For many cruisers, especially cruising couples, the roughly 40-foot length overall is their sweet spot: a yacht voluminous enough for comfy accommodations; long enough to sport enough heft and features for inshore and offshore adventures; yet not so grand that it becomes daunting to sail, moor or maintain. These Midsize nominees represent the bread-and-butter offerings of their respective brands, which means they need to be smart and well-executed. All four nominees achieved that goal.
Winner: Hallberg-Rassy 40C
Swedish builder Hallberg-Rassy is no stranger to the Boat of the Year winner’s circle. In fact, the company’s 40-foot sistership to this new center-cockpit offering is the HR 400, the aft-cockpit version of the Germán Frers design, which in 2023 that was named the Import Boat of the Year in 2023.
About the 40C, judge Tim Murphy got straight to the point: “Arguably, this was the best-built monohull in the fleet. Systems-wise—with the electrical labeling, analog breakers, engine layout and access, sound insulation, the doubled Racor filters—it was definitely best in show. She sailed over to the United States on her bottom, some 10,000 nautical miles, and looked fresh from the showroom. The 40C has the same-size cockpit as the HR 44, which is a pretty neat trick. It has a longer waterline and more volume than the company’s 10-year-old 40-footer that it replaced. And more volume equals more-powerful sailing. I jotted down this note after our test sail: ‘Steering is absolutely divine.’ What else is there to say?”
Beneteau Oceanis 37.1
Judge Mark Pillsbury was immediately drawn to the spacious interior of this rangy 37-footer: “I think the Beneteau 37.1 is a viable option for a cruising couple or family in search of a manageable new boat at a relatively affordable price,” he said. “There are a few possible layouts, but I liked the one we saw on our test boat, which, with two cabins and a single head, was quite practical. The forward cabin is roomy without a second head crammed into one corner, and the large storage area that’s accessed through the shower or the starboard cockpit locker provides lots of storage space for gear and toys.”
Judge Herb McCormick said, “added: “Sadly, this was the perhaps the last design from noted French naval architect Marc Lombard, who recently died. Under sail, this was certainly a vintage Lombard creation. He was known for his fast, slippery hull forms. We had a cracking great sail on the boat; in about 10 to 12 knots of breeze with the code zero, the knot meter registered 7s and 8s. Perched to weather with the boat heeled over, the helm was light, and it was an absolute blast to drive. TrèsTrès bien, Monsieur Lombard. Thank you for some thrilling sailing.”
A longtime admirer of the Dufour line, judge Herb McCormick found a lot to like about this new 41-footer. “Umberto Felci has been the principal naval architect for Dufour for quite some time, but in recent years, he’s taken the brand in new directions. This latest offering, with its rounded bow, takes some inspiration from the Open 60 monohulls so prevalent in shorthanded offshore racing. There are two chines, one above the waterline and the other higher up the topsides, almost to the sheerline, which carries the beam well forward. I liked it.”
Judge Tim Murphy had an interesting observation related to the boat’s single rudder, particularly under power: “Compared with the twin-rudder boats we tested, in close-quarters maneuvering, the single rudder provides a nicer experience, with more control. With twin rudders, unless you have a thruster, you need actual boatspeed over the rudders for close turns. With this single setup, you still have the traditional thrust over the rudder. You can spin very quickly.”
Elan Impression 43
The Slovenian builder has racked up an impressive list of entries in recent Boat of the Year competitions, and according to judge Mark Pillsbury, that solid track record has continued. He said: “The builder’s representative described the yacht as a family boat, and that made sense to me. It’s roomy enough for Mom and Dad to have some privacy in the forward cabin—there’s an option to add a fourth cabin with bunkbeds if needed—and with twin cockpit tables that can be lowered to make large sun beds, the whole clan can sit out at night and enjoy the stars. Most of all, I really liked the oak interior with a big, country-style dining table in the salon that even had a couple of folding chairs that could be stowed in their own locker. Moving around on deck underway felt secure, thanks to the 26-inch lifelines on top of solid bulwarks. High coamings in the cockpit were comfortable, and the cockpit seats were long enough to stretch out and take a nap if you were off-watch but wanted to stay on deck.”