Best Luxury Cruiser: Legendary 58

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The Legendary 58 beat three other boats in its category: a Farr 56 Pilot House, a Morris 52, and a Turner 56.© Billy Black

For those able to dedicate more than a million dollars to building a boat, luxury comes in many forms, and we had the privilege to sail aboard four very different iterations of seagoing luxury.

For the Farr 56 Pilot House, luxury means a Bruce Farr pedigree played out with dual push-button controls (at the helm and at the winch) for every sailhandling task. Like her 50-foot sister, she’s built in Sweden to specs from British-based Boat Sales International.

For the Morris 52, luxury means attention to a thousand details, big and small, that add up to one of the safest ocean passagemakers in the fleet. "Sometimes money buys good things," said Alvah, listing dozens of items that caught his attention: six caged dorades that wouldn’t catch a sheet, 30-inch stanchions, a companionway latch with access from two sides so no one’s ever locked outside or below. "I saw from stem to stern that the designer and builder had the safety of the customer in mind," he said.

For the Turner 56, luxury means a featherweight yet stiff 2,000-pound hull and sailing angles of 25 degrees apparent. Designed by Bill Tripp and built of post-cured epoxy and Kevlar, she could be the grand dame of the performance cruisers, for that’s her design brief: to make transoceanic passages with a couple as crew, then to race at grand prix levels when she arrives.

"You couldn’t sit behind that helm and not just smile," said Carol.

For the Legendary 58, luxury means an exquisite homage to the design masterpiece L. Francis Herreshoff wrought some 60 years ago with his Bounty, little sister to Ticonderoga. The craftsmen at Legendary Yachts in Washougal, Washington, put 35,000 man-hours into fitting out her hull of cold-molded Honduras mahogany over Alaska cedar.

To pick a winner from this group (and, by implication, several losers) seems almost impudent. Price aside, the Morris or the Turner or the Legendary could have won in other categories.

But forced to choose, the judges chose the Legendary.

"In the English language, you’re not supposed to use a double superlative," said Alvah, "but this was the bestest boat I’ve ever been on."

Sailing her in just over 12 knots off the Severn River, we kept adding sail--main, mizzen, staysail, yankee, mizzen staysail--and she kept building a steady momentum. "This boat shows that it’s not always a conflict between function and fashion," said Alvah. "There’s nothing we’ve been on that had a better, more seakindly feel; nothing that stood up to its canvas like this one did; and nothing that competed for flat-out speed: We were holding 10 knots steady."

Gold-plated fixtures aside, the judges felt the Legendary 58 would be a viable passagemaker for a couple to sail. "There just wasn’t too much I could fault about how simple and straightforward the rig was," said Carol, "and how easy it would have been if the wind had picked up to reef that main or to just strike it and carry on. This is a boat I could picture sailing with one other person."

Every boat in the contest had its downside, and even at $2.2 million, the Legendary was no exception. "Galvanized mild-steel floors, frames, and integral deadwood tanks aren’t up to the boat’s $2 million standard. A Monel tank and bronze frames would seem more in tune with such a budget," said Ralph.

"One of the criticisms that I wrote down at the dock," said Carol, "was that there were no handrails on the cabin top. Yet here we were, nearly rail down, and we still found it completely easy to walk forward without even wanting to reach for a handrail. There were good working side decks, good bulwarks that made you feel you were held in place, and good strong stanchions."

Powering at 8.5 knots, she was the quietest boat in the fleet, with cabin decibel readings between 77 and 85.

"The price tag, I know, isn’t something the average cruiser will be able to touch," said Carol. "But what a joy to sail, and what a salute to the designers of old."