For years I’d been hearing about Germany’s boot Düsseldorf, the world’s biggest boat show, which doesn’t’ just feature boats, but includes everything from mermaids swimming in oversized tanks to indoor surfing competitions. Well, I’m here to tell you the rumors are not only true, they failed to do justice to how big this extravaganza, which takes place on the outskirts of Germany’s seventh most populous city, truly is.
In fact, so vast is the show, this past January I never even made it out of the three vast “halls” housing the show’s sailboats and sailing gear to see the surfing. There are 17 halls in all.
As for the boats themselves, simply put, if you want to see what’s happening in the world of mainstream sailboat production, “boot” is where it’s at. From skiffs to 70-footers they’re all here.
Among the standouts at this year’s show was the new Moody DS41 from Germany’s HanseYachts AG. An evolution of Moody’s 45ft and 54ft DS models, the DS41 offers the same galley-up, “one-level living” as its predecessors. Other features include wonderfully high bulwarks and tubular, stainless steel safety rails running the length of the side decks.
Also drawing crowds directly across from the Moody was the brand-new Dufour 530. Dufour has definitely upped its game of late, ever since joining forces with catamaran builder Fountaine Pajot, and the emphasis on design and quality is well evident in this new 53-footer. The expansive cockpit on this boat, which includes a cleverly convenient means of accessing the side decks just forward of the twin helms is truly a work of art.
Other recently launched standouts in the large monohull category included the Oyster 565; the Hallberg-Rassy 40C; the Italia 11.98 Bellissima; the ruggedly capable Dutch-built Contest 55CS; the new Bavaria C42; and the Amel 60, which follows hard on the heels of the SAIL magazine 2020 Best Boats award-winning Amel 50.
Among these, the 39ft 11.98 Bellisima performance cruiser, with its slippery-looking hull, well-thought-out cockpit and elegant Italian styling made an especially dramatic statement, far out of proportion to its LOA. Similarly, the Amel 60, with its reverse sheet and well-protected cockpit made a dramatic bluewater, go-anywhere statement as well. Same thing with the Contest 55CS, which features an impressive two-tier cockpit with twin helms well out of the way of the lounging areas. The new Oyster 565, which absolutely dominated its corner of the show with its twin rudders, powerful fin keel and purposeful lines, looked pretty impressive as well.
Two boats that never made an actual appearance (both still being in development) but which generated plenty of buzz nonetheless, were the Nautor’s Swan 58 performance-cruiser and the Grand Soleil 44. According to Nautor’s Swan, which was also celebrating the fact its ClubSwan 36 one-design speedster had just won a European Yacht of the Year “Innovation Award,” the new 58-footer (the first Swan to be built to this LOA) will serve as a “proper bluewater yacht,” while also offering plenty of performance. As for Grand Soleil’s new 44-footer, designed by ORC maestro Matteo Polli to complete Grand Soleil’s “performance” range, it looks to be a blast to sail in every sense of the word.
Beyond that, two trends very much in evidence at boot were the ever-increasing popularity of twin rudders, chines running the length of the hull and not just plumb but blunt bows. One of the most extreme examples of the latter was the bow on the Dehler 30 One Design (OD) racer (another European Yacht of the Year)—no surprise given the boat’s offshore Euro-race DNA. However, the stems on such cruisers as the Bavaria C42 also showed a distinct roundness, albeit with a much narrower entry at the waterline. With respect to full-length chines, which serve to both promote sail-carrying ability and volume belowdecks, the Beneteau Oceanis 46.1 was an excellent example.
Meanwhile, over in the multihull hall, looking especially impressive was Quorning Boats’ new flagship trimaran, the Dragonfly 40, complete with fold-in amas. Combining the Danish builder’s typical ingenuity and craftsmanship, the boat features a powerful rig and spacious accommodations that seem to defy the laws of physics given the boat’s sleek lines.
Similarly, impressive was the Seawind 1600, the latest in a long line of bluewater performance cruising cats, originally built in Australia and now coming from Vietnam. On the one hand, twin outboard helms make it possible to get the most out of this 52-footer’s speed potential on passage. On the other, retractable daggerboards and rudders mean you can go thin-water exploring almost anywhere.
Another mulithull making a mark was the Excess 11, the latest member of Beneteau’s new Excess line of cruising catamarans. Like the Excess 12, which made its U.S. debut at the 2019 Annapolis sailboat show, the Excess 11 boasts outboard helms, distinctive styling and a performance-oriented rig. The combination will undoubtedly prove popular with a wide range of sailors.
Then there was the 39ft Bali Catspace, aboard which the keyword is “space.” In fact, it would be hard to imagine a boat this size with more room in. Topside is an enormous lounging pad aft of the boat’s raised helm. Forward there’s another large lounging area between the bows on the boat’s solid forward deck—and the regular cockpit aft ain’t too bad either. Suffice it to say, there was a serious crowd checking it out whenever I walked by.
Another boat drawing a crowd even though, like the Nautor’s Swan and Grand Soleil, it has yet to be actually built was the Outremer 55. A high-speed bluewater cruiser expressly configured for shorthanded sailing, the boat looks ready to knock off some serious daily runs. Among its many smart features are twin outboard helms that can also be pivoted inboard for getting out of the weather, providing crews with the best of both worlds.
Finally, there were the many small boats on display (too many to fit in this article), including everything from the latest skiffs to various different daysailers and sport boats. A couple of especially interesting boats were two foilers offering two very different alternatives to the many other boats of this type now on the market. The first of these was the appropriately named Foiling Dinghy from Germany. Its unique asymmetric “Automatic Cant Control” foils not only adjust to whatever tack you’re on, they can also be fully retracted for sailing in conventional displacement mode. The other, the French-built Peacoq 14, looked like a cross between an inland scow and a blunt-bowed Min-Transat racer and carried twin foils that splayed outboard and are deployed via a pair of curved tracks. Like the Foiling Dinghy, the boat sails fine in displacement mode as well.
Last but not least, there were what were in many ways my two favorites. The first of these was the Dutch-built SpeedLounger 8500. At first glance, it looked like just another Euro-glam daysailer. Upon closer examination, though, the boat proved to be built entirely in aluminum, from the comfy open-transom cockpit to the tumblehome bow and lance-like sprit. In a port-starboard situation you’re going to want to give way to this solid little sloop, no questions asked.
The second was a little water-ballasted, gaff-rigged sloop with a boomless main and heartbreakingly beautiful traditional lines, complete with transom-hung rudder and sprit. I spoke at length with Marie and Patrick Besnie, owners of Ateliers de La Gazelle des Sables, the builders of this wonderful boat in Chadefonds-sur-Layon, France, and the more we spoke, the more I liked both them and it. Not only would it look perfectly at home in a Monet painting, but in addition to an oarlock placed aft for sculling, it’s also available in a ketch configuration and/or with an electric motor. How cool is that!
Bottom line: come January next year, if you’re in the market for a new boat and you have the time and wherewithal to make it to Düsseldorf, you owe it to yourself to check out this phenomenal show. Truth be told, looking back on my three days there, I can’t help but feel I barely scratched the surface of all it had to offer. You don’t want to miss it. I certainly won’t.