A Feast of New Boats, Served up Parisian Style

CW senior editor Mark Pillsbury surveys the lineup of new boats making their debut at the Salon Nautique de Paris. "Notes from the Helm" from our December 20, 2007, CW Reckonings

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The Salon Nautique de Paris is an indoor boat show like no other, with scores of new boats and waterless wakeboarding. For more photos, click here.Mark Pillsbury

If it's flowers you want, head to Paris in the spring. For boats, there's nothing like fall, when damp skies and chilly weather make you thankful to be spending the day indoors at the Salon Nautique de Paris, France's showcase for the European maritime industry.

The show--which covers sailing, powerboating, rowing, paddling, and gear--is spread out through six halls at the Paris Expo, and for a visitor used to indoor shows in the U.S., well let just say, in wine terms, it's like a rare Bordeaux matched up against our Boone's Farm. Heck, Jeanneau has a whole building at its factory in Les Herbiers just to store its display, which consists of sweeping stairs leading to a raised deck from which you can step down into their new models like the Sun Odyssey 49i and the Sunfast 3200.

We attended opening day, when builders strut their stuff for press and trade with marching sailors, bag pipers, and elaborate champagne christening ceremonies for new yachts. Not one to complain, it's hardly worth mentioning that due to my traveling companion's scheduling, we missed the much heralded oysters trucked in for the Facnor party.

So what's the lineup of new boats headed stateside in the coming few months?

The new Wauquiez 55 looks like a dandy, set up with twin wheels, self-tending jib, a workshop in the forepeak, twin staterooms forward, and an aft cabin fit for king and queen.

Dufour's 525 Grand'Large looks good, too. It features a dinghy garage in the stern, eight possible interior layouts, and of course twin wheels in a well-laid out cockpit and deck.

Fountaine Pajot went all out for Paris this year with a new display area that even included beach sand along the edges and speakers that broadcast the soothing sounds of waves lapping the shore as you approached. Inside, they featured their new sail and power cats, the Orana 44 and the Cumberland 46, and in the evening amidst a swank reception, they announced the launch of their two newest models, the Galathea 65, which looks like it will be a handsome, beamy sailing catamaran, and the Queensland 55, a new power trawler.

Across the aisle there was news being made at the Lagoon exhibition, as well. This year in Miami, the company plans to roll out a new version of its popular 420 catamaran, which made its debut a year ago as the first diesel-electric-hybrid production sailboat. The new 420 will feature twin 75-horsepower diesels, making it a fast motorsailer that will get you from island to island, whether or not the trades happen to be blowing.

And on the drawing boards, there's the Lagoon 400 to fill a gap in the company's mid-range of offerings and the Lagoon 620, intended for cruisers and guests who need three to five staterooms. Both these boats should be on display in Annapolis, Maryland, in 2009.

Beneteau, meanwhile, has two new boats that should be available here in the states in 2008. The Beneteau 31, with styling similar to the rest of its revamped line of cruisers, looks to be a comfortable and fun boat for a couple or family. The new First 45 looks comfortable, fun and fast, whether for family and friends, or for the skipper and crew who wants to mix it up around the buoys with an offshore race thrown in for good measure.

Elan is another European builder with plans to bring a new sailboat to the U.S. in the next few months. The Elan 380 will make its debut this spring, replacing the 37.

Sailors heading to the Caribbean this winter can get a first glimpse of the new Nautitech 44 catamaran. The owner's version on display in Paris was designed for performance sailing with twin wheels and stylish accommodations below. The boat is available for charter in Martinique.

The maker of Privilege catamarans, Alliaura Marine, also has a line of Feeling monohulls that are well known in Europe, and lavishly displayed at the Paris show. The queen of the line is the new Feeling 55, a giant of a boat that delivers the looks and feel of a catamaran across its 17 feet of beam. From bow sprit to aft locker that can hold a RIB, this is a boat that's bound to draw a crowd--if and when it hits a dock in the states--if for no other reason than you want to see what they do with all that space down below!

So there you have it, a sampling of the treats headed our way here in the states. If new boats make your mouth water, well, bon appetit!