A Stamped Passport to All Oceans
The “big boat” division for the 2016 BOTY contest was just that: a trio of dynamic yachts with long waterlines, voluminous interiors and go-anywhere capabilities. The Beneteau Oceanis 60 is the French builder’s new flagship; the Jeanneau 54 is an evolutionary advance in a long line of sister ships that combine comfort with performance; and the Passport 545 features an aft cockpit (unlike other recent midcockpit models) that harkens back to the company’s very roots.
It’s not often that the BOTY judges have the opportunity to sail aboard a yacht freshly delivered to new owners who then join the team for sea trials, but that’s precisely what happened aboard Arjen and Kaitlin DeVos’ new Beneteau 60-footer, Apres Ski 2. The couple could not have been better ambassadors for their boat or the brand. Once we were underway — on a sweet, slippery sail that showcased the yacht’s seakindly manner — Kaitlin DeVos pointed out several custom features they’d incorporated into the boat to truly call it their own. Active, adventurous, in love with their boat and ready to take it far afield, Arjen and Kaitlin were the very epitome of the demographic Beneteau is aiming for with its 60-footer.
The Jeanneau 54 is incorporated into the company’s Yacht line of larger sailboats, which also includes a 57- and 64-footer. Judge Ed Sherman, our systems specialist, found much to like about it. “There were some innovative things going on, and it did very well in our motoring tests, with very low noise levels under power,” he said. “Jeanneau also has a sort of mix and match between U.S. and European AC shore-power systems, and it’s integrated nicely. There’s 120 and 240 availability, so depending on your destination, you could easily modify [the systems] and make it work.”
“It’s also the least expensive of the three boats in this class and represents excellent value,” added judge Alvah Simon. “And once we had some wind, the boat showed a good turn of speed.”
In previous years, either French-built boat could have won. But for 2016, they faced stiff competition from the Passport 545, which the judges named not only the Best Full-Size Cruiser Over 50 feet, but the contest’s overall Boat of the Year. “Every part, every piece, every detail of the Passport is special,” gushed Simon. “It’s art you can leave out in the rain.”
“The boat is dead silent when you’re down below sailing, even in a big breeze,” added Sherman. “You expect to hear a little creaking now and then, but not here. This is an heirloom-quality boat. It’s going to be sailing 50 or even 75 years from now. And a lot of the equipment will be original, and it will still be working great.”
“It was conceived for voyaging,” said judge Tim Murphy, “and yet, of these three boats, this is the one I’d also want to take for daysails. It’s a boat that gives you access and control to all your sailhandling hardware. You can really shape the sails.”
From the custom welding to the excellent layout to the incredible stainless-steel fabrications to the nonskid, there was nothing about the 545 the judging panel didn’t marvel over. “Kudos to the others. They were good boats from high-production yards. But builder and designer Thom Wagner sailed in on a yacht that nothing can compete with in this class,” concluded Simon. “He calls it a bluewater, ocean-busting cruiser for a couple, and that’s exactly what it is, and exactly what it will do. Considering the degree of workmanship, it’s even a good value. Sailing this boat was just like playing basketball when Michael Jordan’s on the court. You have no doubt who’s the best player.”