Best in Class 2009
Sailing performance, quality of construction, and price determine the winner of CW's 2009 Boat of the Year contest
Our other categories this year were All-Purpose Cruisers, 30 to 40 Feet; Midsize Cruisers; Full-Size Cruisers; Long-Distance Cruisers; and Special-Purpose Cruisers. You can read about the winners of each in the pages of this special feature. I found it interesting that two of the categories, All-Purpose Cruisers and Long-Distance Cruisers, each produced multiple winners. In both cases, our panel of four independent judges worked hard to reach its conclusion.
Among the All-Purpose Cruisers, 30 to 40 Feet, the judges (see "Meet the BOTY Judges," right) faced a real dilemma. In 15 to 25 knots of wind, the Beneteau 34 was a delight to sail. Second to the smallest in a range of Beneteaus that now stretches from 31 to 54 feet, the 34's features are well-proportioned: Nothing's too spacious or cramped. Under way, the hull, rig, and sails balanced out to produce a sailboat that tracks straight and stands up to its canvas; below, the boat is stylish and livable, though the same basic interior is found throughout the line, which is one way the builder keeps costs low.
On the other hand, when the judges boarded the Catalina 375, the wind was extremely light, yet they found numerous well-thought-out ideas that designer Gerry Douglas brought to bear to create a roomy, bright, and versatile living space for a couple or family. Construction and systems were top-notch, but the judges had to utilize their experience to render a verdict about the 375's performance abilities in a breeze. After considered debate, they chose two winners, naming the Catalina 375 the Best All-Purpose Cruiser, 30 to 40 Feet, and the Beneteau 34 the Best Value in the whole 21-boat fleet.
In the Long-Distance Cruisers category, the judges had an equally difficult time deciding between the Malö 37 Classic and the Island Packet 460. As is typical of the Scandinavian boats, the Malö was rock solid, luxurious below, and a delight to sail. Yet for long-distance cruising, the 460 benefited from solid construction and served up the payload-carrying capacity many long-range voyagers look for, and it had an interior that was as purposeful as it was homey. These were two very different boats, each traditional in its own way, and in several instances the judges declared that they wouldn't hesitate to take either boat offshore. In due course, they designated the Malö as the 2009 Import Boat of the Year and the IP 460 as Domestic Boat of the Year. Then the panel concluded that the IP, because of its attributes and the fact that it stuck so closely to its design brief to be a boat for a cruising couple, it should also be named Best Long-Distance Cruiser.