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IMX 40, High-Performance Racer/Cruiser

Boat Review

August 29, 2002
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Peter Mcgowan

After we announced our 2002 Boat of the Year winners, we got a letter from a reader overseas suggesting that our judging panel must be biased because its all-American members failed to select the Danish-built IMX 40. We replied that the boat had been unavailable at the time, but that we were looking forward to an upcoming test. So, on a blustery spring day with a northwesterly blowing 15 to 25 knots, we took Udo Schroff’s IMX 40, Amadeus, for a workout on Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay.

This is the fourth Niels Jeppesen-designed X-Yacht we’ve sailed in the past few years. Based on those experiences and the design brief that called for an “IMS cruiser/racer,” we thought we had a handle on what to expect. We figured it would have the galvanized steel grid support glassed into all X-Yachts, which makes them strong and stiff–check. A fast hull form–check again. And a boat that leaned toward cruising–wrong! Instead, we found a boat designed and outfitted to race, right out of the box.

From the dock, the first thing we noticed was the IMX 40’s 4.5-foot freeboard. The bow is nearly plumb, the entry fine, and the knuckle sits just out of the water. The cabin top is low and unobtrusive, partly because of the high freeboard. The carbon spars are built by Nordic and painted white, and there’s discontinuous rod rigging and three swept-back spreaders on the runnerless fractional rig.

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For the benefit of the hiking crew, there’s a nicely rounded hull-deck joint and the toe rails run no farther aft than the chainplates. The stern is open to the 66-inch carbon-fiber wheel, and a transom locker can be installed for cruising storage and seating, or left behind as a dock box when racing. The 40 comes with Spectra running rigging, hydraulic mast jack, and a choice of Frederiksen or Harken hardware, but the cruising stuff like the transom locker is extra.

An underdeck split-mainsheet system leads just forward of the wheel. There’s an ingenious and effective internal backstay system: a 4-to-1 cascade leads below deck to a 15-to-1 drum that provides 60-to-1 power with a single control line emerging on deck on a swivel cam in front of the wheel–a good position for the main trimmer to reach.

With a crew of five onboard we fired up the three-cylinder Volvo diesel to motor out from the East Greenwich YC before hoisting a full main and blade. The optional roller furler was still attached, making the headstay tension slightly soft, but nontheless, we sped upwind at 7.5 knots. The boat is stiff and was barely affected by the wind-driven chop. The high freeboard kept the leeward rail out of the water even though we were sailing with 20 degrees of heel. With a full race crew on the rail and proper headstay tension, this boat would be a rocket in anything over 10 knots.

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We bore off and popped the 1,308-sq. ft. symmetric chute. Shorthanded, and with the wind oscillating in 25-degree shifts, we were mindful of broaching, but the boat drove down easily enough and we exceeded 10 knots with little effort. Later, as we sailed upwind again, we rounded up a few times and we recalled experiences with other Jeppesen-designed rudders stalling in similar conditions. “The rudder sections we’re using are relatively sharp on the leading edge,” says Jeppesen, “which minimizes resistance but requires attentive trimmers.”

The sightlines on the boat are excellent and the wheel height was good for my 5’10″ size. The footchocks were well placed, and the helm sensitive–it’s an easy boat to keep in the groove.

The boat’s base price is $240,000, without sails and electronics, and Schroff told us $300,000 is a realistic sail-away cost. For this price, you also get a varnished mahogany cabin with recessed lighting. There’s a 3-foot chart table to port and a full galley, including refrigeration, to starboard. The folding table can be removed for racing, and while this boat doesn’t have the cruising interior we’ve seen on other X-Yachts models, the Danish craftsmanship is still very much in evidence. Forward there’s a V-berth with plenty of locker space and an adjoining head. Aft are equal-sized molded-in quarter berths, each with an adjacent hanging locker and a pair of removable pipe berths.

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Initially introduced in Europe in 2000, the IMX 40 has been a success for the builder, with close to 100 boats built, and also for European owners who are winning in IMS 600 fleets (the IMX 40’s GPH is 598.9–the PHRF rating is 42). At the 2002 IMS Worlds in Capri, Italy, 14 IMX 40s competed in the B division.

Because the IMX 40 missed the 2002 Boat of the Year competition we asked BOTY judge and sailmaker Chuck Allen, who sailed the boat in the 2001 Newport Gold Regatta for a synopsis. “What I liked best is that it’s simple,” said Allen. “Headstay tension is critical, but even this has a simple turnbuckle that can be adjusted between races. With this boat’s speed it’ll be pitted against bigger boats, which it can outmaneuver.”

Schroff says two things stand out about the IMX 40: “The topmast is unusually stiff for a fractionally rigged boat. It allows you to get greater headstay tension, which helps in a breeze. The waterline beam is relatively narrow and wetted surface is lower than boats of similar size.”

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My assessment of the IMX 40 is that despite the design brief it’s much more raceboat than cruiser, yet is still comfortable enough to cruise on and big enough to go offshore. It’s Vinylester resin and E-glass construction over Divynicell foam core added to the aforementioned grid system make it stiff and as our heavy-air test sail showed, it has good stability. We never got to see how well the 150-percent headsail would drive the 15,051-pounds of displacement through the water in light air, but Schroff says the boat performs best in 10 to 12 knots. In keeping with the boat’s racing audience, I’d lose the refrigeration, but there isn’t much else I’d change. In the right hands, whether your shorthanded for a weekend trip or racing in a blow, it’ll get you where you’re going quickly.

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