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SAIL's 2011 Best Boats Nominees

The lineup of new boats making their debut at the fall boat shows is impressive indeed, considering the economic conditions still plaguing the boating industry. Whether you’re going to the Newport International Boat Show this month or the U.S. Sailboat Show at Annapolis next month, you’ll be treated to exciting developments in design and boatbuilding. From small daysailers to big
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The lineup of new boats making their debut at the fall boat shows is impressive indeed, considering the economic conditions still plaguing the boating industry. Whether you’re going to the Newport International Boat Show this month or the U.S. Sailboat Show at Annapolis next month, you’ll be treated to exciting developments in design and boatbuilding.

From small daysailers to big bluewater boats, this year’s entrants for SAIL’s Best Boats awards showcase the diversity and originality that is a hallmark of the boatbuilding industry. It’s something that never fails to impress me, and if you’re on the lookout for a new boat, I’d be surprised if you don’t come away with a lengthy shortlist.

As usual, SAIL’s team of Best Boats judges will be prowling the docks, evaluating these new boats. We’ll see you there.


Hunter 18

Hunter has gone from rotomolded polyethylene to all-fiberglass construction for its small-boat range this year, and the new 18 is the first of the new boats to be launched. Longer and beamier than the 170 it replaces, it features a retractable sprit for an A-sail and has an open transom. Also on show will be the Hunter 15, the fiberglass successor to the Hunter 146, and the Hunter 22, which supersedes the 216.

Class 2M

With a beam of less than 5ft on an overall length of 23ft, this daysailer promises exciting upwind sailing. There’s a lifting T-keel to facilitate trailering and a high-aspect-ratio rig.

Scandinavian Cruiser 20

Classic lines and long overhangs distinguish this 20ft daysailer. Below the waterline are a sleek underbody and modern high-aspect ratio foils; above, there’s a rotating carbon-fiber wingmast.

Landing School 20

Little sister to the nippy Landing School 30 introduced last year by the Landing School in Maine, the LS-20 looks like a heap of fun. A vacuum-bagged, cored hull, retracting sprit, lifting T-keel, carbon-fiber mast and full-length cockpit make this a daysailer with a difference.

Marblehead 22

This little Doug Zurn-designed beauty is built in wood/epoxy by Samoset Boatworks in Maine. Its most obvious distinguishing features are the freestanding carbon-fiber mast and the wishbone boom, which makes easy work of handling the big square-topped mainsail.

Scandinavian Dory 18

Lovers of traditional boats will enjoy the molded lapstrake hull of this little rowing/sailing dory. There are plenty of modern touches though, including options like a free-standing carbon-fiber mast with a wishbone boom, and oars, rudder and centerboard also built in carbon fiber.

Norseboat 21.5 Cruiser

The Norseboat 17.5 rowing/sailing/exploring boat is a familiar sight at boat shows, and now it has a big sister. The 21.5 Cruiser has the same attributes plus one important extra—there’s somewhere to get out of the weather! The little cabin can sleep two adults and one or two small children.


Tartan 4000

Replacing the long-lived Tartan 4100, this new 4000 manages to combine a traditional air with up-to-the-minute design features. It should be equally at home weekending with the family on board or undertaking more ambitious voyages along coastlines or across oceans.

Sabre 456

A reincarnation of the Jim Taylor-designed Sabre 453, the 456 is built using the latest resin infusion techniques to create a strong, light hull. This is a long-legged passagemaker that’ll get you where you’re going quickly and comfortably.

Hunter 50AC

The 50AC is the long-awaited aft cockpit version of Hunter’s popular 50CC (center cockpit) cruiser. Belowdecks excellent use has been made of the hull’s considerable volume, with all the deft touches Hunter owners have come to expect. The cabintop styling is reminiscent of the Hunter 39 introduced last year.

Dufour 375

The newest member of Dufour’s Grand’Large family of cruisers, the 375 made its debut in July. Twin wheels and sharp styling give it a sporty look, while belowdecks the sensible two- or three-cabin layout includes a pullman berth forward, a wine “cellar” and dedicated stowage for fruit and vegetables.

Southerly 49

Picture a bluewater-capable cruiser that can dry out on a beach as easily as it can ride out a gale at sea and you know what sets the Southerly 49 apart. As well as a swing keel that lets it float in less than 3 feet of water, the British-built boat has a luxurious interior and a powerful, easily handled sailplan.

Hanse 375

Impressive performance combined with Hanse’s unique take on styling mark the latest mid-size cruiser-racer from the German builder. A deep T-keel and bendy fractional rig will please the speed freaks; family crews will appreciate the self-tacking jib and spacious cabins.

Delphia 47

Poland has a long boatbuilding tradition, and Delphia Yachts is its premier sailboat builder. The new 47 is a fast cruiser with a self-tacking jib and bright, welcoming accommodations. There is a choice of three or five sleeping cabins.

Catalina 355

Catalina’s 445 was one of the success stories of 2009, and inspired the builder to repeat the formula in a smaller package. The 355 is packed with the features that keep owners loyal to the brand, and good performance was high on the list of priorities. Going by the drawings, so was good looks.

Jeanneau 409

Replacing the long-lived Sun Odyssey 39i, the Sun Odyssey 409 is a handsome midsized performance cruiser. Drawings show a new cabintop style with angular portlights, a deck layout where headsail and main sheets are led aft to the twin helms, and a sailplan with a small non-overlapping jib.

Dufour 405

This quick, good-looking cruiser from the long-established French builder won the European Yacht of the Year award in 2010. The sailplan is powerful but easily handled, and the well thought-out deck layout and comfortable accommodations have proved to be great selling points.

Delphia 40.3

This versatile midrange boat from Poland can be ordered with single or dual wheels, deep or shallow-draft keels, or with a swing keel. There are three layout options, one of which has four sleeping cabins.


Radical Bay 800

With a freestanding carbon-fiber mast on each hull, this 26-foot cruising catamaran certainly lives up to its name. The “biplane” rig concept is not new but it is certainly unusual. There are plenty of other interesting features aboard this weekender, which is well worth a look.

Lagoon 450

This impressive new offering from the French builder succeeds the long-lived 440. It is one big cat, over 25ft wide and with a vast interior fitted out in light woods to make the most of the sunlight filtering through the plentiful ports and windows.

Outremer 49

This fast cruising cat from France looks sharp and reportedly performs well too. Twin wheels and a clever hard/soft bimini design are notable features. There are several layout options, and the yard claims to have kept weight down to enable a decent cruising payload to be carried.


Dufour 45e

The flagship of Dufour’s Performance line up, the 45e promises speed and power in a package that’s also tailored for comfortable cruising. This Umberto Felci design has a tall, triple-spreader fractional rig and a choice of keels, the deeper of which gives her a draft of 7ft 6in.

Beneteau First 35

This new Farr-designed 35-footer has already proven itself a winner on the racecourse. Its rig, deck plan and foils are performance-oriented, but thought has also been devoted to what happens when the racing is over; there is a comfortable three-cabin interior with all the amenities you need for comfortable cruising.

CW Hood 32

Few boats look as sweet on the water as this daysailer. Long overhangs and an alluring sheerline give it a timeless appeal, while a sleek hull form and carefully shaped appendages give it a good turn of speed. It’s built in wood/epoxy and has a carbon-fiber mast and boom.


The latest offering from J/Boats takes aim at the venerable J/105’s place in the hearts of one-design racers. As well as the J/Boats hallmarks like easy, seakindly lines, bendy fractional rig and retracting carbon-fiber sprit, it has a standing headroom and a functional cruising interior.

Beneteau First 30

Designed by Juan Kouyoumdjian of Volvo Ocean Race fame, this is a First with a difference. With its twin rudders and T-keel it looks like a scaled-down Open class racer, and indeed it can be sailed shorthanded as easily as with a full crew. Solo racing star Michel Desjoyeaux had a big hand in its development.

Dufour 40e

There’s an edge to this boat, as evidenced by its no-nonsense deck and cockpit plan. A racing crew will find everything where it should be, yet with its fully fitted-out two- or three-cabin interior and drop-down transom gate that makes a great swim platform, the 40e holds its own as a cruising boat, too.

Tangara 28

Here is a weekender with a difference, combining a distinctly retro European look with a modern sailplan and underbody. There’s enough interior volume for overnighting and the light-displacement hull promises plenty of speed.

Alerion Sport 33

Lighter displacement and tiller steering are two key features of this pretty weekender. The Hoyt jib boom that has been a trademark of other boats in the Alerion line has gone, although a self-tacking headsail remains, and the rig is carbon fiber.


Beneteau 58

Beneteau’s flagship is an excellent example of the new generation of boats in the 50-60 foot range that are coming out of France. It looks great on the water, sails very well, is well built and nicely detailed, and has all the space above and below decks that you could reasonably want.

Najad 570

Swedish builder Najad is known for combining sweet-sailing hulls with meticulously fitted-out interiors, and its new flagship continues that tradition. It is a powerful world cruiser that can easily be handled by a crew of two.

Beneteau 50

The first thing you notice about this new 50-footer is its sleek styling, like a scaled-down version of the 58. The second is the fixed arch upon which the mainsheet is secured, thus keeping it out of the cockpit. The third is the open, inviting interior. A choice of layouts makes this boat equally at home cruising along a coastline or making long ocean passages.

Hanse 545

Hanse’s new flagship ushers in a new look for the company’s big boats. A large, uncluttered foredeck and low-profile cabintop give it a purposeful air; the self-tacking jib, big mainsail, roomy cockpit and bold interior styling are all Hanse trademarks.

Discovery 50

Luxury cruising catamarans are few and far between, and this British boat is bound to generate plenty of interest. It is designed and built to be handled by a couple. Its vertically battened mainsail rolls away into the mast and powered winches facilitate sailhandling. Belowdecks, the owner’s suite has to be seen to be believed.

Spirit 46

This stunning boat is “a masterpiece of contemporary wooden yacht construction” according to her builders, and who am I to disagree? Her sleek lines hark back to the meter boats of yesteryear, and she has been designed and built purely for sailing pleasure. The good looks are backed up by simple but elegant accommodations.

Jeanneau 53

The second model in Jeanneau’s new Yacht range to reach these shores—the 57 made its debut last fall—this 53-footer is a spacious, well-appointed cruiser. A choice of four interior layouts with up to five cabins should suit just about any sailing preference, and a large rig and easily-driven hull form promise good performance.

Sense 50

This design from Beneteau marks a new approach to accommodations and deck layout in a boat that’ll make an excellent coastal cruiser with offshore capability. Among the innovative features is a catamaran-like cockpit layout with a dinette opposite a conventional bench seat.

Gunboat 66

Gunboats are no-holds-barred performance cruising catamarans that can outrun just about anything in their respective size ranges. The pride of the fleet is the 66, which makes its boat show debut this fall. The Morrelli & Melvin design has been clocked at over 25 knots—not bad for a “cruising” boat!



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