is filled with richly varnished-teak furniture and bulkheads. An aggressive profile below the waterline, combined with a powerful rig and sturdy construction, should give both speed and stability.

Friendship 53
The gawk-inducing Ted Fontaine-designed Friendship 40 was a "did-you-see-that-boat" at the boat shows last year. One of Fontaine's new clients was a gawker, and he knew he wanted one; it just had to be slightly bigger. So the design wheels got rolling on the new Friendship 53. This stretch version of the 40 is reported to be eye candy, with room for two staterooms. This is a money-is-no-object boat that will turn some heads.

Hanse 531
Advance information on the Hanse 531 does a good job of illustrating the fact that the 531 is not a carbon copy of other production boats. The interior is stunning it its execution. White bulkheads accented with cherry woodwork give a decidedly clean European look, augmented by the cabin sole, which is built of light-colored maple squares. Under sail the boat appears to be powerful and well organized. Lines lead cleanly under the deck back to the helmsman. The expansive transom opens to provide garage-type access to generous stowage space, and the self-tailing jib makes it easy to short-tack up a narrow channel if you feel like showing off.

Hunter 49
Many high-volume American builders are giving attention to larger boats this year. The Hunter 49, Hunter's new flagship, is a prime example of how the company is incorporating hard-won knowledge into a new bigger mode. The 49 has all the features (TVs, interior space, mainsail arch) Hunter is known for, as well as performance-enhancing features like geared Mamba steering. A surprise is the super-deep sump, centrally located through-hulls, and the engine mounted so low it hardly protrudes above the sole under the companionway steps.

SP Cruiser
Island Packet's SP Cruiser is a motorsailer. It has a rig and sails, but chances are the 100-horsepower engine will be running most of the time the boat is underway. The pilothouse and the roof over the aft deck will provide protection from the elements, and designer Bob Johnson has also included an outside seating area at the base of the mast. Inside, there's 6-foot, 9-inch headroom, a large master forward, a guest cabin aft, and, of course, plenty of seating area by the helm station in the pilothouse.

Moody 49
The Moody 49 is a center-cockpit off-shore passagemaker. The hull is stiffened with tabbed-in bulkheads, plus frames and stringers. The cutter rig makes it easy to fly over 1,000 square feet of sail when the wind is light. Down below, there is a cushy couch and settee in the saloon. The master cabin aft has excellent headroom and a walk-around berth. And the entire interior is wrapped in varnished teak.

Jeanneau 39 DS (left) & Sun Odyssey 49 Performance
In addition to the 39i, Jeanneau is debuting two boats aimed at very different buyers. The Jeanneau 39 DS is a smaller version of the stylish 49- and 54-foot deck-saloon models. This distinctive features gives lots of light belowdecks and raises the freeboard enough to allow for a large aft cabin more typical of a center-cockpit boat. The 39 DS is obviously designed with comfort-oriented cruisers in mind, while the Sun Odyssey 49 Performance is for speed-oriented cruisers. This is a Sun Odyssey 49 that's been tricked out with a tall rig, deep keel, high-performance tri-radial sails, and upgraded deck hardware.

Santa Cruz 53c
A Santa Cruz 52 cruises like a missile rather than like a cruising boat. So when Santa Cruz Yachts wanted to build a performance cruiser, they designed the Santa Cruz 53c specifically to combine performance with cruising amenities. They stretched the 52's hull a bit, added a pilothouse that could make a late-night watch a little more comfortable during bad weather, and added a self-tacking jib. Down below, pipeberths are gone and two cabins with large doubles are in.

Southerly 46RS
You'd never believe you could motor a Southerly 46RS through 3 feet of water unless you saw it for yourself. Built by Northshore Yachts in the U.K., the 46RS looks like a offshore cruising boat with a draft suitable for offshore cruising. However, it has a nearly 5,000-pound keel that retracts from 10 feet, 10 inches to 2 feet, 9 inches with the push of a button. Keel down, the boat is a stable passagemaker. Keel up, the boat is a solid passagemaker you can nudge into almost any gunkhole. The interior is designed around the keel trunk, so you hardly know it's there.

Wauquiez Pilot Saloon 41
The Wauquiez Pilot Saloon 41 is a smaller sister of the 47 that was launched last year. Its raised deck allows for substantial headroom in the saloon, and eight opening ports provide excellent ventilation. An elegant reverse-transom stern hinges out to hide the steps and function as a large swim platform, Under sail, the boat's deep (6-foot, 6-inch) keel and powerful sailplan should provide good performance in a wide variety of wind and sea conditions.



PERFORMANCE

Beneteau First 10R
The Beneteau First 10R is the result of a collaboration between Beneteau and Farr Yacht Design to develop a new one-design class, and the go-fast features are readily apparent. It's not an all-out racer, though. The bright interior is finished with attractive varnished joinery and is as comfortable as you'd expect (within reason) from a cruising boat.

e33
The e33 was born when sailmaker Robbie Doyle, naval architect Jeremy Wurmfeld, and boatbuilder Dirk Kneulman noodled with the idea of building a boat that could spark renewed interest in one-design racing. They knew it had to be simple, fun, and perform well, so this 33-footer includes a powerful main, an easy-to-handle 105 percent jib, and a foam-cored hull that is both easy to maneuver and fast. The large cockpit is as conducive to daysailing with the family as it is to providing a racing crew room to move.

Esse 850
If you're at all concerned with going fast or just plain looking fast, chances are the Esse 850 will catch your eye. This Italian design is built in Switzerland, and it just oozes Euro-cool. The deck is clean, the cockpit is uncluttered, and the already powerful sailplan is bolstered by a large masthead A-sail. It has only a little cuddy cabin for accommodations, but who needs 6-foot headroom, multiple heads, and comfy accommodations on a 28-foot all-out racer.

Flying Tiger 10m
The Bob Perry-designed Flying Tiger 10m started out as an affordable round-the-buoys sportboat that would appeal to the growing Chinese sportboat market. But when word got out, American sportboat sailors wanted in on the action, so the boat is made in China and designed to fit easily into a shipping container to reach American speed freaks as well. The idea of keeping costs down has broad appeal, so the hull is medium-tech (foam core with vinylester resin). But the rig and bowsprit are carbon fiber, and the price is still around $50,000 FOB West Coast.

H-10
Garry Hoyt is always trying to figure out a better way to do things, and his latest mission is to attract more younger sailors to the sport. His answer to the problem is the all-carbon H-10. The idea is to make the boat light, stable, easy to handle, and, of course, fast. Carbon construction keeps it light, wide beam provides stability, it doesn't' get much simpler than a lateen rig, and advance reports say the boat can plane upwind.

J/92s
J Boats hasn't cornered the market on performance cruising boats in the 30-to-40-foot range, but it has certainly made an impression. Its latest launch is the 30-foot J/92s, which has all the J/Boat features that have made that impression over the years. The focus continues to be on easy-to-handle performance, so the jib is nonoverlapping. A crew of two can fly the masthead A-sail off the retractable bowsprit, and there's plenty of room in the cockpit.

Pixel
Advance reports on the Burce Kirby-designed Pixel say that it's built to take the use and abuse of the (in)experienced sailor and be fun for experienced sailors as well. It's nearly 14 feet long, the hull is built of fiberglass and epoxy, and the mast is carbon. It's stable enough to help novices learn the finer points of sailing, but quick enough to be fun for parents to take out for a spin.

Open Bic
Bic has built plastic windsurfers and surfboards for years, so it seems only logical that it should build sailboats as well. The building material of the 10-foot Open Bic may not be suited to bigger boats, but it appears perfect for small dinghies. The shallow, almost dishlike hull looks ready to plane in the slightest breeze, and the bendy rig should provide just the right amount of sail power.

Transit 380
The Transit 380 is designed specifically for kids who have outgrown Optis but may not have developed the skills and experience to make the jump into a 420. The hull is 12 feet, 6 inches long, the rig is set up to carry a main, jib, and small spinnaker, and optimal combined crew weight is 220 pounds. And if the kids do capsize, a watertight mast will help them get the boat upright in no time.

X-35
Sporty, simple, speedy are three words used to describe X-35; stout and sturdy should also be thrown in. Danish builder X-Yachts is hoping the X-35 performance cruiser will be as well received as previous X-Yachts designs. If it has the company's characteristic silky-smooth helm feel, tight tacking angles, high-quality craftsmanship, and I-beam construction that can withstand years of hard sailing, it should be.

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