Five of the winning teams for the Cruising World 2022 Boat of the Year Awards were on hand to celebrate their awards with Cruising World at the Miami International Boat Show Wednesday, February 16.
Overall Winner and Best Full-Size Cruiser: Hylas H57
Peggy Huang and David Crafa accepted the award for Hylas Yachts for the Overall Winner of the 2022 Cruising World Boat of the Year. The Hylas H57 won the Best Full-Size Cruiser category, placing it in the running against all category winners for the major prize: the overall Boat of the Year. The Hylas H57 distinguished itself above and beyond the others and was named Best Overall.
Boat of the Year judge Tim Murphy had this to say about the Hylas H57: “This Bill Dixon design is a departure from previous Germán Frers-designed Hylas yachts. It signals a new trend: new look, new layout, new thinking. This is a 57-foot twin-rudder boat that displaces 57,000 pounds. They’re doing something that we’ve seen in a lot of new boats lately, a trend where there’s a separation between the social cockpit and the working cockpit, and well aft, a walkway down between the twin helms to the transom. It’s a good solution. It works.
“When you come alongside, it actually looks and feels a little like a catamaran.
It’s got a hard dodger built in, a very successful one, which I think is quite useful when you’re in the cockpit. Everyone wants to have shade and shelter from rain and the elements, and this is an excellent answer for that. By and large, this is just a very nice, functional cruising boat. The berths are big and luxurious, but they’re also set up for lee cloths. This is a boat meant to go places. And it’s lovely to be aboard. It’s just a very strong boat in many, many ways.”
Judge Ed Sherman noted: “The boat we sailed seemed like a test bed for systems the company is considering for future models. The owners have broad experience in offshore sailing and considered very carefully what they wanted in a large boat that can be easily sailed by a cruising couple. From the custom enclosure for the helm and cockpit area to the powered winches and video-camera repeaters at the helm station to confirm sail trim, I think they hit a home run.
“Like other boats we tested in this size range, the builder employed a 24-volt DC electrical system, which dramatically reduces overall weight on a boat as systems-rich as this was. Additionally, the electrical-system design helped ensure that onboard systems would function regardless of global location: 120-volt/60 Hz or 230-volt/50 Hz, it didn’t matter; accommodation was made to cover all bases.
“On top of all that, it sailed well. I thought they did a great job in designing the sailhandling controls. It’s all right there near the helm, and it worked well. I liked that. It got my vote.”
Judge Gerry Douglas noted: “The performance of the boat was terrific. It tacked through about 50 degrees, which was outstanding for a boat that big. It was always sailing at about 60 percent of the windspeed, which for a big, heavy boat like that was impressive. Regarding the boat’s ergonomics, every place to sit was comfortable. You had good seatback support and nothing awkward to step over. All the companionway steps were of equal size and worked well. It was just a really easy boat to get around. All the seat dimensions in the interior were correct. We’ve seen so many boats where that’s not the case. It was really comfortable to sit in. And you can imagine sitting there reading a book for hours and not feeling like you’re sitting on a park bench.
“I voted for the Hylas because I think it was probably the most different from any other previous boat that the company has produced. It’s the first one that appealed to me personally. There’s a lot of content there and the price point—in retrospect, in view of all the prices of the boats in this year’s contest—is pretty reasonable. I never thought I’d say that a boat worth 2 million bucks was reasonable, but it is.”
Beneteau First 27: Best Pocket Cruiser/Daysailer
The Beneteau team, including Tomo Novak, Head of Sales, Seascape; Eric LeVine, Sales Manager, Beneteau; Andraz Mihelin, Founder, Seascape; Aurore Bordage, Marketing Manager, Beneteau, accepted their award for the Best Pocket Cruiser/Daysailer for the winning Beneteau First 27. The First 27, a sporty racer/cruiser, boasts all the amenities necessary for weekend and coastal voyaging: a serviceable head, galley and berths, and a Yanmar diesel. In other words, a couple could easily liveaboard, rather than camp, for short periods of time, but they could also expect to be serious podium contenders should those outings involve a regatta. In the end, when deciding the winner of the Best Pocket Cruiser, it was the little things that swayed the judges. “The fit-and-finish for the price point is at a different level,” judge Gerry Douglas said. “The equipment level was higher.”
Leopard Catamarans Leopard 42: Best Cruising Catamaran (Under 50 Feet)
The Leopard Catamaran team, including Michael Robertson, Designer, Robertson and Caine; Theo Loock, CEO, Robertson and Caine; Franck Bauguil, VP Yacht Ownership and Product Development; Alex Simonis, Naval Architect, Simonis-Voogd Design; Peter Robertson, VP Sales, Robertson and Caine; and Josie Tucci, VP Charter Sales and Marketing; accepted their award for the Best Cruising Catamaran (Under 50 Feet) for the Leopard 42.
From the proven partnership and collaboration between South African builder Robertson and Caine and the Moorings, the judges felt the Leopard 42 is an ideal platform for private ownership and/or bareboat chartering. The judges found much to like about this latest Leopard, including the offset steering station to starboard and the lounge space forward accessed via a front door in the saloon. But the Leopard sealed its victory with an awesome sea trial in which it overhauled and passed a popular new monohull. What put the boat over the top wasn’t just the sailing performance, which was obviously terrific, but also the tools with which to sail the boat, and its overall deck layout, all of which optimized the experience. Judge Tim Murphy said, “With the Leopard, you have visual eye contact from the raised helm station to starboard down into the cockpit, you’ve got a visual line of sight into the saloon, and you’ve got a pretty good visibility over the top of the cabin top everywhere. You had access to your main sheet right there where you needed it. This was one of the boats that had no traveler, but instead had a windward and leeward block on the mainsheet. I think that’s a fine system, I like the control you have. Jibing works fine and is easily controlled.”
Balance 482: Best Performance Catamaran
Mark Delany, Balance Managing Director; and Phil Berman, Balance Catamaran President received the award for the Best Performance Catamaran, for Balance Catamaran’s Balance 482. Quick, fast and fun, the South African-built Balance 482 is a cat that will get up and go, but offers plenty of comfort once the hook is down.
“The sailing performance was excellent,” said judge Gerry Douglas. “The boat felt really good. The steering was terrific. The structure of the boat throughout was exemplary. Storage is really good. Visibility was good. Ventilation was great. There was even a rain collection system on the cabin top, which is the only one of the boats we looked at had that. It was very well concealed because the gutters formed a handhold going forward. The solar panel installation was also well done. The panels were encapsulated into a fiberglass tray that elevated the deck so the panels wouldn’t overheat. Very clever.”
The driving force behind Balance cats is Phil Berman, a world champ at racing beach cats who brought that passion to developing and marketing fully found cruisers. Judge Murphy knows him well: “Phil comes from a very strong view of wanting to see boats that have solid sailing performance. He’s also a strong proponent of daggerboard boats, which tends to be quick shorthand for the dividing line between cats that are more about payload versus cats that are about performance, but not so much where you’re going to fly a hull or break a rudder. There’s a balance within a boat that really performs that you can still live aboard.”
Xquisite X5 Plus: Best Cruising Catamaran (Over 50 Feet)
The Xquisite crew of Tamas Hamor, CEO; Stephen Joyce, Global Service Manager; and Sara Hajdu, Xquisite Charter, were on hand to accept the award for the Best Cruising Catamaran (Over 50 Feet) for the Xquisite X5 Plus. A unique cruising cat with cool features galore and an impressive commitment to customer service, the Xquisite X5 Plus won the judges over. 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.”
Kinetic KC54: All-around excellence took the judges breath away
Kinetic CEO Bob Hayward and Collin Marshall, Boat & Sailing Systems Engineer,
were on hand to accept the award for the Kinetic KC54. The Kinetic KC54 received a Special Recognition award. The Kinetic KC54 is a fresh entry in the cat universe and a new player in the class of what might be called Super Cats, the progenitors of which are notable brands like Gunboat and HH Catamarans. These light, fast craft put a high premium in flat-out performance, but also have the cool, comfortable, contemporary features and amenities of a stylish, forward-thinking cruising boat. They are, in the realm of performance cruisers, at the very cutting edge. Judge Tim Murphy got right to the point: “This is a fairly new company that was started within the past couple of years. My breath was absolutely taken away by this boat; it was spectacular. I think it was the best-built boat in the entire fleet. It’s an all-carbon boat, with a foam core, epoxy resin, all infused–fantastic. The whole boat felt integrated. You didn’t feel like there was a conflict between the forces in terms of accommodation versus performance.” With a price tag approaching $3 million, it perhaps should not be astonishing. That was a major factor in evaluating the boat, and while it did not win its class, the experts panel did present it with a Judges’ Special Recognition prize to honor the boat’s overall excellence.
“It was my personal favorite in this year’s contest,” said judge Ed Sherman. The materials that were used are absolutely the highest quality available in our industry at this point, and it’s a very high-tech boat in terms of systems.” Judge Gerry Douglas was also duly impressed: “This was the Tesla of sailboats. I think that that was their model. In terms of design and execution and technology, it hit all three of those marks. This boat is built without compromise, and what it cost was not an issue, they just wanted to do the best they could in every aspect of the boat. The construction was impeccable, the fit and finish was amazing. There are some very clever design things in the boat, but it all really worked seamlessly.”
The 2022 BOTY Contest
The 27 entries—the largest BOTY entry list in many years—were ultimately broken down into eight categories, with the 16 monohulls distributed over five divisions ranging from 24 feet to 67 feet in size, and with prices ranging from $50,000 to $4 million. Meanwhile, the 11 nominated catamarans were grouped in three classes: two based on size and a third focused on performance. And talk about an international gathering! Builders from no fewer than nine nations were represented: the US, France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Slovenia, South Africa, Sweden and Taiwan.
Boats tests were divided into two parts: onboard inspections that took place on the docks at the US Sailboat Show in Annapolis, MD., in October; and at-sea sail trials conducted in the days immediately following the boat show.
Judges chose winners in eight separate size- and/or purpose-related categories. Just for good measure—because they were suitably impressed by their excellence—they also presented a pair of separate awards to boats that deserved special recognition.