Best in Class 2009
Sailing performance, quality of construction, and price determine the winner of CW's 2009 Boat of the Year contest
The weather couldn't have been finer, in contrast to the stormy stock market, as Cruising World's 16th Boat of the Year awards program unfolded along the docks of the U.S. Sailboat Show in Annapolis last October. Some say it was the sunny days and mild temperatures that drove crowds of people to the waterfront to look at new boats over the long Columbus Day weekend. Or perhaps, as some pundits conjectured, they came because when it looks like your portfolio's sinking faster than the Titanic, spending what you have left on a boat and gear to go sailing has more than a little logic to it.
I do know why the BOTY judges and yours truly were there: We were ready to dig deep into the bilges, plow through lockers, and peek behind the electrical panels of 21 new sailboats. And dig we did over the four days of America's biggest and best sailboat-only show. And when the show broke up and the crowds went home, we went sailing. For a week, we zipped across the bay in a 28-foot inflatable, courtesy of Zodiac, as we boarded boats, set sails, reefed, dropped anchors, and motored to test how new hull designs, gear, and sails worked where it really matters-on the water.
To set up contest categories, CW took an initial look at boats that were introduced to the American market since the last Annapolis show via dockside visits at the Newport International Boat Show and in the days before Annapolis opened to the public. We discovered a number of builders-Jeanneau, Beneteau, and Bavaria come to mind-offering new models to fill out their existing range of boats. Other builders, including Catalina, Malö, and Island Packet, brought new designs to replace older workhorses. New faces made the scene, too, such as South Africa-built Moxie Yachts, with the only new catamaran in the show. And then there were the crossovers.
As we studied the new designs, we found that models from several builders were hard to pigeonhole because they were designed with both creature comforts and regattas in mind. On deck, they were go-fast machines, but below, accommodations promised to pamper to varying degrees a crew that might spend considerable time aboard, either voyaging or long-distance racing. This year, it was in the Racer/Cruiser category that our
preliminary round judges, CW editor John Burnham; designer, sailor, and writer Steve Callahan; and I found the most hairs to split. Early on, we realized that a few of the crossovers were too bare bones to cruise seriously and, on the other hand, that some were simply offering zippier performance than in the past.
In the end, we selected the Santa Cruz 37, the Archambault A40RC, and a 34-footer from X-Yachts as examples of this vigorous breed of boat that may well strike a chord with American buyers. These boats have all the strings you'll need to get them moving, yet each would be comfortable for a cruising couple or family, though perhaps a challenge for some to sail at their best. As with all of the boats we looked at in Annapolis, you can expect to find short reviews and extra photos on the 2009 Sailboat Show page, and more in-depth reviews in future issues of Cruising World.