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Best Boats Nominees 2010

Never mind the economy -- it’s business as usual in the boating game. Well, not quite. Everyone in the marine trade is feeling the financial pinch these days, so it’s even more impressive that so many new boats have been developed and readied in time for the fall boat show season. What this year’s line-up of new models—everything from dinghies to multi-million-dollar world cruisers—tells me is

Never mind the economy -- it’s business as usual in the boating game. Well, not quite. Everyone in the marine trade is feeling the financial pinch these days, so it’s even more impressive that so many new boats have been developed and readied in time for the fall boat show season. What this year’s line-up of new models—everything from dinghies to multi-million-dollar world cruisers—tells me is that the sailboat trade is extremely resilient and, like all of us, looking forward to a better 2010.

SAIL will be at the Newport and Annapolis boat shows in force, evaluating this latest crop of boats for our Best Boats awards. Our highly experienced team of sailors and editors will pore over each boat, looking for those creative and innovative touches that set it apart from the rest of a highly competitive field.

Beneteau First 40
The latest in Beneteau’s ever-popular First series of cruiser-racers wears its pedigree in plain sight; the same sleek profile as the earlier, large Farr-designed Firsts, the 50 and 45, the same powerful rig and deep torpedo-bulbed keel, the same family-friendly interior that keeps the good times coming even when the racing’s over. It’s all just condensed into a smaller, more manageable package. www.beneteauusa.com

Catalina 445
Catalina’s latest big cruising yacht met with a great reception at the Oakland Strictly Sail show in April; orders quickly went into double figures, which is no mean feat in this economy. Designer Gerry Douglas obviously enjoyed himself with this boat; it is packed with details and features gleaned from his decades of experience in design and building. The end result is a fine all-round sailing boat, with performance lively enough to scratch the competitive itch and a layout that’ll suit both offshore and coastal cruisers. www.catalinayachts.com

Dufour 405
You’ve got to admire the French take on life. Two of the standout features in the new Dufour 405’s accommodations are the massive fridge/freezer and the specially designed storage for wine and other essentials beneath the cabin sole. Not that the rest of the boat isn’t worth a look; the styling is classy and understated, and there’s a choice of layouts to suit long-distance and coastal cruisers alike. The boat should perform as well as it looks. www.dufouryachts.com

EKO 6.5
The Mini 6.5 solo racing class is well established in Europe and is now slowly gaining a toehold in the U.S.A. The EKO 6.5 is built by Third Coast Composites in Texas and the first example has already completed the Bermuda One-Two race. There are plans to break into series production if the class catches on. www.thirdcoastcomposites.com

Grand Soleil 54
Italy’s Cantiere del Pardo has been producing fast, handsome yachts for many years. The Grand Soleil 54 is the work of Luca Brenta, who has emerged as one of Italy’s leading yacht designers. Long, low and sleek, it is a performance cruiser that will also be a satisfying racing ride. Belowdecks there are three large sleeping cabins, each with en suite head compartments, and full cooking and entertaining amenities along with enough stowage for extended cruising. www.mareblu.net

Lipari 41
Fountaine-Pajot’s latest new model supersedes the popular Lavezzi 40, with a different hull and updated accommodations. It’s available in three- or four-cabin layouts, and if you want to load up the boat with friends and family, the saloon (which can seat eight) and the large cockpit can hold a few more. The saloon and galley open into the large cockpit, which features a raised helm position. www.fountaine-pajot.com

Hanse 630e
Designed by German partners Judel/ Vrolijk, who have been drawing fast raceboats for a generation, the Hanse 630e is a big, brash playground bully of a boat that’ll muscle right through a typical cruising fleet. Quick and easily handled thanks to its big fully battened mainsail and self-tacking jib, the 630e also bears the stamp of Hanse’s inhouse design and styling department, which can be relied upon to come up with something out of the ordinary. www.hanseyachts.com

Hunter 39
Hunter's latest hadn’t been launched as this issue went to press, but we can surmise the performance edge that’s crept into the line over the last few years will continue with the 39, which has short overhangs and a long sailing waterline. Twin wheels, the trademark B&R rig and the usual well-appointed accommodations can be taken for granted. www.huntermarine.com

Island Packet Estero
Island Packet Yachts proprietor Bob Johnson delves deep into the psyche of his client base, and the Estero is another example of his ability to gauge his market’s mood. Recent Island Packet launches have been large (IP 460) or slanted toward power (SP Cruiser). This one is medium-sized, and slanted toward livability. Its inmast-furling mainsail and self-tacking jib make it easy to handle, but it is the imaginative saloon-forward interior layout that will draw the crowds. www.ipy.com

J/95
Rod Johnstone’s latest design taps into a new market segment for the Rhode Island-based company: shoal-draft boats. The versatile J/95 has both twin rudders and a centerboard, neither of which has been seen on a J/Boat before. With the ballasted board up the boat draws just 3 feet, while remaining perfectly controllable under full sail. The J/Boats performance ethos remains intact; the boat is fast, agile and fun to sail, although the accommodations belowdecks are bare-bones basic. www.jboats.com

J/97
You might wonder why J/Boats chose to introduce two new models that, on the face of it, are so similar. Study the spec sheet and it soon becomes apparent that these are two different boats aimed at different markets. The J/97 is bigger all round, which means there’s room for a proper cruising interior with an aft head, a functional galley and good sleeping accommodation for a family crew. The boat rates well under IRC and if early race results are any indication, it’s capable of giving bigger J/Boats a fright. www.jboats.com

Jeanneau 33i
It’s great to see boatbuilders investing in smaller boats again, and this new baby of Jeanneau’s North American range looks like just the thing for a young family. She’s a simple boat, with cabins fore and aft and the possibility of sleeping two people amidships on the settees. The head/shower looks to be a good size and there’s a decent galley and a small nav table. The sporty 19/20ths rig has two sets of swept spreaders and performance should be gratifyingly nimble. www.Jeanneau.com

Jeanneau 57
If proof were needed of the high standard of modern production boatbuilding, Jeanneau’s new flagship would be high on the list of exhibits. It features a bunch of nice detail touches that not too long ago would have been the preserve of much more expensive yachts. Philippe Briand drew the lines for this express cruiser, which combines a powerful triple-spreader rig, refined underwater lines, and a capacious interior with several layout choices. www.jeanneau.com

Lagoon 400
The new mid-range cat from Lagoon looks like a useful cruiser. From stem to stern, it reeks of practicality, from the trademark pillbox-style windows (let in light without heat when the sun’s high) to the hardtop cockpit canopy (everyone always fits a bimini, so why not make it permanent?). The sails can be controlled from the elevated helm station and between the open-plan interior and the split-level cockpit there are several seating/entertaining areas. www.cata-lagoon.com

Moody 45 DS
What happens when one of Britain’s oldest and most conservative brands meets one of Germany’s most unorthodox boatbuilders? The Moody 45, that’s what. Longtime Moody designer Bill Dixon must have had a ball with this boat, built at the Hanse factory in Germany. It’s designed with most of the accommodation at deck level, just leaving heads and sleeping cabins down below. The saloon and galley can be screened off from the elements, but al fresco dining—and sailing—are this boat’s strong points. www.moodyboats.com

Morris M29
Launched in the frigid depths of the Maine winter, Morris Yachts’s M29 daysailer got a warm reception at the Miami boat show a few weeks later. Sparkman & Stephens drew the lines, as with the rest of the “M” range. That sweet sheerline is only part of the story; the sailplan can easily be controlled from the cockpit by one person, and there are plenty of clever little touches that only become apparent on closer inspection. www.morrisyachts.com

Morris M52
The biggest and arguably the best-looking of Morris Yachts’s Sparkman & Stephens-designed daysailer range, the M52 is a potential showstopper. It might be a daysailer by name, but this is too confining a label to put on a boat that’s manifestly capable of long offshore passages. Its opulent expanse of teak deck is counterbalanced by the plain white finish belowdecks. The big sailplan, with its carbon-fiber spars, self-tacking jib and in-boom furling mainsail, can be controlled from the cockpit by one person. www.morrisyachts.com

Oyster 655
You can’t talk about dream yachts without someone dropping the Oyster name in the first few minutes. Designer Rob Humphreys’s brief for the new 655 was for a boat that combined luxurious amenities with first-class performance. The latter was achieved not only by clever hull design, but by the extensive use of carbon fiber and Kevlar throughout the boat. If you didn’t think luxury could also be lightweight and quick, this boat proves you wrong. www.oystermarine.com

Passport Vista 615
Bill Dixon has created a fine-looking yacht for the Passport line. The center-cockpit, deck-saloon layout makes full use of the considerable interior volume. Each interior is custom-built to the lucky owner’s requirements. There are three separate entertainment areas on deck; the main cockpit, a separate steering cockpit, and a “lounging” cockpit aft. www.wagnerstevens.com

Prout 45S
Originally a British company, Prout catamarans are now built in China. The 45S is a good-looking boat, opulently fitted out with several customizable interior options. There’s more wood than we’ve become accustomed to seeing in catamarans and the factory has done its best to keep weight down with extensive use of cored moldings. There are four staterooms, and a head compartment in each hull. The saloon looks particularly roomy. www.proutcats.com

Rustler 24
This British import arrives on this side of the Pond with an impressive pedigree. Her builders are renowned for hardy, seaworthy cruising boats, which may be why this daysailer manages to look both elegant and tough. The powerful yet easily handled sailplan is balanced by a full keel, and build quality is first-class; this little Rustler is a welcome addition to the daysailer genre. www.scandyacht.com

Sensei 9m
Here’s an unusual import from Turkey, a country famed more for its beautiful coastline than for its boatbuilding. The Sensei is as up-to-the-minute in design and construction as it’s possible to be; the hull is a vacuum-bagged sandwich of vinylester resin and Corecell reinforced with carbon fiber, the T-keel will reward good helming and the styling is delightfully Italian. Inside the sleek hull, there are cooking and toilet facilities and even a couple of berths. www.senseiyachts.com

Shannon 53 HPS
Here we see Shannon designer Walter Schulz’s interpretation of the motorsailer concept. He wanted a shoal-draft boat that sailed well and motored efficiently; the result is the HPS, which, he says, will motor at 12 knots and also sail to windward well, thanks to a pair of daggerboards that add bite to the long, shallow keel. The ketch rig makes for a low-aspect ratio sailplan that’ll be easy to manage for a cruising couple. www.shannonyachts.com

Summit 35
This handsome racer-cruiser from the board of Mark Mills is designed to the IRC rule. It promises sizzling performance with family-friendly accommodations. A retracting pole for an A-sail is optional, or you can fly symmetrical spinnakers from the tall double-spreader aluminum mast. Down below, there are three double berths, standing headroom and a functional galley. www.summit-yachts.com

Sunsail 385
The charter company commissioned this good-looking cat from South African company Robertson & Caine. Designed by Morelli & Melvin, the boat should sail nicely as well as providing plenty of room for both charter parties and family cruisers. It’s a galley-up design, geared toward outdoor living, and offers all the usual catamaran advantages—plenty of lounging space, a level ride, and two-hull accommodations for privacy. www.sunsail.com

Topaz
This dinghy is a new arrival from England. Its rotomolded 12ft 6in hull is the base for three rigs of varying sportiness, and it can serve as anything from a gentle daysailer for the kids to a full-on trapeze boat. There’s no need for a trailer—it can be transported on top of a car. www.topazsailing.com

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