Europe’s Builders Keep Coming up with New Big Boats

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Swan 54

Swan 54

Let’s face it, everyone loves a Swan. I defy any true sailing aficionado to look at the lovely bluewater performance cruisers that have come out of this iconic Finnish yard and not feel a tug at the heartstrings. Whether it’s an older model designed by Sparkman & Stephens or Ron Holland or one of the more recent German Frers (Senior or Junior) creations, there is something about these boats that just speaks to the romantic in us.

In recent years we’ve become accustomed to seeing ever-bigger and more spectacular yachts appear, as Nautor’s Swan edged toward the superyacht category—the new 95ft, 105ft and 115ft models are all aimed at this market. It therefore comes as a pleasant surprise to see that the yard has not forgotten its roots. The new Swan 54 harks back to the golden years of the 1980s and 90s; its styling may be thoroughly modern, but place it alongside one of its 30-year-old sisters and the family resemblance is unmistakable.

Designed as an upscale long-distance cruiser for owners who neither desire nor need the services of a paid crew, the 54 caters to a wide range of sailing tastes and styles. Traditionalist can order the boat with a deep fin keel and single rudder, while the shoal-waters sailor can have twin rudders and a stub keel with a daggerboard. Either will be happy with the drop-down swim platform, the large cockpit with its standard electric winches and the spacious three-cabin interior layout. A fourth cabin is devoted to systems and workshop space. Combine all that with Swan’s renowned build quality, and the new 54 should be a winner.

Which brings us to Italy’s Cantiere del Pardo yard, whose Grand Soleil yachts used to be known jocularly as “spaghetti Swans,” thanks to their sleek lines laced with copious amounts of teak trim, that were not dissimilar to the Finnish make. Grand Soleils have always looked good and performed well, so the comparison was no slight on either brand.

Grand Soleil 58

Grand Soleil 58

The latest sports cruiser from Cantiere del Pardo, the Grand Soleil 58 Performance, is aimed at the sort of owner who gets his kicks from buoy and distance racing as well as comfortable cruising—perhaps the Newport-Bermuda one year, the Caribbean 1500 the next. Designer Umberto Felci’s brief was to blend speed and ease of handling and comfort, which is never as easy as it sounds, but the good-looking hull with its deep foils and powerful stern sections promises good all-round performance.
A range of interior options includes three- and four-cabin layouts, taking full advantage of the generous interior volume. Owners can choose between two sailplans, a tall rig for the racers and a slightly tamer one for the cruisers.

Italia 15.98

Italia 15.98

Not many Americans will be familiar with Italia Yachts, but that could change quickly since the Italian (naturally!) builder now has an importer in the United States. The boats are somewhat unromantically named after their metric LOAs, and the flagship model is the 52ft (on deck) Italia 15.98. But it’s still a seriously pretty boat, to my eyes anyway, and by all accounts its performance matches its looks. It would be easy for these Euroyachts to fall into a design and styling orthodoxy, yet they all retain their individuality.

Horsepower is provided by a triple-spreader 19/20ths rig with a large foretriangle and high-aspect ratio mainsail. There is provision for a detachable heavy-weather staysail, and a Code 0 can be carried on its own stay. You can have either a deep-draft T-keel or a more conventional bulbed lead fin. There are a dozen or so permutations on the layout, including a choice of forward or aft owners’ staterooms. The standard of finish on these boats is exemplary.

Vismara V50 Mills

Vismara V50 Mills

Vismara is another high-end Italian builder, constructing a handful of bespoke sports cruising yachts in carbon fiber composites each year. The company’s “house” designer is Ireland’s Mark Mills, who’s drawn a host of lightning-quick racers. The Vismara V50 Mills is a lightweight cruiser that, according to the yard, is ideal for “sailing in the Mediterranean in great comfort, a perfect integration of elements and Italian style.”

The light displacement permits a smaller and therefore more easily controlled rig, along with such cruising amenities as a dinghy garage in the transom and a washer-dryer. The standard layout has two cabins, with a third cabin dedicated to systems and incorporating a workbench.

Allures 52

Allures 52

French company Allures crafts sturdy world-girdling cruisers from anodized aluminum. Its latest model, the Allures 52, was launched last summer. The Berret-Racoupeau design incorporates all the usual traits of these distinctive boats; round-bilge, rather than chined, construction, bare metal hull and painted cabintop, and a low-aspect cutter rig for ease of handling in all weathers. These boats are designed to absorb a lot of punishment, and they’re also surprisingly good-looking, given their intended purpose.


Swan 54

Grand soleil 58 performance

Italia 15.98

Vismara V50 Mills

Allures 52

October 2015


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