New Thinking is the Common Denominator for 2011
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Small Cruisers, 30 Feet and Under
Diversity and innovation were evident in almost every category, but the Small Cruiser grouping may have been the most interesting. That’s because it was comprised of three very different boats that accomplished their stated design briefs in very different ways.
The Hunter 27E is a pocket cruiser that has the arch-mounted mainsail traveler, stern seats, backstay-less B&R rig, and maximized accommodations that you’d expect to find on a Hunter—and an electric motor that you probably wouldn’t. The Elco Motor Yachts power plant isn’t a hybrid. It’s simply an electric motor that’s powered by batteries that must be charged either by hooking the boat up to shore power or by optional solar-power and wind-power generators that can be mounted on the boat’s stainless-steel bimini frame. During the judges’ test, the motor had enough power to push boat speed up to nearly 6 knots. The engine’s control panel is even fitted with a “Power Boost” button that’ll generate a bit more speed in short bursts. As with all electric propulsion systems, range under power depends on battery capacity and motoring speeds. The motor and battery setup the judges tested had about 6 hours of normal-use run time.
Up against the Hunter was the category-defying Presto 30, a shoal-draft 30-footer with two carbon-fiber masts; wishbone rigs; square-topped sails; a cozy, camper-type interior with minimal headroom; and a retractable outboard motor that’s mounted in a trunk in the forward part of the cockpit. During lengthy deliberations, the judges agreed that the boat was outside of the parameters of an average cruising sailboat, but they noted that it’s critical to reward innovative boats that stretch the envelope in some unique way. As a result, they created a special recognition for the Presto, giving it the Cruising Spirit Award. The Presto, they said, is not only well built and fun to sail but also could attract a whole new group of sailors by expanding the boundaries of what a cruising boat can be.
The category winner, the Beneteau First 30, is a sporty little rocket designed by raceboat designer Juan Kouyoumdjian. The judges warmed to the boat’s creature comforts at the dock, then fell head-over-heels with the way the boat sailed when each took the helm out on the bay. As a result, the Beneteau First 30 was named the Best Small Cruiser, 30 Feet and Under.
Click here for the full write-up on the Presto 30.
Click here for the full write-up of the Beneteau First 30.
Midsize Cruisers, 30 to 39 Feet
While the Small Cruisers were interesting because the boats were so different, the Midsize Cruisers show that some builders are going after buyers by paying attention to sensible boats less than 40 feet in length that have the capability to take an owner off voyaging, if that’s the desire.
The German-built Hanse 375 got rave reviews for the way it sailed. The judges remarked on the sweet feel of the helm and how easy the boat was to singlehand, with its well-designed self-tacking jib. They also liked the overall cockpit and deck layout.
The Dufour 375 Grand’ Large, built in France, also has the Euro-sexy lines of the Hanse, and its sailing performance garnered good comments from the judges. During their deliberations, the judges noted that the amply sized double bunk to port, instead of a typical V-berth that forces two people to play footsie in the bunk, is a great way to maximize the comfort and space in the forward cabin on a boat under 40 feet.
As for the boats that were built on this side of the prime meridian, the judges tested the “Performance Version” of the Hunter e36 (the “e” in this case stands for “extended”), and they felt that the boat’s square-topped laminated main and roller-furling jib gave the boat a bit more get-up-and-go than standard Dacron sails would have, especially in the light air they experienced during their test sail.
However, what really caught the judges’ attention was the rock-solid construction and execution of ideas that resulted in the Catalina 355. They felt that the accommodations plan struck the elusive balance between being comfortable at the dock and seaworthy while under way. And they liked how the boat performed under sail. As a result of all these good things, plus a few others, the judges named the Catalina 355 the Best Midsize Cruiser, 30 to 39 Feet, as well as the Domestic Boat of the Year.
Click here for the full write-up of the Catalina 355.