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The Centurion 40s, a Real Performer

The Wauquiez Centurion 40s is Sailing World’s Boat of the Year Best Value

November 7, 2003
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Walter Cooper

The Sailing World Boat of the Year judges stepped aboard the Wauquiez Centurion 40S on a crisp fall day and immediately noticed the cockpit was bigger than other similar sized boats we had sailed. After putting this boat through its paces we found even more good points which combined with the sailing performance add up to awarding this French built Berret & Racoupeau design the Best Value Racer/Cruiser.

Part of our tests simulate a crowded starting sequence, holding a luffing boat near the starting pin, then sheeting in to go, followed by a few tacks and even a 360 to simulate absolving a foul and testing maneuverability. The Wauquiez held position well, accelerated appropriately off the “line”, was easy to tack and circled well. The steering system was smooth and light and the rudder is large enough that it would be difficult to stall out in maneuvers or power reaching. There is both comfortable seating on a sculpted section of the weather cockpit coaming and a great foot wedge on which to stand to weather when steering upwind.

This boat has an aluminum rig with two aft-swept spreaders and a backstay, but not runners, controlling forestay tension. The main flattened out nicely with backstay tension and looked like it would power up well in light air. Racers will want the dual hydraulic option on both ends of the split backstay for this important power-adjusting tool.

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Downwind we set a cruising asymmetric spinnaker from the bow and were quickly off. Performance was good but would be enhanced with a masthead racing asymmetric that could easily be added to the existing rig. All our maneuvering confirmed our initial impressions that the cockpit was big enough that our elbows weren’t in total conflict, a sometimes-difficult task with a 40 footer that also includes two double cabins.

This Centurion takes advantage of much that has been learned in design over the last several years with a low center of gravity keel, sharp forward waterlines and a long sailing length. Although not as light as a pure racer, nor having proportionally as much sail area, the Centurion has better power to weight ratio than many similar boats. With a waterline length listed at 36’6″ , the 40s has a long sailing length for a 40’6″ foot overall length which should result in a higher speed than shorter boats in “hull speed” conditions such as beating upwind and jib reaching. At 16,755 pounds and with this long waterline, this Centurion 40s is proportionally lighter than other racer cruisers although still no ultra-light. Ballast makes up 36 percent of this displacement and the low center of gravity bulb type keel helps keep this boat on its feet when the breeze is up. Performance is great, particularly considering the cruising aspects of this boat.

On deck separate primary and secondary Andersen winches, along with a pair of cabin top halyard winches, simplify mark roundings compared to layouts that share a single sheet winch per side. Halyards and reef lines run under deck from just behind the mast to Antal stoppers by the winches at the forward end of the cockpit on either side of companionway. In a bid to contain clutter, there is a bin under the cockpit sole for halyard tails just aft of the companionway.

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The mainsheet with 6:1 block and tackle course tune and an additional fine tune for 36:1 purchase is plenty of power for the low aspect, moderately roached mainsail. The traveler is mounted at level of cockpit seats, which keeps the mainsheet high enough that it’s less likely to foul the wheel if not tended during a jibe, but does impede traffic flow compared to mounting the traveler on the sole.

The cockpit sole and seats are teak, which feels great under bare feet and has good nonskid properties yet is heavy. Perhaps keeping performance more in mind, the larger areas of the side decks and cabin house have molded-in non-skid which is much lighter. A substantial teak toe rail surrounds the deck, broken only by oversize mooring cleats forward, midships, and aft with the stainless steel lifeline stanchions set just inboard. Although providing great footing, the toe rail on the test boat, as well as the midship cleat, were uncomfortable for hiking. Wauquiez can install lower toe rails at the factory while under construction. Additional stainless steel hand rails on the cabin house increase access between cockpit and mast in rough conditions.

Our test boat was equipped with a roller-furler set well above the deck where a racer will want a removable unit mounted as low as possible. This jib fit the tracks well but the forward end of the tracks look like they stop short of where most sailmakers would like to see leads for a racing blade jib, all easily remedied with a longer track. Forward, the anchor windlass is below deck in the large anchor locker, which keeps it out of the way for sail handling.

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Aft there’s a swim step and boarding ladder that would see plenty of use cruising or could be handy for a swim during those hot postponements on a windless summer day, or can aid man overboard recovery.

Below decks, the 40s has two double cabins, a large main cabin, a large L-shaped galley and head with separate shower stall. There is a wet locker behind the shower stall for foul weather gear. Each of the double cabins has a large berth, hanging locker and storage shelves. Teak is used throughout combined with white overhead and hull lining and color added with the upholstery. The finish quality is good, not only in the visible areas, but also with the inside of lockers finished, edges of wood panels and undersides of cabin soles sealed and with little extra details such as low amperage courtesy lighting to light the sole when coming down below at night.

The Centurion’s main cabin feels big and open, lit with long fixed cabin ports that also have shades when the sun becomes too bright. Two opening ports are inset in the fixed port, one each above the galley and navigation station. Two other opening ports in the cockpit and eight deck hatches open for ventilation in calm weather or at anchor. Not found in many boats, streamlined styled dorade boxes located above the galley also provide additional all-weather ventilation.

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Navigation station is comfortable, can also serve as a desk, and at the same time integrates well into the social area of the boat. A good part of the instrument mounting area above the chart table is angled to face the companionway hatch so that a radar or chart plotter could be seen with a quick glance below as well as when seated at the chart table.

The counter area in the galley faces the dinette in the main cabin so the chef is part of conversation. A double stainless steel sink mounted under the synthetic marble counter can be covered with a custom cutting board and there is an attractive backsplash that should save the chef from unintentionally intruding on those in the dinette. Also in the galley are a 2-burner gas stove with oven, dish storage lockers and a trash container under the sink. A top loading freezer bin is located under the counter forward of the stove and a refrigerator similar to a small household model is mounted under the counter aft of the stove behind a teak cabinet door. This mass-produced unit looks like it could easily be replaced when it reaches end of useful life rather than requiring expensive repairs. Showing French heritage, this boat has storage for a case of wine with half in the galley and half inside the cabin table.

“The Centurion’s main cabin feels big and open,” says judge Alan Andrews. There’s also storage for a case of wine in the galley and under the cabin table. Walter Cooper

The Centurion’s mechanical and electrical systems look good with easier access than most. The boat powered quite well with the 56 hp diesel. Engine access is under the hinge-up ladder and through access hatches in aft cabin and head. Fuel filters can be changed, engine oil checked and raw water strainer cleared, all without becoming a major ordeal. The electrical panel, in the navigation station, has drop-down access for adding equipment or trouble-shooting with all wiring neatly bundled Battery switches are located nearby, just under the navigator’s seat where they can’t be bumped by passing traffic.

Hull and deck construction are fiberglass sandwiching balsa core, with the hull using vinylester resin for osmosis resistance in the outside skins. Compared to solid glass, sandwich construction weighs substantially less for laminates of equal strength or stiffness. The Centurion also has a molded grid structure supporting the keel, shrouds and other high load areas. As with most European built boats, this Wauquiez has CE certification.

Buyers looking towards club racing will want to order this boat with the deep keel for best upwind performance, rod rigging, longer jib tracks, the factory lowered toe rail and without the oversized cleats in the hiking areas and removable bow roller. They may also want to add a deck mounted retractable sprit for racing with an asymmetrical, or a conventional spinnaker pole if that is favored by their local PHRF committee. At $235,000 the Wauquiez Centurion 40s is a great value, combining a terrific teak interior, substantial electrical and mechanical systems, a pleasing layout and good sailing performance. I’ll bet the Centurion 40s wins a few club races this season.

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