The big-boat classes in the 2020 Boat of the Year competition presented some big problems for the judging panel. Take the Full-Size Cruiser 45 to 55 Feet fleet, with a quartet of extremely solid contenders across a wide range of price points and with different design briefs and objectives, ranging from versatile performance-style cruisers to a dedicated bluewater passagemaker. Decisions, decisions, decisions.
At $550,000, the Bavaria C50 packed a lot of punch into a 50-footer. “It’s billed as a family cruiser, and features twin helms and a single rudder,” judge Dan Spurr said. “The representative who presented the boat emphasized the division between the entertainment area and the cockpit and working areas, and that cockpit really resonated with me—for a bigger boat, it’s very efficient to sail.” The Bavaria also struck a chord with fellow judge Ed Sherman: “I’ve been watching the evolution of Bavarias since they first started coming to the United States, and they’ve come a long way. Everything about them is significantly better than the earlier boats, and you get a lot of features for the price. It’s a player in this group.”
From a value standpoint, the Elan Impression 41.5 left a strong, good impression on the judging panel. Judge Ralph Naranjo was particularly enamored with the overall build quality of the hull laminate. “It’s an ISO-approved Category A offshore boat; they did a really nice job with the vacuum infusion,” he said. “I was crawling in those aft lockers looking at the autopilot arrangement, and could see how well the deck elements and bulkheads went in. And the autopilot installation was great, with an excellent stainless-steel bracket that was bolted and cantilevered to catch both the deck and the bulkhead. The autopilot and rams have to take a huge amount of thrust or push/pull; they need to be in there securely. And they were.”
It was clearly going to take an outstanding vessel to sway the panel’s opinions. It turned out there was not only one other formidable yacht to choose from, but two.
“The Amel 50 is truly an oceangoing globe-trotter,” Sherman said, speaking about the latest, highly anticipated model from the long-standing stalwart French builder. “With a signature watertight forward crash bulkhead, a centrally located sea chest for easily isolating a leak and shutting it down, to a globally conscious shore-power system that can deal with 50 or 60 hertz and 120 or 230-240 volts, Amel has designed a boat that will have you covered wherever your travels take you. For those who want to cruise in luxury, this is the boat.”
“Amel has long been one of the only worldwide companies to offer what is essentially a ‘ready to cruise’ boat,” Spurr said. “The boat can be operated entirely from the security of the cockpit, which has a windshield and hardtop, like many solo offshore racers. Some of my colleagues didn’t like this feature, feeling it isolated the helm from feeling the weather. The boat is not inexpensive, but it also seemed to have the highest-quality finish.”
“To me, it’s more of a motorsailer than a traditional cruising sailboat,” Naranjo said. “Her performance under sail is somewhat limited by a fairly high displacement and a modest sail area. She is easy to handle, though, because of her power-assisted sail trimming and setting capabilities.”
Sailing prowess is never a debatable issue with X-Yachts, however, and after treating the judges to a world-class sailing experience, they ultimately decided that the X-Yachts X46 was the Best Full-Size Cruiser 45 to 55 Feet for 2020. (It was a back-to-back winning effort from X-Yachts; in 2019, X-Yachts’ X49 was also honored as the Best Full-Size Cruiser.)
“This was just a joy to sail,” Sherman said. “A performance sailing boat in every sense —very close-winded. It was everything I’ve come to expect from X-Yachts. They are put together by real craftspeople who take a great deal of concern in everything they do. So many little things. For instance, the wiring connections behind the panel board are all bent to 90 degrees and secured in place, and they hand-solder the solid copper bus links between the switches. This is all labor-intensive stuff that you just don’t see on most boats. They’ve always been known for using top-quality gear, and they certainly didn’t cut any corners here.
“The epoxy resin they use in the layup is going to last forever, and the post-cure process is just top shelf,” Sherman continued. “I mean, what can I say? And I believe the pricing is actually pretty darn good. This boat costs $740,000, which is nothing to laugh at—it’s a significant amount of money. But when you compare it dollarwise to some of the other boats out there of similar lengths, you know what? It kind of stands out. And so, yes, I’m a fan. I’ve always been.”
“Like all X-Yachts, it has a unique feature in the construction, with a steel grid that sits on stringers with a balanced lifting point where you can actually lift the entire boat with a crane, with a strop that comes down through a hatch,” Spurr said. “The quality of construction all around seemed very good, with the keel actually bolted to the grid. Basically, we were told that you can’t lose the keel on this boat, which is pretty remarkable. And it’s really a handsome boat all the way around.”
Not to mention, when the final votes were cast, it was a winning one.
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