There were big boats (the Oyster 745) and small boats (the Malbec 18) and everything in between. Now in its 23rd year of competition, this latest edition of our annual Boat of the Year contest had a little something for everyone. It was also a year that defied easy categorization. In fact, in the entire history of the event, it may well have been our most eclectic fleet ever.
Continuing a trend that has been on the rise in recent years, the lion’s share of entries were from overseas, with boats from China, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain and even Slovenia among the nominees. And there was a handful of U.S. entrants as well, including the aforementioned Malbec, a pocket monohull, and a pair of catamarans, the Maine Cat 38 and the Stiletto Xc.
Overall, however, there were fewer cats in the 2018 field, just a year after half of the overall entry list sported two hulls. But what they lacked in quantity was offset by the quality of the nominees, which included two otherworldly cats from China, the Morrelli & Melvin-designed HH 55 and HH 66; the wholesome Fountaine Pajot Saona 47; and the two U.S. boats previously noted.
The big production builders were aptly represented. Jeanneau led the pack with two offerings: a 51-footer that was an extension of its line and the truly innovative Sun Odyssey 440, with a deck layout that just may be revolutionary. Beneteau’s Oceanis 51 was a natural rival to the bigger Jeanneau, as was yet a third boat built in France, the Dufour 520. A slightly larger entrant came from Germany: the impressive Hanse 588.
There were lots of dedicated cruising boats, particularly in the midsize range. These included the rugged Hallberg-Rassy 412, from the Swedish builder that consistently enters a leading contender. The Elan GT5, from the Slovenian builder that’s making continuous strides in the U.S. marketplace, also scored high marks from the independent judging team. So too did a pair of metal boats from France, the Allures 45.9 and the Boreal 47, both of which drew big crowds at the U.S. Sailboat Show in Annapolis, Maryland, where they made their debuts.
The full-size class was particularly stacked, and represented the most competitive division in the entire field. Along with the Hanse already mentioned, the roster included the Discovery 58 and the Southerly 540, both from England; the Moody 54 DS, now built in Germany under the Hanse umbrella; and the Swan 54, from the highly regarded Finnish yard.
As always, the judging consisted of separate dockside inspections and sea trials, and took place during and after the U.S. Sailboat Show last fall. Over the next 14 pages, we’ll delve deep into the individual classes, announce the winners and list what separated them from their competition. Then, on pages 84 and 85, you’ll find specs and stats on the entire fleet, contact information for the respective manufacturers, judges’ credentials and more.
Like every Boat of the Year competition, the 2018 edition took on a life of its own. And while the fleet defied easy characterizations, when all was said and done, a worthy group of winners emerged that represented a diverse collection of well-found cruising boats. Check them out below.