New Thinking is the Common Denominator for 2011
Winners - sexier, faster, more maneuverable under power - make a quantum leap
Cruisers, 40 to 49 Feet
On the surface, the three boats in the 40-foot range that were tested have a lot in common. They’re all stylish, performance-oriented cruisers. And they’re all built in France. But as the judges dug into the details, both at the dock and on the water, each distinguished itself in its own way.
The Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 409 is a new design from Philippe Briand. The hull features a hard chine aft that gives the boat a sharper, more modern look while also providing slightly more interior volume in the aft cabin; the chine should also help increase overall stability a bit. On deck, the judges found the cockpit layout and sight lines from the dual helms over the low coachroof to be excellent, and down below, they liked the flow of the contemporary interior.
Meanwhile, Dufour Yachts entered two boats in this category. The Dufour 405 Grand’ Large has the requisite dual helms, bulb keel, powerful sail plan, and rakish good looks that you’d expect from a Euro performance/cruiser. But it was the details—such as the boat’s superior anchor-handling system and the adjustable chart-plotter mount that makes the screen easily visible from either helm—that had the judges scribbling in their notebooks.
Having three somewhat similar boats in this competitive category made for some tough decisions. But as the deliberations wore on, and the judges started discussing the Dufour 45e, comments like “The helm feel was excellent” and “This is one of the best boats we’ve sailed yet” got lots of nods of agreement. As a result of its outstanding sailing performance and other positive qualities, the Dufour 45e was named the Best Cruiser, 40 to 49 feet.
Click here for the full write-up of the Dufour 45e.
Full-Size Cruisers, 50 to 55 Feet
Each boat in this category steered a very different route in defining what a 50-foot cruising boat can be. As a result, the judges had a tough decision to make when it came time to pick a winner.
The Moorings 50.5 is a Beneteau 50 that’s been built specifically for The Moorings and its charterers/owners, who are looking to defray costs by putting the boat into the company’s charter fleet during the first five years of ownership. As a result, the boat is designed to stand up to the rigors of being in service 20 to 25 weeks per year during that time. Sure, there aren’t many options (the boats are standardized for the fleet with four cabins, four heads, etc.), but the judges all agreed that the 50.5 is comfortable, sails well, could be fun to own when it’s in charter, and, as long as the maintenance schedule is maintained, could be a great cruising boat when it comes out of The Moorings fleet.
The Jeanneau 53 takes a different tack. It’s designed to be a bluewater passagemaker and to provide all the luxury of a “yacht” without the seven-figure price tag of some custom-built boats in this size range. Under way, the judges found the sails to be easy to trim and the boat quite maneuverable. Down below, they found the interior could make for a comfortable home, both on an extended passage or at the dock.
But when it came time to choose a winner, it was the Beneteau Sense 50 that turned circles around the competition—literally. It’s equipped with Groupe Beneteau’s Dock & Go system—a joystick controls both the bow thruster, the engine throttle, and the rotating saildrive unit—that may just revolutionize close-quarters maneuvering under power. That, along with an innovative cockpit and interior layout that’s unlike any other 50-foot monohull, made for a boat that was chock full of fresh ideas. More important, the judges found that the innovations they saw were way more than just gimmicks and it was named the Best Full-Size Cruiser, 50 to 55 Feet.
Click here for the full write-up of the Beneteau Sense 50.