For SW’s complete 2008 Boat of the Year coverage, click here.
There are some purchases that defy rationale. The Bugatti Veyron Roadster, at a cool $1.2 million is a fine example, an arresting piece of engineering with a whopping amount of horsepower. Those buying such objets d’art are typically blessed with two things: cash (a lot of it), and an appreciation for things that fuse mechanical and artistic perfection.
Such connoisseurs might look at Maxi Dolphin’s CrossCurrent 33 and say, “Ah, that’s precisely what I’m looking for in a daysailer,” and not even blink as they hand over $350,000 to their broker-this is before sails, electronics, and other luxuries. Production built in Italy by Maxi Dolphin, a company that specializes in large, one-off yachts of rare beauty, and clean, simple lines, the CrossCurrent 33-price not withstanding-is an absolute pleasure to sail. Yes, for the connoisseur, this stylish 33-footer really is the perfect-fit daysailer.
We first saw the boat dockside at the U.S. Sailboat Show in Annapolis last fall, where the show’s tire kickers were in full bay, oohing an ahhing at the looks and the price, and moving on down the dock to look at the Go Anywhere/Do Anything 35s. The few who lingered, and made appointments for test sails, were truly in the market for something unique. Our lucky group of Boat of the Year judges didn’t have to suffer the tribulations of pre-qualification by the dealers; we knew we’d be sailing the boat soon, and couldn’t wait.
Maxi Dolphin builds the 33 with vacuum-laminated epoxy and E-glass, and applies carbon reinforcements at mast, keel, and chain plate areas. The fit and finish, definitely modern, is impeccable. The carbon keel fin carries a 1,500-pound torpedo bulb, itself encased in carbon. Thanks to its minimalist interior, the boat displaces a mere 4,600 pounds, which makes light-air sailing a true joy.
On deck, Maxi Dolphin went for teak, which blends well with the metallic gray paint on the boat we sailed, and to keep maintenance low it’s treated with a proprietary “Teak Wonder System,” which is a silicone impregnation that helps teak decking go longer between refinishings.
To maintain its sleek appearance, and to minimize the necessity for excessive crew, control lines lead under the gently rounded deckhouse to banks of jammers inset on either side of the companionway. A carbon-fiber retractable sprit, controlled from those same banks of jammers, extends from the starboard bow when deployed. The roominess and ergonomics of the cockpit can’t be overstressed; with five of us in the cockpit for our test sail, the CC 33 was incredibly easy and comfortable to sail.
Of particular note is the Hall Spars EZV boom, a V-shaped carbon boom with a Nomex honeycomb core. The boom accommodates the entire full-battened mainsail, allowing for quick flaking and storage, and a neat package that’s easy to zip a sail cover over. The boat is also fitted with a two-spreader Hall carbon mast.
We sailed the boat off Annapolis last October as part of our Boat of the Year testing, with BOTY judges Alan Andrews, Chuck Allen, and Barrett Holby. Our first test was of the boat’s handling and speed under power. There’s a 21-horsepower Yanmar 3YM20C diesel attached to a saildrive unit that powers the boat at close to 10 knots. The engine is smooth and quiet, with good access to get at the filter and check its fluids. A Vetus exhaust box and carbon exhaust tube with stern in-water exit, and engine room sound insulation provide quiet operation. Handling under power is superb, which is exactly what we expected from a well-designed underbody with a high-aspect keel and rudder. The boat turns well within its own length when the tiller is hard over.
We sailed the boat in 4 to 8 knots of breeze, and the grins never faded as we sailed both upwind and down. “When a puff hits, the boat just takes off, it felt more like a raceboat,” says Allen. It’s much more than a daysailer, it’s more like a dayracer, a showpiece, or mooring candy that belongs on the deck of a 200-foot powerboat.”
The workmanship is exquisite,” says Andrews. “But there are some underlying issues, the headstay, for example. There’s no way to control forestay tension when the boat is sailing. We saw huge changes in headstay sag, and since the boat only sails with one jib, it makes it tough for that one sail to cover the whole [wind] range.”
A retrofitted adjustable backstay was discussed by the judges, and according to the manufacturer’s U.S. rep, the Hall mast comes standard with a Gibb T-style tang for an optional backstay. From his experience with the boat, however, he says a backstay is something only a very ramped up racing program would bother with. Regardless, the judges all agreed that some means of tensioning the forestay would greatly improve the boat’s capabilities.
Holby, who had sailed against the CrossCurrent 33 during last summer’s beer can races in Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay, says, “The boat has no problem sailing upwind in a variety of conditions. They’ve been out there in blows, and when it had a good crew on board, they do pretty well. It gets around the course OK despite the headstay issue. The boat felt very responsive, was great to sail, and once the breeze kicked up an extra knot or so, it really got up and went.”
Another issue is the Porta Potti, which is crammed down below. Due to space and weight considerations, it’s hidden under the aft end of the V-berth, and there’s only two feet of headroom above it. “Anyone sitting there will have to have their head down on their chest while trying to use it,” says Andrews.
While the V-berth is ample, the lack of ventilation and headroom keeps its utility to afternoon naps rather than weekend cruising. But that’s the whole point to the boat, from the Waeco Coolfreeze 10-gallon portable refrigerator kept under the cockpit sole, to the V-berth and side bunks covered with comfortable Leathertouch marine-grade fabric, to the clear-coated carbon composite floorboards, trim, and companionway, this boat is all about high-end comfort and style. The interior lighting is long-life, low-power LED, and there are even two flush-mounted LED keel lights, as well as two more LED lights mounted on the underside of the EZV boom. This is a luxury dayracer with no sacrifices made for sailors looking for boats that can do many different things. “It’s for the guy with a big yacht or a house, for Tuesday nights, having fun, and owning a very cool boat,” says Holby. “I loved the way the boat sailed,” says Allen. “It was wicked responsive to weight, which is good. And the cockpit is incredibly comfortable.”