The IMX-45, A Refined Racer

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"I wouldn't buy a boat that I didn't think we could win with," says Richie Shulman, who bought a new IMX-45 last year, won his class at Block Island Race Week, and was the overall winner of the Marblehead Halifax Ocean Race. "I looked at everything before I decided on the IMX-45," he says. Shulman is picky because he's used to winning, and he's used to cruising in comfort, having campaigned and cruised a Swan 44 and 51. Want a stamp of approval for a racer/cruiser? Shulman's buying decision, backed up by two impressive wins, should do.

"You can tell that the guys who designed this boat are actually sailors," said Shulman as we motored out of Newport Harbor (R.I.) last fall for our test sail. "Nothing's fancy, just put together in a clever way." Clever is right; features such as the molded-in nonskid on the decks, toe rails only on the foredeck to allow for a hard-hiking crew, and adjustable foot braces for the main trimmer and the helmsman, all show that X-Yachts knows that details make a superior boat.

As with all X-Yachts, the IMX-45 has as its backbone an H-frame assembly of galvanized steel girders, glassed into the hull and tying the keel, hull, and mast together. The structure is strong enough to also anchor the single lifting point for the entire boat, which means the IMX-45-all 20,000 pounds of it-can be lifted by a polyester strap, led through a small access hatch in the cabintop. Few boats this size can boast this feature. The hull is a vinylester resin sandwich with biaxial and unidirectional E-glass and a Divinycell foam core, except around the H-frame and the rudder stock, where the laminate is solid glass. Molded into the topsides are the three X-Yacht trademark stripes as well as a marking line to indicate exactly where the bottom paint ends and the topsides begin.

The top of the keel is cast iron, fully encapsulated in fiberglass; the bottom is lead, also sealed. X-Yachts fairs both the keel and rudder to the original templates, and the keel/hull joint is recessed into the hull, glassed, and faired. This is all grand-prix raceboat stuff, and one of the reasons why the IMX-45 does so well around the buoys. To measure well in IMS, some of the weight in the standard IMX-45 is mounted above the keel, but Temptress is a little different. "I wanted to cruise," said Shulman, "so I asked them to put the lead in the keel."

The rudder stock is crafted from a solid block of aluminum and features three tabs that are laminated into one half of the two-piece fiberglass/Divinycell rudder. Both the keel and the rudder are race foils, and as such, less forgiving than a standard cruising keel and rudder arrangement. "The short chord of the rudder and keel means no lift until the speed comes up," says Shulman. "It takes a while to get used to." At speed, however, the steering on the 45 is the nicest we've tried in a long time. Two fingers on the large carbon-fiber wheel were enough to guide the boat along in 10 to 12 knots of breeze.

Designed with a fine bow, medium displacement, and a relatively wide beam, the IMX-45 sails well to weather, especially when handled by a skilled helmsman. "The boat feels good going upwind at speed," says Shulman. "It bangs less than any modern IMS boat, but since the entry is so fine, the bow can get pushed around a little." To sail the boat at full potential, you need to have a good main trimmer who is always working the traveler, mainsheet, and backstay." Unlike other IMX-45s, Temptress is rigged with an asymmetric spinnaker, which has worked well for the Temptress crew. "The A-sail is faster overall and we can sail as deep as S-sail boats," says Shulman. "But you do lose a little in the jibe because the sail has to fully collapse."

The IMX-45 looks like a performance cruiser, but the infrastructure is solidly race-oriented. The mast and boom are carbon, as is the gooseneck, and the shrouds are discontinuous rod. The running rigging is Spectra, and all the halyards are partially stripped of covers for weight reduction. Six Harken winches line the cockpit, all ergonomically placed. The backstay is controlled by a Frederiksen Power Ratio Magic Wheel mounted belowdecks, which gives the main trimmer a power ratio anywhere between 1-to-32 and 1-to-100 when adjusted at the pivoting cam cleat mounted on the steering pedestal. The vang, cunningham, and outhaul are the pitman's responsibilities, with these control lines, halyards, and topping lift all led via the top of the coach roof to the pit. The mainsheet, with blocks mounted at the very aft end of the boom for better purchase, runs belowdecks to the trimmer's position.

The interior space belies the IMX-45's racy attributes. It's roomy, feels comfortable, and is put together like a cabinetmaker's dream. The overhead is a solid sheet of fiberglass; all deck-mounted hardware is installed from above into steel plates with tapped screwholes. The main cabin has the nav station to port and a J-shaped galley to starboard. The nav station is far enough away from the companionway to stay dry and sports a drop-down panel designed to hold an opened laptop securely. The electrical panel is top shelf; easy to get at and as cleanly put together as you're likely to see. The engine is accessed by removing the companionway stairs and access panels in each aft cabin. In the two-cabin version, there's a head aft of the nav station, perfect for wet foul weather gear, and a huge cockpit locker aft of that. In the three-cabin layout, there are two cabins aft, each with a double berth and a pipe berth. Both models have a large V-berth cabin forward, with a head to starboard. In the saloon are two bench seats and a table with removable leaves. Sail stowage during racing should be adequate, although you'll want to cover up the more vulnerable pieces of furniture with some type of protective sheathing. Don't worry about the floorboards; they look like teak with holly inlay, but are actually durable plastic.

As with Temptress, the IMX-45 can be modified by the factory during the build. There are a variety of interior features, keel and rudder setups, and rigging changes, all which can be made per an owner's specifications. Shulman used input from European owners who'd been sailing 45s for a year, his sailmakers, and his knowledge of what makes a production raceboat go to turn Temptress into a top-level competitor, but it's clear that even without those changes, the IMX-45 is a refined racer.

Specs:
LOA 45'1"
Beam 13'7"
Draft 9'
DSPL 20,062 lbs.
SA 1,383 sq. ft. (135-percent genoa)
Price $575,000
www.x-yachts.com