Sabre Spirit: The Belle of the Ball
On the final night of BOTY deliberations last October, after a winner had been chosen in each category and the Import Boat of the Year and the Domestic Boat of the Year had been crowned, the judges chose to make one final award to a distinctly nontraditional cruiser. The Sabre Spirit was named winner of the Judges' Choice Award for "consistent excellence in design, construction, detailing, and performance."
At just over 36 feet, the Spirit is described by designer Jim Taylor as a weekender, an extension of the daysailer genre that's received much acclaim in recent seasons. On deck, the sloop looks narrow, sleek, and fast. The boat's lifelines can be installed for coastal cruising or removed for relaxed afternoon jaunts. Rounded toerails and gleaming hardware hint at elegance, and the powered-up carbon rig promises good performance under sail.
Below, the open saloon is framed by a galley and head aft and a spacious, cushioned V-berth forward that says, "Please, let's make this a long weekend." Every detail is well finished and well planned.
With the breeze up, the judges were fighting for the helm as the easily driven hull sliced through the Chesapeake Bay chop. The Spirit tacked through 85 degrees and accelerated briskly when cracked off to a reach in a 10- to 12-knot, sometimes puffy breeze.
For the judges, their dilemma with the Sabre came not from looks or performance but from the fact that the boat didn't fit easily into any category.
Still, said judge Steve Callahan, "I saw no other boat in the show that was as consistent in quality from the concept of the design to the execution of that design, the construction, the detailing, and the fun of sailing."