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Best Boats Nominees 2020


Bring on the monohulls! In a world increasingly given over to multihull sailing, SAIL magazine’s “Best Boats” class of 2020 brings with it a strong new group of keelboats, including everything from luxury cruisers nipping at the heels of their mega-yacht brethren to a number of great-looking new performance boats. There’s even a fun little inflatable from French-based Tiwal, a company that takes a back seat to no one where innovation is concern. Which is not to say multihulls are completely absent—far from it. The Best Boats class of 2020 has a number of strong cats and tris, not the least of which is the latest tri from award-winning Neel, that and a 53ft full-foiling “weekender.” Strange days, indeed! What follows is a list of all the boats SAIL’s judges will be examining over the coming months as part of its annual Best Boats contest. Be sure to check out our January issue to find out which ones they decide are the winners.

Monohulls Cruising

Bavaria C57


Coming fast on the heels of the company’s recent restructuring, the Bavaria C57 is the flagship of the new “C” line, a sportier, sleek-looking version of the Cruiser line of old. Designed by Maurizio Cossutti, the C57 features a slippery, chine-free hull with blunt ends, twin rudders and twin helms. Hidden behind the massive drop-down transom is a large dinghy garage. Also, aft is the option of an outside grill station, complete with refrigerator. The hull is infused in vinylester resin in the interest of keeping weight down. Topside there are no fewer than three separate lounging “zones” and a large cockpit with plenty of room for both non-sailing passengers and the crew. Bavaria Yachts,

Bavaria C45


The smallest of the three boats comprising Bavaria’s new “C” series, the C45 strives to strike just the right balance between performance and comfort. Highlights include twin helms and a split backstay providing unimpeded access to a truly massive drop-down swim platform aft; an outside wet bar and grill; a belowdeck headsail furler to maximize sail area; a Germain mainsheet system (of course!); and an infused “Vacutec” hull so that just the right amount of resin goes into the layup. A substantial dinghy garage can also be found aft, a nice touch, especially aboard a boat of this size. Bavaria Yachts,

X-Yachts X4.6


Whenever a new X-Yacht arrives on American shores, it pays to take notice, and the newly arrived X4.6, part of the recently introduced “X” line of “contemporary performance cruisers, is no exception. Vacuum-infused in epoxy, the boat’s hull also includes a signature X-Yachts galvanized steel grid to accommodate rig and keel loads. Topside, the boat’s self-tacking jib makes coming about simplicity itself, while the wide-open cockpit and twin helms will work great whether racing or just out for a cruise. On a practical note, a dedicated liferaft locker can be found under the starboard cockpit bench. In addition to a spacious sail locker in the bow, there is also an absolutely enormous lazarette aft. X-Yachts,

Elan Impression 45.1


The latest from Slovenia’s Elan (yes, it’s the same Elan that makes the skis), the Impression 45.1 promises to be another strong contender in the mid-40ft range of cruisers with its distinctive lines and volume belowdecks. The cockpit, in particular, looks to be an especially promising place to hang out, with its substantial benches, tandem tables straddling the centerline and comfy helm stations. Twin rudders promise excellent control, even hard on the wind in a blow, while teak toerails line the sidedecks from stem to stern in a nod to crew safety. Aesthetically, it’s hard to put your finger on exactly what’s at work here, but Elan also seems to have carved out a look all of its own, which is nice to see in an age when consolidation has resulted in an awful lot of boats looking alike. Elan,

Beneteau First Yacht 53


A truly striking design, the Beneteau First Yacht 53 offers much of what has helped push Beneteau to the forefront of modern boatbuilding in terms of both luxury and performance. Designed by America’s Cup veteran Roberto Biscontini, the First Yacht 53 combines an almost predatory-looking plumb bow and fixed sprit with maximum beam carried well aft, just a hint of reverse sheer and a high-aspect bulb keel and twin rudders: all in the interest of promoting performance. A carbon mast is available for those in search of even more giddyap-and-go, and both the hull and deck are vacuum-infused. Aft, the boat includes a dinghy garage below the cockpit sole and enclosed by a large drop-down swim platform. Belowdecks, the saloon, in particular, promises to be absolutely awash in ambient light, thanks to the boat’s many hatches and hull windows. Beneteau,

Beneteau Oceanis 30.1


Described by Beneteau as being “easy to sail but lively to helm,” the Finot-Conq-designed Oceanis 30.1 offers an intriguing mix of features intended to accommodate a wide range of sailing styles. Chines, a fixed sprit, twin rudders, a plumb bow with a fine entry and a backstay-free rig to accommodate a square-top main all speak to a desire to create a boat that will do well on all points of sail. Belowdecks the boat offers not one, but two full-sized cabins, saloon benches that will double as fine sea berths and 6ft 6in of headroom. To keep things fun, owners will have the choice of a tiller or a wheel. Swing keel versions of the boat for “sailing along canals and rivers,” as Beneteau puts it, are also available. Beneteau,

Nautor’s Swan 48


It’s great to see a company like Nautor’s Swan staying in touch with its roots the way it is doing with its new 48—the latest in a series of “48’s” following in the wake of the Swan 48 designed by S&S in the early 1970s. Drawn by longtime Nautor’s Swan collaborator German Frers, this latest 48 is not only vintage “Swan” from masthead to keel, but set up so that it can be easily handled by a cruising couple. Highlights include twin rudders, a vacuum-infused post-cured foam-core vinylester hull and a beautifully sculpted fixed sprit. Of course, being a Swan, myriad options are available, ranging from a choice of headsail configurations, including a self-tacking jib, to a dinghy garage aft. Nautor’s Swan,

Hanse 675


Hanse has long since established a distinct look and performance profile all its own, a combination that is not only very much in evidence but very well executed in the company’s new 675. The rig is also a tried and true one for Hanse, pairing a self-tacking working jib with a larger genoa for speed off the wind—all part of what Hanse calls its “Easy Sailing Concept.” Being at the larger end of the company’s product line, the Hanse 675 includes a fully integrated hydraulic drop-down bathing platform along with a launch system for moving the tender in and out of a spacious “garage.” Customers also have the option of the recently introduced Hanse “T-Top,” a kind of fixed carbon bimini with a retractable portion to fine-tune the amount of sunlight you get. Hanse Yachts,

Hylas 60


After a brief hiatus, Hylas Yachts International is back up to speed again, as is evident in the all-new Hylas 60. Designed by German Frers, the boat is intended to serve as a fast bluewater cruiser that it is still well within the limits of a shorthanded crew. To this end the boat is equipped with a fin keel and bulb, an impressive 90ft air draft (no ICW transits for this big girl!), twin spade rudders and a svelte-looking fixed sprit. At the same time, the Hylas 60 remains very much a cruising boat, with a fairly deep forefoot and sufficient displacement to not only promote a seakindly motion in a seaway but provide that much more storage and accommodation space belowdecks. Hylas Yacht International,

Dufour Grand Large 390


Designed by Umberto Felci, the Dufour Grand Large 390 represents the “next generation” in the company’s well-known Grand Large line, with a number of features representing the latest in hull design. Additional volume forward and aft, with dramatic chines running much of the length of the hull, for example, mean a combination of more living space belowdecks and sailing-carrying ability. Topsides, a substantial fixed sprit/anchor roller helps keep the hook away from the nearly plumb bow, and the boat’s fractional rig and self-tacking jib promise to be easy on shorthanded crews. Below the waterline is a high-aspect, semi-balanced rudder and moderate-aspect fin keel and bulb. The deck is injected with a PU foam core to lower both overall boat weight and the center of gravity. Dufour Yachts,

Dufour Grand Large 430


The third-largest model in the Grand Large line, the Dufour Grand Large 430 shares many of the same features found in the Grand Large 390, including a high-volume hull form with chines and a fractional rig and deck-stepped, double-spread aluminum mast. The deck is comprised of an injected sandwich with a PU foam core, and the hand-laminated polyester hull employs an NPG gelcoat layer to help ward off blisters. Topsides, the name of the game is comfort, with twin helms and a split backstay for unfettered access to a substantial drop-down swim step aft, clear sightlines and an outdoor grill. Dufour Yachts,

Tartan 365


In a world of European-built boats, there’s no mistaking an Ohio-built Tartan. Created by longtime Tartan designer Tim Jackett, the Tartan 365 carries on the company’s tradition of good looks and exceptional build quality, with an eye toward making knots in a wide variety of conditions. Minimal bow overhang, for example, extends the boat’s sailing length, while a high-aspect blade rudder and fin keel promise good control and satisfying VMG’s to windward. Topsides the boat sports a pair of lightweight carbon steering pedestals. Overhead, Tartan’s trademark CCR (Cruise Control Rig), which includes a carbon mast, makes sail handling a snap, even in heavy weather. Tartan Yachts,

Southerly 480


In the wake of its acquisition by Discovery Yachts Group, Southerly made a number of moves to further refine its 480 for an all-new class of sailors. However, the basic Southerly “go-anywhere” mindset is very much evident in such Southerly hallmarks as a raised, well-protected helm station; a crew-friendly double-headsail rig with a self-tacking inner jib for downshifting in heavy weather; twin rudders; and, of course, the trademark Southerly “swing keel” system that reduces draft to just 3ft and allows the boat to safely take the ground. The result is a true bluewater cruising boat that is as comfortable gunkholing a thin-water anchorage as it is crossing oceans. Southerly Yachts,; (in the U.S.)

Monohulls Performance



Following up on the J/121, which won a SAIL Best Boat’s award in 2018, the new J/99 is similar in concept, with a deck layout and rig optimized for smaller crews in the interest of addressing the increasing interest in shorthanded racing both in the United States and abroad. Beyond that, the 33ft J/99 is vintage modern “J,” with its plumb ends, slippery “SCRIMP” infused hull, deep high-aspect rudder and similarly deep fin keel lead “shoe,” the latter designed to get the boat’s center of gravity as low as possible. As is the case the with the rest of the J/Boats fleet, the cockpit is a functional work of art, with plenty of room for trimming sail. J/Boats Inc.,

Jeanneau Sun Fast 3300


France’s Jeanneau has long been active on the performance side of sailing with its Sun Fast line, and it would be hard to imagine a more exciting addition to the series than the Sun Fast 3300. Designed by Daniel Andrieu and Guillaume Verdier, the boat is all business with just a hint of reverse sheer, twin rudders, fixed sprit, crazy-cool tumblehome bow and a high-aspect, square-top main. The boat’s deck layout has also been carefully configured so that it will work equally well racing with a full crew, doublehanded or even solo. Finally, you steer this little pocket rocket with a tiller, the better to feel how she’s zipping through the briny. How cool is that! Jeanneau,

Grand Soleil 34


Back in the 1970s, Grand Soleil unveiled its first 34-footer, eventually building 300 of them over the course of a production run lasting well into the ‘80s. Now comes an all-new Grand Soleil 34, finally arriving on American shores following a couple of years of production in Europe. Built-in E-glass with a PVC foam core and vinylester, the hull includes a carbon-reinforced frame to support mast and keel loads while at the same time keeping weight to a minimum. Chines and powerful sections aft max out sail-carrying ability, while twin rudders will ensure the boat remains under control even at an aggressive heel angle. The square-top main flying from the boat’s fractional rig sheets to a traveler in the cockpit sole just aft of the tiller—yes, a tiller, which looks to be tons of fun underway. An aluminum mast comes standard, but a carbon spar is available for those in search of an even greater performance edge. An optional hydraulic backstay is also available. Grand Soleil,

Italia 9.98 Fuoriserie


When it created its 9.98, Italia decided to market two very different versions of the boat: a “Bellissima” version, optimized for cruising as well as racing; and a “Fuoriserie” stripped-down racing version that is only now making its debut on American shores. Designed by Matteo Polli, the Fuoriserie has been optimized as a kind of “all-around” raceboat that will do equally well on all angles of sail and a variety of different racecourses. To this end, the hull and deck are constructed in vinylester, with a PVC core and a combination of biaxial and unidirectional fibers, all designed to maximize stiffness while minimizing weight. Similarly, the boat’s T-keel comprises 40 percent of the boat’s overall displacement, and for those with the wherewithal, the boat’s tapered 9/10th fractionally rigged tapered aluminum mast can be swapped out for one that is all-carbon. Best of all, the accommodations, while spartan, are hardly hellish, making the saloon a nice place to hang out whether you’re off watch or between races. Italia Yachts SRL,

Mutlihulls Cruising

Bali 5.4


Produced by France’s Bali/Catana, the Bali 5.4 follows in the wake of its predecessors with its combination of quality construction and comfortable accommodations. Drawn by Xavier Fay, the boat’s hulls are infused in polyester with a PVC foam sandwich and an outer vinylester layer for warding off blisters. Featuring what Bali describes as its “open concept” layout, the 5.4 includes a large saloon/cockpit area that is completely bulkhead-free, thereby creating a tremendous amount of combined living space. (An easy-to-operate tilting door can be used to cordon off the saloon in the event of inclement weather.) There’s also an expansive lounging area forward of the cabintrunk and a truly massive flybridge/lounging area overhead. Bali Catamarans,

Gunboat 68


Coming out at the other end of a period of financial turmoil, iconic Gunboat (now under the firm leadership of France’s Grand Large Yachting) has seemingly done the impossible with its new Gunboat 68 and managed to make its original cutting-edge line of performance cruisers look almost staid by comparison. That said, this new VPLP-designed 68-footer remains “Gunboat” to the core with its lightweight, all-carbon construction, narrow hulls, powerful rig, daggerboards and eye-catching good looks. Of course, Gunboats are also as comfortable as they are fast, and this new design is no exception, with its spacious customizable saloon, well-appointed cabins and truly magnificent cockpit aft. Gunboat,

Excess 12


Group Beneteau, which already includes multihull giant Lagoon in its portfolio, is now looking to make a play to snatch up yet more market share with its Excess line of cruising cats—of which the Excess 12 and Excess 15 are the first two to be launched, and the Excess 12 will be the first to debut in North America. Designed by VPLP, the boats not unexpectedly bear some resemblance to their Lagoon brethren. However, they are also still very much their own boats, thanks to such features as twin outboard helm stations set well aft (in many ways the mark of a true performance cat), just a hint of reverse sheer to complement the boats’ plumb bows, and a high-aspect rig and square-top main. The company also equips each boat with a clever retractable roof in the cabintrunk aft to further open things up in nice weather. A turbocharged “pulse” version of each boat with yet more sail area is available for those in search of additional horsepower. It will be interesting to see how things play out for this new line of cats. Excess Catamaran,

Lagoon 46


The Lagoon 46 replaces the long-lived Lagoon 450, and in keeping with other recent additions to the range—including the 40, 42, 50 and 52—has a high-aspect mainsail set well aft, almost amidships. This, in turn, allows the VPLP-designed 46-footer to fly a large self-tacking headsail while making the mainsail smaller and easier to handle. In terms of hull design, pronounced chines provide for additional interior volume while ensuring bow entries remain as fine as possible. The galley-up accommodations plan includes sliding windows to open up the saloon to the cockpit and L-shaped seating inside and out. Topside, sun worshippers can choose between a forward cockpit or the flybridge, which includes a central helm position and a generous expanse of lounging space. Lagoon,

Neel 47


The Neel 47 trimaran bridges the gap between the Neel 45 and Neel 51. It also shares the same outstanding interior volume and clever use of space as seen aboard not only these two boats, but also the flagship of the line, the Neel 65 Evolution. Standout features include a pair of large double cabins in the outer hulls accessible from the cockpit; optional single bunks in the bows (ideal for children); a trademark Neel owner’s suite on the top level; a full-width cockpit and large galley; and a walk-through “garage” below the saloon, where machinery and tankage are concentrated. A self-tacking jib makes shorthanded sailing a snap, while a larger outboard genoa provides extra speed, especially off the wind. Fine wave-piercing bows, a powerful main and lightweight construction all speak to the boat’s performance potential. Neel Trimarans,

Fountaine Pajot 45


As it continues to revamp its entire catamaran line, Fountaine Pajot just seems to get better and better at incorporating all the many different features now required aboard any cruising cat worth its name—all the while creating boats that are still exceptionally easy on the eyes. Aboard the “New” Fountaine Pajot 45, for example, (at press time the company had yet to unveil the actual name of the boat) in addition to being able stretch out in the cockpit, you have the option of chilling out in a pair of lounging areas either forward or above and alongside the raised helm station to starboard. Similarly, the dividing line between the cockpit and saloon has been all but erased, creating a truly massive living space for a 45-footer. In terms of looks, the boat’s reverse sheer, tumblehome bows and artfully angled Targa top aft create an aesthetic that is as attractive as the boat is comfortable. Fountaine Pajot Sailing Catamarans,

Multihulls Performance

Eagle 53


Envisaged as a self-described “ultimate weekender,” the Eagle Class 53 is built by Rhode Island’s Fast Forward Composite and puts the latest in racing tech into the hands of any recreational sailor with the financial wherewithal to make one of these waterborne rockets their own. First launched with “standard” (though still very high-tech) C foils, the boat is now also available with carbon-fiber T-foils enabling full-foiling performance even at the lower end of the Beaufort scale. Better still, a fully automated foiling control system helps take some of difficulty (and fear) out of getting airborne, whether you’re a newbie or a veteran. Being a “weekender” the 53 also offers a cabin in each hull, complete with a double bed and 6ft 5in of headroom. Fast Forward Composites,

Smaller Boats

Tiwal 2


A few years back, U.S. sailors were first introduced to the French-built Tiwal 3, an inflatable sailing dinghy that actually sails the way a boat is supposed to. Now, nearly 1,000 Tiwal 3’s later, the company has come out with the Tiwal 2, an even smaller 9ft 2in inflatable that looks to be the perfect little excursion craft for either a day trip to the beach or for carrying aboard the “mother ship” while cruising. Stored in a pair of duffles, the Tiwal 2 can be inflated and assembled in as little as 15 minutes and will accommodate a single adult or an adult and a child. Again, this is a real sailboat we’re talking about, with true planing ability on a reach and a V-shaped hull and daggerboard for sailing to windward. Tiwal Corp.,

Saffier SE 26


Although the Dutch-built Saffier SE 26 has been sailing in Europe for a couple of years, it is only now making its North American debut, where it will undoubtedly turn heads with its classic good looks. Although classified as a daysailer, the boat includes some basic accommodations belowdecks and can even be fitted out with a toilet and fridge for those in search of adventure. Beneath the waterline is a high-aspect spade rudder and bulb keel, which along with a self-tacking headsail and a belowdeck furler serve as evidence that this good-looking little sloop is also a real sailor. Aft, the helm station looks to be an absolute work of art, with winches and lines all close at hand. Saffier Yachts,;

Tartan 245


Don’t be fooled by its small size. The Tim Jackett-design Tartan 245 is packed with far more features than we could ever hope to list in a single paragraph—all part of an effort to create a combination sail-trainer, club racer and adaptive daysailer that is as fun to sail as it is functional. Highlights include a large cockpit with benches built heavy enough for attaching brackets or custom seating for disabled sailors; a kick-up rudder and easy-to-retract keel; and a small cabin for camper cruising. Not so easy to see is the “crunch” section in the bow that gives way in the event of a collision (all while maintaining the watertight integrity of the hull) and is easy to replace afterward. In other words, no need for any bulky bow bumpers, which would only serve to compromise the aesthetics of what also appears to be a darn good-looking boat. Tartan Yachts,

September 2019



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