There is always a theme or trend evident in the new sailboats that make their debut at Boot Dusseldorf, the world’s largest boat show, held every January in the heart of Germany’s Rhineland. T-keels, twin rudders, hard chines, molded bowsprits; you saw them here first.
Perhaps it’s because the world’s designers and builders are sitting back and taking a breather from the hard work of innovation, but there was no identifiable design trend evident at this year’s show, at least in smaller boats. All the action was in the over-50ft segment, where the consensus seems to be that yes, size matters. We had Beneteau with its new Oceanis Yacht 62 alongside two new Sense models, the 51 and 55; Jeanneau unveiled a new 51, smaller sister to its 64ft and 54ft models; Hanse showed off its impressively capacious 588 and 675; Bavaria rolled out a new 57-footer; and Dufour trumped its own 56 with a new 63ft performance cruiser.
Turkey’s Sirena Yachts presented the new Euphoria 68; there was a handsome new 58 Pilot Saloon from France’s Wauquiez and a sweet-looking 57-footer from Holland’s Contest Yachts. Oyster Yachts was there with a dark blue Oyster 675, while Swan stole the show with the predatory ClubSwan 50, which made the sleek new Swan 54 next to it look positively sedate by comparison. Denmark’s X-Yachts displayed its potent-looking new 65ft X6 model, and Italy’s Grand Soleil 58 drew plenty of admiring looks.
Some of these big boats offered optional convertible hardtops, with a roll-away fabric component like those first seen on the visionary Moody 45 DS back in the 1990s. Hanse has a regular optional hardtop covering the cockpit, which is not a bad idea on a boat of this size where a fabric bimini or awning would be a pain to deal with.
Otherwise, it was obvious that there is something of an upheaval going on in cockpit design. Helm seats lift to reveal built-in wet bars and grills that can be tended from even bigger drop-down transoms; seats convert to beds or sunbathing pads, cockpit tables flip over, disappear into the cockpit sole or have leaves that convert to seats; dinghy garages are now all the rage, for nothing spoils the lines of a boat like a RIB dangling from davits. It’s all good fun—anything that makes a boat more user-friendly is fine by me—and most of it will no doubt trickle down to smaller boats.
Speaking of which, most of the major production boatbuilders seem to be taking time off from refreshing their smaller-boat ranges. Beneteau has refreshed the interior layouts in its Oceanis 35 and 38, while Dufour, Jeanneau, Hanse et al have been concentrating on the bigger end of the market. Bavaria has bid adieu to Farr Yacht Design and is working on a complete new line that will be designed by Mario Cossutti, and there will be more range refreshment from other builders next year.
Slovenia’s Elan Yachts had its new GT5 at the show, a departure from its usual fast-cruiser philosophy that combines a fast hull shape with a distinctive interior layout and some clever cockpit detailing rivaling that seen on some of the bigger boats. Also new was the Hallberg Rassy 44, which boasted—gasp—twin rudders, a bluff bow, and a molded-in bowsprit—a real departure for this conservative Swedish builder. There was a pretty new 41-footer from Italia Yachts, and the X4 from X-Yachts was a delightfully sporty yet accessible 40ft package that combines the best traits of the builder’s Xc cruising and Xp race-oriented lines.
France’s Tofinou range comprises some of the prettiest boats in the daysailer/weekender category, and now it has a cruising boat. The Tofinou 10c is a sweet 33-footer, combining the yard’s excellent workmanship and sleek good looks with a functional layout for a cruising couple or young family.
As one of the 242,000 people from 70 countries who visited this show, I was left once more with the conviction that if you’re shopping for a new boat, there’s no better place to be, even in the frigid depths of a European winter.
Photos by Peter Nielsen