Boat Review: Solaris 50

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Solaris 50

An award-winning Italian performance cruiser with an elevated sense of style

Solaris has been building trend-setting yachts in Italy for some 40 years now, and this recent offering falls in the middle of its range. Designed by Argentinian Javier Soto Acebal, who worked with German Frers for some 11 years before striking out on his own, the Solaris 50 certainly has stunning looks. Its sleek low-profile deck is dressed in acres of unblemished teak and recalls elegant fashion-conscious boats like those from the inimitable Wally Yachts. But the Solaris has substance as well as style. It snagged a European Yacht of the Year award in the performance-cruiser category in 2015 and more recently was chosen as Best Large Monohull in SAIL’s Best Boats competition.

Design & Construction

The hull design features a slightly reversed dreadnought bow and hindquarters with a soft chine below a distinctive concave flare in the topsides. The T-bulb keel is raked slightly forward, mimicking the angle of the bow. Both shoal- and deep-draft versions of the keel are available, as is a retractable keel. The fixed keels are recessed into the hull and are secured with bolts less than 10in apart.

The hull and deck layup is fairly conventional—an E-glass composite laminate cored with Airex foam vacuum-infused with polyester resin. A vinylester skin coat is added to the hull to resist osmotic blistering. All interior bulkheads are laminated to both the hull and deck to increase rigidity. The deck joint is glued and secured with fasteners on 12in centers.

On Deck

The deck is virtually featureless, with nary a piece of hardware nor a handhold to sully its unbroken surface. There is a cabinhouse, but it has a very low profile, so you feel you are on a flush-deck vessel. The blade jib is self-tacking, deployed with a belowdeck Harken furler and sheeted to a recessed athwartships track forward. All working lines are led aft through belowdeck galleries to a battery of four Harken winches arrayed before the twin helm stations. Sitting outboard on the deck just in front of one wheel or the other, it is easy to manage the helm and working lines simultaneously, particularly on our test boat, which had optional Performa electric winches, size 60, rather than the standard Radial 50s.

The cockpit is quite shallow, with short bench seats and very low coamings. The mainsail sheets to a single fixed block on the cockpit sole instead of a traveler, which simplifies controls and maintains the minimalist aesthetic. In mild conditions you will have no trouble moving about; however, when things get rough you may wonder what to cling to, in which case you might want to leave-in the removable cockpit table while sailing. There is also a large dodger/bimini frame that stows away invisibly in a recessed trench that swoops around the companionway. This can support a full enclosure that provides all-weather shelter for those perched on the bench seats.

Just under the open transom aft there is a compact dinghy garage, with room to stow an inflatable tender or a somewhat deflated RIB. Forward there is a generous sail locker, with just enough room for a crew berth if desired.

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Accommodations

For a 50ft boat with both a dinghy garage and a dedicated sail locker, the Solaris has a surprisingly spacious interior. The aft staterooms either side of the companionway are generously sized, with lots of standing room in the dressing areas by the doors, and very large berths with lots of vertical clearance over them. The standard doubles are square, with no cut-outs or odd angles to reduce their effective area, and the optional split single berths in the port cabin on our test boat were among the best I’ve seen anywhere—easy to climb in and out of, secure and comfortable. My one quibble, not at all unusual, is that ventilation is poor in these spaces.

The galley, aft to port, is likewise no afterthought. Here you’ll find a three-burner Techimplex stove, lots of dry storage space and a large array of Frigoboat cool-storage units—a top-loading fridge in the counter, a two-drawer fridge-freezer unit, plus (on our test boat) a dedicated climate-controlled wine locker. The saloon, meanwhile, features a large folding-leaf dinette table to port, with a full-length settee opposite two loose chairs that can be secured to the cabin sole while sailing. To starboard, there is another full-length settee and a full-size nav station.

The forward owner’s stateroom is a predictably large, very elegant space, with an island double berth, much storage and an en suite head with a separate shower. An alternative layout offers a smaller stateroom with a Pullman double, which leaves room for the aforementioned crew quarters in the sail-locker space forward.

Aesthetically, the interior, like the deck, is stylish and minimalist, and this can be further accentuated depending on which wood trim you select (three varieties of oak or teak). Optional touches like the clear-coat carbon countertops on our test boat will enhance this look even more. Overall finish quality in all cases is well above average.

Under Sail

Our test boat boasted an optional Hall Spars carbon-fiber mast, a carbon furling boom, optional rod rigging and a very sexy set of laminated Millenium sails. The mast is slightly fractional, to leave room for a spinnaker-halyard exit up top, and the backstay is split, supported by a pair of Harken hydraulic cylinders.

Conditions for our test sail were exceedingly light, just 5-6 knots of true wind, but the Solaris didn’t mind a bit. With the full mainsail and her little blade jib, she had no trouble matching the wind speed, making 6 knots fully powered up at a closehauled 32-degree apparent wind angle. This improved to 6.3 knots when I cracked off to 45 degrees, and only as I turned further downwind to a 90-degree angle and beyond did our speed drop to 4 knots. To counteract this tendency we furled the jib and launched a Code 0, which soon had us making well over 6 knots again on a beam reach. In stronger winds, I expect the Solaris 50 would be very fast, particularly downwind, where she can take full advantage of her powerful hindquarters.

Helm feel throughout was positively sumptuous. In spite of the light conditions, the Solaris, with her very deep single rudder, exhibited no lee helm and tacked very easily (with no need to touch a single line) with little speed lost while turning through the wind.

Under Power

Our test boat was equipped with a 75hp Volvo Penta diesel (instead of the standard 55hp engine) turning a three-bladed MaxProp on a saildrive leg. Motoring in the necessarily flat water, we made an easy 6.9 knots at a leisurely cruise setting of 1,900 rpm. With the throttle all the way down, the engine turned at 3,100 rpm, and our speed rose to 8.8 knots.

Backing down in reverse the boat behaved predictably, and our maneuverability was greatly enhanced by the optional retractable Compact Retract bowthruster from Max Power.

Conclusion

This is not a boat for traditionalists, but for those who appreciate Italian style and aggressive performance-cruisers. The Solaris 50 will get you where you’re going with a nice turn of speed, even when conditions are light, will keep you comfortable once you get there, and will turn heads both en route and in port. Best of all, she’s not as expensive as you’d think! 

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May 2017

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