The concept of “daysailer” has grown ever broader over the years. These days the label can be pasted on a boat as small and simple as a Sunfish, as fancy as a 40-footer with a nice big cockpit and plenty of brightwork, or any number of concoctions in between. This Cape Cod daysailer, newly introduced in North America from France last fall, amazingly combines many of the best features of nearly all of the above. It is large enough to accommodate a passel of guests, elegant enough to turn heads at the snootiest of yacht clubs, and small and simple enough to be easily singlehanded or beached in the event you feel like wading ashore. It even has a sheltered spot beneath the foredeck for grabbing a quick nap.
For these and a number of other reasons, SAIL’s Best Boats judges this year were quick to pin a badge on this vessel as—you guessed it—the “Best Daysailer” for 2020.
The Cape Cod’s construction is fairly straightforward. The hull is solid glass set in polyester resin with a vinylester skin. The deck is cored with Airex foam and bonded to the hull with epoxy. A black anodized Seldén aluminum rig comes standard, and a carbon rig is optional. A heavy cast-iron centerboard, plus some ballast in the bilge serves to keep everything upright. The high-aspect rudder, likewise, is a simple plate that kicks upon impact.
Where the boat truly stands out is in the details. Finish quality, for example, is superb, with lots of fine wood trim. The boat is also drop-dead gorgeous. With its plumb blow and long overhanging transom, the Cape Cod clearly mimics a classic 19th-century pilot cutter. Its long retractable bowsprit only accentuates that impression. Yes, you can fly a modern gennaker or an A-sail from that handy sprit. But you can also fly a sexy high-cut yankee that plays perfectly, cutter style, with the roller-furling headsail tacked to the stem.
The forward end of the cockpit features a long U-shaped settee with seating for six. This hooks around a collapsible teak table that fold down flush with an unobtrusive, low-slung engine box protecting a small inboard engine. A handy locker also houses both a swim ladder that hooks neatly on to the gunwale and a telephone-style freshwater showerhead for rinsing off afterward. Forward of the mast, a large deck hatch opens on to a large but low interior space containing a pair of berths and a chemical toilet.
The working cockpit is aft, behind a pair of self-tailing Harken 35 winches set well inboard. A solo helmsperson can easily handle lines here while managing the tiller. There’s also room for a mate to lend a hand, all without bothering the folks enjoying the view from around the table forward.
The big surprise for me was how well the boat sails. We had little wind for our test on the Chesapeake Bay, just 4-6 knots. But the Cape Cod, flying a set of optional laminated sails, made the most of it. In spite of its flat plate centerboard, the boat was remarkably closewinded, pinching as high as 30 degrees off the apparent wind and properly powering up at a 38-degree AWA. Bearing away to 60 degrees we unrolled our gennaker and had no trouble sailing at windspeed or better.
Best of all, the helm felt lively and responsive throughout, which is, after all, what you want most in a daysailer—a boat that’s just plain fun to sail. In this, as in so many other respect, the Cape Cod excels.
LOA 29ft 4in
LWL 23ft 3in
DRAFT 1ft 6in (board up); 4ft 9in (board down)
SAIL AREA 433ft
ENGINE 14hp diesel
BALLAST RATIO 32
SA/D RATIO 32
D/L RATIO 113
What do these ratios mean? Visit sailmagazine.com/ratios
DESIGNERS Hervé Nollet & Clément Salzes
BUILDER Rosewest, Bordeaux, France, rosewest.fr
PRICE $170,000 (sailaway U.S. East Coast) at time of publication