If it’s January in Germany, all roads lead to Dusseldorf. At least they do if you’re a boat person or any other kind of watersports person. Sailors, powerboaters, kayakers, scuba divers, fishermen and anglers flock here by the hundreds of thousands to take in the delights of the world’s biggest boat and accessories show.
You could look over a hundred-foot motoryacht that’s been plucked from the adjacent Rhine river and deposited in a hall that would swallow a dozen such, go paddle a canoe on an intricately landscaped mock river, cast a fly on an alpine stream, be rescued from an overturned Opti on a manmade lake, outfit yourself in bargain-basement foulweather gear, and put a deposit on a new sailboat, all without stepping outdoors and all before your lunchtime bowl of goulash.
All in all, it’s paradise for boat junkies. Here are some of the boats that got my interest.
Moody’s distinctive DS (Deck Saloon) line has sold well in Europe, but has failed to capture the imagination of the North American sailor, perhaps because they look like powerboats with masts. The good thing about that is that the accommodations are also powerboat-like in their spaciousness. The new 54DS brings a new twist to the theme—designer Bill Dixon has done a masterful job of softening the lines of the big deckhouse, and, like the others in the DS range, this boat will sail much better than its appearance suggests. It is also the roomiest 54-footer I have seen.
The big news for Hanse was the 505, a muscular fast cruiser featuring Hanse’s signature blend of high topsides, low upperworks and sporty performance with a powerful but easily handled sailplan. Expect to see it at the fall boat shows on the East Coast.
The Varianta 37 is the second boat in Hanse Group’s bargain-basement line of entry-level cruisers. Although it is also designed by Judel/Vrolijk and therefore will sail well, the Varianta 37 is definitely built to a price—in this case 89,131 euros, or $132,915. For that, you get a sailaway platform equipped with —wait for it—bean bags instead of settee cushions, and an interior that will resonate with Ikea fans. Apparently, some canny Germans buy these boats, gut them and employ shipwrights to fit out the interiors to suit their own tastes, and still save thousands over a comparable 37-footer.
For Beneteau, the notable new model was the boat-for-all-reasons Oceanis 38 that won SAIL’s Best Award for 2014. Its interior can be configured for different types of sailing use, from open-plan to conventional. Going by the queues to get on board, and the European Yacht of the Year award it had just picked up, this boat is a winner for Beneteau.
Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 349
The Sun Odyssey 349 is a big little coastal cruiser, made even more spacious by the lack of cabinetry above the settees down below in the amazingly bright, airy saloon. This correlates to a shortage of enclosed stowage, but if you choose the two-cabin option you get a vast walk-in cockpit locker which will more than make up for it.
Sun Odyssey 3600
The second new boat from Jeanneau is the Sun Fast 3600, an out-and-out sportster optimized for the kind of sailing at which the French excel, namely long-distance shorthanded racing. Therefore, you can count on this boat being light, easily driven, fast and well-mannered. There ‘s a choice of twin wheels or twin tillers, a sailhandling system that can be customized to sit your sailing style, and a basic but functional open-plan interior that would lend itself well to no-frills cruising. Looks like a great ride for Wednesday nights, but it would be more fun to channel your inner Gaul, load up with freeze-dried food and boxed wine, and blast across the Pond.
Bavaria 41 and 51
The transformation of Bavaria’s Farr-designed Cruiser line-up is now complete, with revamped 41 and 51-footers appearing here. All that remains from the previous Cruiser iterations are the hulls—these two boats have brand new interiors and deck layouts that give them a more mainstream (not to mention attractive) look and feel. My impressions were of two capable boats, with very good cockpit ergonomics and well designed and executed interiors. In fact the Cruiser 41 and Cruiser 51 embody what is a recent trend, one that embraces the use of many hatches and portlights to make the most of natural light and give the interior a more spacious feel. I also liked the 41S—for Sport—version, with its white-powdercoated Jefa steering system and cockpit-mounted mainsheet traveler; not so family-friendly, but eminently practical.
Here’s a piece of sexy simplicity–DNA’s latest A-class cat, complete with J-boards (not class legal, just for fun), wave piercing bows, upside down hull forms… This carbon fiber beauty weighs just 165 pounds ready to race. I wouldn’t do it justice, but I’d still love one.
This might be more my style—the X-cat comes with folding oars and a sliding seat so that in the event of total calm you can row yourself home. Or you can leave the rig in your car and just go for a row. The boat can be taken apart in minutes for easy transportation.
There’s not much in the way of headroom and the accommodations are no-frills, but the Nautiner Fun 30 just looks like a lot of, well, fun. It’s built in Poland as an inexpensive sail trainer-cum-day racer.
Low and beamy, here’s a great little sportboat with a difference. The Flaar f26 is built in Hungary and looks like a regular pocket rocketship. A lead ballast bulb proves plenty of righting moment that’s augmented by water ballast when the going gets hairy. Displacement is under 2,000lb, the foils and rig are carbon fiber, and the hull is vacuum-bagged. I doubt we’ll ever see one here, but it looks terrific.
The tastefully lit interior of the new Salona 60, the Croatian yard’s biggest boat to date. Note the galley-forward layout, and the wine conditioner. I wouldn’t want to live without one of those if I had this boat.
Best known for its folding kayaks, Klepper introduced this nifty collapsible carbon fiber catamaran. The hulls can be used separately as kayaks, and when taken apart the sections stow inside each other for easy transport.
Nautiraid folding tender
I can’t for the life of me think why, but I’ve always had a soft sport for folding boats. This one looked very well engineered, lightweight and easy to assemble. If you want something that rows like a hard dinghy but is is easy to stow, it would be worth a look.
They get 100-foot motoryachts into these massive halls—haul them out of the adjacent Rhine river—but the prize for biggest sailboat went to the impressive Oyster 88. And yes, they sold one…