Relatively compact offerings ruled the waves with regard to the Boat of the Year fleet for 2023, and nowhere was this more evident than in the “big boat” Full-Size Cruiser division, with a quartet of nominees firmly ensconced in the 40- to 50-foot range. But this Euro-centric class—a pair of entries came from German consortium Hanse Yachts AG, with Sweden (Hallberg-Rassy) and Slovenia (Elan) also represented—had one important factor in common: The sailing performance across the quartet was top-notch. Hallberg-Rassy is produced by a Scandinavian nation that has scored numerous BOTY wins over the years, a trend that continued this year. Ultimately, this class winner surprised the judges but proved to be a unanimous choice.
Winner: Hanse Yachts AG, Moody 41DS
“I expected [the Moody DS41] to sail like a typical motorsailer, i.e., not so well. Boy was I wrong.”—Ed Sherman
You don’t need to go back too far to recall when deck-saloon sailboats were all the rage. Oyster Yachts first promoted the style, and it wasn’t long before several major players (Jeanneau, Wauquiez, Southerly and others) joined the fray. For a while, the style’s popularity rivaled the emerging multihull market. As a design trend, it waned for some time, but now one of the original proponents has returned with the Moody 41DS, and the result is terrific.
“I loved the boat,” judge Herb McCormick says. “I was blown away by how well it sailed. I had no preconceived notion that it would perform so well. It doesn’t necessarily look like a fast boat when you first see it, but it was a wolf in sheep’s clothing. And the interior…so much space for its size.”
Judge Ed Sherman agrees: “I expected this boat to sail like a typical motor-sailor, i.e., not so well. Boy, was I wrong. It was equipped with all high-end Victron electrical gear done to a high standard. All of it was notable.”
Judge Mark Pillsbury has the last word: “The most surprising aspect of the Moody 41 DS wasn’t the near-360-degree view from the saloon, the creative use of interior space, or the high bulwarks and stainless-steel life rails surrounding the entire deck. No—it was the sailing performance, which had us clipping along at close to 8 knots in about 13 knots of breeze.”
Finalist: Elan Yachts, Elan Impression 50.1
The Slovenian builder, well-known for its skis as well as its yachts, has become a major player in Europe and in the Mediterranean, where the brand is ubiquitous in the many charter operations plying the waters. Elan has made considerable inroads into US markets as well, with its Impression line of cruising boats proving a fine option for those with coastal and bluewater aspirations.
Pillsbury summarizes the 50.1’s appeal: “Sailors in the market for a big, roomy cruising boat should take a look at the Elan 50.1. With numerous layout options, the flagship of the Impression line can be configured to meet the needs of a cruising couple or family on the go, or it can even be optimized for chartering to help defray the cost of ownership. Kudos to the twin cockpit tables that incorporate stout stainless-steel handholds.”
Finalist: Hallberg-Rassy, Hallberg-Rassy 400
Hallberg-Rassy is another brand with a long history of excellence and success in the Boat of the Year realm. The latest member of the clan continues in the same vein of earlier Hallberg-Rassy models.
Pillsbury traces the ascending arc over the years: “Right up front, I need to confess that I’m a Hallberg-Rassy fan. They build bluewater boats that are lovely to look at and tough as nails. The new 400 fits in well with the company’s time-proven range, but with some exciting new twists such as twin rudders and dual wheels that really open up the cockpit. Better yet, the 400 can really sail. In fairly light wind, about 10 knots, we saw the speedo hover in the 7- to 8-knot range. Fun stuff.”
Sherman digs deeper and also likes what he saw: “This boat was one of several in our group that have taken a ‘no-generator on board’ approach. Using Mastervolt lithium batteries and both 12- and 24-volt electrical subsystems, this fully equipped cruiser will regenerate battery voltage via the 60 hp engine when needed. Beautifully executed.”
Finalist: Hanse Yachts AG, Hanse 460
After a brief hiatus from the Boat of the Year waters during the downtime of the pandemic, Hanse was back in business with a yacht that earned the title of Best Family Cruiser in the 2022 European Yacht of the Year contest.
Sherman understands why: “We’ve been inspecting Hanse Yachts for over a decade now, and they just keep getting better in terms of build and systems-installation quality. This particular boat has more refrigeration equipment installed than I can recall ever seeing on a monohull in this size category. Service access throughout was excellent.”
The overall versatility is what strikes a chord with Pillsbury: “With an in-mast furling main, a self-tacking jib set on an inner forestay for upwind sailing, and a reaching sail set on an electric furler, the Hanse 460 has a sail plan that lets you easily shift gears to match the conditions. It was easy to move between the boat’s twin helms, and the double-ended main sheet was accessible from either wheel. Overall, the setup was very workable for a shorthanded skipper.”