Boat of the Year: Best New Sailboats for 2016

From performance cruisers to quick cats and comfortable voyagers, the results are in and we have our winners! Congratulations to Cruising World’s 2016 Boat of the Year winners!

Every year, it seems, Cruising World’s annual Boat of the Year contest develops its own unique personality, and for the 2016 competition, the trend continued with a distinct accent all its own. Call it what you will — a mariner’s melting pot, the United Nations of new yachts — but the fleet of nominees that gathered last October at the U.S. Sailboat Show in Annapolis, Maryland, had a decidedly international flavor. Actually, it was much more than that, as no fewer than 19 of the 20 BOTY entrants were fashioned in faraway lands. So we’ll begin with a shout-out to the Floridians from Marlow-Hunter, who arrived on Chesapeake Bay with a truly nifty 31-footer. Without the Stars and Stripes fluttering off the transom of their innovative cruiser, Uncle Sam would have been left out of the competition entirely. 

Part of it, surely, was timing. Hinckley Yachts debuted its new Bill Tripp-designed Bermuda 50 last summer — the company’s first new sailing model in many years — but last-­minute scheduling issues prevented the boat from participating in BOTY. And several other American builders have major projects in the works in various stages of completion, including Island Packet’s eagerly awaited 520 and a new 42-footer from Catalina, among others. If you’re in the market for a new model with a “Made in the U.S.A.” stamp, there are choices looming on the horizon. 

However, the BOTY finalists for model year 2016 were nothing less than a foreign legion, with a fleet represented by boats built in 10 ­different countries: China, Croatia, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Turkey, South Africa, Sweden and the United Kingdom. On multiple levels, it was an unprecedented showing. 

As always, our independent panel of judges reviewed the boats in two stages over a 10-day period, conducting both dockside inspections and sea trials. 

Boat of the Year 2016 Overall Winner

In a contest where the eclectic new-boat fleet was dominated by vessels crafted on distant shores, and imports reigned victorious in all seven categories, it was perhaps fitting that the overall winner of the 2016 Boat of the Year competition traveled the farthest to earn the top prize. Made in China yet built to sail all oceans, the worthy champion is the Passport 545.  

Boat of the Year 2016 Category Winners

Best Value Cruiser

A compact and comfortable cruisers comes in below the rest in one crucial area, how much boat you get for your buck.

Best Multihull Cruiser

These new cats are taking the market by force, but in the battle between France and South Africa, France reigns supreme.

Best Midsize Cruiser

These compact cruisers shared many similarities in their versatility and performance, but in the end Dufour took the prize.

The Judges

The key to our annual Boat of the Year competition is our independent judging panel. This year’s team included Ed Sherman (right), the director of educational programming for the American Boat & Yacht Council (ABYC). An experienced racer and cruiser, and the author of four technical marine books, Ed works closely with boatbuilders, marine surveyors, field-service personnel and engineering staffs in the U.S. and abroad. Alvah Simon (center) is a Cruising World contributing editor and the author of the acclaimed first-person Arctic adventure tale North to the Night. Simon is also a two-time circumnavigator. The third judge, Cruising World editor-at-large Tim Murphy (left), grew up living aboard his family’s 41-foot ketch and sailing along the U.S. East Coast and the Bahamas. At 18, he earned a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton license and has worked on and around boats ever since, delivering them, writing about them and teaching people how to use them. An independent writer and editor based in Rhode Island, he is the co-author, with Ed Sherman, of Fundamentals of Marine Service Technology (ABYC, 2012), and has written dozens of articles. He sails Ave Marina, a Vineyard Vixen 29, throughout New England waters. 

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