A 1995 Niels Jeppesen design, with an established race record in Europe, that is starting to catch on in the US.

There’s comfort in buying a proven model from a reputable builder. But at the same time, how do you find something different that your friends haven’t seen before? One way is to look overseas, perhaps to Denmark’s X-Yachts.

For example, X-Yachts’ X-332 is a cruiser/racer with an established race record in Europe. It’s a 1995 Niels Jeppesen design, and 300 have been built to date. It’s been successful under a variety of rating systems, winning the Italian IMS championship and the Channel Handicap System division in the French Spi Quest. And of all the boats Jeppesen has designed, he chooses to own and race a 332. Yet strangely, none have made it to the United States, until now. In November, we test sailed Steve Longo’s new 332 Phoenix out of Stamford, Conn., on a sunny Sunday afternoon in a dying northerly.

Before setting off, we sized up the boat dockside, noticing the generous freeboard and high cabin house, which extends prominently toward the bow, resulting in very little foredeck area. Later we’d discover the reason for this is to give the boat interior volume and 6 feet of stand-up headroom in the forward cabin. The boat bobbed more eagerly than its dockside companions, giving us the impression of a slightly skittish light-displacement boat that would lay over in a breeze. Our first impressions were wrong.

The cockpit is big enough for five or six adults. On our test boat, the wheel, which is an option, was set well aft. Bisecting the cockpit in front of the wheel is the mainsheet traveler. It spanned the cockpit at thwart level, requiring the helmsman to step over it to get to the wheel. This layout befits the use of a tiller. The area has ample sail and storage lockers and a simple 16-to-1 backstay adjuster. The cockpit sole runs forward to X-Yachts standard companionway design--extending in a step from the after end of the cabin house. This design puts you in the cockpit, instead of having to balance on the top step of the companionway ladder, when managing “pit” functions.

Descending into the main cabin, you’re surrounded by teak. A double sink, icebox, double settees, folding table with seating for six, and three-burner stove with oven, enhance the “I could live on this boat” feeling. There are drawers and hanging lockers, but the biggest interior surprise was the separate cabins forward and aft. On a 33-foot boat with standup headroom, we didn’t expect to see private double cabins and a separate, fully enclosed head to starboard.

As we motored out of Stamford into Long Island Sound, Longo described how he’d discovered X-Yachts. “I sailed on some bigger X-Yachts and was always impressed with the stiff construction,” he said, referring to the hot-galvanized steel frame that’s glassed into the hull. X-Yachts has been successfully reinforcing their boats this way for 20 years. An eye in the frame serves as a central lifting point. “The one thing that really stood out about those X-Yachts,” said Longo, “was when it got windy, they didn’t heel excessively but stiffened up and went.”

Soon, we hoisted the Dacron delivery sails to find out for ourselves how the boat sailed. With six crew sitting on the rail in the cold, 12-knot breeze, the boat heeled about 15 degrees. It tracked with just one hand on the wheel. We were prepared for more heel, but apparently the 332’s dockside dance had more to do with its light displacement than its righting moment.

The speed hovered in the 6-knot range upwind, and downwind we pushed 7 knots with the spinnaker up. The handling was excellent but not perfect--during a beat, we twice got a puff that caused the boat to momentarily round up, stalling the rudder. The high-aspect rudder helps the boat sail to weather well, but we were surprised that it stalled in average conditions. An attentive mainsheet trimmer would be valuable in puffy conditions. The X-332 points well and, with only a 9,600-pound displacement, accelerates out of a tack quickly. The conditions didn’t allow us to discover if the boat could surf downwind. With a PHRF rating of 120 seconds/mile, this boat will be tough to beat in B-fleet club racing.

One unusual feature we liked was the jib track with its adjustable cars. Instead of mounting the track on the flat deck, X-Yachts marries the cabin house and the deck with an angled rise that moves the tracks inboard just enough to give an unobstructed walkway. Longo upgraded the boat’s base package of $115,000 with what X-Yachts refers to as their “Prestige Package.” This upgrade added Anderson 40ST winches, North sails, Raytheon electronics, a Fancor roller furler, and some interior improvements, such as teak cabinets and handholds, for a sail-away, race-ready cost of $130,000. A buyer could save money by sticking with the standard tiller.

We give this boat a thumbs up as a well-built, well-equipped cruiser/racer. With two private cabins, you could cruise it comfortably, and judging its performance overseas, you could surprise your competition on the racecourse, too.