Ah, yes. Hype season is upon us once again, and I spent all day yesterday walking the show in Newport. If you visit the same shows every year, they start to assume a sort of timeless quality, as though they are frozen in capsules where nothing ever changes. In reality, of course, they are constantly changing. Some of these changes jump out at you; others are more subtle.
Probably the biggest change I noticed this year, after I slapped myself into awareness, was the mast position on Lagoon’s new 39-foot cruising catamaran.
It’s actually a little hard to make out in this photo, because there’s another boat and mast directly behind it, but the mast on the new 39 is quite far aft–at the back of the bridgedeck saloon, rather than at the front. In profile I think it looks butt-ugly, like those old Prouts from way back when, but it actually makes a lot of sense. How many times have you seen cruising-cat sailors dogging around with just their jibs out because they’re too lazy to wrestle with a big-ass full-roached mainsail? Make the headsail much bigger and the main much smaller and hopefully more of those guys will raise more sail and stop running their motors so much.
Moving the mast aft also puts it much closer to an aft-bulkhead helm station. Line runs to the helm can all be kept quite short, with little friction in them, making it easier for the helmsperson to control everything from one place.
Lagoon will still be producing the ever-popular 380, one of the most successful mass-production cats ever created, but the new 39 looks to me to have a higher finish quality. This is the starboard-side owner’s stateroom in the boat on display at the show.
I normally don’t care much for boats from the German builder Hanse, as their Euro-styling often seems a bit severe to me, but this new Hanse 345 caught my eye for sure. It is an amazingly large 34-foot boat, replete with twin wheels and a full-size cockpit with a fixed table in the middle.
It’s big on the inside, too. The saloon has full standing headroom, and there’s plenty of space for the sales guy to pitch lots of people at the same time.
The two staterooms have adequate-size double berths and the head is genuinely enormous, with a dedicated shower stall.
Of course, there are also lots of genuinely large boats in the show, including the new Beneteau Oceanis 55, which features a pair of sun lounges on either side of the companionway. One question I had about this was: how are you ever going to catch rays lying under the dodger?
Yeah, I know–you can put the dodger down, but how many people with dodgers actually do that? These lounges should, in any event, make very nice berths for people who like sleeping out at night.
One boat I was curious to see was the new Bluejacket 40 from Island Packet. This is the first IP ever designed not to be beige and is considerably slimmer than its stablemates, with a finer entry and a much more modern underbody. It also has a modern Solent rig, with a genoa on a separate furler immediately forward of a clubfooted self-tacking jib.
The cockpit is more modern, too, with twin helm stations. Putting in that nub of a nav display and engine-control stand you see in the middle of the cockpit seems like an interesting decision. I don’t know yet whether you can order a standard full-sized fixed cockpit table if you want.
All lines are led aft, in various ways, including the single double-ended sheet that controls the jib.
And there’s full standing headroom under the dodger, even for a tall guy like me, so working winches around the companionway shouldn’t be a bother.
As with all IPs, finish quality inside is very good, with nice woodwork, but with a full-floor fiberglass pan around the galley, nav desk, and companionway base.
The boat I most wanted to go sailing on, and to own in some future life where I have more money than God, was this sleek Eagle 44 from Leonardo Yachts in Holland. It has very fine lines, narrow beam, and very long overhangs in the classic style, but with a super-modern bulb keel and a high-aspect spade rudder underneath.
The offset companionway leads down a small exquisitely finished cuddy cabin with a toilet and some berths. All winches and controls are electrified for maximum decadence and minimum effort.
The acutely varnished cockpit table has a small sink and a fridge hidden inside.
The mainsheet behind the helm is controlled by a belowdeck captive winch. The mainsheet, vang, backstay, and primary winch controls are all in that shiny panel to starboard. You actually do have to cast off and pick up the jib sheets, but you can order a custom self-tacking jib if even that seems too strenuous.
Back in the real world, I also found this remarkably inexpensive (just $50K) 26-foot sport boat from China sitting on a trailer. Far East learned boatbuilding doing a ton of OEM work for Western builders and recently started marketing its own line of boats here in the States via Sturgis Boat Works.
The aluminum rig is from Selden, and all the deck hardware, like the Harken winches, is top Western kit.
The keel is retractable, and the quality of the finish both inside and out is quite good. Far East also produces a smaller 18-foot race boat that lists for under $22K. Either boat can be fit with a sprit for flying A-sails instead of conventional spinnakers downwind.
Towards the end of the day I heard the siren call of the America’s Cup and drifted into a nearby bar to watch races 6 and 7. I had plenty of company and much communal moaning was heard as we watched Oracle screw the pooch once and then twice again.
This ugly business with the Cup should be done by this weekend, so I’ll have plenty of time to clear my mind before heading down to Annapolis next month.
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