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2020 Boat of the Year Nominees’ Specifications and Key Sailboat Comparison Metrics

Compare the 2020 Boat of the Year fleet by their numbers.

December 9, 2019
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Besides the obvious numbers used to describe a sailboat —length, beam, draft and sail area—CW’s Boat of the Year judges sometimes rely on sail area/displacement and displacement/length ratios, as well as decibels for sound while motoring, to compare similar vessels. One caveat, because sailboat design and building materials change over time: The design ratios work best when looking at boats of a similar era rather than comparing, say, a 1975 cruiser to a modern boat of similar size.

Let’s start with displacement/length. Displacement is a measure of how much water a particular hull form displaces, and length is, well, length. In general terms, the lower the D/L ratio is, the less water is being displaced for a given length, which would indicate better performance. Performance, though, often reflects speed, but not necessarily comfort, underway. Long-distance cruisers might get there fast on a boat with a very low D/L figure, but they might not get much sleep along the way because of the boat’s lively movement in a seaway.

Specs
1) Sail area is working sail area. 2) Displacement values are for light ship; D/L=(D/2,240)(lwl/100)3. 3); SA/D = SA/(D/64).2/3. 4) Prices are quoted by the builder with ­standard Boat of the Year equipment inventory; prices reflect currency values as of October 31, 2019. For draft figures “/” denotes alternative options; “-” denotes variable draft on one boat. Herb McCormick

Sail area/displacement is a ratio that affects how much horsepower a particular sail plan has to push a vessel. Most cruising boats today will have an SA/D number in the high teens and low 20s, with the higher the ratio indicating a more powerful rig. Again, the numbers can deceive. The trend today is toward sail plans with non-overlapping jibs. Boats sail just fine upwind, but the minute you bear away, the relatively small jib quickly becomes ineffective. This, in turn, has been a boon for the suppliers of colored sails, such as code zeros and cruising spinnakers.

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Sound specs
All boats equipped with inboard diesel engines (*denotes shaft drive; all others sail drive) Herb McCormick

Lastly, our BOTY judges measure the sound or decibel levels aboard every boat when motoring. Why? First, it’s hard to sleep on a loud boat, and if the crew can’t stay rested, it can lead to all sorts of other problems. Second, silence doesn’t come cheap. Besides a lack of proper sound insulation, rattles and creaks caused by poor construction can all contribute to the din. To put things in perspective, 50 dB is equivalent to a quiet conversation at home, and 60 dB is akin to background music at a restaurant. Noise in the upper 70 dB range can be considered annoying; above 80 dB, noise can become harmful after long exposure.


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