A Fleet of Flagships

For 2004, boatbuilders still exude confidence with offerings both large and, yes, small

At this fall’s boat shows, many of the vessels being introduced for 2004 will be unveiled, and it looks like another bumper crop of new boats. And once again, there’s a preponderance of big ones. Of course, the term "big" is subjective. If 40 feet is your reference point, then way more than half of the season’s offerings are big. Even if you think big doesn’t begin until 50 feet, there’s still lots of big on offer. But often with big comes beautiful, as designers find it easier to blend vertical dictates with horizontal opportunities, and lines flow more sensuously.

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| Dufour Yachts USA|

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| The Dufour 40 shows off styling and sailing manners common to all three new Dufours.* * *|

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| Aside from the trend upward in size, another evolution we’ve seen in the past several years is that of the performance cruiser. Freed from the tyranny of measurement rules and encouraged by the growing acceptance of rating systems like PHRF and IRC, designers are able to design hulls with clean, slippery lines and drive them with generous, unpenalized sail plans. The benefits for the cruiser are faster and often more comfortable passages and easily handled rigs for shorthanded crews. Now that the dual-use racing/cruising sailboat has come into its own again, builders large and small are offering designs that appeal strongly to the weekend-racer segment of the spectrum.

Pure cruising boats still have their buyers and their builders, and these vessels are definitely heading upward in size. Buyers, apparently, are getting more confident in their ability to handle bigger boats, very often without the help of professional crews. No doubt this is helped by the growth of the marine service industry in places once considered off the beaten track. The gear and machinery on these ever-bigger cruising boats require regular maintenance and occasional repair, chores that require time and expertise that many cruisers may not have at their fingertips. It’s reassuring to know that in most of the nodes on the world-cruising circuit, technicians--and modern communications--are on hand to assure that gears mesh and electrons flow.

Of course, whenever the world sees a trend, somebody has to be there to buck it, and a few companies have had the confidence to introduce new small cruising boats. Let’s start there.

In the 20s
It so happens that the smallest new boat this year comes from one of the biggest companies. Hunter Marine has combined its profound resources--the talents of chief designer Glenn Henderson and its Advanced Composite Process--to produce the sporty Hunter 216. This high-performance craft boasts Henderson's VARA rudder technology and a lead-bulb-tipped keel that raises hydraulically to make it easy to haul the boat on a trailer. A small cuddy permits rudimentary cruising amenities within the positive-flotation hull.

In contrast, the Montgomery 23, from Montgomery Boats, is all cruising character, right down to the molded lapstrake motif and the full-headroom cabin trunk. For Montgomery owners accustomed to cruising in 17-footers, this boat represents a quantum leap in luxury.
Hake Yachts incorporates an electrically operated lifting keel in its new Seaward 26. This genuine pocket cruiser packs real living space inside the signature Seaward profile: jaunty sheer, a flat-topped, full-battened mainsail, and an outboard, vertically retracting rudder.

Thirtysomethings
First up, in what this year is a relatively small class, is the Groupe Finot-designed Beneteau 323, junior member of the company's "3" line, with its distinctive styling. A fairly traditional interior makes good use of the generous volume available inside this aft-cockpit cruiser.

German builder Hanse, a relative newcomer to North America, offers the Hanse 341, a club-racer/ cruiser with "Herreshoff" white bulkhead/varnished-mahogany interior. This model is available with either a fixed keel or a centerboard.

Umberto Felci is the new naval architect for Dufour, and the Dufour 34 shows off his artist’s eye for a line in its plumb bow on a fairly beamy hull. The nicely organized Patrick Roseo-designed interior is offered in a choice of two layout options, one of which has twin aft cabins.

A flush deck forward of the mast distinguishes the Etap 37s from its neighbors, and the forward-facing deadlights in the shortened cabin trunk shed lots of light into the elegant saloon. This boat doesn’t just have a buoyant personality--like all Etaps, it’s unsinkable.

Another new member of Beneteau’s "3" family, and bearing the distinctive styling abovedecks and below, the Beneteau 373 comes from the Berret-Racoupeau studio. Two large cabins, a generous head, and a large nav desk make the interior very livable.

After leading off last year with its biggest boat yet, Island Packet steps back to address the smaller-boat customer with its Island Packet 370, in which it incorporates some of the big-boat ideas featured in the 485. The company is also offering a greater variety of interior options, in "packages" that its experience suggests will be most appealing to its customers.

Catalina Yachts has again focused on the two-couple cruising team, though the eight-foot-wide aft berth in the new Catalina 387 could accommodate a herd of kids in sleepover heaven. Space, comfort, amenities, and ease of handling rule.

German builder Bootsbau Ruegen pursues the theme of the semi-enclosed cockpit in the Vilm 117.

Roaring 40s
New from Slovenia, the Elan E40 is making its (and the company's) North America debut. Rob Humphreys designed this "performance cruiser" with the potential to Balkanize any number of local racing fleets, cruising off with the honors while pampering its crew.

Europeans like to chase each other from port to port, and the Finngulf 41 reflects desires of Finnish sailors to do that in a boat with good racing performance and plush accommodations wherein to entertain and to sleep off the day’s rigors. Variations of the interior are available to suit individual notions of need.

Hunter Marine continues to utilize designer Glenn Henderson’s talent and experience. The hull of the new Hunter 41 benefits from Henderson’s performance tweaks, while the interior reflects the company’s most recent thinking in finish and fashion. Innerspring mattresses fore and aft set the tone below, and Hunter’s B&R; rig characterizes the view aloft.

The Grand Soleil 40 is a smart-looking Italian job. Its performance-oriented cruiser/racer exterior foxily conceals a stylish and practical interior that features a Euro galley in either a two-cabin or three-cabin layout.

If you’re looking for solid oceangoing construction with round-the-buoys alacrity, rest your gaze on the Wauquiez Centurion 40s. Second up in size in Wauquiez’s revamped Centurion line, it handsomely bears the standard of its long line of predecessors.

Another Judel/Vrolijk design from Hanse, the Hanse 411 looks a little more racer than cruiser with its open transom and tackle-tensioned backstay. It’s available in a two- or three-cabin layout trimmed with Hanse’s trademark high-gloss joiner work.

Also from the combined talents of Felci (hull) and Roseo (deck and interior), the Dufour 40 is another sharp-looking cruiser with a performance edge. Dufour offers a choice among three interiors.

Though less common than they once were, center cockpits are still available for those who like aft-cabin privacy. The Frers-designed Hallberg-Rassy 40 is laid out for shorthanded cruising and comes with the company’s trademark windscreen and a variety of options based on its two-cabin interior.

Standing out from this year’s herd like a Clydesdale at a hunt meet is the Puffin 42. This handsome steel steed from De Gier & Bezaan International Yachtbuilders, Holland, reminds us that plumb stems have ancient origins--in northern-European workboats--and that offset bowsprits long predate asymmetric spinnakers. Under its large sail plan, it likely demonstrates, too, that fast isn’t restricted to fiberglass.

Fast-forward to the other end of the spectrum and the Bieker 44. Its builders call it a cruiser/racer, but it’s a little more extreme than that. With its carbon-fiber hull, water ballast, and twin wheels, this New Zealand-built speedster seems to have taken its design cue from Open 40s and 50s.

Also getting into the spirit with a sprit is the 43-foot J/133, in which J/Boats Inc. offers comfortable cruising accommodations under a rig that’s designed to be versatile, powerful when needed, and easy to handle at all times.

Fairport Marine has set itself apart from the crowd, and perhaps set a production-boat precedent, by giving its Tartan 4400 an oven-cured epoxy-laminate hull. The raised saloon elevates the view from an interior that’s luxuriously appointed for two couples.

Dufour’s three new models this year appear to put more emphasis on performance, and similar interior-design elements occur in all the siblings; the zones expand as the boat’s length increases. The Dufour 44 has two heads in both the two- and three-cabin layouts.

The Danish doyen of IMS and open-fleet production cruiser/racers, X-Yachts, is treating us to two new models this year. The X-43 comes with both the builder’s customary fine execution of interior and deck details and its trademark galvanized-steel floor/frame system, which ties the mast, rigging, and keel loads into the hull.

And fresh from building some really big boats (the X-612 and the X-Yachts 73), X-Yachts has applied some of their features to the X-46. One smart-looking device is the self-stowing anchor-launch system.

We’re seeing a lot of plumb stems and low-profile trunk cabins, and the Judel/Vrolijk-designed Dehler 47, with its slick, clean lines, is no exception. The drawings show a self-tacking jib and a veritable winch farm in the cockpit, plus a variety of cabin-arrangement choices.

The Robert Perry-designed Sagas have staked out territory in slenderland, and the Saga 48 is the line’s natural evolution. Though slightly beamier in proportion than its stablemates, it’s still svelte against its peers, and it offers both an inside steering station and ICW-friendly rig height; it’s under 65 feet.

This year, Jeanneau adds the low-profile, elegant Sun Odyssey 49 to its cruising-boat stable. It showcases the company’s interpretation of the current desires of the big-boat cruiser--power and luxury.

And speaking of luxury, in one layout option of its Bavaria 49, Bavaria Yachts devotes the entire accommodation forward of the mast to the owner’s suite. A more democratic version fits berths for 10. In either one, there’s lots of volume--enough for three heads.

Fifty Plus
In creating the Morris 51, Morris Yachts took the Chuck Paine-designed Apogee 50, lengthened it, and breathed on the rig, the deck, the machinery, and the interior, so for all intents and purposes, it's a new boat and most definitely a Morris.

Stellar Yachts continues to build on its line of raised-saloon cruising boats. The center-cockpit Stellar 53 CC offers considerably more interior volume than the Stellar 52 (winner in our 2002 Boat of the Year contest of Best Deck-Saloon/Pilothouse Cruiser) courtesy of a steeper bow profile and resulting longer waterline. The builder will work with customers on modifications to its basic three-cabin and four-cabin arrangements.

Featuring a Vittorio Garroni-designed plush interior inside a Jacques Fauroux-designed sailing machine, the Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 54 DS assumes the role of flagship of the Jeanneau fleet. Fluid deck lines define a spacious interior that’s offered with several layouts.

After an earlier career in the business of yacht chartering, John Charnley has since devoted his energy to shaping his concept of the ultimate liveaboard cruising boat, the Discovery 55. This big, raised-saloon sloop combines a hull design from Ron Holland with a bespoke interior shaped by Ken Freivokh.

Also custom-tailored for bluewater work is the Cabo Rico 56. Its triple-head rig with code zero tacked to the bowsprit puts a little extra performance within easy reach.

Beneteau gets in the flagship spirit by launching the Farr-designed Beneteau 57, a luxury passagemaker that contains many features that are "beyond production." Two details that set off the center cockpit are the bulkhead-mounted steering position and the hard windshield.

Long a redoubt of the rare, finely crafted yacht, Spain delivers, through Northwind Yachts, the Northwind 58, a center-cockpit, raised-saloon design from the legendary firm of Sparkman & Stephens. Among the variations offered on the standard layout is a double cockpit that separates the working from the lounging areas.

A constant theme among the luxurious sailing machines from Wally Yachts is the concealment of moving parts. The Wally 60, though the smallest Wally yet, follows suit, to which its characteristically uncluttered deck attests.

Morris Yachts recently launched its first Morris 62, in a pilothouse configuration with inside steering and a big cockpit aft with twin wheels. It also offers a center-cockpit version of the boat, with a correspondingly different interior arrangement.

Another company rolling out a flagship is Moody Yachts. The Bill Dixon-designed Moody 64 has a center cockpit, a raised saloon, a low profile, and a big, powerful rig. Belowdecks, a spacious, full-width saloon separates the owner’s suite aft from a pair of guest cabins forward. A crew cabin invites owners to have someone aboard to keep the machinery humming.

More Hulls Than One
Although at first glance it might appear that with fewer new multihulls than last year, this category is taking a breather, that's not really the case. The "small-boat" builders have given us more than usual from which to choose, while the big-boat builders are inhaling deeply and expressing themselves with really big boats.

This year, Performance Cruising, builder of the Gemini catamarans, is betting on three hulls and a dose of nostalgia. It’s been over 30 years since the Telstar tooling was destroyed in a fire, but the memory lived on. The Telstar 28 is original designer and builder Tony Smith’s reincarnation--but with 30 years of pondering and technological advances--of that memorable tri. Folding amas tuck under to provide motoring stability and allow trailering as well as mooring in a monohull slip.

Ian Farrier is constructing his latest folding flying boat, the Farrier F-33, in both Australia and Canada. Built with epoxy resin and available in three levels of performance optimization, it represents the state of the folding trimaran art as expressed by the man who invented the concept.
For those who like to get their thrills on two hulls, the Gunboat 34 combines high-performance catamaran sailing with patio-living style. While berths and a head are sheltered in the hulls, cooking, dining, and lounging take place on the bridgedeck, giving this interesting vessel the look of an oversize beach cat with built-in camping.

Corsair Marine continues to supply craft for the niche that likes speed and mobility on and off the water. The Corsair 36 adds a little more luxury at the top of the company’s line, with sleeping accommodations for six and a real galley and spacious head to service them.

Holding down the middle of the multihull range while making its first appearance in the United States is the Dolphin 450 cruising catamaran from Brazilian builder Dolphin Catamarans. Daggerboards and carbon-fiber mast and fore beam are clues that this cat is targeted at the performance-minded.

Fountaine Pajot’s new flagship is the Eleuthera 60, in whose designing and building the company has exploited 10 years of experience with the Marquises 56. She’s offered in five configurations that run the gamut from an exclusive private-owner boat to a full-on charter vessel for up to eight guests.

The Leopard 62 fills the flagship role for its builder, South Africa’s Robertson & Caine, and for The Moorings’ crewed-charter operation. It accommodates four double cabins, space for up to three crew, acres of saloon, and fields of deck space. A flybridge gives the helmsman an unprecedented view of goings on on board and off.

If there’s a greyhound version of the big, big cruising cat, it’s the Outremer 64 S. Narrow hulls speak to the vessel’s inclination toward the performance end of the spectrum, but they offer a large amount of space, which the builder will allocate according to an owner’s personal needs and objectives.

Jeremy McGeary is a Cruising World associate editor.