Boat of the Year: Meet The Competition

The diversity of our 2014 Boat of the Year lineup is impressive: from a deluxe all-carbon cruising cat to a clever inflatable sailing dinghy. It’s impossible to say which of these 14 designs will emerge as our Overall Boat of the Year, but veteran Boat of the Year judges Chuck Allen and Greg Stewart, and returning judge Tom Rich, will have their work cut out for them. Our week of testing commences Oct. 14, so check in daily for highlights on our website and [on our Facebook page](https://www.fac
Archambault A27

Archambault A27

Archambault A27Archambault is one of performance sailing’s most respected European raceboat builders. The French company has a solid reputation in its homeland, and for good reason. As with the Archambault-built M34, currently the official boat of the Tour de France à la Voile, the Archambault A27 is a versatile design that’s perfect for beer-can and inshore handicap racing. The hull and deck are polyester infusion-molded, and on the single-rudder base boat, the cast iron bulb keel (5’5″) is fixed. A pivoting-fin keel, with hydraulic rams, and a dual-rudder setup is an option for owners with shallow-water racecourses. With an LOA of 27 feet and max beam of 9’9″, and an upwind sail plan that combines to 457 square feet, the boat should be plenty powered up in the light stuff. To keep the price in line with its entry-level target market, the rig, boom, and bowsprit are anodized aluminum. There are a variety of appendage choices, and all sorts of interior options, too. At 4,790 pounds (roughly 1,000 pounds more than a Melges 32), it should be easy to trailer. Base boat is $115,
Catalina Sport 275 “What’s this?” you say. “A sportboat from Catalina Yachts?” Yes, it’s true. The sport’s most prolific recreational boatbuilder has entered the sporty fray with an entry-level asymmetric-flying weekender, club racer, and daysailer all wrapped up in a basic little package. The folks at Catalina Yachts, now building in Largo, Fla., tell us the Sport 275 is designed to be “an affordable first boat for the Gen-X sailor with a young family.”Conceived in-house by Gerry Douglas, who’s been responsible for Catalina’s designs for nearly 30 years, the boat has Catalina’s trademark simplicity. At 27 feet overall, it’s 4,200 pounds (2,000 of that is ballast). There’s only one forepeak V-berth, a single-burner galley, and an enclosed area with a portable head, so it won’t go far, but what they sacrifice in the interior, they gain in the cockpit. Nearly half the deck is cockpit—with long straight seats and deep coamings—a great setup for racing or sailing with younger kids.
Corsair Cruz 970 If you’re looking for liveaboard accommodations in your racing trimaran, the Corsair Cruz 970 may have what you seek. The Vietnam-based builder combined elements of its more popular cruising tris, the 31 and the 37, to come up with what they say is their most versatile boat yet. They’ve increased interior volume in the main hull with a higher deck for standing headroom, which gives the boat two big berths, including one under the cockpit, a fully enclosed head, and a galley. The trade off is visibility from the helm, which required them to add stern-rail seating: not exactly fast looking, but practical. Employing the patented Corsair folding system, the Cruz 970 folds to 8’4″ of beam (22’7″ with amas deployed), and the all-up weight is roughly 4,000 pounds. Base boat is $167,000.
Dehler 38 No matter what a builder puts inside or on deck, a good crossover starts and finishes with a fast hull shape. The latest dual-purpose boat Hanse Yachts’ line, the Dehler 38 taps the talent of the Judel/Vrojlik design office, well versed in today’s best IRC- and ORC-friendly attributes. The base boat was developed for shorthanded sailing and club racing, but the options list to get the boat to its “competitive” form is long. The deeper keel, the “performance” rudder, and of course, the carbon rig, will go a long way to making it a bona fide crossover raceboat (dubbed the “Dehler 38 C”). On deck, it’s a sharp-looking design with long windows and a traditional cockpit set up of six winches and a floor-mounted traveler. The interior layout includes a V-berth, a port setee that doubles as a berth, and a fore-and-aft sliding nav station. Base boat is $175,000.
FarEast 18R As its name implies, this interesting 18-footer is built in Shanghai, China, and imported by FarEast USA, in West Yarmouth, Mass. Described as a “modern, fast, fun, and simple design,” it’s targeted for casual buoy racing and as a sailing school keelboat trainer. Designed by Simonis Voogd, a respected design house, the Far East 18R has a lot of features typically found on boats twice its size. At 18 feet, you’d think it would be more like a dinghy, but it is, by design, more like a sportboat. Its polar diagram has its upwind sweet spot at 5.08 knots in 12 knots and 5.38 knots downwind. Displacement is about 1,400 pounds, and its base price is $20,000.
FarEast 26 In the sportboat world today, it’s typically all about the “sport,” which means the interior becomes a place to store the outboard and toss a few crew bags. In order to separate their 26-footer from the herd, however, FarEast leaned further to the comfort side with its FarEast 26, opting for a minimal amount of headroom and raised topsides. Inside, there’s a V-berth, twin settees, and a berth under the cockpit, as well as an enclosed head and single-burner galley. How they manage to fit it all in is amazing, but the hull shape looks fast and slippery, and with infused polyester construction, they’ve kept the overall weight down to 3,648 pounds. With upwind/downwind targets at 5.74 and 6.35 knots (in 12 knots of wind) respectively, this one should be fun to sail. It could be the start of a sportboat crossover movement. Base price is a very respectable $50,000.
Gunboat 55 There’s no denying that North Carolina-built Gunboats are the Maseratis of the performance catamaran world. To own one is to belong to the exclusive Gunboat cult. The builder has never shied away from applying carbon wherever physically possible, and that’s especially true with this 20,000-pound, Nigel Irens-designed Gunboat 55. It looks fast at a standstill, and its performance numbers confirm it will be quick in Gunboat class racing. Never mind the post-racing party—that’s a given.According to the boat’s design parameters, a pent-up demand for a smaller entry-level Gunboat was the genesis for the 55-footer, and this model is significant for the builder as its first in an “owner-operator series” (i.e., it won’t require a full-time captain to run). In 12 years of building these high-end specialty cats, they’ve developed a laundry list of cool customizations and systems, and they’re applied throughout the 55. Base boat is $1,930,000.
Gunboat 60 If a 55-foot Gunboat isn’t enough for your world-cruise desires, then the Gunboat 60, a cumulative refinement of the Gunboat 66, should offer what you need. As the builder’s third-generation design, the Gunboat 60 is aimed at what the builder calls its “sweet spot in the market.” That market is for customers seeking a bluewater sabbatical cruiser that can be sailed in the occasional Gunboat class race in the Med or the Caribbean. The layout has four cabins and crew quarters (accessible from the deck), and a customized saloon setup. As with all Gunboats, the helm station is enclosed, but open the forward cabin door and you’ve got all your sail controls and powered winches at hand at the base of the mast. Base boat is $2,550,000.
J/88 The Johnstone brothers don’t necessarily like to compare new models with those long in the family tooth, but before for J/88 one comparison is drawn. “It’s more like a modern-day J/30,” said the patriarch designer, Rod Johnstone. “This is the boat that you can do everything with.”The boat’s design purpose is “fast daysailing, racing, and weekending.” To that end, Johnstone has a tight 29-foot package with a double-spreader carbon rig. It’s a narrow hull with high-aspect (6.5′) keel and rig so upwind angles should be tight, and with the 1,329-square foot spinnaker, it’ll get down the run just fine. The minimalist interior has two full-length settees, a sink, and an enclosed head forward of the main bulkhead. The V-berth is optional.
mx-Next Before the mx-Next there was the mx-Ray. Don’t remember it? Don’t worry. You’re not alone. Despite the Ray being a singlehanded dinghy well ahead of its time—a lightweight flying saucer with an asymmetric spinnaker—it never quite caught on with the masses. Much has been learned since its avant-garde designer, Vlad Murnikov, launched the Ray in the 1990s, and all of that knowledge oozes from the mx-Next, a unique looking all-carbon craft unlike any other 14-foot singlehander on the water today. With its distinctive wave-piercing bow, wide flared wings, and 90-pound hull, prototype test pilots said that it glides upwind and downwind, but with a spinnaker to handle, it does require some practice and agility. Could it be the next best thing? We’ll soon find out.
Salona 33 The Croatian-built Salona 37 caught our Boat of the Year judges by surprise in 2007, picking up the Cruiser/Racer of the Year title. Salona returns with a 33-footer that has already won a number of high-level handicap races in Europe. The Salona 33 is promoted as a “boat that can win any regatta” without compromising comfort. It’s all about stiffness through structure, gained through a stainless steel grid that ties together keel, rig, and hull loads. A below-deck headsail furling unit, carbon-fiber hatches, and twin carbon wheel pedestals give it a racy look on deck, and inside is a full two-cabin interior, with head and galley.
Sydney GTS43 “Built light yet ocean tough,” says the builder, “the Sydney GTS43 has been designed with a performance sailor in mind.” This sounds like our kind of crossover racer, and with this Jason Kerr design, there will be plenty to like. Think of it as a dual-purpose boat that only a former grand-prix racer would commission. The rig is powerful, the deck layout has all the latest go-fast tricks, winches, and micro sail-trim adjustments, and the hull shape (after exhaustive development at the Kerr office) strikes a good balance between being as fast as possible and handicap-rule friendly. This one, we hear, is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Tiwal 3.2 Inflate it. Rig it. Go sailing. That’s the three-step approach to this intriguing 10-foot inflatable sailing dinghy. According to the designer, it took three years of R&D to develop the Tiwal 3.2’s hydrodynamic hull, which is made of a patented double-skin PVC fabric that can be inflated to extremely high pressure. All combined, the Tiwal 3.2 is only 110 pounds and can be disassembled and stored in two bags. Aluminum tubes lock together to create “hiking wings” and provide stiffness and mast support. A kick-up rudder and drop in daggerboard help the boat track upwind. Base price is $6,250.
UltraLight 20 The masters of carbon-fiber kayaks at Warren Light Craft in Georgetown, Mass., have been dabbling in sailing kayaks for a few years by adding sail systems to sit-in trimaran/kayak combinations. The results were never perfect, so they took a different tack by building a sailing trimaran with their high-end building expertise. “I targeted the UltraLight 20 at both the died-in-the-wool racer and the recreational racer,” says its designer, Ted Warren. “Both will find what they want in this sailboat.”The hulls, daggerboard, and rudder are carbon, the beams and mast aluminum. The 25-foot mast carries 215 square feet of sail area in a square-top main, and the jib is on a roller furler. The Race version gets carbon beams and taller mast, bringing the boat to 175 pounds. Base boat is $14,985.