It’s always good to see the marine industry introduce solid boats in the 35-foot range, an excellent size for a cruising couple to sail, manage and maintain efficiently, and one that sometimes gets short shrift in any given calendar year from builders focused on larger vessels with more lucrative profit margins. For 2019, four entries (the Dufour Grand Large 360, Hanse 348, Island Packet 349 and Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 319) vied for the title of Best Midsize Cruiser Under 38 Feet.
“I think we have three boats that are natural competitors to each other, and then a fourth boat that’s a little bit apple versus oranges, comparatively speaking,” said Tim Murphy. “The Dufour, Hanse and Jeanneau all cost under $200,000, and are very close on their displacement/length ratios, right around 200. That means you can expect similar performance and comfort characteristics. With a price tag of $330,000 and a D/L ratio of 278, the Island Packet is the outlier in this group.”
The panelists liked the Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 319, but perhaps because of its shorter length, they did not feel it matched the features of its rivals. Alvah Simon was impressed by the Dufour Grand Large 360, particularly its interior layout.
“I liked the two-stateroom accommodations plan,” he said. “I couldn’t figure out which was the owners cabin. They were both spacious and equally balanced.” However, neither the Jeanneau nor the Dufour advanced beyond preliminary discussions.
That’s because the other nominees in the group had passionate defenders. Ed Sherman championed the virtues of the Hanse 348.
“I liked it a lot,” Sherman said. “I liked the dual wheels in the cockpit. At first I thought twin wheels on this size boat were kind of ridiculous. But when we sailed it, they were great. The ergonomics in the cockpit area were terrific. I like the fact that it was a three-cabin boat. There was enough room down below to have a good time with a small family, and I think that’s their target market, and it definitely addresses that. The systems installations and the fit and finish were all perfectly acceptable. And it sailed very well. I’m a Hanse 348 fan.”
As it turned out, Sherman and his fellow judges were not quite through with the Hanse.
Simon countered Sherman’s endorsement with his own strong assessment of the Island Packet 349. “On our test sail, I recorded speeds over 7 knots,” he said. “Island Packets have not always had a great reputation for their sailing prowess, but this boat had beautiful Quantum sails and performed very well. The on-deck flow is good, and so is the nonskid. The pushpit and pulpits with seats and cleats were very well executed.
“Yes, it costs more than the Hanse, and the Hanse may deliver a peppier sail,” he added. “But I think this new iteration of the Island Packet is breaking free from its old mold; the company has evolved and improved. I think this is a builder moving in the right direction, and I’d like to find a way to help them. So, yes, compared to the Hanse it may take a little longer to get there. But when you’re cruising, not racing, what’s important is getting there. When you’re talking about making long boards of 1,000 miles to the Galapagos, or 3,000 miles to the Marquesas, this boat can do that. To me, that’s what makes it a handy little pocket cruiser, although we used to reserve that term for Pacific Seacraft Flickas and very small boats. By today’s standards, this is a pocket cruiser, and it’s a very good one. For me, for that reason, it rises right to the top of the stack.”
It was up to Tim Murphy to cast the deciding vote, which went to the Island Packet 349, thereby earning it this year’s title of Best Midsize Cruiser Under 38 Feet.
See All Winners:
2019 Boats of the Year