SAIL’s Best Boats 2017: X-Cat
This is an exceptionally versatile and fun little boat from Austria that took our judges entirely by surprise. Weighing just 120lb all-up, this car-toppable beach-cat-cum-rowing-shell can be assembled in less than 10 minutes with no tools required. The largest parts, the thermo-molded hulls, weigh less than 40lb each.
As a sailboat the X-Cat, which boasts a modern square-headed mainsail (with built-in flotation up top in case of a capsize) and a sizable jib set on a full-length bowsprit, offers plenty of excitement. And when the wind dies away you can keep going by deploying the boat’s exquisitely engineered double-jointed folding oars; which when paired with the X-Cat’s sliding rowing seat and foot pads, allow you to row the boat while facing forward at speeds comparable to a purpose-built rowing shell. (The action of the unique Row Motion Pro joint mechanism engenders no energy loss and even allows you to feather the oars during strokes, the same as you would with conventional oars.) Then again, if you are too lazy to row your way home, you can always order the X-Cat with an optional lightweight electric motor. As evidence of just how cleverly this boat is conceived, the lithium-ion battery is hidden away in its center beam, and the submersible motor and prop are on a cleverly designed retractable lever arm that deploys directly in front of the boat’s centerline rudder.
The first thing we thought on finding this boat was it would be perfect for the Race to Alaska (R2AK), so we weren’t surprised when we learned that the U.S. rep, Alex Caslow, plans to run one in the Everglades Challenge from Tampa Bay to Key Largo next March. That said, what this boat will be best for is just goofing around afloat on any body of water you can drive a car to. With a boat as easy to transport and assemble as this one, there’s no reason not go sailing whenever you see fit. x-cat.com, Red Beard Sailing