In select pockets of the sailing world-Mount Desert Island in Maine, say, or Bristol, Rhode Island, or Port Townsend, Washington-one finds an extraordinary confluence of marine artisans. On the Jutland peninsula of Denmark, you’ll find such a community. That narrow strip between the Baltic and North seas is home to Paul Elvström’s sail loft; the hardware makers Andersen, BSI, and Frederiksen (now Ronstan); and the builders of Dragonfly catamarans-innovative engineers and sailors and craftsmen all.
One of the cornerstones of this community is X-Yachts. Founded in 1979 by a trio of racing junkies, Birger Hansen and brothers Niels and Lars Jeppesen, X-Yachts has grown from a builder of small IOR competitors to one of the world’s best-regarded creators of luxury performance sailboats, having launched well over 4,000 boats. Throughout the yard’s history, its directors have maintained an unwavering focus on the segment where cruising and racing meet. While their designs over the years may have oscillated back and forth across that line, none has ever strayed very far from it.
Last fall, Cruising World’s Boat of the Year judges sailed the X-46, a recent launch in X-Yachts’ Performance Cruising category. Our outing was in light air, conditions in which this boat was perfectly happy. In 8 to 10 knots true, we slipped to windward at 7.5 knots and effortlessly broke the 8-knot barrier as we eased sheets to a reach.
On deck, everything about the boat bespeaks performance. The German-style double-ended mainsheet leads from the gooseneck through blocks and under the deck back to the cockpit, giving a clean, efficient appearance. Some of the judges wondered what you’d do if you lost a tail into that conduit, but Michael Frank, the U.S. importer for X-Yachts, described a simple way to snake a messenger line to retrieve it. Such details as a recessed spray hood and a recessed headsail furling drum contribute to the deck’s clean lines.
Focal point of the cockpit is a giant, 66-inch wheel. While some judges found it excessively large, it brings the spokes close to the gunwales for optimal visibility, grants the leverage for fingertip steering, and avoids the complication, friction, and expense of twin wheels. The Jefa draglink system contributed to the most butter-smooth helm in this year’s 26-boat BOTY fleet.
Under power, the X-46 rated among the quietest quarter of the fleet, thanks in part to a saildrive transmission but also to ample insulation around the engine space.
The X-46’s interior is sumptuous, with pleasing details everywhere you look. The grain in the high-quality teak is carefully matched throughout; battens under bunks promote ventilation and comfort; a single lifting eye at the boat’s midpoint simplifies hauling and shipping. The boat is available with either a three- or four-cabin layout. If you prefer a U-shaped galley to a portside in-line galley, as our judges did, the four-cabin version offers that.
Like other X-Yachts, the structure of the 46 stands out. The boat’s backbone is a massive galvanized-steel grid that picks up all the rig, keel, and machinery loads, rendering the vessel uncommonly stiff. Biaxial glass over Divinycell orients the laminate strength where it’s needed.
If poetry in motion is what you’re after, get thee behind this wheel.
Tim Murphy, longtime director of CW’s Boat of the Year contest, is a Cruising World editor at large.
LOA 46′ 0″ (14.01 m.)
LWL 40′ 4″ (12.30 m.)
Beam 13′ 7″ (4.15 m.)
Draft (std.) 7′ 11″ (2.40 m.)
Sail Area (100%) 1,185 sq. ft. (110 sq. m.)
Displacement 22,929 lb. (10,400 kg.)
Water 100 gal. (380 l.)
Fuel 53 gal. (200 l.)
Engine Volvo 55-hp. D2-55/S; optional 75-hp. D2-75/S
Designer Niels Jeppesen
Sailaway Price $510,000
Contact X-Yachts, (203) 353-8118, www.x-yachtsusa.com