Boat Review: Xc 35
Since the company’s founding in 1979 the Danish builder X-Yachts has established a strong reputation for creating exciting, well-conceived racer-cruisers. In 2008, it expanded its palette and introduced its Xc line of dedicated cruising boats, which have been equally successful. These are not just repurposed race boats but are designed as cruisers from the keel up, with simpler, less demanding rigs and fuller, deeper hull forms to increase comfort and carrying capacity. Still, they are X-Yachts through and through, which means sailing performance remains a top priority.
The latest Xc ride, a 34-footer, comes in as the smallest member of the family (its four siblings range from 38 to 50ft), but is true to its origins. Picked as the best 31-40ft Monohull in SAIL’s 2015 Best Boats competition, the Xc 35 combines superior performance, solid construction quality, excellent modern aesthetics and a good dose of traditional common sense.
Those who are worried about the integrity of modern sailboat keels will be reassured to know that the structural core of the Xc 35, as on all X-Yachts, is a massive load-bearing hull grid that supports both the L-shaped ballast keel beneath it and the keel-stepped mast above. (On Xc boats this structural grid is galvanized steel; on the racier Xp boats it is carbon fiber.) Surrounding the grid is a vacuum-infused Divinicell foam-cored hull laminate, made up of biaxial E-glass set in vinylester resin. Solid laminate is interposed around all through-hull fittings and in the high-load area around the root of the keel.
The deck, likewise, is a foam-cored biaxial laminate set in vinylester, with solid aluminum or marine plywood inserts under all deck fittings. The interior structural bulkheads, in thicknesses ranging from 16-20mm, are also marine plywood and are securely bonded to the hull.
As is typical these days, the Xc 35 carries much of its beam aft, but overall it is not nearly as beamy as most modern cruising boats, so a single rudder is sufficient. The boat, with an attractive subtly sprung sheer line, has a plumb bow and a nearly plumb stern to maximize waterline length. The spars, by John Mast, are all aluminum with discontinuous stainless steel rod rigging.
The most immediately noticeable feature above deck on our test boat was the fixed aluminum-framed cockpit windshield, an optional item I personally would recommend ordering. It gives the boat a distinctive look and is quite functional. Equally noticeable was the lack of a cockpit table, another option I urge you to pony up for. The cockpit is wide enough that you really do need something to brace against when sailing. And, of course, having a table at which to dine al fresco will inevitably enhance your cruising experience.
As on so many modern cruisers, the cockpit has twin wheels placed far aft, with a nice open runway between them leading to a fold-down transom. Unlike many production boats, this one has a healthy supply of properly sized winches. Our test boat carried the standard self-tailing Harken Performa winches: two on each side of the cockpit, plus two more on the coachroof. (Stainless steel Andersen winches are also available.) The forward coaming winches are for headsails, while the aft winches, situated right by the helm stations, are exclusively for handling the double-ended German mainsheet, the tails of which run aft below the sidedecks; this allows you to trim both the main and headsail instantly, without having to clutch off first one and then the other as you unload and reload a single winch.
The boat has long genoa tracks, another nice common-sense touch. Chainplates for the shrouds are well inboard, so you can fly a 106-percent blade jib that sheets inside the shrouds or a big 135-percent genoa that sheets outside farther aft. Couple these two basic headsail options with an asymmetric spinnaker to be flown off the optional A-frame anchor-roller/bowsprit, and you can keep the boat sailing well in a wide range of conditions.
The interior layout is traditional and straightforward. The saloon features two long straight settees (that will make great sea-berths) positioned on either side of a fixed table on centerline that has a clever fold-over top. The galley is aft to port, with a two-burner Eno range and oven, and a top-loading Isotherm fridge. Storage space here is adequate, but not great, and there is a lack of dedicated counter space. To make up for this, the twin sinks are refreshingly large and located on centerline, right where they belong.
The double V-berth in the forward stateroom includes adequate space at the foot of the berth. The aft stateroom has standing headroom by the door, good vertical clearance over the berth and decent ventilation, thanks to the opening side ports and an overhead deck hatch.
The single head is aft to starboard, right behind the full-size nav station. The space is a bit cramped, but perfectly serviceable, with the Jabsco toilet oriented just the way I like, fore and aft, with a nice bulkhead to lean into on either side. There’s also a useful hanging wet locker. Abaft the toilet is a vast storage space that can also be accessed from the cockpit. The engine space is a bit tight, but there is good access on three sides, and the sound insulation is very good.
Our test sail was on Chesapeake Bay in true winds ranging from 15 to 22 knots. We sailed the Xc 35 first with the full main and 106-percent headsail up, then with a reef in the main and also under just the full main alone. Comparing relative speeds at the boat’s hottest apparent wind angle—60 degrees—will give you a good idea of its ability. Under mainsail alone we made 6.6 knots. With the 106-percent battened headsail out and a reef in the main, we made 7.8 knots. Under full sail we made 8.2 knots. For a 34-foot monohull that is not at all shabby.
The boat is also closewinded. Under full sail in 2ft to 3ft seas, she was fully powered up and sailing better than 7 knots at a 35-degree apparent wind angle. Pinching to 30 degrees, she lost little speed, making just under 7 knots. My guess is that in flatter conditions she will sail efficiently at an angle of as little as 25 degrees.
Bearing away, though we had no downwind sails onboard, our pace was not much diminished. On a flat reach under full sail we made 7.8 knots. This decreased to only 7.3 knots when we dove down onto a broad reach.
Better still, the boat has an absolutely delicious helm. The Jefa steering system provides excellent feedback, and steering is precise and accurate. You do need to pay attention, as the boat is responsive enough that mistakes will be punished. But these are relatively hard to make, as the boat is easily controlled in gusts, with no tendency to gripe. Try as I might, I just could not get that deep rudder to let go of the water.
Glancing at the Xc 35’s spec sheet, I thought her 30hp Yanmar auxiliary might leave her underpowered. In the event it seemed her hull is slippery enough to move well regardless. Running downwind with the throttle pegged out at 3,000 rpm, we made 7.3 knots. At a more normal cruising setting of 2,400 rpm, we still ran at 6.7 knots. Turning upwind into the gusty breeze and significant seas, we managed 5.4 knots at the same setting. The boat turns a two-blade Flexofold folding prop on a saildrive and is not too quick to respond when thrown into reverse. Once it’s moving, however, the boat is easy to control.
This is not a boat for those who like maximum onboard living space; it is for serious sailors who want to cruise comfortably in a vessel that is fast and responsive. If you are addicted to bloated interiors, you will think the accommodation space on the Xc 35 is too small. But if you are addicted to performance for its own sake and are thinking you’d like to cruise in something that is not too large and unwieldy, this is the boat for you.
BALLAST RATIO 33% SA/D RATIO 19 D/L RATIO 203
What do these ratios mean? Visit sailmagazine.com/ratios
DESIGNER Niels Jeppesen
BUILDER X-Yachts, Haderslev, Denmark
U.S. DISTRIBUTOR X-Yachts USA, Noank, CT,
- LOA 34ft
- LWL 31ft 6in
- Beam 11ft 5in
- Draft 6ft 2in (std); 5ft 3in (shoal)
- Displacement 14,220lb BALLAST 4,740lb
- Engine 30hp Yanmar diesel (saildrive)
- Fuel 43
- Water 64
- Waste 14