Crunching the Numbers
Bill Lee had a point to make on the
relative merits of bilge pumps for racing boats versus cruising boats,
and it was a direct one. He'd been on his hands and knees
testing the system on a midsized, German-built performance cruiser. It
required him to lift up multiple floorboards with a suction cup, switch
on the pump, then undergo a section-by-section recon mission--hose in
hand--to suck out offending puddles.
"We used to do this all
the time on our raceboats," said Lee, the longtime builder of the Santa
Cruz line of ultralight flyers and the senior member of CW's
four-person independent judging panel. "But a raceboat's a jockstrap
you yank on to go racing. On a cruising boat, you want a proper bilge
His colleagues--liveaboard cruising sailor Suzanne
Giesemann, Ed Sherman of the American Boat & Yacht Council, and
world-class multihull sailor Peter Hogg--nodded in agreement.
Lee's observation was one of the countless opinions, rants, and
reasoned explanations put forth off Annapolis, Maryland, last October
in the 12th running of Cruising World's
annual Boat of the Year contest. This year, 42 boats entered the
competition, and by the time the judges arrived to begin dockside
inspections during a drenched edition of the U.S. Sailboat Show over
the Columbus Day weekend, a three-person nominating committee
consisting of CW editors Herb
McCormick and Tim Murphy and globe-girdling cruising sailor Ralph
Naranjo had whittled the fleet down to 26 entries in seven classes.
(For a complete rundown of the nominees, see "The Boats and the
Classes." For more on the judges and their qualifications, see "The
A stationary mid-Atlantic low associated with the
remnants of Hurricane Tammy pumped buckets of rain and staunch
northerly winds the length of the Chesapeake, making for challenging
conditions that would persist as the eight-day schedule of dock visits
and sea trials unfolded. But there was a silver lining to the dark
clouds, for we sailed every boat in proper breeze. Once the sails were
set, some boats fared far better than others.
Overall, it was
a truly diverse fleet, ranging in size and price from the entry-level
Hunter 31, at $87,500, to the robust Kanter Bougainvillaea 65, which
rang the bell at a no-nonsense $1,750,000. These prices, it should be
noted, were based on a standard formula for a sailaway boat ordered in
mid-October 2005, commissioned and delivered on the U.S. East Coast,
and including refrigeration and all safety equipment as well as basic
sails and electronics. Yet no matter what their size and cost, all the
boats were judged on their merits when measured against their expressed
purpose and market.
Tellingly, of the 26 nominees, a solid 20
were imports, with entries from Canada, China, Denmark, Finland,
England, France, Germany, Slovenia, South Africa, and Sweden. This year
also saw two new players in the United States: Delphia Yachts of Poland
and Salona Yachts of Croatia.
When all was said and done, the
judges awarded prizes to seven class winners, plus one boat they deemed
the best value in the entire fleet. Finally, they also presented a pair
of awards to the best Domestic and Import Cruising Boats of the Year
(see "The Winners").
Beginning in February and continuing in
the months ahead, we'll present detailed evaluations of the lion's
share of nominees in Cruising World's
Reviews section. What follows here are highlights of the day-to-day
workings of the judging panel during the sea-trial portion of the
testing, with extra emphasis on many recurring trends across the
industry in 2006, including the increasing prevalence of twin-wheel
steering stations, saildrives, and straight-line galleys. And, of
course, bilge sumps right and wrong.
Day One: Let it Blow
On the blustery Chesapeake morning of October 11, the panel members
boarded the Stevens Custom 53 (see "The Return of a Maverick," July
2005) and were introduced to three generations of the sailing Stevens'
family: patriarch Bill; his son, Brian; and his 14-year-old grandson,
Kristoffer, who ably demonstrated that he may someday be the saltiest
of them all.
A routine was established that would play out 25
more times in the ensuing days. Bill Lee would take the helm for a
series of motoring and maneuvering tests, including backing down to
port and starboard into and across the breeze. Meanwhile, Ed Sherman,
armed with a decibel meter and a handheld GPS, recorded the noise
levels belowdecks and the corresponding motoring speeds under both
cruising and flat-out rpm as advised by the builders or their
representative (for the full results of Ed's findings, see "The Sound
Under Power"). Suzanne Giesemann and Peter Hogg tested the anchoring
system--all anchors were dropped 10 feet or so and then
retrieved--before inspecting the rig, accommodations, and overall
layout. Once all that was completed, sails were hoisted and set, and
the judges took the helm in turn.
Aboard the Stevens, there
were some glitches with the trial: the windlass was temporarily
inoperable for the anchor test, and the big code-zero reacher needed
taming on its furler before it could be properly set. Bill Stevens was
clearly having one of those days.
Aesthetically, the 53-footer
wasn't everyone's cup of tea. But the boat still earned high marks from
the judges across the board. "Form follows function," said Lee. "The
vertical transom isn't necessarily pretty, but the stairs down it are
very nice. And, yes, the freeboard is high, but it's huge inside."
"Stevens succinctly stated what the purpose was--a very luxurious, very
comfortable liveaboard cruiser--and, quite frankly, he met that
purpose," Hogg said of the Chinese-built boat. "I think he's
demonstrated that by putting appropriate supervision in a low-cost
labor market, you can produce a superior product."
Ed Sherman agreed: "It's one of the best Asian boats I've seen."
Next on the docket was the Hunter 31. The judges concurred that the
boat felt a bit tender under sail but that it otherwise filled the bill
as a coastal cruiser with clever use of space for newcomers to the
sport. Sherman said, "When I put my ABYC hat on, this boat warmed the
cockles of my heart. As standard equipment they're installing isolation
transformers for AC shore-power inlets, and I'm totally impressed with
what they've done in terms of plumbing and wiring installation. They
have an engineering department that's looking at this stuff and
figuring out ways to comply with standards and assemble it at a price
point, and I think they've done a good job with it."
gave Bill Lee a soapbox from which to discuss several matters that he'd
return to often as the week progressed. "Most of these boats can be
provided with options in three areas: propeller, keel type, and
mainsail type. If you get the deep keel, the full mainsail with
battens, and the folding propeller, that boat is going to sail pretty
good. If you go the other way, with a fixed, three-blade prop, a
shoal-wing keel like this boat had, and a furling mainsail--all three
of the go-slow factors together--the performance will be sluggish." A
big cause of that sluggishness, Lee contended, depends on the options
an owner has chosen.
"Oftentimes, the mainsails will be the
same price for either option. Shoal keels sometimes cost more; you have
to make the boat heavier because the ballast is higher. Usually the
folding props cost more: a grand or so. So it's really not a lot of
money to turn a sailboat, any sailboat, into one that feels good
instead of one that feels slow."
Ironically, the Hunter 31
suffered most when compared to the next boat on the judge's list: the
Hunter 41 DS. "I think the build quality is much higher in terms of fit
and finish than the 31," said Sherman. "I liked this boat a lot. It
certainly represents a lot of bang for the buck. The systems upgrades
over earlier Hunters I've looked at were just phenomenal. They've
improved exponentially, in my opinion."
"There are two things
important to me on any boat," said Suzanne Giesemann after an extensive
review of the 41's interior. "Brightness and ventilation. The
ventilation was very good for a deck saloon. Hunter has always been
good at appealing to women buyers with layouts and interiors, and they
did it again with the walk-around bed in the aft cabin. With aft
cockpit boats, that's unusual.
"The couch in the saloon was a
nice touch; it was an actual couch that was secured well and had a
trundle drawer under it. It held a lot of stuff and was a good use of
space. I give each boat my reading-comfort test, imagining myself
curled up at night for hours reading and checking out the lights. This
boat was outstanding in that department."
Bill Lee noted that
the boat was equipped with a conventional shaft-drive auxiliary, not a
saildrive, which are becoming more popular each year with builders.
"What [Hunter chief designer] Glenn Henderson told me was that he feels
the American market wants shaft drives. I talked to a lot of builders
about it, and only Peter Johnstone [of Gunboat] feels saildrives are
good for the builder and bad for the consumer. For everyone else, it
was pretty much a toss-up. Tom Morris [of Morris Yachts] puts some in
his boats and says they're just fine." Indeed, nearly half the boats in
this year's fleet come with a saildrive (see "The Sound Under Power").
By the time the judges made their way to the next boat, the
performance-oriented X-46, the breeze was down a bit. But it mattered
not a whit, for the X-Yacht was born to sail. "Upwind we were seeing
7.5 knots of boat speed in 8 to 10 knots of breeze," said Sherman.
"They wanted a pure sailboat that would really sail well, and they
delivered," said Lee. "Holy mackerel!" said Giesemann.
boat had a ton of upside, as the sportswriters would say, including a
steel grid that impressed Lee ("You can bulk up the keel bolts and
really spread out the load") and a pair of pipe berths above the
quarter berths in the adjacent aft cabins that may be the last word in
sea berths. "If we'd had those on our boat when we crossed the
Atlantic, I might've slept," said Giesemann.
The boat did,
however, have issues. "The systems are generally nicely designed, but
the service access I felt was very difficult," said Sherman. "For
instance, you had to lift the main DC panel board to get behind it. And
the AC panel was below the nav station, where you're going to bump into
it with your knees.
"Oh, yeah," he added. "It has a 10-liter
holding tank. For me, that's about one meal. I realize they're trying
to save weight and accentuate the performance aspect, but from a
cruising perspective, that's too small."
five-foot-six-inch destroyer-type steering wheel also generated some
discussion. On the one hand, the big wheel and its Jefa draglink system
contributed to what was arguably the most butter-smooth steering in the
fleet. But Giesemann, particularly, felt it was obtrusive and difficult
to move around quickly while helming--though Lee countered that it
would be a simple matter to order a smaller one.
46-footer, they could've also used the double-wheel option that we saw
on a lot of other boats," said Hogg. "The double wheel works extremely
well and achieves the same purpose of letting the helmsman sit well
Moments later, the judges transferred to the
twin-wheeled Swan 46. "Compared with the X-Yacht, I really, really
preferred the steering setup," said Sherman. "It was real comfortable
back there, and the walk-through access to the transom and the
swim-ladder setup, which was also very clever, was superb."
Still, he continued, "In a lot of places, I thought the boat was
over-engineered. The fuel-transfer system was fairly complex and not
particularly well labeled. So you wouldn't easily be able to
intuitively figure out what to switch. Also, the fuel/water separators
were installed in such a way that there was no clearance at the base of
it to get the water out without it draining into the bilge. I found
that kind of annoying."
Lee especially liked the daggerboard,
which accounts for a draft of either four feet four inches (up) or 11
feet two inches (down). "Good shoal-draft boats that are designed from
the ground up to be that way are hard to find. We tried to sail her
upwind with the board up, and yes, the board is very effective in
preventing leeway." He added that the daggerboard came up very easily
while the boat was under way. "The twin rudders were another part of
the shoal-draft package, and they controlled the boat very well."
It was an afternoon to sail big boats, and the Beneteau 523 fit right
in. "The purpose I have for the boat," said Lee, "is 'offshore
capable,' though that's not its target market. It's for a couple
between 50 and 60 with grown kids, owner-operators, who use the boat
three to four weeks at a time with occasional guests. Maneuverable and
The entire judging crew enjoyed a
trick at the helm of the well-balanced sailboat in winds that were back
up into the teens. "On our go-fast/go-slow options scale," Lee said,
"it had a good, real mainsail with real battens. It had the
six-feet-two-inch medium draft, so those things were good. But it still
had the three-blade prop, so I bet you could pick up another half knot
with a folding option. It sailed just fine, and if you put the deep
keel and folding prop on the boat, it could fit right into the
performance-cruising class. It would sail that well."
anyone else agree with me that with a minimal amount of modification,
it would not only improve the performance but make it a real
ocean-crossing boat?" wondered Sherman.
"No question," said Hogg.
Giesemann described the overall feel as one of "luxury and comfort."
Details she liked in the main saloon included the sole ("gorgeous, and
adds to the total picture") and the counter space in the galley ("best
I've seen on any boat"). "The layout of the whole boat was great," she
said, "but I especially liked the aft cabin with the small desk. And
the aft head had a shower that was nothing short of inviting. Even with
all that luxury, the boat gave us a fun, fast ride with a nice feel."
In the late-afternoon hours, as what little light the day had offered
faded into darkness, the judges pulled up to a tidy yacht in perfect
trim and cleaving purposefully through the chop. Tom Morris was at the
helm of the Morris 42.
"A Chuck Paine design," said Lee. "The
design brief was a traditional appearance above the waterline, a modern
underbody, and great sailing characteristics combined with more than
the average volume for a traditional boat. You were supposed to be able
to take it to opening day at the yacht club, and it's supposed to look
right. Then it's supposed to sail right. And I think they got it right.
"The solid rail for the aft half of the lifelines is interesting," he
continued. "It's more secure, and you get used to the look. There's an
excellent example of the offshore dorade vents: the guard, the box, the
whole bit. Good sea berths in the middle of the boat. A nice big Edson
bilge pump. Hardware bolted through with real backing plates. The right
way to do it."
"Based on ABYC standards, I found just one flaw
on the boat, and it's a classic mistake," said Sherman. "It has to do
with the propane storage locker, which should be designed in such a way
that it won't be prone to throwing extra gear in there with the tank.
The drainage, valving--all that was great. But sure enough, I opened it
up, and there was the shore-power cord and some other stuff. Obviously
it's an easy fix."
And thus the hair was split.
"Absolutely awesome," said Giesemann. "What sailing should be. I think
it's the best America has to offer with the quality craftsmanship. It
takes you back to the art. These guys are artists."
Day Two: Monos and Multi
The first day of sea trials had been cold, gray, and bleak. But
compared with the staunch nor'easter that greeted the judges as they
boarded the Ribcraft for Day Two, it'd been a day at the beach.
Luckily, the inaugural boat to be tested was born for bad weather. The
rugged Kanter Bougainvillaea 65 was conceived to be a go-anywhere,
all-oceans passsagemaker. And owners Martin Burzynski and Annie
Lannigan were pleased to greet the judging team aboard their waterborne
home. The couple was halfway along on a 3,000-mile delivery from Lake
Erie to their home on Florida's Gulf coast; they plan to start crossing
oceans aboard this boat beginning in May 2007. "Some of these test
sails are very well prepared, some poorly prepared," Lee said later.
"This was very well prepared."
Martin and Annie worked closely
with yacht designer Mark Fitzgerald of Chuck Paine's design office and
Canadian builder Kanter Yachts in developing the couple's vision of a
full-fledged world cruiser. "It's one of the most advanced
systems-driven boats I've seen," said Sherman. "It's an absolute
technical marvel. What's been done has been done very, very well,
perhaps the best we've seen or will see in that regard.
"What's troubling to me," he continued, "is the lack of redundancy. In
my opinion, the backup systems aren't fully thought out. I wonder
what's going to happen if they end up in Tahiti with any sort of
From a layout perspective, Giesemann
entertained no such worries. "The galley is very well designed, with an
enormous pantry. There's exceptional visibility in the pilothouse. This
is a very livable boat."
About the helm, Hogg said, "The hydraulic steering had absolutely no touch."
Not to worry, countered Lee (who also made the point that the boat
would be operated on autopilot for most of its underway miles). "I'm
sure they'd be happy to sell you a cable steering system." Indeed, to
Lee, the more salient point was the construction quality of the
aluminum hull. "I was very, very impressed," he said.
transfer to the next boat, the Swedish-built Hallberg-Rassy 37, was
perhaps a bit sportier than it should've been. "I was a little
disappointed that it didn't have a gate in the lifelines as we tried to
get aboard in four-foot seas," said Sherman. "It would've been helpful."
Once aboard, however, the criticisms of the boat were few.
"I really liked this boat," said Lee. "The cockpit seats were long
enough to sleep on. The main cabin had two sea berths. The forward
berth is 58 inches wide, which is almost a queen. The after berth is
split--48 inches and 30 inches--which may be better out in the ocean.
There's a permanent spare prop mounted in the engine room. I had a
little trouble backing down, but it was pretty hard on all the boats
today because the wind would blow the bow down. But I finally got it
under control and it backed both ways."
"It was the only mast
furler [a Furlex system from Seldén] we sailed on today that had
vertical battens, and they worked fine," noted Hogg. "With a reef in
the sail, it set nicely, and I was impressed by that."
Continuing the day's import theme, the next boat on the list was the
Jaguar 36. The nominating team, including the co-authors of this story,
felt it was an interesting addition to the expanding market of cruising
catamarans. But the judges couldn't have disagreed more strongly.
"I looked at the price [$230,000] and thought we might have a Best
Value from the multihull class," said Lee. "But no matter what the
relative cost, a value boat still has to be a good boat. Layout-wise,
you had to walk through a head to get to a stateroom, and that's faulty
no matter how good the workmanship is. And it was the only cat we
sailed that had underwing pounding."
"I saw delaminated wood
and thin fiberglass laminates," said Sherman. "In my opinion, the build
quality on this vessel was very low."
The next boat up, the
Gunboat 48, also hailed from South Africa, but the differences between
it and the Jaguar were night and day. "As well it should be for a boat
that costs a million dollars more," said Hogg. "It's a very high-tech,
very high-quality composite construction," said Sherman.
sailing trials, with the wind speeds punching into the low 30s, was
outrageous (for more on the Gunboat sea trial, see "Liftoff," Editor's
Log, December 2005). "I'm thinking of it as a New Age cruiser," said
Sherman. "It's a bit stark inside, but maybe that's what New Age is,
and there's a market for that. The sailing performance was
exhilarating: really good. The boat was stiff; the helm was light. I
think the inside helm would benefit from an overhead window. I couldn't
see the sails and was sailing on instruments. I'm a telltale guy."
Suzanne Giesemann, after her first experience flying a hull on a
48-foot catamaran--she wasn't alone--agreed with Sherman on the sailing
aspects, but with a caveat. "I had a blast under way," she said. "It
was thrilling. But a cruising boat? I don't buy it. The Gunboat guys
were bragging about doing 300 miles a day, but to me that's not
cruising. That's getting there. The interior was stark. The galley was
an afterthought. The boat failed my sitting-around-and-reading test.
This is a man's boat."
Bill Lee had a different take on the
Gunboat: "Yachting is an art form, and this is one aspect of it. If you
want to land on a beach, you can do that, and if you want to go fast,
you can do that. I don't find fault with its objective at all; it's an
excellent execution of the objective. It not only fulfills the idea of
going cruising, but going cruising in a hot rod."
the day's catamaran theme, the judges segued from the Gunboat to the
flagship of the Lagoon line of French catamarans, the Lagoon 500. "It's
billed as an offshore cruiser with a lot of payload capacity, and comes
with three interior options: three, four, or five staterooms," said
The boat presented to the judges in Annapolis was an
owner's version, and Giesemann found a lot to like about it. "The
owner's cabin [to starboard] is great," she said. "You could shut off
the space from the rest of the boat and have some real privacy.
"Throughout the boat, there was excellent ventilation and tons of
storage space. It had a four-burner stove, and you could put a turkey
in the oven and do some real entertaining. I loved the loveseat forward
on the foredeck, and I really like the flybridge concept. But I have to
admit that when I was steering, I didn't feel like I was on a boat at
all. It was like looking down on a tennis court from up there."
Next up was the day's third South African-built catamaran, the St.
Francis 50. Along for the trial were the boat's owners, Michael and
Jeri Innis (http://sailingcloud9.com), who'd moved up to the boat from
an Island Packet 45, aboard which they'd enjoyed sailing from their
former home outside San Francisco to the Bahamas. Once there, with
occasional visits from their four grown daughters and an ever-expanding
load of bikes and gear, they decided to look into a cruising cat for an
Atlantic crossing and several years of Mediterranean sailing. Their
search led them to the St. Francis 50. (Michael earned extra points
when he stripped to his bathing suit and took a plunge into the cold
Chesapeake after we snagged a crab pot.)
a first inspection the Innises took a pass because Jeri didn't like the
galley-down layout. But when they couldn't find a galley-up layout,
they bought the boat anyway, and the plan has grown on them. "When we
have guests, they can be up in the saloon, and the dishes and mess are
down below and out of the way. We can relax and clean up later," Jeri
Seeing it as a long-distance cruiser, Ed Sherman was
enamored of every aspect of the boat, which recorded a top speed of
12.2 knots reaching during our sea trial. "We were in 30-knot winds,"
he said, "and the sailing was thoroughly enjoyable. I felt I'd be
comfortable on this boat in virtually any situation, that it could be
adjusted to deal with it. It had a nice motion through the sea.
"The finish was good; the welds were all ground out, then acid-dipped
and polished. The metal work was exquisite, better than any other boat
we've inspected. The systems were really good, and the glasswork had no
rough edges. Everything was faired nicely."
When Bill Lee,
poised at the helm to do the motoring test, asked for the cruising rpm
speed, he got a surprise. "The owners picked right up on it," he said.
"Their trick was to just use one engine. It cut the noise and fuel
consumption and still achieved 8.7 knots."
By the time the team moved on to the day's final boat, the Seguin 52 (see "Fairweather
and Foul," May 2005), it was really blowing the dogs off the chains.
But the S&S design shouldered through the breeze and chop with
aplomb. "We reefed her down and set up the runners, and it was
exquisite to drive," said Sherman. "The motion of the boat was just the
way it ought to be in the grand yachting style. Here we were, in 35
knots of wind, playing around, and we were walking up on deck like we
were on a ballfield. What a great upwind boat in a seaway."
Bill Lee concurred. "If you were going to sail from San Francisco to Seattle, this is the boat you'd want."
Lyman-Morse is one of the great contemporary builders, said the judges,
and they raved about the details, from the floorboard fasteners to the
remarkable custom woodworking to the pristine systems layouts. But they
also had criticisms.
"I'm not sure that they didn't try to do too much down below," said Lee.
"And I was a little disappointed in the noise levels belowdecks," said
Sherman. "The engine sits in the center of the saloon with a gigantic
cover over it that requires a big hydraulic ram to raise. You just
don't really expect noise like that at all on a yacht of this stature."
Giesemann wasn't enamored of the interior layout but admitted she'd
love to see a second Seguin with a different owner's take on the
accommodations; Lyman-Morse, after all, would give you practically
anything you wanted.
"Suzanne feels it's too dark, that it's a
guy's boat, but I'm a guy," said Sherman. "I can picture myself down
there with a brandy and a nice cigar having a hell of an afternoon."
Finally back at the dock and out of the weather, Peter Hogg summed up
the day's activities. "We had a little diversity today, which was a
very key issue. It comes down to sailing style, cruising style,
whatever you want to call it. But it all comes back to style. The
Kanter, to me, was boring. The other extreme was the Gunboat, which was
a pleasure to sail. So the criteria become difficult. But then you have
the little Hallberg-Rassy. It was a sweet sailer, pleasant. You were
happy to steer it. She was a little tender, but somehow it felt good.
And if the boat doesn't feel good when you're sailing it, if it doesn't
put a smile on your face, then **** it."
Suzanne Giesemann was startled. "I was just sitting here thinking how literate you sounded--then that," she said.
"What part didn't you understand?"
Day Three: All Spun Out
The judges sailed the first two boats of the day, the Bavaria 39 and
the Impression 384 by Elan, in 16 to 18 knots of steady breeze, with
further gusts into the lower 20s.
About the Bavaria, Sherman
felt the overall quality from the big German builder is good and
getting better. Regarding the Impression, Giesemann gave high marks to
the interior layout of the midsized production cruiser.
when the judges compared notes later in the day, their main talking
point when discussing the sea trials was the tendency for these vessels
(and, later, for the Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 42 DS) to stall and round up
in higher winds.
It must be noted that all three boats spun
out when flying full genoas while closehauled or close-reaching. And
once their respective sail plans were shortened down, all three behaved
very well and exhibited fine, if different, sailing characteristics.
But the experiences generated a lot of discussion about why many
contemporary cruising boats exhibit this trait.
Part of the
reason is the trend for many modern designs to carry beam well aft to
accommodate large aft cabins or twin staterooms.
Lee: "I was talking to one designer who said so much weight ends up aft
in these boats that even though they try to move the center of buoyancy
back, they still need to put the keel forward to make the boat float
where it's supposed to. The other way you place the keel is you figure
out where the sail plan is and you put the keel under it. But if you're
putting it farther forward to make the boat float right, the boat will
have more weather helm.
"The other thing that happens when the
keel is forward is to fashion the rudder so it generates more lift. But
if the boat's wide aft and heels over, part of that big rudder lifts
out of the water, the air ventilates down from the surface, and the
boat spins out."
Lee had one other theory, this one regarding
big propellers and the possibility that the turbulent flow they
generate may accentuate the stalling potential on the rudder. "If you
could just go a little faster, you might get a little more water
flowing past the rudder, and you might be able to save yourself more,"
And, as mentioned, there's always the simple
solution: Reef early. "In most cases, if you shorten down, you don't
even lose that much boat speed," he concluded. "It gets more
comfortable, and it's easier to steer. You don't heel as much, so it
feels weird; but if you look at the speedo, you're going almost as good
as you were before. Plus, the boat's a whole lot more comfortable, and
it steers a whole lot better."
After the morning's first two
monohulls, the judges stepped aboard the final cat of the competition,
the British-built Broadblue 42. "I liked its cutter rig," said Peter
Hogg. "It makes it very easy to go downwind with the big genoa and not
have to fool around with a partially reefed headsail on a roller
furler. And having that second inner staysail works well. I thought the
owner's cabin was great. And it's one of the few boats we sailed with
dedicated office-type space, which is great for anyone who's going to
be voyaging and keeping track of records and paperwork or for anyone
"It sailed well," said Sherman, "but I have
some reservations about the serviceability of the electronics, helm,
and engine room."
"It's a very nice, very pretty boat," said
Giesemann. "The heads were beautiful, it was beautifully decorated, and
the lighting was excellent."
The Salona 45, from Croatia, was
another boat whose stock rose in conjunction with the wind. "The boat's
purpose is described as a fast cruiser that can be club raced," said
Lee. "When you cross that line, you start to see the traveler under the
main boom, a more open cockpit layout, that sort of thing. We sailed
the eight-feet-four-inch deep keel with a two-blade folding prop on a
saildrive and a classic mainsail, so we really had all three of the
go-fast factors. And it really showed. This was certainly one of the
faster, more responsive boats we sailed today."
"It's a fast
cruiser, all right," said Giesemann. "But with that draft [eight feet
three inches], you're going to cruise real fast right around the
Bahamas." A six-foot-11-inch shoal-draft version is also available.
The Salona was one of many boats equipped with a straight-line
galley--we can go so far as to call it a trend--as opposed to the more
traditional U-shaped configuration. That feature also drew some
"I don't care for the straight-line
galley," Lee said. "With a U-shaped galley aft, the cook can talk to
the guests, and he or she is back by the main hatch where there's more
air. It's harder to reach things in the straight-line version,
especially when it's nasty and you're using a galley strap. And the
sinks are bound to be well outboard; if you're heeling hard, you may
get water up through the sink drain.
"I think it comes down to
what the builder is trying to accomplish," Lee continued. "If you want
three staterooms, you go with the straight-line galley amidships. If
you only want two staterooms, you can put the galley aft."
don't like it, either," said Giesemann. "For me, it feels like I'm
always in the galley. I like a separate living room from my kitchen.
And when they add a bench amidships to lean back against, it breaks up
the flow of the space for anyone trying to move forward."
straight galleys are done to maximize space," said Sherman. "They're
fine at the dock. And being fundamentally antisocial, I don't care if
my back's to the crowd. But from a practical user standpoint while
under way, I can't really get used to them."
The panel had few
reservations about their next charge, the powerful Hallberg-Rassy 62.
"They told us the purpose was push-button sailing and bluewater
cruising, where you can do everything from the helm," said Giesemann.
"They proved their point today. I've never seen so many buttons, all
right there by the wheel. I was amazed. I'd need more time to get used
to it, but it was so easy and comfortable to sail. It was blowing,
there were choppy seas, and we were making 9 knots so effortlessly it
didn't feel like we were moving. It was more like gliding. I felt like
this was a comfortable, older-couple's boat. Or a boat for a
comfortable older couple."
"You can do lots of things on a big
boat you can't do on a little boat," said Lee. "This is a great boat.
The only negative to me is the engine room, and I only say that because
of the efficiency of the Kanter's. These guys should hire the Kanter's
designers to do their engine room."
"It's definitely busy,"
said Sherman. "You'd better know what's going on once you're in there.
Lots of systems and very advanced global-cruising features. Multiple
voltage availability: 12-volt, 24-volt, 110, 220. And systems were
backed up with a full-on isolation transformer, an inverter system that
can deal with multiple systems, all real nicely done. It's a real
globetrotter, comfy, and rock solid. And I like the deck layout,
because when all the push buttons crap out, you're manually going to be
able to get into some backup mode and get yourself back on track."
The Hanse 461 was the German boat with the bilge-pump system referred
to at the outset of this article. And while all the judges were
perplexed a bit by the floorboard system and related bilge issues,
including butt splices connecting the refrigeration unit to the
electrical system that were ripe for trouble, they were unanimous in
their praise of the boat as a fast, enjoyable sailboat. "I really
enjoyed driving this boat," said Hogg. "No doubt about it, it sailed
well, was very well balanced, and the helm felt great," said Sherman
after his trick steering.
The interior layout is centered
around a main cabin that the judges felt was a little gimmicky, with a
pair of chairs to port that could be positioned a couple of different
ways and pinned in place on opposing sides of a small table that
effectively took the place of a traditional nav station. And while
there were multiple choices for the cabins at the ends of the boat, the
main-saloon configuration was the sole option.
chairs, Lee said, "I didn't buy them. When facing each other, they
seemed too formal. When facing straight out, they didn't feel right,
The Hanse yard is making impressive strides into
epoxy construction, as Tartan and C&C are doing in the United
States. This is still rare among production boatbuilders, but it can
lead to the best structures in contemporary boatbuilding.
Day Four-Seeking Closure
Finally, on the last day of the 2006 Boat of the Year competition, the
rain stopped for good, and on brief occasions, there were patches of
blue overhead and the odd ray of sunshine. Happily, the improving
conditions were matched by fine wind for sailing.
The Dufour 365
opened up the action. "Once we figured the trim out, which didn't take
very long, it sailed very well and was extremely well balanced," said
Ed Sherman. "The deck layout was smart and efficient. A nice,
reasonable little cruiser."
The Dufour was followed by a
first-time BOTY nominee, the Delphia 40 from Poland. "I like the way
they did the walkthrough aft," said Bill Lee. "There's an offset ladder
and a pretty chunky continuous bumper, like you see on the Amels. You
can back that right up against a dock without a problem.
"This boat had two heads and no stall shower," he continued. "I guess
if you're a couple, you use one head for the head and one for the
shower and call it good. It's a personal preference, but I think in a
40-foot boat, two heads is a bit much. They take more space than you
think. I'd rather have a bigger chart table and a stall shower in one
"The execution may have been just a little off," said
Peter Hogg. "But I get the sense this company is an up-and-comer. I'd
be surprised if we didn't see them back soon with a bloody good boat."
The Moody 49 has been reintroduced into the States after a switch of
builders. The boats have recently undergone a shift from Princess
Yachts in Plymouth, England, a yard that's concentrating on high-end
powerboats. Today's Moodys are built by Moody Yachts International in
"The brief for this boat was 'a high-quality
center-cockpit boat,'" said Lee. "To me, this was a boat that looked
good in the dockside inspection, but even got better once we got it out
on the water. We sailed the version with the five-feet-three-inch
draft, though there's also a six-feet-seven-inch deep-keel option. It
made a bit of leeway with the shoal keel, which is something you don't
notice unless you're really paying attention. Plus, I couldn't get it
to back to starboard. Then again, it had a bow thruster, so I'm not
sure that was such a big deal."
"I really liked it, too," said
Ed Sherman. "I felt the equipment was sized and placed properly, which
is something we haven't always seen out there. It was blowing pretty
well when we tested it, and the boat had a good turn of speed. We were
making 8.7 knots under way, which was very decent.
totally impressed with the build on the boat compared with earlier
Moodys I've inspected in England," he added. "The new regime at Moody
definitely has it dialed in."
Returning to a configuration
that has long served the company well, like its classic 34-footer of an
earlier era, the latest offering from Tartan also sports a centerboard.
"The target market for the Tartan 3400 was the more traditional
cruiser," said Bill Lee. "But then they broadened that. It can be a
couple's boat or a small family's boat. They also wanted a boat that
was easy enough to stop at after work to go sailing for an hour, or
even use it for a week's vacation or a month's vacation. So they were
really reaching for a pretty broad spectrum of the market. Certainly it
was one of the more higher-tech constructions we've seen."
Significantly, Tartan has made a commitment to epoxy boatbuilding for
better laminates, and they have an in-house shop to build carbon spars
for their boats.
Both Lee and Sherman felt the wide, main
boom, with its nifty mainsail-stowage capacity, was clever and
innovative. "It hasn't been done that I know of, incorporating that
mainsail cover," said Lee. "And when I was walking forward to leeward
tidying things up, I found it really handy to hold on to," added
New owner Jeff Watkins joined the judges for his
first sail aboard his spanking new Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 42 DS. Having
moved up from his previous Southern Cross 31 and Alberg 30, he's
looking forward to expanding his cruising horizons in a southerly
The judges agreed he'd have excellent
accommodations belowdecks. "The aft stateroom was very generous, with a
72-inch-wide berth," said Lee. "It's an aft-cockpit boat with a big
stateroom that really works. One thing we're seeing more of, and this
boat had it, is side engine access through the head. In the past, you
couldn't get in there, but now you see more watertight doors--this
Jeanneau had one--that let you get in there."
"Overall, Jeanneau is another company that's really improved on systems installation, particularly electrics," said Sherman.
The final boat in the BOTY field was the Island Packet 440, an
aft-cockpit interpretation of the center-cockpit 44-footer the Florida
builder debuted last year. "They do an awfully lot well," said Peter
Hogg. "Lots of good handholds on deck, excellent ventilation. I counted
eight deck hatches and three big vents. The mainsheet and traveler were
properly led through the dodger, and the winches were all the right
size for the job. It's an interesting layout down below, with the
berths roughly 45 degrees off centerline, which creates two huge heads
with loads of room and big showers."
"The thing that struck
me," said Giesemann, "is that it's the first boat I've seen down below
that's so good-looking they didn't need to add fancy bedding or
froufrou pillows. The plain mattresses and upholstery looked great."
"I'm very familiar with Island Packet, and it's a typical IP in every
respect," said Sherman. "Real high-grade systems, perfectly done. To be
honest, I've never really loved their looks, but I've always respected
their installations and build quality."
"They have a niche,"
said Lee. "Part of their tradition, and success, is that there are
still a lot of stalwart cruising sailors who want really long keels, a
well-protected prop, and a skeg that comes back and picks up the bottom
of the rudder." More and more, as this year's fleet underscored, Island
Packet is the one manufacturer of new boats addressing that segment of
Later that evening, as the judges made their final
deliberations, Bill Lee made one last cogent observation. "The two most
important things in life are keeping track of yourself and knowing who
to believe," he said.
Put another way, the 26 contenders for
Boat of the Year had been well tracked and studied. And everyone
involved in the organization of the event believed they chose some
CW editors Herb McCormick and Tim Murphy conducted the 2006 Boat of the Year competition.