Best for Cruising

Different definitions of "cruising" is makes the CW Sailboat Show and BOTY contest a defining debut for new boats. From the "Editor's Log" in our January 2008 issue

John Burnham 368

How do we define cruising at Cruising World? Generally, we leave it to our authors to decide and lead readers by their example. That's the case in this month's Osprey's Flight (see page 160), where you'll find Wendy Mitman Clarke with an interesting slant on the question when she wonders if she's falling short in some way.
The question has also become a sticking point for judges in our Boat of the Year awards competition in recent years because, frankly, the current cruising models on the market are as diverse a lot as ever. They run from seven-seas-cruisers at one end of the scale to daysailers-that-can-weekend at the other. This year, our judges frequently asked Mark Pillsbury, our senior editor and BOTY director, how they should judge a boat of one style versus a boat of another, and each time he told them to judge the boat on its own merits. How well did it fulfill its own design brief, and did it provide good value while doing so? Whichever boat did these best should be an award winner.

During the final deliberations, Mark even called me up once to be sure I would echo the same criteria. I did, even though I could sympathize with the problem our judges faced. Each has his or her own idea of what proper voyaging involves based on thousands of miles sailed, so each has a strong sense of what a good cruising boat requires. But in the process of rendering fair judgment, each must also step out of his or her own skin and imagine all of the other reasonable approaches people will take when heading out on the water, depending on where they sail and how far they'd like to range.

I inspected and helped nominate all of the BOTY contenders that our judges panel ultimately evaluated at the dock and under sail, and in my opinion, they named some great winners, as detailed in Mark's article (see page 76). Fortunately, if you're in the market for a new boat, your job of focusing in on the best choice is substantially easier, because you don't have to consider other people's requirements, nor are you limited to a pool of 24 finalists.

You'll get a sense of this near the end of our BOTY article, where editor-at-large Herb McCormick writes about evaluations made by four pairs of CW readers whom we asked to study different groupings of the BOTY nominees (see page 88). As our "secret shoppers," these couples did a fine job of studying the boats we assigned them and reporting their impressions. In some cases, not surprisingly, they were at odds with our professional judges. And usually the boats they liked best were a good fit for the kind of sailing they are currently doing, whether it be long-distance passages, coastal cruising, or even a combination of short-term cruising and weeknight racing.

And that leads me to the 2008 Cruising World Sailboat Show (see page 92), which follows the BOTY story and gives you the opportunity to look at reviews of an even broader range of boats-nearly 30 other new models in this issue and on our website (www.cruisingworld.com). Depending on your circumstances, ambition, stage of life, typical sailing conditions, and any other vital parameters, you should be able to zero in on any boats of interest with much less angst than suffered by our judges.

So what is cruising? At Cruising World, we still take a longer view and generally encourage you to push yourself to go farther, if that's your dream; but we also realize that not every cruising sailor has the same dream. As the cover says, there truly is A New Boat for Every Buyer out there.
John Burnham