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Best Boats Nominees 2008

During years of keeping my finger on the pulse of the new-boat market, I’ve seen boats get bigger and more complicated. I’ve seen construction materials and techniques evolve to produce lighter and stronger hulls. And I’ve seen the word “daysailer” used for everything from a 15-foot trailersailer to a sumptuous cruising boat measuring well over 40 feet. As this year’s fleet of new boats shows,

During years of keeping my finger on the pulse of the new-boat market, I’ve seen boats get bigger and more complicated. I’ve seen construction materials and techniques evolve to produce lighter and stronger hulls. And I’ve seen the word “daysailer” used for everything from a 15-foot trailersailer to a sumptuous cruising boat measuring well over 40 feet. As this year’s fleet of new boats shows, the new ideas that have been gaining momentum over the past several years are becoming mainstream.

The most obvious change is powered by a growing segment of the sailing population who want boats that are suited to the time constraints of our modern American lives. New “daysailers” of all shapes and sizes have never been more popular, because that’s what the majority of us have time for. So it should come as no surprise that some of the most interesting designs in this year’s fleet fall into the “daysailer/weekender” category. But the fresh thinking doesn’t stop there. There are new and innovative designs among the cruisers, racers, and multihulls as well.

Established U.S. builders continue to compete with European, Asian, and South African exporters, and we all benefit from more and better choices at more competitive prices. There’s a scratch for every itch, so if you’re in the market for a new boat, your timing couldn’t be better.

So head to the fall shows in Newport, Rhode Island, and Annapolis, Maryland, and check out all the fresh new ideas. That’s where legendary cat designer Chris White, monohull designer Jeremy Wurmfeld, and I will be—hunting for the best, most innovative, and well-designed boats of the class of 2008.


Cross Current Marine

The Cross Current 33 is not your average daysailer—it’s billed as a “day racer.” It’s designed and built in Italy for good looks and superior performance. Take it out for a quick cruise around the harbor or a race around the cans; it’s sure to turn some heads with its walk-through transom, plumb bow, and aggressive styling. Just don’t expect to find back rests in the cockpit or too much room below. Think Italian sports car.

Brooklin Boat Yard

There are 40-foot daysailers on the market, so why not a 50-footer? The sleek 50-foot Fast Daysailer from Brooklin Boat Yard answers that question beautifully. Its long overhangs and powerful sailplan will get the blood racing, and its low-wetted-surface underbody, equipped with a swept-back fin bulb keel, is sure to have some get-up-and-go.


The Alerion Express 33 continues Alerion’s line of “big” daysailers. Snugged in between the Express 28 and 38, the 33 has the traditional lines above the waterline and the performance lines below that Alerions are known for. It has a tall carbon mast that obviates the need for a backstay and allows for a full-roach, full-batten main. It also has a self-tacking Hoyt jib boom and winch pods adjacent to the helm station that make the boat a breeze to sail singlehanded. This boat will be equally at home on a harbor daysail or on a weekend cruise to a quiet anchorage.

Brenta Yachts

Bellissimo is all you can say when you take a look at this ultra-sexy Ital- ian daysailer. Everything about the Brenta 38—its ultra-low freeboard, car- bon mast, and single-line mainsheet (it leads to a traveler recessed into the cockpit sole behind the dual helm stations)—screams style. Headroom is minimal, and the cushy leather couches and flat-screen TV in the small sa- loon are anything but traditional.


The 12-foot NorseBoat 12.5 isn’t like other trailersailers. It has a lap-strake fiberglass hull that rows just as easily as it sails. If you want the wind to do the work, it has an easy-to-set gaff sail that provides plenty of power for the easily driven hull. Its minimal draft will let you nose into any gunkhole, and it can be set up with a boom tent for overnight accommodations when you get there.

Sabre Yachts

Sabre Yachts has entered the big-daysailer game with the 36-foot Sabre Spirit. It has typical Sabre classic good looks and moderate overhangs, and is specifically designed for day and weekend sailing rather than long offshore passages. Thus the cockpit is long and comfortable, the self-tacking jib makes singlehanded daysails an easy reality, the hull and sailplan have some get-up-and-go, and the interior (complete with full standing headroom) is suited to living aboard for days.



With the debut of the Beneteau 37, 40, and 43, Beneteau continues to update its line of cruisers that combine French style with old-fashioned comfort and functionality. The boats are designed by naval architects Berret/Racoupeau in collaboration with the interior specialists at Nauta Design. The resulting accommodations plans are clean, with generous amounts of moabi joinery and stainless-steel accents. The large cockpits and easy-to-handle sailplans indicate that similar attention to style and detail has been given to the exterior as well.


Bavaria Yachts is in the coastal-cruisers market with the new Bavaria 31 and 34 models. Like all other Bavarias, they are drawn by J&J Design to be quick and comfortable. Both of these boats demonstrate how this German company continues to refine what you can get in an “entry-level” cruising boat. The hulls are strengthened with structural grids, the interiors are filled with light-stained mahogany joinery, deck hardware is supplied by name-brand manufacturers, and there is a choice of a full-batten or roller-furling main.


The Dehler 34 is aptly billed as a regatta cruiser. That means it has an easily driven hull form, a powerful sailplan, a racing-friendly cockpit that will perform well during a weekend regatta, and a comfortable living space below so the crew can sleep aboard between race days. This formula also works well for a coastal-cruising family who prefers racing to the next anchorage rather than the next mark.


The new Hunter 36 and 45DS show how the designs from this Florida-based company continue to evolve. The 36 is a refinement of the Hunter 356— the first model in which Glen Henderson and the Hunter Design Team really focused on sailing performance. The 36 has all the signature features and expands on what they learned from the 356’s successful 6-year model run. The 45DS will be built on the same hull as Hunter’s 45-foot center-cockpit cruiser. It’s intended to replace the 44DS, and it shows how simply changing the deckhouse can result in a very different (aft cockpit, large saloon space) boat.

Grand Soleil

The Grand Soleil 40, with its low-wetted-surface hull, powerful sailplan, and low-slung coachroof, is designed with performance in mind, and its success on the European racing circuit illustrates its performance capabilities. But it’s also intended to be a cruising boat, and it has all the space and functionality below you’ll need for a week or more offshore. It will get there fast and take care of you when you arrive.


Catalina is working to make a good thing better with its Catalina 320 Mark II. The original Catalina 320 was launched in 1993, and over 1,000 have been built. To build on a proven winner (and to make sure the Mark II will continue to be class-legal), this new model maintains the overall hull and sailplan of the original 320, while incorporating updated styling, ergonomics, and the latest must-have features. The interior has been redesigned to provide superior comfort and all lighting, ventilation, steering, electrical, and plumbing systems have been updated.


Danish builder X-Yachts has built its reputation on sharp, sturdy racer/cruisers, and the new X-34 shows that the action isn’t always in the over-40-foot crowd. It’s the smallest boat they build, but if it’s anything like its bigger sisters, it should be quick and have an ultra-smooth helm. It will also be able to withstand a hard grounding thanks to a super-strong grid reinforced with a stainless-steel I-beam.

Malo? Yachts

Malo?s are built on the same island in Sweden where Hallberg-Rassys and Najads are built. As the Malo? 37 illustrates, each company builds high-quality offshore boats in slightly different ways. Designed to replace the successful Malo? 36, the new 37 has increased beam and sail area for better sailing performance. Of course, it also has the teak decks and bullet-proof construction the builders of Orust are known for.


Marc Lombard and the Jeanneau design team continue to refine the Sun Odyssey line with the new Sun Odyssey 36i and 42i, while Philippe Briand has revisited Jeanneau’s successful deck-saloon line with the new Sun Odyssey 45 DS. All three new boats have modern lines, comfortable cockpits, and spacious interiors. They’re each equipped with an ingenious forward-facing nav table that can slide into place when you need it and hide out of the way, flush with the bulkhead, when you need more room for entertaining. Performance under sail should be bolstered by powerful sailplans and slippery underbody profiles.


Swedish builder Najad has long been known for its quick, sturdy off-shore boats with center cockpits. The aft-cockpit Najad 355 is a new idea for the company, but like all Najads, it’s been designed by Judel/Vrolijk and Dick Young for off-shore passagemaking. And one look at the accommodations plan, with its hand-polished mahogany joinery, will reveal superior craftsmanship and acute attention to detail.


Nautor's Swan

The Club Swan 42 evolved through a collaboration between the New York Yacht Club and Nautor’s Swan to produce a new one-design boat for its membership. German Frers’s design is powerful and specifically designed for a Corinthian class—owner-drivers with amateur crews. It may have been designed for the NYYC, but you don’t have to be a member to own one.

Tartan Yachts

The Tartan 4300 is an offshore cruising boat built with materials most often seen on grand-prix racing boats— epoxy resin in the hull and carbon fiber in the rig. The materials enhance performance, while the main design brief calls for a classic American cruising boat. So you get the best of both worlds—the comfort of a stylish cruising boat that has some ponies under the hood.

Sweden Yachts

Sweden Yachts pulled back from the U.S. market for a few years; now it’s back in the States with the Sweden Yachts 54. This offshore passagemaker is specifically designed to be fast, easy to handle, and comfortable. It’s sure to have the high-quality craftsmanship Sweden Yachts is known for, as well as the powerful main, self-tacking jib, dual helm stations, and lines that achieve the delicate and pleasing balance between aggressive and traditional.

Alden 55

This new 55-foot bluewater cruiser is the result of a collaboration between AldenYachts and designer Bill Cook.The idea was to answer two questions: What is the perfect size for an off-shore cruising boat, and what does that boat need? According to Alden Yachts president David MacFarlane, “At 55 feet we were able to provide a yacht large enough to be comfortable during extended cruising, yet small enough for a couple to manage easily without crew.”

Island Packet

It was less than five years ago when Island Packet built its first center-cockpit boat, and the introduction of the Island Packet 465 shows the company is committed to the design. This new model has a larger aft cabin than its predecessor, the IP 445, a larger lazaret, and aft deck space that can accommodate a 10-foot dinghy. There is over-7-foot headroom in the saloon, each head has its own shower stall, and stowage space is generous.

Wauquiez Yachts

The Wauquiez Pilot Saloon 55 is the logical product of this French company’s interpretation of the pilot-saloon concept. It’s not a pilothouse per se (there is no helm station below), but the view from the saloon is panoramic. Interior styling is distinctively chic, and the designers made excellent use of the considerable interior volume. On deck, an arch that keeps the mainsheet out of the cockpit adds to the overall modern look.

Hanse Yachts

German builder Hanse Yachts is coming on strong in the U.S., and the new Hanse 430e (43 feet) and 470e (47 feet) should help to keep up the momentum. Both boats have distinctively modern styling and are designed for offshore passagemaking. The “e” stands for epoxy— both hulls are built with epoxy resin. The rigs are carbon, and the jibs are self-tacking. The accommodations plans for both boats can be configured in a multitude of ways.

J Boats

Like her sisterships, the J/109 and J/133, the 40-foot J/122 is designed to be a competitive racer/cruiser that offers both stellar performance and comfortable accommodations. It has a generous high-aspect main, the 110 percent jib has minimal overlap to go easy on the trimmer, and an A-sail set on a retractable carbon sprit provides loads of downwind horsepower without requiring lots of crew.

Portsmouth Marine

“Robust offshore passagemaker” is a good way to describe the first impressions the Hood 55 Expedition elicits. It has twin wheels in the cockpit as well as a helm station in the pilothouse. The interior layout includes space for a proper engine room, and the cabins are designed to be comfortable in a seaway. The rig is powered by electric winches (the furling lines have their own captive winches), so it should be easy for a cruising couple to handle offshore.

Tayana Yachts

The Tayana Dixon 54 is a full-on offshore boat built by Taiwanese craftsmen who come from a long boat-building tradition. It’s a sturdy boat with a long fin keel, skeg-hung rudder, and cutter rig that is designed to withstand the punishment of offshore cruising. The interior offers spacious living areas filled with hand-built furniture.

Dufour Yachts

The Dufour 425 and 525 Grand Large complete the range of Dufour boats that have been completely redesigned since 2000. The idea was to give the boats an updated look, and these boats are another example of this French builder’s ability to deliver. There’s nothing revolutionary about the layout or sailing systems, but a close look reveals the subtle refinements that set some boats apart. And the lines just look right.

Hallberg-Rassy 54

Hallberg-Rassy has a reputation for building sturdy offshore cruisers with trademark glass windshields, and the new 54 that debuts in the States this year is sure to be exactly that. While it’s designed to be safe and comfortable offshore, that’s not the whole story. The transom is equipped with a remote-controlled door that opens to reveal a large swim platform. The aft deck is purposely kept free of hardware to make room for a proper sundeck, and the spacious interior is built by highly skilled Swedish craftsmen.


Fountaine Pajot

The new 44- and 48-foot cats from Fountaine Pajot had a specific list of design criteria. Like all Fountaine Pajots, they’re designed to be up to offshore passagemaking. The saloon and cockpit blend seamlessly together without a step. And the helm seat is more like a helm couch; it’s big enough to allow three people to sit behind the wheel. Wraparound windows and a large opening door out to the cockpit succeed in bringing the outdoors into the saloon space.

Scape Yachts

The 39-foot South African Scapecat combines just enough interior comfort and functionality with drag-racer performance. It features light, stiff construction (stitched E-glass fabric vacuum-bagged in epoxy over PVC foam with carbon-fiber reinforcements in the crossbeams), a high open bridgedeck (protected by a hard roof), plus narrow hulls with super-fine entries and deep daggerboards.


Catana is reestablishing itself in the States with the new Catana 50. The company has used technology and advanced building materials to keep speed-stealing weight out of the boat. Closed-cell foam cores are used for stiffness in the hulls, deck, and furniture. And the boat’s carbon-fiber rig is 15 percent lighter than a comparable aluminum rig would be.

Fusion Catamarans

The Fusion 40 may look like a South African cat, but it’s actually built in the U.S. It’s designed with performance in mind, but not at the expense of such luxuries as hardwood floors and granite countertops. The hulls are built using vacuum-infusion technology, vinylester resin, and closed-cell foam cores. The use of the Airpax “two wire” system is intended to minimize the need for miles of wire on a boat this size.



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