New Thinking is the Common Denominator for 2011
Winners - sexier, faster, more maneuverable under power - make a quantum leap
Premium Cruisers Over 55 Feet
It was tough to narrow down the boats in this category, simply because they all have the systems, displacement, waterline length, and interior volume to be luxurious, speedy, and seakindly passagemakers. But as it turns out, each also had qualities to make it unique.
The Beneteau Oceanis 58 is all about space. On deck, the cockpit features dual wheels, long, comfortable seats, a huge swim platform, and excellent stowage. For blue water, the judges would’ve liked to have seen taller lifeline stanchions and more handholds forward of the mast, but on the other hand, they were particularly impressed with the companionway. It features a larger-than-average opening and the best “stairs”—not a companionway ladder but wide, shallow-sloped steps with excellent handholds—of all the boats they tested.
By way of contrast, the Southerly 57RS is all about the freedom that comes from the ability to reduce draft from well over 10 feet to under 4 feet simply by pushing a button that hydraulically raises the 7,275-pound swing keel. The judges found that the space required to accommodate the keel trunk and the lifting mechanism necessarily required some design compromises in the interior, but they also felt that the boat’s raised saloon, which affords sailors a good view out of the wraparound ports while seated at the table, made the most of the available space.
Still, after inspecting and sailing the Hylas 56—one of the more conventional boats in the whole BOTY fleet—the judges concluded that in the case of this model, “If it ain’t broke, make it better” was exactly the right thing to do. The judges liked the boat’s sturdy construction and felt that everything, from the robust winches to the ground tackle to the storage lockers, addressed the needs of serious cruisers. The overall fit and finish of the hull and interior, along with the high quality of the systems, reflected an attention to detail that they felt should be commended. As a result, the judges named the Hylas 56 as the Best Premium Cruiser Over 55 Feet.
Click here for the full write-up of the Hylas 56.
Three very different cruising catamarans vied for top honors in this category. On the Matrix Vision 450, the judges were impressed with the overall flow of the accommodations plan and with the main stateroom, which occupied the entire port hull in the three-cabin version they tested. Under sail, they thought that some aspects of the deck layout could be refined, but they agreed that the boat performed well in the 12 knots of breeze they had during their test.
Meanwhile, no boat at the show drew as many gawkers as the all-carbon Gunboat 66. Even in the moderate breeze the judges experienced during the sailing portion of their evaluation, they were awed by the boat’s passagemaking potential. The judges agreed that it’s a marvel of engineering. And they concurred that anyone with a need for drag-racer speed—who could also afford a price tag that’s north of US$4 million and, in most cases, a professional crew—would die to own the Gunboat.
But which of these catamarans would be best suited to a couple cruising around the world? When our experts were searching for their answer to this question, they found they kept coming back to the Discovery 50. They praised the boat’s sturdy construction, redundant systems, and overall quality craftsmanship. They also found the master cabin that runs the full width of the boat forward of the mast to be the best out of all the boats they tested, and the guest cabins, aft in each hull, came out at the top of the list as well. So it was a long list of “likes” and “loves” that led our BOTY team to name the Discovery 50 as the Best Catamaran and also to deem it to be the Import Boat of the Year.
Click here for the full write-up of the Discovery 50.
There you have it. This year’s fleet of new boats shows that good things can come from trying times. Sailboat builders had to innovate to excite current owners and to attract new ones, and in many cases they did. As a fleet, this year’s new boats represent a quantum leap forward when compared with what’s been built before and consequently available on the used-boat market. If a new boat’s in your future, this year’s class, introduced in Annapolis, brings a lot of fresh ideas to the table.
Bill Springer is CW’s senior editor and its Boat of the Year director.