2012 Boat of the Year: The Consumers Pick Their Favorites
Readers bring their own unique views to CW’s Boat of the Year program. From our January 2012 issue.
Innovative designs and well-executed production caught the attention of this year’s Boat of the Year consumer judges. We interviewed them after they’d walked the docks and visited their assigned boats during the U.S. Sailboat Show in Annapolis, Maryland. Overall, the group was quick to praise the workmanship, seaworthy gear, and comfortable living spaces that they encountered; still, some of what they saw, as one couple put it, “makes us love our boat more.”
As we’ve done for the past several years, Cruising World asked readers to submit essays about a boat they’d owned, and then we selected four teams— three couples and a solo skipper this year—to visit the same boats that were inspected by our Boat of the Year panel of industry experts. We asked our teams to act as “secret shoppers” so they’d get the same information and boat-show experience that any reader would. For the most part, they praised salespeople who spoke knowledgeably about their boats and who asked good questions in return. But builders, take note: Our consumer teams—some of whom were in sales themselves—also complained about a few brokers who ignored them when they stepped aboard or, worse, seemed to make up answers when asked questions. Finally, our consumer judges tended to favor manufacturers who chose to equip their boats with premium gear and who found ways to offer more choices when it came to layout, upholstery, and types of wood and finish.
Read on to learn what each team found in Annapolis.
Bill and Terri Saint sail out of Charleston, South Carolina, aboard their Beneteau 473. They visited the Full-Size Cruisers, 45 Feet and Above. They began their debrief by saying that the Bavaria Cruiser 45 felt solid. They liked its dedicated nav station built with a laptop user in mind, and they were intrigued by the nav station’s seat, which has a back that can be flipped to provide seating at the dining table, too.
Both the Bavaria and the Beneteau Oceanis 45 have fold-down swim platforms in the transoms. Though the couple saw their value for the tropics, they said that for their own style of sailing, they’d rather have a storage locker across the stern; they wondered if the builders couldn’t make the platform a “Caribbean option.”
“Gorgeous” is the term they used to describe the Beneteau’s “very open” interior, and they said that the boat had the best companionway—steps that extend into the saloon rather than a steep ladder— of any boat at which they looked. Of interest, they felt that consumers would pay a little more to get more sailing-dedicated hardware on both the Bavaria and Beneteau.
The ballpark-$1 million price tag and a tight companionway on the Passport Vista 545 CC caused the Saints to pause, but they agreed that the boat was “beautifully made, with incredible workmanship.” Another sailboat that caught their fancy was the Leopard 44 catamaran. They were impressed with the amount of storage, while the openness of the cockpit, aft, and of the smaller sitting area forward of the house piqued their love of outdoor space.
Last on their list was the Nexus 600, another South African-built catamaran. They found innovative details when they stepped aboard, such as the bamboo cabinetry, but they also found that they missed the warmth that more extensive woodwork provided on some of the other boats. In the end, they concluded, “We’ll just keep our Beneteau.”