Over the years, the Danish boatbuilder X-Yachts has been a consistent player in our annual Boat of the Year contest. Yet despite a reputation for fine, dual-purpose racer/cruisers, the company has rarely earned a place in our winner’s circle, mainly due to its considerable emphasis on the racing side of the equation. But recently the builder has made a decided push to raise its cruising profile — yes, the “c” in the new Xc 45 stands for “cruiser” — and the finished product is an unequivocal success. To prove it, earlier this year our independent judging panel named the Niels Jeppesen-designed 45-footer the top Full-Size Cruiser Under 50 Feet for 2016.
Even Mulder and Scully, from the cult TV show The X-Files, would have to agree: Despite the vessel’s clear performance pedigree, there’s nothing strange or otherworldly about the Xc 45’s status as a wholesome, fully found, long-range cruising boat. Considering the ample tankage and storage, solid construction, top-shelf gear, and handsome lines, the judges’ collective fondness for the boat is no mystery.
“At least in my experience with X-Yachts, this is their first serious attempt at creating a nice cruising boat, and I think they did a great job,” said judge Ed Sherman. “One of the things we look at is the decibel level down below when motoring. I’m personally convinced that there’s a correlation between sound levels and overall build quality. And this boat demonstrated that to me at both a low and fast motoring speed, which got us over 8 knots. We were only experiencing about 73 decibels down below, where people might be sleeping on a fast run home. A lot of effort went into creating that low level of noise.”
The foam core in the deck and hull — a component of the composite sandwich construction that also utilizes vinylester and polyester resins, E-glass, a watertight bulkhead forward, and structural bulkheads bonded to the hull and deck — provides some of the boat’s sound-deadening, insulating qualities. But the literal centerpiece of the vessel is a signature feature of the entire X-Yacht line: a massive, integral stainless-steel frame that serves as a backbone for the yacht and absorbs loads from the keel (a cast-iron fin with an L-shaped bulb glued and bolted to the foil), rig and chainplates. It’s so bloody strong, in fact, that a strap run though an eye built directly into the steel grid can lift the boat.
Given the yacht’s Scandinavian roots and stainless-steel skeleton, one might expect it to look like a North Sea trawler, but in fact the 45’s profile is clean, contemporary and striking, with a plumb bow, long waterline and low-profile coachroof (though the little windshield forward of the companionway, which serves as a base for the nice dodger, does hint at northern European origins).
There’s also little doubt that the Xc 45 has borrowed certain elements from its racier siblings, including twin Jefa wheels, a double-ended German-style mainsheet, Ronstan adjustable sheet leads, Spinlock rope clutches, a tall double-spreader fractional rig, and recessed running rigging led neatly below the optional teak decks. And the builders certainly didn’t skimp on the first-class gear (Andersen winches, Profurl furler, Vetus retractable bow thruster, Flexifold folding prop and so on). But with robust handholds and a hinged cockpit seat that lifts up, coupled with split hydraulic backstays to provide sweet access to the drop-down swim platform, the company also never lost focus on its mission to deliver a comfortable, capable cruising boat.
That’s also clear from the accommodation plan below. Sleeping quarters can be found in the owner’s cabin in the bow, with a centerline queen bed and en suite head, and in the twin double cabins in the stern, which share a second head to starboard, situated just aft of a dedicated navigation station. The L-shaped galley, to port, is nestled just behind a roomy U-shaped settee and generous dining table; another settee is situated opposite. Altogether, there are plenty of good sea berths for bluewater work.
On top of everything else, the Xc 45 sails like a witch. Though we tested her on a less-than-stellar Chesapeake Bay morning — we started off with around 6 knots of true wind, which “built” to around 8 knots during our trials — even in the little puffs you could feel the boat accelerate. And in the light air, the boat was still capable of boat speeds that matched the wind speed, reaching along at 7.5 knots in the same amount of breeze. And this was with the boat’s smaller, 108 percent jib; a 140 percent genoa is also available. She was just as slippery under power, doing better than 8 knots with the 80-horsepower Yanmar clicking over at a steady 2,500 rpm.
In deliberations afterward, judge Alvah Simon ran through his notes on the 45: “Good dodger with handles. Winches are placed well. Twin helms were very nice. The teak deck had good nonskid, was very attractive. Pulpits, stanchion and lifelines very robust. Gates port and starboard, something you don’t see on many boats. Good pumps, padeyes, provision for jacklines. Excellent LPG locker. I’m going down my whole list and I see lots of stars. This boat is well put together.”
Clearly, Simon and his fellow panelists were duly impressed with the Xc 45. You might even say that as a thoroughly modern cruising machine, this X certainly marks the spot.
LOA: 45’6″ (13.86 m)
LWL: 41’10” (12.76 m)
Beam: 14’2″ (4.32 m)
Draft: 5’11″/7’3″ (1.8/2.2 m)
Sail Area: (108%) 1,145 sq. ft. (112 sq m)
Ballast: 12,655 lb. (5,740 kg)
Displacement: 29,145 lb. (13,220 kg)
Sail Area/Displacement: 19.2
Water: 161 gal. (610 l)
Fuel: 116 gal. (440 l)
Holding: 29 gal. (110 l)
Mast Height: 71′ (21.65 m)
Engine: 80 hp Yanmar
Designer: Niels Jeppesen/X-Yachts
Herb McCormick is Cruising World’s executive editor.