In the category of production boats priced between $200,000 and $350,000, we saw four, all built in Europe, that range in length from 38 to 52 feet.
The Moody 38 is an elegant center-cockpit sloop built by Princess Yachts International, formerly Marine Projects Ltd., near Englands Channel coast. The French-built Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 43 is an aft-cockpit sloop that features an ingenious cabin layout that can be converted in minutes from a spacious two-cabin layout to one with four smaller cabins. The Moorings 525, built by Dufour Yachts in France, is a five-cabin aft-cockpit sloop thats optimized to Moorings specs for the charter trade.
The fourth boat is one we hadnt heard of before: the 38-foot Vilm 116. Its also the winner of its category.
“I was really impressed with this boat,” said Carol. “I think shes fabulously functional in terms of a comfortable cruising boat that you could live aboard.”
The Vilm, named for an island in the Baltic Sea, is built by Bootsbau Rügen in Rügen, Germany. The boatyard has been in operation for 101 years; its been building the Vilm series for the last 40. Nowadays, the yard builds about two dozen boats a year, both 34-footers and 38-footers.
The Vilm 116 (European Union Category A, for all oceans) is a center-cockpit sloop with the steering station located under a doghouse, which covers the forward half of the cockpit. Access to the aft cabin is through the cockpit only, a decision Skip and Alvah applauded for a boat of its size. “It keeps the deck and the center of gravity low,” said Skip.
Skip was also impressed with the systems throughout the boat: “The pumps were accessible,” he said. “Seacocks were properly bonded. Battery installation was excellent; it was covered by wood with breathe holes. And all the bilge pumps drain to one custom manifold with one seacock. When you talk about an at-sea boat, thats good stuff.”
A trait the judges felt limited the Vilm to coastal usage was its cockpit design. “This cockpit has the highest coaming of any weve seen, together with a washboard system that couldnt be made watertight,” said Alvah. “I think the basic theory of these boats is that you wont fill the cockpit. But at sea you will fill it sooner or later.” Ralph felt that for safe offshore use, the aft-cabin scuttle should have opened aft and that the coachroof should have had good nonskid for footing instead of varnished teak strakes.
The Vilms cabin drew accolades. “I think she has the nicest interior of any of the boats we were aboard,” said Carol. “You had the sense of a really brilliant use of space and design and volume. I love that pocket door that slides along the bulkhead in the forward cabin, and I love the storage. Under the settee bunks, you could access the storage through lids from above or through bins below.” She found the settees “the most comfortable Ive sat on.”
Under power, with the Volvo pushing us 6.7 knots at 2,250 rpm, the Vilm was one of the quietest boats in the contest, with cabin decibel (dB) readings in the low and mid-80s.
We sailed the boat with a soft bimini completing the shelter in the cockpit, an arrangement that drew mixed comments from the judges. “I had a problem with the enclosure,” said Alvah. “Im used to more visibility and more sensitivity to the wind.” Skip countered that for most of the season, youd remove the bimini. “But,” he said, “that bimini extends your sailing season by a month at either end.”
The sail plan, with a smallish main sheeted from the end of the boom, delivered 6-knot speeds in 10 to 12 knots of true wind when we sailed into it. Off the wind, boatspeed dropped to 5 knots.
The Vilm 116 sells for $235,000. “For a coastal cruiser–on the ICW, say, or in Maine or Seattle–I could see a couple having the best time of their lives on this boat,” said Alvah.