Winner: Boreal 47
A tightly knit division of three yachts, including a pair of aluminum boats from France (the Allures 45.9 and the Boreal 47) and a center-cockpit design from the United Kingdom (the Gunfleet 43), the Best Midsize Cruiser 44 to 47 Feet class not only delivered a worthy category winner, it also produced the top overall boat for 2018.
Launched in 2012 by Richard Matthews, formerly the head of Oyster Yachts, and named for a set of shoals near Norfolk in the United Kingdom, the Gunfleet yard exemplifies the highest standards of British boatbuilding. Designed by Tony Castro, the Gunfleet 43 (which actually measures in at 44 feet 1 inch) sports twin rudders and was, in the words of judge Bill Bolin, “interesting and impressive.”
“It was one of the first boats we tested that was Intracoastal friendly, with an air draft (mast height) that would permit you to go up and down the ICW, which is what an awful lot of cruisers want to do,” he said.
Technical judge Ed Sherman elaborated on the boat. “They did a lot in 43 feet,” he said. “Systems-wise, they did a fine job of executing most things at a level of expected British quality, which is fairly high. I rate the wiring and systems as quite good. They were a little bit innovative with a CZone digital switching and monitoring network. The design brief was for maximum comfort for a couple, and I can certainly see a couple being able to run this boat without any extra bodies aboard. It’s got a retractable side-power bow thruster, which seems to be a trend. There’s not only the advantage of presenting a little better hydrodynamic shape and form up front on the boat, you actually get a bow thruster that will be quite effective.”
Regarding the Allures 45.9, which features a solent rig, twin rudders and a centerboard, Bolin said, “It’s an aluminum-hull boat with a fiberglass deck, so there’s a little bit of a hybrid there. I think the boat was well-done. Once the aluminum was in, they sprayed it with cork for sound insulation and added neoprene between the stringers. During our sea trials I went down below, expecting to hear the bow wave, but there was very little, if any, noise down there. It was just very quiet, which kind of surprised me.
“One of the clever features I hadn’t seen before was the dedicated outboard-engine storage locker,” he added. “It had a big, heavy engine that you store vertically, with a stern transom door that opened up to allow you to get that in and out pretty easily. I thought that was very nice. So were the line bins, where all the sheets and halyards — all the clutter from the deck and the winches — disappeared below the cockpit sole or into the coamings. They also had probably the nicest anchoring system I saw, with a self-launching Rocna anchor.”
“This was an interesting boat in that it had a mixture of elements that I don’t think we’ve seen blended together before,” said the third BOTY judge, Tim Murphy. “It’s sort of a hybrid between a general cruising boat with an interior like a Jeanneau or Beneteau and an expedition boat. And the centerboard gives you windward performance in the ocean but also shallow draft.”
That left the Boreal 47, yet another aluminum French offering with a centerboard. Test-sailing the cutter-rigged boat, with its self-tending staysail, in nearly 30 knots of breeze was nothing short of a revelation. “The boat lit right up and you got the immediate impression that you were on an ocean-going yacht and you were going to be OK,” said Sherman. “It was just as tight and noise-free as could be.”
“The Boreal was an outstanding boat in every way,” said Bolin. “The shape, manner, looks, build quality, sailing performance — it was very well-thought-out and executed. We tested an awful lot of boats that were going to be great tied up at the dock with a cocktail party going on. This boat is going to be great offshore and going sailing.”
With the centerboard, it was also a versatile boat that can tuck into the shallows and rest and dry out on its own bottom. “You don’t have to put any poles out or anything to hold the boat upright. She’s designed to sit on her own bottom as the water comes out from under you,” said Murphy. “And then if for some reason you come down on a hard spot and the boat rolls, the first chine is at the right angle for the boat to settle at that angle and then she’ll float back. It’s a really interesting feature.
“The Boreal answers a mission that I think is really an important one,” he continued. “It’s a very tricky thing having a boat that has to be good in the deep ocean and is stable, safe, performs well and gives you the miles you want in a sea-kindly way that keeps you rested and going and happy. At the same time, when you get to where you’re going, it’s designed to go into shallow water, where it also thrives. I think the fundamental mission is a very, very good one for our readership, and I think this boat satisfies it very well.”
Murphy’s fellow judges concurred, and when the deliberations were over, they named the Boreal 47 not only the Best Midsize Cruiser 44 to 47 Feet but also Cruising World’s 2018 Boat of the Year.
- Best Midsize Cruiser 40-44 Feet
- Best Pocket Cruiser
- Best Full-Size Cruiser 50-54 Feet
- Best Full-Size Cruiser 54-58 Feet
- Best Cruising Catamaran
- Best Luxury Cruiser
- Most Innovative