2012 Boat of the Year Winners: A Classy Class of New Boats
There's plenty to consider when looking at the lineup of new sailboats visited by our Boat of the Year panel of expert judges. "Boat of the Year" from our January 2012 issue.
Midsize Cruisers, 36 to 40 Feet
Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 379
For 2012, there were two classes of midsize cruisers, the smaller of which consisted of five boats ranging from 36 to 40 feet, including another Bavaria, the Cruiser 36, a spacious 36-footer with a standard layout that features two generous double cabins in the ends of the boat, a roomy central saloon, and solid sailing performance with a 7/8ths fractional Seldén rig.
Aboard the Catalina 385, Simon notched several plusses in the safety checklist he compiles for each entry. “The deck flow was very good; it was clear and safe,” he said. “The nonskid and (jackline) pad eyes, high lifelines, pumps, big cleats, dedicated life-raft locker, and solid stanchions were also positives. I really like what Catalina has done because they’re open to change, they’ve diversified their product line, and anyone who purchases one of their boats is buying into a corporation that is going to stick with them.”
Yet another company with high brand loyalty is Hallberg-Rassy, and Sherman was impressed with their new 372 on several levels. “I certainly like the sails and it sailed well,” he said. “The quality of the build and the materials is unquestionable. It’s magnificent. And I’ve never seen battery boxes as well ventilated as the ones on this boat, with fresh-air intakes built in. It’s just an example of things you don’t see on most boats these days.”
The “satisfied customer” theme continued during the inspection of the Island Packet 360. Over the course of her two voyages around the globe, Leonard has encountered IP owners in many a far-flung port. “They just absolutely love their boats,” she said. And Simon emphasized several features they’ll find very appealing on the new 36-footer: “The pulpit; the coated 26-inch lifelines with gates port, starboard, and aft; the dorade vents…they’re all to be applauded.”
But the loudest applause, as it turned out, was reserved for the Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 379, a boat that met its design brief so well that the judges awarded it with a “double-double”: Not only did this Marc Lombard design earn the prize for Best Midsize Cruiser, 36 to 40 Feet, it’s also CW’s Domestic Boat of the Year for 2012.
Midsize Cruisers, 40 to 45 Feet
The largest single class of boats in 2012 was the six-boat division for boats between 40 and 45 feet. Bavaria continued to cover the bases with its twin-wheeled Cruiser 40, a sweet sailing 40-footer with the drop-down swim platform/boarding ladder that serves as one of the unifying characteristics of the entire Cruiser series.
Like the Bavaria, the Dufour Grand’ Large 445 employs dual helms, and it’s safe to say they had Sherman at hello. “I really enjoyed sailing this boat,” he said. “It has the perfect balance of sportiness and ‘cruisability.’ I’ve sailed several Dufours over the last few years, and I really enjoy them. This one was no different. It’s like driving a big dinghy. It’s really a lot of fun.”
Jeanneau pulled off a neat trick with its two entries in this class. While their respective deck layouts, coach-roof profiles, cockpit arrangements, and accommodations plans could hardly be more different, both the Sun Odyssey 439 and the Sun Odyssey 44 DS (for deck salon) share the identical Philippe Briand-designed hull. The former struck a chord with Leonard, who said, “I thought the interior was well executed. On the dock, I stepped aboard and thought, this is a boat I could imagine living on.”
For Simon, the “ah-ha” moment came once the sails were set aboard the 439’s sistership, the 44 DS. “Once we got it figured out and dialed in, the boat really started moving well,” he said. “I think people who are drawn to this kind of (deck salon) boat and its commodious living spaces will be pleasantly surprised to get to places so quickly.”
As with several other classes, the judges ultimately felt it came down to a pair of finalists. One of them was the Beneteau Oceanis 41. “This is a boat aboard which I’d feel comfortable offshore,” said Leonard. “For this boat, I have to repeat what I’ve been saying about a lot of this year’s high-volume production boats,” added Sherman. “They’re using gear that has proven to be reliable, with good warranties, and they’re doing it for a very logical reason; it enhances customer satisfaction levels and reduces their ultimate cost and warranty claims. It’s good business.” Simon was a little less specific, but equally magnanimous: “Beneteau is on to something here, in terms of quality and price. They can be very proud of this boat.”
Obviously, it would take quite a vessel to top that praise, but in winning the award for Best Midsize Cruiser, 40 to 45 Feet, the Tartan 4000 accomplished the feat.