Boat of the Year 2017
The Year of the Cats
Catamarans, catamarans, catamarans: Never in the 22-year history of our annual Boat of the Year competition have we seen so many catamarans. In fact, of the two dozen nominees in the 2017 contest, fully half of the entries sailed in on two hulls; there were so many cats that it took three separate divisions to categorize them.
It reminded us of an old story. A music critic who caught a young New Jersey singer’s act before he was a huge star famously said, “I saw rock ’n’ roll’s future, and its name is Bruce Springsteen.” As cats are now firmly established as the fastest-growing segment in the sailboat industry, we may now be able to say much the same thing: We’ve seen the future of boatbuilding, and its name is multihulls.
To underscore the point, for 2017, our independent panel of judges (see page 88) named one of several cats built in South Africa, the fast and elegant Balance 526, as the year’s top import. Heck, even the Domestic Boat of the Year invoked the letters “c-a-t” in its name; of course, we’re talking about a fully found cruising monohull manufactured in Florida, the Catalina 425.
The Year of the Cats, however, was definitely the theme of the 2017 fleet. They came in a dizzying, dazzling array of stripes. There were full-fledged South African voyaging cats (St. Francis 50 MK II, Royal Cape Majestic 530); versatile cruising cats from France (Lagoon 42 and 450 S, Fountaine Pajot Lucia 40); cats aimed directly at the charter trade (Bali 4.0 Lounge, Bavaria Nautitech 46 Fly, Leopard 45); a cat with looks that one nautical writer likened to a “running shoe” (Xquisite X5); an incredibly sporty cat constructed in Vietnam (Seawind 1190); and another Florida product with an open floor plan for day charters (Gemini Freestyle).
Cats weren’t the whole story, however; in fact, they were far from it. Of the dozen yachts on the monohull side of the fleet, production cruising boats continued to get bigger and bigger (Beneteau Oceanis 62, Jeanneau 58). Along with those French products, the international field included yachts from Denmark (X-Yachts X4), Germany (Dehler 34), Italy (Solaris 50), Sweden (Hallberg-Rassy 40 MK II) and even Slovenia (Elan Impression 45). And it was a great year for aficionados of performance cruisers, with the Alerion Sport 30, Elan E4 and J/112E joining the Dehler in one of the most competitive divisions in the contest.
As always, the judging consisted of separate dockside inspections and sea trials, and took place during and after the annual U.S. Sailboat Show in Annapolis, Maryland, in October. Over the next 16 pages, we’ll delve deep into the individual classes, announce the winners, and explore what separated them from their competition. Then, on pages 88 and 89, you’ll find specs and stats on the entire fleet, contact information for the respective manufacturers, judges’ credentials and more.
Like every Boat of the Year competition, the 2017 edition took on its own unique personality. It might have been a season for the cats, but when all was said and done, the champions represented a diverse blend of well-found cruising boats in all manner of shapes, sizes and styles. Step right up and check them out.