There's a new generation of 40-somethings designed to appeal to other 40-somethings. I refer, of course, to the group of 40-foot cruiser-racers aimed at folks who are not over the hill but have passed the hair-shirt-racer stage of life. The Wauquiez Centurion 40s is a nice example of this type, with attractive, comfortable accommodations ensconced in a fast, handsome hull powered by a big, competitive rig. It's also one of the lowest-cost choices in this category.
The deck is all business, as a racing boat's deck should be, and the teak-topped seats compliment both security and esthetics. The effective antiskid, long grabrails on the low cabintop, and solid lifeline anchors are valuable on any boat. It was easy to reach about half the length of the boom from the cabintop without tripping on exposed lines; a fiberglass panel covers halyards and reef lines as they run aft. A big roller on the bow and a windlass inside the large foredeck locker will handle anchoring tasks with no sweat.
I found it easy to enter and leave the cockpit even though seatbacks are high; this is a nice bit of design that many other builders don't get quite right. The cockpit is tapered, so the forward end is narrow enough for bracing feet as the boat heels while the aft end is broad enough for crew activity during racing maneuvers. From a distance the transom appears to be flat, but it opens to reveal a well-designed stern platform with boarding ladder. There's plenty of stowage in the cockpit. One minor quibble is the location of the propane supply; it's in the aft end of the starboard seat locker, which will need to be emptied of other stuff when it's time to change tanks.
There are racing features everywhere. The mainsheet is double-ended, the wheel is large and runs in a trough, and winches are placed for efficient access by the crew. I especially appreciated the handy line-tail lockers near the companionway, as the rope spaghetti that can accumulate in the cockpit and cabin is a hazard when the action gets hot. While the standard rigging is wire, rod is available as a racing option, as is a hydraulic backstay tensioner and a deep keel.
A few steps down the companionway ladder take you to an exceptionally pretty saloon, and there's a wet locker in the head to port for your dripping foulies. Tall sailors will appreciate this space, which is open and unobstructed overhead for its entire length and has ample headroom. An attractive combination of padded vinyl, fabric, and wood trim sets off the saloon; our test boat had a lovely muted color scheme.
The L-shaped galley has a front-opening fridge and separate freezer, both of which use a keel cooler rather than air or seawater for exchanging heat. More builders should investigate this efficient, long-lived system. The stovetop cover does double duty as a serving tray or extra counter space. The deep double sink is near the centerline, and anchor rings for a stove safety belt are standard. The head compartment is mostly fiberglass and should be easy to clean. There's a large separate shower stall. The nav station is efficient and well organized, with enough table space for a chart book and enough panel space for a plotter or radar display.
Stowage space is well distributed throughout the boat. Sizable cabinets in the saloon, hanging lockers and cabinets in the forward and aft cabins, and enclosed storage in the galley will contribute greatly to safety under way and convenience at rest, whether racing or cruising. Overhead clearance is good in the aft cabin. The double berth has reading lights, and the layout of this space and of the forward cabin with its V-berth is conventional. The berths have leeboards for safe and comfortable sleeping under way.
Construction and systems
Wauquiez uses resin infusion to ensure even saturation of the cloth and the proper resin/glass ratio for strength and light weight. The hidden areas I was able to inspect had smooth, even surfaces and neat edges. The rig stresses are taken by an internal grid of floors and stringers, transferred from the shrouds by rods inside the saloon. Bulkheads are bonded and glassed all around, and the hull-to-deck joint utilizes a polyurethane adhesive and mechanical fasteners. The deck has a balsa core, as does the hull above the waterline. The rudderstock is also composite, and the keel ballast is lead.
Engine access is excellent from the front and good through removable panels on the sides, the powerplant's installation is neat and secure, and the space is well soundproofed. The electrical panel appears to be neatly wired to European standards, but cruisers will want more battery capacity than the standard 240 amp-hours to support the power-consuming luxuries we now consider essential. All the plumbing I could see was neatly routed and properly clamped.
I sailed one of the first four boats off the production line on a cool, overcast Chesapeake day with 8 to 9 knots of breeze. The boat accelerated easily to just over 6 knots and was quite easy to keep in the groove. The wheel action was a joy, with instant response to pressure but no squirreliness or erratic tracking if the skipper's mind wandered for a moment.
The boat handles as well under power as under sail, with a one-length turning circle both to port and to starboard. I like the slow-turning diesel, which ambles along softly with lots of torque in the 1,600 to 2,300 rpm range, where the boatspeed is around 7 knots, and the sound level was quiet in the saloon. The three-bladed folding Gori prop gave smooth and quick performance in forward and reverse.
The Wauquiez 40s is an appealing option in the 40-foot racer/cruiser category. This boat is good looking, fast, comfortable, well constructed, and a real pleasure to sail. Tom Dove
Price: $202,000 (base, FOB Charleston, SC). $239,000 (FOB Charleston, SC) includes: main and 140% furling genoa, larger winches, Raymarine Offshore Pack, dodger, freezer, epoxy barrier coat, bottom paint, ground tackle, dock lines, USCG equipment, commissioning.
Designer: Berret / Racoupeau Yacht Design
Builder: Wauquiez International, Neuville-en-Ferrain, Cedex, France; www.wauquiez.com
US importer: Wauquiez USA, 843-629-5300, www.wauquiezusa.com
Sail area (100% foretriangle)
1,098 sq ft
Sail area-displ. ratio