During and in the four days immediately following the US Sailboat show in Annapolis, Maryland, the Cruising World judges inspected and sailed on 27 boats vying for recognition. Learn more about the boats in our 2022 Boat of the Year »
Are they really all-around cruising sailboats, or are they luxurious and large party platforms that are best-suited for crewed charter vacations in tropical settings? That was once a fair, probing question to ask of the builders knocking off long, tall, beamy vessels balanced on a pair of cabin-filled hulls. But no longer. Despite their respective girths and displacements, not to mention a wide variety of windspeeds and sea states, this quartet of full-size cats performed admirably across the board in this year’s BOTY sea trials. Yes, they now truck along like good, honest sailboats. All that room is icing on the cake. At the end of the day, however, it’s how that space is utilized that separates the king and the contenders.
Destined almost exclusively for the charter trade, the judges believed the Voyage 590 would truly excel in that role, so much so that they ultimately recognized it with a special award as the year’s Best Charter Boat. But that didn’t mean they did not consider it an innovative, exciting vessel on its total merits. “It’s a ‘techie’ boat, and they’re doing a lot of cool things with lithium batteries and 24-volt systems,” judge Ed Sherman said. “In terms of systems integration, they’re using high-end inverters to help out with things like variable-speed air-conditioning systems so they won’t have to run generators for extended periods of times. It’s pretty cool stuff. And under power, it’s one of the quietest boats we tested. High marks all around!”
Lagoon Catamarans, as most multihull sailors know, was one of the era’s true pioneers in the evolving world of cruising cats. Their new Lagoon Sixty 5 is another vessel that, not unlike the Voyage 590, will find plenty of duty in the serious business of having fun: in other words, the charter business. And it would be hard to find a better vessel for doing precisely that. The focal point of the boat, on multiple levels, is the epic flybridge, a feature that Lagoon first explored on a big cat with the firm’s 620 but which they have fully realized on this massive 67-footer. It utilizes a pair of steering stations, which are handy indeed given the beam of the yacht. The overhead Bimini sports a glass window for trimming the mainsail, a welcome and innovative addition. Sofas, wet bar, grill, fridge: all combined, they ask an important question, one that strikes to the heart of the boat’s clear purpose. Why would you ever go below?
In many respects, Fountaine Pajot was unquestionably another pioneer in the realm of production cruising cats, and it’s been fascinating to watch the company evolve. Tim Murphy has had a ringside seat for much of that decades-long evolution. “It’s been interesting to watch their trajectory over the years,” he said. “They started out as a very performance-oriented manufacturer. So, a lot of their thinking is about keeping weight out of their boats and creating cats that are going to perform well. Now they’re more in a market that’s moved in the direction of accommodation, and we’ve watched them transition in that direction. But speed and elegance remain important, as shown here.” A key selling point in the Samana 59 is the versatility offered in the several optional interior layouts. A pair of Maestro versions incorporate a roomy, stellar owner’s suite. But for full-on chartering, who could resist the six (!) double cabins with, of course, a half-dozen accompanying heads.
When all was said and done, though, the judges couldn’t help but honor the efforts behind the Xquisite X5 Plus; it must be noted that, unlike its competitors in the class, chartering wasn’t part of the design brief. This is a dedicated cruising cat, through and through. And there’s much to like about this 53-foot South African-built product. For judge Tim Murphy, the important details weren’t necessarily the ones you could easily see, but rather the ones you couldn’t. “What I was most struck by on our tour of the boat was actually the service side of the whole equation,” he said. “There are 40,000 man-hours invested in this boat. And you can see it—those are solid hours of labor. One thing that was pointed out were two different marks on the heads of bolts showing they were torqued. And part of the Xquisite program is they spend two weeks with each owner, training them up with systems. All told, this is really one strong product.”
Judge Ed Sherman agreed: “The business model here is exemplary. What they’re really doing is emulating the high-end automotive market. I think they looked at the automotive sector for high-end cars like BMW and Mercedes and said, ‘OK, this sounds good, it looks good, and we’re going to do it, too.’ And they are. So, I think that that aspect of his business plan where they’re training the owners and then doing things like loading the boat up with spare parts as part of the original purchase, I mean, hats off to them. It’s a great way to go. How can you argue against it?”
“I couldn’t find anything that was done halfway,” said Gerry Douglas. “It was done better than you’d expect it to be, just because they wanted the boat to be perfect. And the quality of construction is excellent. It’s an infused hull but with a hand-laminated deck because there’s so many very tight corners and cavities. They didn’t think they could infuse that without adding a whole lot of weight. And I get that. So, they would hand laminate it, which makes sense when you have some of the very sharp corners that exist on that boat. It was all just perfectly done.”
Sometimes coming to a decision is hard. Sometimes it’s obvious. And when the votes were tallied, it was the Xquisite X5 Plus that was the obvious choice as Best Cruising Catamaran (Over 50’) for 2022.