Boat Review: Amel 50

Publish date:

It is possible to cross an ocean in almost anything that will float, just as you could cross the United States on anything with wheels. But to voyage safely, swiftly and comfortably calls for a good deal more than the minimum. That’s where bluewater specialist Amel comes into consideration with vessels like the new Amel 50, the smallest boat in the company’s current product line.


Over the past 50 years, Amel ketches like the Super Maramu have been top choices for sailors who value excellent construction, good open-water performance and a sensible layout for living aboard. The Amel 50 shares many of these qualities, but it’s a sloop, and its lines are also more modern, carrying a wider beam farther aft than its predecessors.

The Amel 50’s hull is vacuum-bagged with solid glass below the waterline and a foam core above. Close inspection of hidden areas reveals neatly finished work throughout. The system installations are meticulous. Wiring is conventional, not distributed, for reliability and easy maintenance. Twin rudders ensure a firm grip on the water at all angles of heel.

Amel believes in backing up the backups. If you manage to smash into something and flood both the forward and aft collision compartments, for example, you can move to the center of the boat and close the secondary watertight doors to the sleeping quarters, thus creating yet another set of collision compartments. You may not have a private cabin to nap in anymore, but you’ll still be afloat.

Easy maintenance was another priority when Amel created the 50. Experienced cruisers will all sprout big grins when they see the spacious engine room below the cockpit, the access hatches to all major systems, and the robust, simple construction that includes plenty of maintenance points within easy reach.

Other thoughtful touches include a clear plastic port under the aft berth that provides a direct view of the prop, a godsend when you need to check for fouling. Wiring is also all overhead behind removable panels, not hidden behind furniture or in the bilge. Speaking of the bilge, a pan collects shower and other gray water in one place at the foot of the companionway ladder, where it is then pumped out, thereby helping to keep the rest of the bilge that much cleaner.


The deck layout reflects the function of the Amel 50 as an offshore cruiser for shorthanded crews. Instead of a helm far aft in the open air, the wheel is located nearly amidships under an elegantly sculpted deckhouse. This reduces sail visibility somewhat but provides what will undoubtedly be much-appreciated protection from wind, rain and spray.

In fact, this kind of helm position and accompanying layout optimized for steering by autopilot rather than with the wheel is common on larger bluewater cruisers. However, skippers coming from smaller boats may need to adapt their thinking as they move up to this kind of vessel. The aim is comfort sailing hour after hour on passage, as opposed to continually tweaking course with every windshift.

Our test boat had a standard double-headsail rig, with a 135 percent genoa on the bow and a self-tacking inner jib, both on electric furlers. Over the years, this has proven a versatile combination for cruising. The in-mast mainsail furler was also electrically driven, and in light air, it was simply setting an asymmetric spinnaker on the combination sprit/anchor roller forward. With its 74ft mast and 7ft keel, the Amel 50 is not an ICW-style cruiser.

Although the boat can be managed almost entirely from the deckhouse, for those times when the crew still needs to go forward, Amel looks after their security with teak decks, strong grabrails and an exceptionally effective nonskid on all fiberglass surfaces.



Belowdecks, the interior layout is an unusual one in that the owner’s cabin is aft, and both it and the guest cabin forward come equipped with freestanding double berths. However, it’s an arrangement that makes sense for cruising, when the skipper needs to be within easy reach of the boat control center, even when off watch.

The saloon area is defined by a well-equipped inline galley to starboard and aft. While U-shaped galleys are the standard on American boats, this linear layout is arguably more efficient as long as it is possible for the cook to find something to brace up against when preparing meals underway. Forward of the galley is a settee with a U-shaped dinette to port. Aft of the dinette, a big navigation and electronics center creates a sort of mini-office, complete with a sizable desk.


Unfortunately, the wind off Annapolis dropped from 8 to 5 to zero knots during our test sail. However, while not optimized for these conditions, the Amel 50 still acquitted itself well.

Sail raising and trimming were simple, thanks to a combination of good design and the boat’s substantial electric winches. The in-mast furling system worked smoothly, and the mainsail shape was satisfactory. Even the genoa car positions could be set under load from the cockpit, with electric winches once again doing the work.

I measured a 37-degree angle close-hauled to windward, and the boat tacked, jibed and executed all other standard maneuvers easily. The wheel gave accurate and sensitive feedback, and the pedestal-mounted helm seat was nice and comfy. The combination of easy motion and deliberate helm response gives the impression of a much larger vessel, more like a 75-footer than a boat with a 50ft LOA.


The diesel hummed gently behind heavy soundproofing to give us 6.8 knots at an easy 1,800 rpm. This is an often overlooked but important feature aboard a passagemaker, as a quiet ride is important to the well-being of the crew while motoring for long days through flat calms. The turning circle was 1.5 boatlengths, and the Amel 50 stopped easily and accurately. Backing showed a noticeable kick to port that only resolved itself when we picked up enough sternway for the rudders to take full effect. The bow thruster is a welcome accessory for docking.


If you are considering an extended cruise or voyage with your spouse or a couple of friends, the Amel 50 should be near the top of your shopping list. Any suitable boat you find in this category will be expensive, so you might as well go with one of the best. 



LOA 50ft 11in

LWL 47ft 8in

BEAM 15ft 8in



BALLAST 11,800lb

SAIL AREA 1346ft2 (100% foretriangle)

FUEL/WATER (GAL) 180/160

ENGINE 110hp

SA/D Ratio 18

D/L Ratio 169

Ballast Ratio 29

What do these ratios mean? Visit

DESIGNER Berret-Racoupeau

BUILDER Chantiers AMEL S.A., Périgny, France.

PRICE $1.15 million (sailaway) at time of publication

February 2021



Olympic Sailing Guide

The Opening Ceremony for the Tokyo Games is finally here. From July 24 to August 4, sailors from across the world will be gathering on six courses on Enoshima Bay to race for gold. Ten classes will take part in the event: RS:X (men), RS:X (women), Laser Full Rig, Laser Radial, more


Chartering: Voltage is King

For some time now, both in the pages of this magazine and with individual charterers, I’ve talked about how important it is to pay close attention during a charter checkout. The idea is to listen “between the lines,” as it were, to be sure you aren’t missing any hidden red flags more


ETNZ May Abandon New Zealand

Remember when the Kiwis were the young, underfunded upstarts of the America’s Cup world, with right on their side as they took on the Big Bad Americans? Remember the withering criticism leveled at Larry Ellison when, in the wake of “The Comeback” on San Francisco Bay, arguably more


Boat Review: Dehler 30 One Design

I’ve long believed that while they may not be as much fun, the best sail trials are the ones that take place in drifters since it’s then that a boat’s performance—or lack thereof—really becomes evident. Pretty much any boat is fun to sail in 15 knots of wind. That said, there’s more


The Multihull Industry’s Major Builders

It’s a given that boatbuilding these days is a global industry, with sailboats going down the ways everywhere from the icy waters of Scandinavia to the South China sea. This includes the manufacture of multihulls—no surprise given their birthplace in the far-flung islands of the more


Cruising: BVI Passage

Baking at the helm, watching a newly arrived bird eyeing me suspiciously—as if this was his ship, and I was the one who’d just flown in—I knew I was unraveling. For two days now we’d been becalmed, sails flogging on the open Atlantic, and in a snap moment, I saw—all too more


Cruising: Beetle Cat Sailor Families

When you talk to Beetle Cat sailors, it’s immediately apparent you’re talking about more than just a 12ft 4in catboat. “It began with my great-grandmother, who bought a boat for her four sons in 1928. They named it after her, called it the Queen Mary,” says New England Beetle more


Cruising: A Lake Superior Circumnavigation

By the time I awoke it was already too late. I knew something was wrong before I’d even fully struggled out of my sleeping bag, before I’d unzipped the tent and was standing out on the wet sand of the beach. In front of me there was only one boat where there should have been more