Is it all about the destination or the journey? If judged by the new models introduced last fall at the U.S. Sailboat Show in Annapolis, Maryland, we are a nation divided.
Favoring the being-there side of the proposition are the many luxurious new boats featuring interiors with homelike appliances and transoms transformed into entertainment centers with built-in grills, fridges, sinks and couches. On the other hand, for Niels Jeppesen and the in-house design team at X-Yachts, the joy is clearly in the getting there, though their new 41-foot X4 mixes in plenty of comfort alongside heaping portions of performance.
“That boat was so lovely to get around on and sail,” said our Boat of the Year judge Carol Hasse as she went back over her notes following our sea trial on the X4. Fellow judge Tim Murphy agreed. “The helm felt really nice,” he noted. “I think they’ve largely hit their mark of providing more cruising comfort than the full-on performance boats do, and they kept it a really nice sailing boat.”
With judge number three, Ed Sherman, also on board in regard to the quality of the boat’s construction and systems, the team proceeded to bestow the X4 with the title of Best Full-Size Cruiser Under 50 Feet. It was a repeat performance for the Danish builder, which a year earlier won the same title with its Xc 45, the latest in its all-out cruiser line.
The X4 and a larger sibling, the X6, are entirely new designs that borrow elements from both the Xc range and the company’s Xp performance boats. In practice, that means the X4 has a slightly larger forward cabin, carries a bit more beam than its racier cousins and has a galvanized-steel frame bonded to the hull for stiffness rather than the carbon-fiber one used in the Xp range to save weight. On the other hand, the design team retained an open transom, shorter cockpit benches, a traveler that spans the width of the cockpit sole and end-boom mainsail sheeting, which in conjunction with the Seldén vang, allows for a lot of control when trimming for sail shape. And it paid close attention to performance factors, keeping the X4’s displacement-to-length ratio a modest 171 while piling enough Norland/Dacron from North Sails on the Seldén two-spreader rig to give the boat a respectable working sail area-to-displacement ratio of 23.
Although it’s a production sailboat, the X4 comes with a number of options, including three keels: shoal (6 feet 1 inch); standard (7 feet 3 inches), which was on the boat we sailed; and deep (8 feet 2 inches). A couple of different styles of carbon-fiber or fiberglass bowsprits are offered to suit an owner’s anchoring and headsail needs, and a carbon-fiber mast and boom also can be had for a price. Speaking of dollars, the boat we sailed, all up with main, genoa and downwind sails, electronics, etc., had a price tag of $477,000, up from a without-sails base of $330,000.
There are choices to be made down below too. An owner can choose to have an en-suite head and shower to port in the forward cabin or a second hanging locker in its place. Moving aft, the saloon is bright and well-ventilated thanks in part to the fore-and-aft butterfly hatch over the folding dining table and numerous opening ports. U-shaped seating is to port of the table and a settee is to starboard, at the aft end of which sits a rear-facing nav station. A head and shower are located to starboard at the foot of the companionway, and a well-equipped, L-shaped galley lies to port. Aft of these, one can choose a single cabin to port and large storage space and cockpit locker to starboard, or else two full-size double cabins. The boat we visited had the latter layout and added pipe berths in the two aft cabins, useful places to stash luggage or youngsters while underway.
On deck, the designers managed to squeeze a fold-down swim platform in under the open transom. When stepping aboard from the stern, you pass between twin wheels mounted on pedestals with display screens; there’s ample room behind them for the skipper to maneuver. Forward, the cockpit benches provide room to stretch out while seated or to accommodate guests.
One set of winches is mounted just forward of the wheels for controlling the main; another pair for the jib sheets sits well forward, meaning either you’ll rely on crew to trim the headsails or, if single-handing, you’ll need to leave the helm. A third pair of winches, one of which is electric for raising the main halyard, is mounted on the cabin top.
Fairleads for the 106-percent genoa are on the cabin top, which allows for tight sheeting angles when beating to windward. That, combined with stays that are anchored outboard on the rail, makes for a clear path when moving forward. I found footing on the teak side decks to be quite good, though judge Hasse noted the smooth fiberglass toe rails could prove slippery underfoot when heeled.
Entering the open Chesapeake Bay from Back Creek, with a fresh breeze hovering around 10 knots, we made an effortless 7 knots closehauled, then added another knot by bearing off to a reach. By the luck of the draw, I got to sail first and found it difficult indeed to hand things off and not be a wheel hog. The boat’s movement through the waves, the feel of the helm, the trim of the sails — it was nothing short of lovely. In my opinion, our journey aboard the X4 ended all too quickly.
LOA: 41’0” (12.5 m)
LWL: 37’1” (11.3 m)
Beam: 13’0” (3.96 m)
Draft: 7’3” (2.2 m)
Sail Area: 1,044 sq. ft. (97 sq m)
Ballast: 8,378 lb. (3,800 kg)
Displacement: 19,511 lb. (8,850 kg)
Sail Area/Displacement: 23
Water: 90 gal. (340 l) Fuel: 53 gal. (200 l)
Holding: 15 gal. (57 l)
Mast Height: 58’8” (17.9 m)
Engine: 45 hp Yanmar, saildrive Designer: Niels Jeppesen, X-Yachts Design Team
Mark Pillsbury is CW’s editor.