Cruising World Announces 2010 BOTY Winners
Six boats come up winners for 2010. A special feature from our January 2010 issue
Nascar has the Daytona 500. The N.F.L. has the Super Bowl. Racing sailors have the America's Cup and the Volvo Ocean Race. But for anyone interested in the newest cruising boats launched in any given year, there's only one place to be on Columbus Day weekend: the U.S. Sailboat Show in Annapolis, Maryland.
The truth is, the BOTY program is more like a marathon than anything else. In fact, the process of getting acquainted with all the new models that we'd consider for this year's BOTY awards got started at the Newport International Boat Show in September. It was there that we got our first glimpse of the boats that the judges would be poking, prodding, and putting through their paces-in conditions that ranged from light zephyrs to driving rain and 25-knot winds-in the coming weeks. We soon realized that this wasn't going to be the year of radical risk taking. Unlike past years, when some boat designs pushed deep into uncharted waters, this year's debuts, with only a couple of exceptions, represent design evolution rather than reinvention. But that's not a bad thing. New launches from such production builders as Catalina, Island Packet, Hunter, and Beneteau, among others, show that boatbuilders are working hard to deliver what sailors want, and they've listened to plenty of owner feedback to make sure that they do.
This approach to boatbuilding was evident in every BOTY category; these categories came together based on the dockside visits that our preliminary-round judges paid during the Newport show and before things got started in Annapolis. This year, the preliminary team included CW editor Mark Pillsbury, BOTY veteran and CW editor at large Tim Murphy, and me.
And it was especially apparent (though exemplified in different ways) in the Multihull Cruisers category. Did I say Multihull Cruisers? First off, it was refreshing to see a few more two-hulled boats this year. Unlike last year, when only one new cruising catamaran was launched, four new models-a Lagoon, a Fountaine Pajot, and two from Robertson and Caine-made their debuts this year.
The Lagoon 400 is one of those design exceptions referred to earlier. Potential owners said they want cruising-cat accommodations to be closer to those you have in your house, and the designers delivered just that. As a result, the 400's hulls are wide, and they have the freeboard required to contain truly spacious living spaces-and generous bridgedeck clearance-in a 40-foot package. During their dockside visit, the judges found the design team of Marc Van Peteghem/Vincent Lauriot Prévost made no attempt to mask the height of the hulls with steps in the hull or deck. As a result, the boat had the most radical look of all the cats we tested. Still, we found that the deck is wide, flat, and easy to navigate and that the living space within was indeed impressive.
Fountaine Pajot's Lipari 41, on the other hand, represents the evolution of thought from a builder that's been producing cruising cats for more than 25 years. It has the distinctive bridgedeck saloon windows and French styling for which the company is known, and the judges were impressed with the way it performed in the 25 knots of breeze we had during the sailing trials. Even in the cold rain, they were still smiling thanks to boat speeds of 9 knots or better.
While the other cat builders had the benefit of owner feedback, Robertson and Caine, the builders of the Leopard 38 and the Sunsail 384 (the former available privately with an owner's cabin to starboard, the latter built for Sunsail with four cabins and equipped specifically for charter) had the added benefit of knowing what works-and doesn't-thanks to the legions who opt to sample cats while on charter. As a result of the collaboration between Sunsail, the South African builder, and designers Morrelli & Melvin, both models impressed the judges with strong construction, excellent systems installations, clever design solutions, and peppy sailing performance. And the well-executed details-such as the elegantly simple and powerful electric davit system, the singlehander-friendly helm station, the little lip on the stairs descending down into the hulls, and the wide platform on the sterns to make boarding from a dinghy easy-really kept the judges buzzing. After much debate (involving the other cats as well as the Sunsail version), the judges named the Leopard 38, with its more owner-specific focus, the Best Multihull Cruiser as well as the Import Boat of the Year. You'll find more details on all the winners as well as write-ups on all the nominees as you read on.
Of all the groupings, the category of Premium Cruisers Over 50 Feet was particularly tough to narrow down, simply because each of these boats is built to high standards and carries a price tag that would indicate craftsmanship and performance. The Tayana Annapolis 64 and the Passport Vista 615 had the "benefit" of being test-sailed in 25 knots of wind and rain-conditions a prospective owner is sure to encounter on the long offshore passages for which these vessels are made. Both handled the nasty elements beautifully. The Tayana had a big, comfortable cockpit; excellent visibility from its dual helm stations; decks free of clutter, since all lines run back to the cockpit through races under the deck; and a hull with more than enough muscle to stand up to the stiff breeze. The accommodations plan was filled with interesting features, including an accordion door that turns the big guest cabin forward into two separate cabins when it's opened.