Let’s get this out of the way right off the bat. In a resounding return to national prominence after a change of ownership that resulted in a few seasons of sitting on the sidelines, Island Packet Yachts has returned, and in a big way. Its comeback boat, the 37-foot-10-inch Island Packet 349, is Cruising World’s Domestic Boat of the Year for 2019.
“The firm’s new owners, Darrell and Leslie Allen, were longtime Island Packet dealers in San Diego,” said Tim Murphy. “They’ve bought the rights to all the designs, and they’ve got the molds. This new boat was based on the hull of the old Island Packet 36, with the addition of a sugar-scoop transom and lots of other tweaks, large and small. Say what you will about Island Packet, but they’ve got a very, very devoted following, and this feels like a company that’s going to stay very well connected to that group. I wouldn’t call it a ‘cult,’ but they’re sailors who really identify with each other. It feels like it’s going to be a continuation of that.”
What, exactly, does that mean? Well, rest easy, Island Packet fans, original founder and designer Bob Johnson remains a consultant, and his iteration of a full keel will still grace the underbody of IP’s yachts. But the Allens are open to tweaking the interiors of their boats, which is something new, and — holy cow! — your IP no longer needs to have the famous ivory gelcoat. Yes, you can have one any color you wish.
“The sail plan is terrific,” Murphy said. “It has a really nice solent rig with an inner headsail for short tacking, but when you’re on a longer reach, you have a code-zero-style reacher that’s right there and very accessible. I think the sail plan makes up for all the wetted surface of the full keel. During our sea trials, in only about 8 knots of true wind, the boat labored a bit under the jib, but once we put out that reacher, it really lit up. I was pleasantly surprised by how well it sailed.”
“The saloon doors have proper hatch locks that are very clever,” said Alvah Simon. “The benches were long enough to sleep on, which cruisers do. The placement of the winches and sheets is good. They have a traveler forward, and a proper binnacle with a single wheel. The lifelines are high and coated, which is something I always like. Everywhere you go on the boat there’s a stout, shiny rail to hang onto; there are no finger jammers or knuckle breakers in there. It’s all very nicely done. The whole boat will make an elegant, heavy, easy to handle, safe home. It’s old fashioned, and I mean that favorably.”
“The deck is cluttered, but in a good way,” said Ed Sherman. “Everything there is a useful component. For example, there are lots of handholds. Looking at the deck, I envisioned the mold that had to be created to make it. It has to be one of the most complex molds that I have seen in the world of composite construction. Lots of indents, lots of curves, but the glasswork is beautiful. I love the boat. It’s very different than anything else we looked at this week, especially compared to all the very contemporary designs with twin helms and wide transoms. But it’s among the most well-built boats we inspected for 2019.”
So, there you have it. Welcome back, Island Packet. We missed you. Nice to have you back on the water.
See All Winners:
2019 Boats of the Year