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 »
So what, exactly, constitutes a “luxury cruiser”? It’s certainly up for debate and open for interpretation. However, for the purposes of this discussion directly related to the 2022 Boat of the Year contest, let’s go down a checklist: price tag in the seven figures? Check. Over 60 feet? Check. Provisions for a “crew cabin” so the boat can accommodate a professional skipper and/or mate? Check. Not every one of the boats in this category will require the latter (the CNB 66 we tested was owned and operated by a very experienced cruising couple, who had voyaged extensively aboard her), but you get the idea. These are big, rangy, systems-rich, well-executed cruisers with the ability to take you anywhere on the planet (another criteria). State-of-the-art? Check. And a big challenge for the BOTY judges to test and analyze? Check, mate.
The Contest 67 CS was the first up on the docket, which the BOTY team examined and then sailed on a windy Chesapeake Bay afternoon on the concluding afternoon of 2022’s U.S. Sailboat Show in Annapolis, Maryland.
Judge Tim Murphy said: “The Contest comes from a Dutch boatyard, and while this is the most expensive boat in this year’s competition, they do really fine work, and this yacht certainly reflected that. It’s built to Lloyd’s specifications, so there’s a high level of inspection in the quality of construction, the systems and so on. It’s more on the boutique side of the equation as far as production boats are concerned. And man, she really sailed well.” Gerry Douglas said: “It was presented as a blue-water performance cruiser, and it certainly met those qualifications. Vacuum-infused construction with a foam core: pretty high-tech for a traditional-looking boat.” Frankly, the BOTY crew was blown away by the sophistication and presentation of the Contest, which was run by the young couple of pro sailors who are entrusted to her care and management.
Next up was the Dufour 61, the company’s flagship vessel, which is somewhat of a departure from previous models from the well-established French builder. Having tested many a Dufour in previous BOTY contests, Tim Murphy was well-acquainted with the brand. “Dufour has done well here over the years,” he said. “They generally have a few common denominators: They come in at a fair price point within their given category, and they usually have a strong mix of good accommodations and performance, though I’d say they typically lean more toward the performance end of the equation.” Now under new management, the company is taking a different tack: While Dufours used to share a common aesthetic, the 470 (the smaller of two Dufour yachts entered in the 2022 BOTY contest) and the 61 are clearly different craft. A new Dufour age is upon us—an interesting one.
Of course, Jeanneau is another French brand that has enjoyed entering many a winning vessel in previous BOTY contests. A collaboration between renowned French naval architect Philippe Briand and British interior designer and stylist Andrew Winch, the Jeanneau Yachts 60 is part of the company’s high end Yachts collection, which also includes a 51, 54 and 65. The profile is striking, with a long waterline, sleek coach roof, a cockpit arch that anchors the mainsheet and provides the foundation for an opening Bimini and enclosed cockpit dodger, and an integrated bowsprit from which to launch both the ground tackle and a code zero reacher or asymmetric kite. A dedicated dinghy garage houses a RIB, and there are multiple interior -layouts from which to choose. Like several recent Jeanneaus, the Yachts 60 incorporates the walk-around deck layout that is the signature feature of BOTY category winners over the last few years.
But it was the final French entry in the Luxury class, making its US debut at the Annapolis show, that exceeded the efforts of all the others. The BOTY judges actually inspected a pair of CNB 66s, a semicustom yacht with countless available options. The dockside model was brand new; the one we sailed had been cruised by a husband and wife for two years (underscoring the company’s claim that it could indeed be handled by a savvy sailing couple). Judge Gerry Douglas found much to like: “The build quality was just impeccable. The layout [of the older CNB] was terrific; they didn’t try to cram things in but had three really nice cabins with en suite heads and a nice desk/office area, plus the chart table. Aesthetically, it’s a really pretty boat. The owner understood how to sail it well, and he had a system where he could handle it solo. He proved that you could operate a big, sophisticated boat alone.”
In fact, that demonstration played a big role when the time came to deliberate the pros and cons of this big-boat class. “The sail plan really worked for the (heavy) displacement of the boat,” said Murphy. “It was a real pleasure to sail. You know, when we started to see boats getting this big marketed to couples, maybe 10 years ago, we were all extremely skeptical about whether it would really work. You know, can they actually handle it when things get real? And it was lovely, actually, to spend time with the people who have been doing it for more than a year and have some real ocean miles under their belt at this point. And I’m a believer that they can. So that was good, I thought. It was a big, big boat, but it looked like it worked. And we sailed it today in very light air, and she moved well. So, I came away with a stronger impression after being aboard with the owners under sail.”
In such a competitive class, even in light winds, the sail trial swayed the votes in favor of the CNB 66, so much so that it was the runaway winner of the Best Luxury Cruiser category for 2022.