Is 55 the new 45—feet, that is? In much the same way that advances in healthcare have allowed us to feel younger than our years, technological innovations in sailhandling gear and mechanical propulsion have made yachts 50 to 60 feet long a breeze to sail, dock or anchor, even for sailors whose ages are approaching that of their boats’ LOA.
Within that size range, there is one sector that is booming—54 to 57 feet. “It’s a real sweet spot in the market,” says Barry Ashmore of Gunfleet Marine. “They have the comfort and seaworthiness of a big boat, but they can be sailed solo or by a couple.”
Jennifer Stewart of Berthon USA in Newport, Rhode Island, which represents Moody and Contest, agrees, attributing the growth in this size range to a change in attitude on the part of the older buyers who can afford to spend $1 to $2.5 million to buy one. “We’re fit,” she says, “and more able to handle a larger yacht.” Not that you necessarily need to spend a million-plus to buy into this size range: you can also get into a fully-specced Beneteau, Jeanneau, Hanse or Bavaria for much less than that.
Although most new launches in this size range vary from 54 to 57 feet LOA, we’re going to call them 55s for the sake of brevity. Following current design trends, many of these boats have a plumb stem—or nearly so—and a short overhang aft. The extended waterline reduces pitching, which allows the sails to produce more drive and provides an easier motion at sea. This, in turn, helps keep the crew safe and comfortable, and allows for a better night’s sleep on passage.
A long waterline on a given LOA also provides the yacht with more stowage space, larger staterooms (or more of them), a truly useful galley and many of the other comforts taken for granted ashore. The Hanse 575, Gunfleet 58 and Moody DS54 are all good examples of how this concept works both practically and aesthetically.
Every sailor knows that arriving at a destination is far less important than the joy of voyaging toward it, but I’ll wager most also believe that fast is more entertaining than slow. That’s another thing the new breed of 55s offers: a combination of that same long waterline length and reasonably light displacement, which laughs at the traditional speed/length ratio of 1.34 to 1.40. A large, easily trimmed and reefed sailplan also allows a shorthanded crew the luxury of adjusting the boat’s speed and angle of heel to suit its needs. When it’s time to cook, for example, you simply back off the power, reduce the heeling angle and motion, and head for the galley.
Even the more traditional designs in this size range are a long way from being stodgy or passé. Hallberg-Rassy’s new 55, for example, is a classic center-cockpit passagemaker that flaunts her Swedish heritage and conservative styling. Her overhangs are moderate, so she doesn’t have the racy look that’s all the rage nowadays; she gets her interior volume from a relatively deep underbody and generous beam; and the cabintrunk extends forward of and abaft the cockpit to add to the feeling of spaciousness below. Nonetheless, she still offers excellent performance, whether on a daysail or on passage.
Anyone who’s been to a sailboat show recently surely has noticed that the 55s have more freeboard and taller superstructures than was common even 15 years ago. The usual assumption that an increase in freeboard adds to a yacht’s volume belowdecks is accurate. However, that extra acreage has also encouraged builders to put large windows in the topsides, increasing natural light and the feeling of spaciousness inside.
From a practical point of view, lots of freeboard also lets designers raise the overhead in the engine compartment and machinery spaces. The Discovery 57, for example, has a genuine walk-in engine room. Now you have no excuse for ignoring your auxiliary, gen set, air-conditioning compressor or the watermaker.
Standing next to a Hanse 575 at rest in its slip gives you a clue to the exceptional amount of space you’ll find inside. She’s big for her length and carries quite a lot of her maximum beam to the transom. The resulting volume belowdecks has answered the age-old question, “How big can your tender be and how do you carry it?”
In fact, many modern 55s have enough space in the stern for a bona fide garage, so that the tender will be out of the way, safe and sound, but still easy to launch and retrieve. For example, a garage is standard aboard the Hanse 575, as it is with the Bavaria 56, and it doesn’t interfere with any of the arrangement plans. The brand-new XP 55 from X-Yachts (set to be launched early this summer) also has a garage as standard. The tender sits athwartships, spanning the yacht’s beamy stern, so it won’t interfere with the accommodations.
By contrast, a dinghy garage is an option on Southerly’s 57RS. Here the standard layout calls for a master stateroom all the way aft, a VIP cabin at the bow and a guest cabin on the starboard side opposite the galley; choosing the garage splits the space aft into two cabins, relegating the master stateroom to the bows. Similarly, the other more traditional yachts in this category, including the Oyster 575, the Hallberg-Rassy 55 and the Amel 55, all have davits on the stern. Whatever the case—davits or garage—the size of the boat determines how large the tender can be.
Many of the 55s sport a sleek deckhouse, often resembling the roofline of a high-performance coupe from Jaguar or Aston Martin. These low-profile structures house the raised, or “deck,” saloon and are kept slippery-looking by the substantial freeboard, which masks the coachroof’s height. You’ll not only find more than enough headroom inside, you’ll be able to see out of the large windows even when you’re seated.
Stewart considers these sightlines to be a major part of the deck saloon’s appeal. “When you’re cruising, you’re living aboard,” she says, “and the deck saloon of the Moody DS54 is like a family room with a deck attached.” She adds that the sliding roof over the cockpit on the DS54 “gives you shelter without having to go inside.”
The DS54 is one of several yachts that maintain a single level from the main bulkhead to the transom. The twin helms on these boats also allow unobstructed passage to the swim platform, with an eye toward making the boat as friendly as a beachside cottage when at anchor.
I feel safe in saying that Oyster Marine popularized the modern deck saloon, which helped make the company’s 53 and 55 so popular back in the middle 1980s. The configuration remains popular among dedicated Oyster fans and continues to attract new devotees via the used-yacht market. In a recent world rally, eight of these models joined the fleet.
In 2011, Oyster unveiled the 575 as a logical development of these earlier boats. A year later, the company further upgraded the boat’s styling, taking cues from the Oyster 625. A flowing coachroof brings the look up to date, but still provides a spacious well-lit saloon.
Meanwhile, although deck saloons have become a hallmark of the 55s, Annie Lannigan of Lyman Morse Brokerage maintains she doesn’t see the appeal. She’s cruised thousands of miles aboard her Kanter 65, which has what she calls a real pilothouse. “I don’t get the whole raised saloon thing,” she says. “Why not have a real pilothouse that lets you run the boat from inside?”
Lannigan adds that whether it be a deck saloon or pilothouse, these types of structures typically don’t work very well on boats shorter than 55 feet, as they often look like an afterthought on a smaller superstructure.
Yachts in the 55 to 60 feet LOA range generally have enough space belowdecks for one or two paid crew. Moody offers the option of a captain’s quarters in the forepeak in two layouts of its DS54. Similarly, the Amel 55 has a snug single stateroom on the starboard side amidships opposite the engine room and immediately abaft the nav station, which could be a captain’s quarters—same for one of the optional arrangements in the Contest 57CS and the Hallberg-Rassy 55. ?This, however, is another area in which there’s room for multiple opinions.
“Why would you want paid crew in a 55?” Lannigan asks. She’s convinced that these boats are too small and easy to run to need a captain.
Stewart agrees. “The customers for our Moody DS54 aren’t going to cruise around the world,” she says. “They don’t have the time, so they aren’t interested in a captain’s cabin.”
Barry Ashmore at Gunfleet Marine concurs.“The owners may take on one professional crew member for security on long passages, but the boat is really set up for a couple to manage.”
LOA: 56ft 9in
LWL: 48ft 9in
BEAM: 16ft 4in
DRAFT: 7ft 3in
DISPLACEMENT: 52,911lb (with full load)
SAIL AREA: 506ft2 (mainsail)
FUEL/WATER (GAL): 238 (diesel tank)/211
ENGINE: Volvo 5-cylinder 110hp; possible to have a Steyr 140hp; electric throttle
ELECTRICAL: Onan 3-cylinder generator, 1500 rpm, 7,5 kW; 12V circuit for engine and generator; 24V, 640 Amp/h service circuit; 220V circuit with cable and shore power connector at the aft, and 220V/24V, 100 Amp charger; 24V and 220V distribution boards with ammeters and voltmeters; Comfort Plus package available
DESIGNER: in close cooperation with Berret-Racoupeau
BUILDER/AGENT: AMEL, Hyères, France, amel.fr
U.S. DISTRIBUTOR: Joel Potter, Fort Lauderdale, FL, 954-462-5869 (cell: 954-812-2485), email@example.com
LOA: 55ft 11in
LWL: 49ft 1in
DRAFT: 7ft 9in (standard cast iron keel); 6ft 3in (optional cast iron shallow keel)
DISPLACEMENT: 37,920lb (light weight)
SAIL AREA: 1561ft2 (mainsail and foresail)
ENGINE: Yanmar Shaftdrive 4JH4-THE 100hp
ELECTRICAL: Engine start battery / 4 house batteries
DESIGNER: Design Unlimited / Farr Yacht Design USA
BUILDER: Bavaria Yachts USA
U.S. Distributor: Bavaria Yachts USA, bavaria-usa.bavaria-yachtbau.com
LOA: 56ft 6in
BEAM: 16ft 10in
DRAFT: 8ft 2in (bulb keel)
SAIL AREA: 1087ft2
FUEL/WATER (GAL): 246/238
ENGINE: Perkins 150hp
ELECTRICAL: 400AH service batteries, Mastervolt MVG (gel); starter battery: 70AH Mastervolt AGM (gel)
DESIGNER: Georg Nissen
BUILDER/AGENT: Contest Yachts, Overleek 5, 1671 GD Medemblik, The Netherlands, contestyachts.com
U.S. DISTRIBUTOR: Berthon USA, Newport, RI, (401) 846-8404, berthon.co.uk
LOA: 58ft 8in
LWL: 51ft 10in
BEAM: 16ft 8in
DRAFT: 7ft 8in; 6ft 4in (shoal)
SAIL AREA: 861ft2 (mainsail)
FUEL/WATER (GAL): 343/264
ENGINE: Volvo D3 150hp
ELECTRICAL: 150AH 12V alternator for charging start battery; 110AH 24V alternator for charging main house batteries
BUILDER/AGENT: Discovery Yachts, discoveryyachts.com
LOA: 54ft 9in
LWL: 46ft 11in
BEAM: 15ft 5in (without rubbing strake) 15ft 6in (rubbing strake)
DRAFT: 7ft 6 1/2in
SAIL AREA: 1,690ft2
FUEL/WATER (GAL): 238 (diesel tank)/278
ENGINE: Volvo Penta D4-180
ELECTRICAL: 180HP (power at crank shaft)
DESIGNER: Germàn Frers
BUILDER/AGENT: Hallberg-Rassy, Ellös, Sweden, hallberg-rassy.com
U.S. DISTRIBUTOR: Eastland Yachts Inc., Essex, CT, 860-767-8224, eastlandyachts.com; Free State Yachts, Deale, MD, 410-867-9022, freestateyachts.com; Swiftsure Yachts, Seattle, WA, 206-378-1110, swiftsureyachts.com
LOA: 56ft 3in
LWL: 49ft 8in
DRAFT: 9ft 4in (standard); 7ft 4in (option)
DISPLACEMENT: 42,990lb (standard keel); 44,974lb (L shape keel)
SAIL AREA: 1,727ft2
FUEL/WATER (GAL): 138/214
ENGINE: Volve D3-100, 107hp, diesel engine, shaft drive; Volvo D3-150, 150hp (option)
ELECTRICAL: 12 V/90AH AGM (engine battery); 2 x 12 V/ 2 x 165AH AGM (service battery)
DESIGNER: judel/vrolijk & co.
BUILDER: Hanse Yachts—Team Windcraft, Australia, windcrafthanse.com
U.S. DISTRIBUTOR: New Wave Yachts, newwaveyachts.com. Falmouth, ME 04105. Manchester, MA 01944. Marion, MA 02738
LOA: 56ft 3in
LWL: 49ft 8in
DRAFT: 8ft 5in (standard); 7ft 4in (option)
SAIL AREA: 1,730ft2
FUEL/WATER (GAL): 264/214
ENGINE: Volvo D3-110 110kW/150HP
ELECTRICAL: 90AH (engine); 3 x 250 AH (house)
DESIGNER: Dixon Yacht Design
BUILDER/AGENT: Moody Yachts, moodyboats.com
U.S. DISTRIBUTOR: Hanse Yachts U.S. LLC, Newburyport, MA, 978-239-6568, moodyboats.com; Berthon USA, Inc., Newport, RI, 401-846-8404, berthonusa.com
LOA: 58ft 8in
LWL: 51ft 6in
BEAM: 16ft 5in
DRAFT: 8ft 10in (standard)
DISPLACEMENT: 60,076lb (standard keel)
SAIL AREA: 2,097ft2 (with 150% foretriangle)
FUEL/WATER (GAL): 343/250
ENGINE: Volvo Penta D3-150 110kW (150hp)
ELECTRICAL: 480AH deep cycle domestic batteries; 24V DC for DOMESTIC electrical system; DC alternator for engine start batteries; Iskra DC Alternator 110A/24v for charging domestic batteries
DESIGNER: Rob Humphreys
BUILDER/AGENT: Oyster Marine Ltd., Ipswich, Suffolk, UK, oystermarine.com
U.S. DISTRIBUTOR: Oyster Marine Ltd. USA, Newport, RI, 401-846-7400, oystermarine.com
LOA: 63ft 7in
LWL: 56ft 7in
BEAM: 17ft 10in
DRAFT: 9ft 2in (standard)
DISPLACEMENT: 73,854lb (standard keel)
SAIL AREA: 2,538ft2 (with 150% foretriangle)
FUEL/WATER (GAL): 449/317
ENGINE: Volvo D4-180 132kW 180hp
ELECTRICAL: 480AH deep cycle domestic batteries; 24v DC for domestic electrical system; 115A DC Alternator for charging engine start batteries
DESIGNER: Rob Humphreys (Humphreys Yacht Designer)
BUILDER/AGENT: Oyster Yachts, Ipswich, Suffolk, United Kingdom, oystermarine.com
U.S. Distributor: Oyster Marine Ltd. USA, Newport, RI, 401-846-7400, oystermarine.com
LOA: 58ft 2in
LWL: 52ft 6in
BEAM: 17ft 1in
DRAFT: 10ft 9in (keel down); 3ft 6in (shoal)
DISPLACEMENT: 58,755lb; 76,639lb
SAIL AREA: 990ft2 (mainsail)
ENGINE: Volvo D3-150 146hp
ELECTRICAL: 24V; 6 batteries for domestic use; 24V 110amp heavy duty alternator; 12V/50 instrumentation battery; dedicated battery charger 12v/15amp for engine/generator start batter
DESIGNER: Dubois Naval Architects
BUILDER: Southerly, Chichester, West Sussex, UK, southerly.com
U.S. DISTRIBUTOR: S&J Yachts, sjyachts.com
XP55 FROM X-YACHTS
LWL: 48ft 9in
BEAM: 15ft 8in
DRAFT: 9ft 4in
SAIL AREA: 1053ft2 (mainsail)
FUEL/WATER (GAL): 106/145
ELECTRICAL: 12 V DC
DESIGNER: Niels Jeppesen (x-yachts director of design)
U.S. DISTRIBUTOR: R.B. Rodgers Yacht Sales, rodgersyachtsales.com