2015 Boat of the Year: The Nominees

Nominees in our 2015 Boat of the Year Awards deliver great boats and excellent value.

Best Innovation: Zim 15

Zim 15
Walter Cooper

Zim Sailing, of Fall River, Mass., builds 420s, Bytes, and Optimists, but the Zim 15, says Bob Adams, is the company’s calling. “This boat is about capturing a huge market of 20- to 30-year-olds,” he says. “It’s about getting them sailing again.” Post-collegiate sailors are all about team racing, and the boat is built for it. The hull is quick, the pointy foils are responsive (and hard to scull), and the rubber bow bumper eliminates repair work from late dips gone bad. The boat empowers crews with many controls, including the “dangle pole,” which tweaks the jib leech. A fair comparison is drawn to the beloved, but dated, Vanguard 15.

Designed for: Exciting the dinghy base with one-design and team racing

Required crew: Two—with one attentive crew

Best attributes: Quick-adjustable rig and dangle pole, lightweight hull, responsive foils

Price as tested: $11,500

Special Recognition: Dragonfly 32 Supreme

Dragonfly 32 Supreme
Walter Cooper

These Danish-built trimarans have a strong following, and U.S. importer Richard Suriani says the 32-footer is for experienced multihullers. It’s a high-quality build with a powerful sail plan and a center hull big enough to call home. “It feels like you’re in a monohull,” says Stewart. “There’s a lot in there, and the craftsmanship is impeccable, which justifies the boat’s $350,000 price tag.”

Designed for: Performance cruising and shorthanded distance races

Required crew: Two to cruise, four to five to race

Best attributes: High-quality construction, volume and efficient interior, powerful sail plan, speed, and folding amas for slip access

Price as tested: $350,000

Salona 44

Salona 44
Walter Cooper

The Salona 44 is a legitimate bluewater cruiser, laden with a pair of AC units, a generator, and a teak upgrade. The judges like the finish, and its $340,000 price tag.

Designed for: Handicap racing, performance cruising, team building

Required crew: Two to cruise, eight to 10 to race

Best attributes: Solid construction, immaculate interior finish, good value for volume

Price as tested: $340,000

mxNext

mxNext
Walter Cooper

The mxNext is the winged singlehander of one Vlad Murnikov. After two years as a prototype, it’s now built by a small composites shop in New Hampshire. It’s extreme, especially its torpedo-like bow, it has quirky tendencies, and the challenge of flying a spinnaker alone is, as Murnikov admits, “an intellectual exercise to get right.” “The purpose of the design is to create a high-performance boat that is very simple, exciting to sail, and less expensive than similar boats,” says Murnikov.

Designed for: Solo speed sailing, for the fun of it, and proof of concept

Required crew: Singlehander

Best attributes: Exotic design, quick and athletic experience, asymmetric kite

Price as tested: $15,000

C&C 30 One Design

C& 30 One Design
Walter Cooper

“It’s a modern boat that can sail one-design but do some offshore distance racing,” says builder Randy Borges. C&C went for a niche in the market for a one-design coastal racer, so the focus is “as simple as possible,” easy to tune, and a boat any amateur program can race. “There’s lot of stability for its size, says Borges. “It’s a powered up, dry boat that’s fun, fast, and affordable to sail.”

Designed for: One-design, coastal and beer-can racing, drysail storage

Required crew: Five to six

Best attributes: Quality American build, comfortable and quick upwind, easy around the cans

Price as tested: $125,000

ES44

ES44
Walter Cooper

The ES44 is a sistership to the Tim Kernan-designed Wasabi, an IRC winner in 2009 and 2010, and a rocket designed for heading straight to Hawaii. Wasabi's molds are now in the hands of ES Yachts, and built in Conneaut, Ohio. It's a small shop, says show rep Tom Mercer. The results are custom-boat quality, and the boat the judges will sail is Hull No. 2, built of E-glass and infused with carbon.

Designed for: Distance and handicap racing

Required crew: Eight to ten

Best attributes: Proven IRC results, semi-custom quality, versatility, well balanced boat, American built

Price as tested: $425,000

C&C Redline 41

C&C Redline 41
Walter Cooper

The C&C Redline 41 is deemed an updated King 40. BOTY rules require original tooling, so the 41, although well built, is excused from BOTY consideration.

Designed for: Offshore and handicap racing

Required crew: Eight to ten

Best attributes: Versatile design, comfortable interior, offshore ready

Price as tested: $470,000

Jeanneau Sun Fast 3600

Jeanneau Sun Fast 3200
Walter Cooper

The angular 36-footer from France is a shorthander’s dreamboat. There’s a lean interior better for offshore sprints than extended cruises. “It’s designed to go fast,” says Jeanneau’s Jeff Jorgenson. The whole package is impressive, but the construction quality less so. “They packed a lot in the boat,” says Allen, “but it’s a little thin on the detailing.

Designed for: Shorthanded or short-crew racing, coastal cruising

Required crew: Four to five

Best attributes: Powerful hull design for stability and windy venues, ergonomics are excellent

Price as tested: $350,000

Hobie T2

Hobie T2
Walter Cooper

Hobie Cat USA inherited the molds for what was once called the Hobie Tatoo, a higher-performance plastic beach cat built in Europe. It’s like a bigger Wave, and not quite a Getaway. The judges don’t find anything revolutionary about it, but its price ($7,000) is eye opening. “That’s bang for your buck,” says Allen. “The rig is powerful for a boat this size, it’s pretty narrow, and with the double-trap setup, it’s a perfect entry-level, high-performance beach cat. This thing will rip.”

Designed for: Off-the-beach cat sailors ready for high performance

Required crew: Two to race it, one to hot dog it

Best attributes: Powerful platform, stiff construction, and entry-level price

Price as tested: $7,000

Salona 33

Salona 33
Walter Cooper

The Salona 33 is “roomy” and the standard package comes with a tiller (the test boat comes with wheels). It’s construction mirrors the 44: vacuum-infused and cored, with steel grids locking it all together. For $155,000, what you get, says Tom Rich, is “good construction, amazing price.”

Designed for: Offshore racing, performance cruising, and beer-can series envy

Required crew: Five for the assym, six with the spin pole

Best attributes: Construction quality, comfortable interior design, light helm, and price

Price as tested: $155,000