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Retro revival: The best modern classic yachts

The massive modern classic Nero stretches more than 90 metres in length. Built in China by Corsair Yachts , her owner was inspired by J.P. Morgan's Corsair yachts from the 1930s. An apt replica, she resembles a small, classic cruise liner – with a smoke stack included.

Accommodating 12 guests, Nero is one of the most expensive charter yachts . Superyacht Nero is available for charter in the Mediterranean and the Caribbean , with a talented chef on board who has received some bizarre requests in his time.

More about this yacht

Yachts for charter.

She may look like she was born in a different era, but the 48.7 metre yacht Clarity was launched by Turkish yard Bilgin Yachts as recently as 2015. Styled in-house, this modern classic was based on a simple but ambitious premise: to build a yacht with a design that will last forever.

Her full-displacement hull has a bilge keel and bulbous bow for all-ocean seakeeping, while modest 707hp Caterpillar engines yield a serene cruising speed of around 10 knots befitting of Clarity ’s graceful appearance.

Photo: Eray Altay

The 38.8 metre Truly Classic  Atalante  was launched by Claasen in 2015 and combines retro good looks and modern performance . She features design from renowned modern classic designer Andre Hoek , who takes his inspiration from famous designers of old, such as William Fife , Charles Nicholson and Nathanael Herreshoff .

Atalante was built for the owner of a 27.5 metre Truly Classic of the same name, who enjoyed the smaller version so much that he ordered a larger, faster version.

“ Atalante represents the best of both worlds," said Hoek. "She performs like a modern thoroughbred and blends this with the timeless appeal of a classic yacht.”

The 28.9 metre Ardis II was built by De Cesari for superyacht and jewellery house owner Carlo Traglio . The mahogany motor yacht can often be seen moored in Porto Cervo, Sardinia .

Traglio spent much of his childhood on the classic 50 metre schooner Xarifa , before owning the  Perini Navi 80 yacht  Malizia . His experience of classic yachts acted as inspiration for building Ardis II , which can accommodate up to eight guests in four cabins. She is fitted with modern MTU diesel engines and is capable of 25 knots.

Launched in 2015 by Rossinavi , the 40 metre motor yacht Taransay was built to replicate yachts of the early 1930s . Taransay's owner is said to have been inspired to build a modern classic yacht after chartering the real classic Ocean Glory , launched in 1935.

Rossinavi married Taransay 's classic styling with modern propulsion – two Caterpillar C18 Acert engines deliver a top speed of 14 knots, and she has a range of 3,500 nautical miles at 10 knots. She also has spacious interiors and deck spaces thanks to a roomy 7.6 metre beam.

Eleonora E is an exact replica of the schooner Westward and an excellent example of a modern classic paying tribute to the original. She was built at the GraafShip yard in the Netherlands and was launched in March 2000. Since then, Eleonora E  — currently available for charter  — has successfully participated in a number of classic sailing regattas.

The 46 metre Sycara IV was a show-stopper when she was launched by Burger in 2009, displaying the US builder's diversity as it waded into retro yacht waters. With exteriors by Bruce King and interiors by Ken Freivokh and Craig Beale , the fantail stern yacht makes you do a double take as she could easily fit in alongside classic Trumpys .

But this modern classic has a shallow draft and was designed for cruising the Bahamas and the Great Lakes in style. Sycara IV  has modern touches with a spacious on-deck master stateroom, telescoping bowsprit and corrosion resistant aluminium hull.

Tempus Fugit

This modern classic yacht is a head turner on the racecourse, blending speed and style thanks to her highly varnished wooden hull. The 27.43 metre Tempus Fugit , from Arkin Pruva , was designed by Rob Humphreys to pay homage to J Class yachts , but she is beamier, offering more comfortable living accommodations below and in the cockpit during races.

And race she does —  Tempus Fugit was a surprise contender at regattas when she came onto the scene, holding her own against classic yachts and modern carbon crafts as well.

The beautiful, modern classic ketch Elfje is owned by philanthropist Wendy Schmidt . Schmidt had a very hands-on role in designing Elfje with Hoek Naval Architects and is proud of its environmental credentials, from its racing design to sustainable materials. Expect to hear a lot more about Elfje , a sailing superyacht of the ages , as she's been busy on the racecourse since her launch.

The 90 metre Athena , built by Royal Huisman , is inspired by classic schooner yachts, but has a modern twist. This modernity is appreciated in Athena's sail plan and rig, which benefits from in-mast and in-boom furling.

The three-masted schooner Athena flies some 2,500 square metres of sail, which can be set and stowed at just a press of a button(s) thanks to the 55 Rondal captive winches on board.

The iconic Athena's imposing size is well divided by her designer Pieter Beeldsnijder , who broke up massive interior spaces into welcoming living areas.

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Cruising World Logo

40 Best Sailboats

  • By Cruising World Editors
  • Updated: May 24, 2024

the 40 best sailboats

Sailors are certainly passionate about their boats, and if you doubt that bold statement, try posting an article dubbed “ 40 Best Sailboats ” and see what happens.

Barely had the list gone live, when one reader responded, “Where do I begin? So many glaring omissions!” Like scores of others, he listed a number of sailboats and brands that we were too stupid to think of, but unlike some, he did sign off on a somewhat upbeat note: “If it weren’t for the presence of the Bermuda 40 in Cruising World’s list, I wouldn’t even have bothered to vote.”

By vote, he means that he, like hundreds of other readers, took the time to click through to an accompanying page where we asked you to help us reshuffle our alphabetical listing of noteworthy production sailboats so that we could rank them instead by popularity. So we ask you to keep in mind that this list of the best sailboats was created by our readers.

The quest to building this list all began with such a simple question, one that’s probably been posed at one time or another in any bar where sailors meet to raise a glass or two: If you had to pick, what’re the best sailboats ever built?

In no time, a dozen or more from a variety of sailboat manufacturers were on the table and the debate was on. And so, having fun with it, we decided to put the same question to a handful of CW ‘s friends: writers and sailors and designers and builders whose opinions we value. Their favorites poured in and soon an inkling of a list began to take shape. To corral things a bit and avoid going all the way back to Joshua Slocum and his venerable Spray —Hell, to Noah and his infamous Ark —we decided to focus our concentration on production monohull sailboats, which literally opened up the sport to anyone who wanted to get out on the water. And since CW is on the verge or turning 40, we decided that would be a nice round number at which to draw the line and usher in our coming ruby anniversary.

If you enjoy scrolling through this list, which includes all types of sailboats, then perhaps you would also be interested in browsing our list of the Best Cruising Sailboats . Check it out and, of course, feel free to add your favorite boat, too. Here at Cruising World , we like nothing better than talking about boats, and it turns out, so do you.

– LEARN THE NAVIGATION RULES – Know the “Rules of the Road” that govern all boat traffic. Be courteous and never assume other boaters can see you. Safety Tip Provided by the U.S. Coast Guard

moore 24 sailboat

40. Moore 24

pearson vanguard sailboat

39. Pearson Vanguard

dufour arpege 30 sailboat

38. Dufour Arpege 30

Alerion Express 28

37. Alerion Express 28

Mason 43/44 sailboat

36. Mason 43/44

jeanneau sun odyssey 43ds sailboat

35. Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 43DS

nor'sea 27 sailboat

34. Nor’Sea 27

freedom 40 sailboat

33. Freedom 40

beneteau sense 50 sailboat

32. Beneteau Sense 50

nonsuch 30 sailboat

31. Nonsuch 30

swan 44 sailboat

30. Swan 44

C&C landfall 38 sailboat

29. C&C Landfall 38

gulfstar 50 sailboat

28. Gulfstar 50

sabre 36 sailboat

27. Sabre 36

pearson triton sailboat

26. Pearson Triton

– CHECK THE FIT – Follow these guidelines to make sure your life jacket looks good, stays comfortable and works when you need it. Safety Tip Provided by the U.S. Coast Guard

islander 36 sailboat

25. Islander 36

gozzard 36 sailboat

24. Gozzard 36

bristol 40 sailboat

23. Bristol 40

tartan 34 sailboat

22. Tartan 34

morgan out island 41 sailboat

21. Morgan Out Island 41

hylas 49 sailboat

20. Hylas 49

contessa 26 sailboat

19. Contessa 26

Whitby 42 sailboat

18. Whitby 42

Columbia 50 sailboat

17. Columbia 50

morris 36 sailboat

16. Morris 36

hunter 356 sailboat

15. Hunter 356

cal 40 sailboat

13. Beneteau 423

westsail 32 sailboat

12. Westsail 32

CSY 44 sailboat

– CHECK THE WEATHER – The weather changes all the time. Always check the forecast and prepare for the worst case. Safety Tip Provided by the U.S. Coast Guard

Alberg 30 sailboat

10. Alberg 30

island packet 38 sailboat

9. Island Packet 38

passport 40 sailboat

8. Passport 40

tayana 37 sailboat

7. Tayana 37

peterson 44 sailboat

6. Peterson 44

pacific seacraft 37 sailboat

5. Pacific Seacraft 37

hallberg-rassy 42 sailboat

4. Hallberg-Rassy 42

catalina 30 sailboat

3. Catalina 30

hinckley bermuda 40 sailboat

2. Hinckley Bermuda 40

valiant 40 sailboat

1. Valiant 40

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Linjett 36 rendering

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Windelo 54 on the water

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Block Island harbor, Rhode Island

Block Island Voted 2024 Best Harbor in the U.S.

Team Malolo wins R2AK2024

First All-Canadian Team Wins the 8th Race to Alaska

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modern classic sailboat

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Modern classic.

modern classic sailboat

Sailing Simplicity at its Finest

Long time single handed sailors love the M36 because within 5 minutes they can be off the dock and sailing. Beginners are equally as enthralled because the M36 is simple to sail, simple to learn on and immediately rewarding with her straightforward sail handling and control lines that are lead under deck to electric winches at the helmsman’s fingertips. In addition, all instruments are intelligently arrayed to quickly provide all the information you need.

modern classic sailboat

More Than a Daysailer

Take her overnight! The elegantly appointed optional V-berth, standard fridge and enclosed head make her far more versatile than a mere daysailer. The M36 also has a deep, safe and comfortable cockpit which accommodates six adults allowing you to safely entertain your guests.

modern classic sailboat

Beautifully Appointed Interior

No detail inside her cabin is overlooked. Large safety glass windows and a huge foredeck hatch flood the interior with natural light. The Herreshoff style interior is finished elegantly with white bulkheads, solid cherry trim and marvelously varnished hull sheathing. Twin port and starboard settees are ergonomically designed for comfortable lounging (or sleeping), and well placed reading lights invite you to enjoy the morning paper or catch up on some afternoon reading. Generous storage can be found in the forepeak. An alternative layout converts the forepeak space into a beautiful and functional V-Berth for overnight stays.

modern classic sailboat

Remarkably Simple to Dock

The M36 does exactly what you tell her to do. She backs straight (no prop walk), turns on a dime and docks like a pro. In short, she maneuvers under power as responsively as she does under sail making her a pleasure to both sail and to bring back to port. Even the fenders are just a ‘clip’ away; pad eyes and stainless steel rub rails are placed on deck for ‘clip-on’ polar-fleece-covered fenders. What could be easier!

modern classic sailboat

Perfectly Engineered

At Morris Yachts we’re not just boat builders; we’re sailors and boat owners too. Perhaps this is the reason the M36 is so intuitively designed with the owner in mind. Often overlooked by other builders, access to the engine, through-hulls and electrical systems is superb.

modern classic sailboat

As with all sailing boats built by Morris Yachts, the M36 offers peace of mind. You are onboard one of the most seaworthy boats in the world. Setting the industry standard, Morris Yachts’ level of engineering, fit and finish sets the benchmark by which other builders measure themselves. Morris craftsmen and engineers demand only the finest equipment and use the most modern techniques and technology during the boat building process, proving that the beauty of a Morris is not only skin deep but integrated throughout all facets of the vessel.

modern classic sailboat

LOA36' 1"
LWL25' 0"
BEAM10' 1"
DRAFT5' 3"
DISPLACEMENT8900 lbs.
FUEL CAPACITY20 U.S. gallons
ENGINEYanmar 3YM20C x SD Saildrive unit, 3-cylinder, direct-injected, fresh water-cooled marine diesel engine, maximum 21 hp @ 3600 RPM.
CONSTRUCTIONCarbon-Epoxy & Kevlar™

Images and media on this page may represent optional equipment or previous specifications. Specifications and equipment are subject to change.

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WHY BUILD WITH SPIRIT YACHTS

“TWENTY YEARS FROM NOW YOU WILL BE MORE DISAPPOINTED BY THE THINGS YOU DIDN’T DO THAN BY THE ONES YOU DID. SO THROW OFF THE BOWLINES, SAIL AWAY FROM THE SAFE HARBOR. CATCH THE TRADE WINDS IN YOUR SAILS.” MARK TWAIN.

To create a Spirit yacht, is to craft something unique to be cherished and shared. As designs come to life on the page and sections of wood evolve into a hull, the evolution of a Spirit is a fascinating and enthralling process. It is a truly creative and collaborative process between the owner and the Spirit team.

Whether bringing to life a cruising yacht, a competitive racer or a powerful motor yacht, Spirit delivers on each and every client brief.

Inspire your imagination by exploring the online portfolio of Spirit projects, then contact the team to discuss your ideas.

“ONE CAN’T APPRECIATE THE SKILL AND CRAFTSMANSHIP THAT GOES INTO CREATING A SPIRIT UNTIL YOU SEE IT EVOLVING STEP BY STEP. THE PRIDE THAT EVERYBODY TAKES IN THE QUALITY OF THE FINISH IS IMPRESSIVE. ”

WORLD-RENOWNED WOODWORK

Spirit Yachts comprises an award-winning team of craftsmen and women who are committed to showcasing the beauty of wood. Whether its strong Mahogany Sipo ringframes, exposed Douglas fir hull planking or bespoke cabinetry pieces, a Spirit yacht celebrates the natural properties of sustainably-sourced timber.

BEAUTY STRENGTH WARMTH

WOOD IS AT THE HEART OF EVERY SPIRIT YACHT.

The hull construction of a Spirit begins with the laminating of wooden ring frames over full-size computer-generated patterns. The ring frames are positioned upside down onto a ‘strongback’ before the centreline structure is laminated as one continuous structure over the entire length of the hull.

No moulds are used in the construction process of a Spirit. The beam shelves are fitted before the whole assembly is bevelled and faired to take the first fore and aft layer of hull planking.

In the larger Spirits, the central frames are reinforced with carbon inner frames to take the load of the mast, chain plates and high-aspect lead keel below.

The hull planking is stiffened and reinforced by the application of double-diagonal veneers epoxy bonded at 45° before the whole hull is covered with an epoxy glass sheath.

This last phase is not structural but stabilises the timber to allow for the perfect hull paint finish for which Spirit is noted.

For the interior, exposed wooden frames and hull planking provide a natural warmth and beauty. Intricate joinery and exquisite cabinetmaking below deck showcase Spirit’s eye for detail and expertise.

STAY IN THE LOOP

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modern classic sailboat

Home Eagle 38

spec-image

11,77 m (38' 6")

spec-image

2,60 m (8' 6")

spec-image

Displacement

spec-image

1,85 meters or 1,25 meter (6' 1" or 4' 1")

As one can expect from Leonardo Yachts no compromises on beauty and elegance were made. The exterior truly captures the style and elegance of a Spirit of Tradition yacht. The 38 foot sailboat has a timeless appeal with elegant classic lines combined with ultra-modern deck hardware and a modern underwater body. The modern classic boat is designed as a true daysailer; the cockpit comfortably seats six people so family or friends can come along to enjoy a day on the water in style. At the same time the Eagle 38 can also easily be sailed single handed .

For ease of handling the jib winches are positioned within easy reach of the helmsman. Optionally the 38 can be equipped with electric powered jib winches. Combined with a powered captive mainsheet winch and electric halyard winch, this will make trimming and hoisting the sails of the 38 foot yacht as easy as pushing a button. The halyard winch is conveniently placed on the coach roof combined with the below deck mounted jib furler system ensuring hoisting or lowering your sails will never be a hassle.

The Eagle 38 is also built for performance. With its sleek design and state-of-the-art technology, this boat is sure to turn heads and provide a smooth and thrilling sailing experience.

modern classic sailboat

The interior is light and airy with plenty of daylight and warm LED lights. The varnished mahogany furniture and ceiling in alcantara give the 38 an elegant and luxurious feel. The interior of the 38 ft sailboat offers sleeping space for three people. To complete the comfort of a daysailer, a toilet is convenient and neatly built in out of sight in the cabin.

The Eagle 38 can be personalized in many ways. Hull color, color of the Permateek deck and caulking, different wood finishes for the interior and by making your personal choice for the interior and exterior cushion fabric, you can design the Eagle 38 to your personal preferences. Furthermore, there are performance upgrades possible as for example different race orientated sails like North Sails 3Di sails and a carbon mast. Please contact  us to explore all the possibilities.

See it for yourself

1,85 meters or 1,25 meters (6' 1" or 4' 1")

Mast height

13,80 meter above DWL

Construction

GRP vinylester

CE Category

C (shore- and coastal waters)

Hoek Design

Deck/hatches

Permateek with flush hatches

Self draining with Permateek flooring

Mahogany matt varnished

Volvo D1-13 12 hp sail drive or Oceanvolt SD8 electric

45 liters diesel

Fresh water

Waste water

Show all specs

In this insightful and independent video produced by the YouTube channel Aquaholics, you are treated to an in-depth exploration of the distinctive features and intricate details that define the Eagle 38.

Let us know who you are and download our brochure for free

Messing about in boats since 1975.  Online Since 1997.

Home   |  Intro   |  Our Design Process   |  Stock Design Info   |  Motor Yacht Designs   |  Sailing Yacht Designs   |  Prototype Designs Plans List   |  Articles   |  Our CAD Design Stream   |  Maxsurf   |  News..!   |  SITE MAP..!   |  Site Search   | Design Team   |  Contact Us Please see the  AVAILABLE BOAT PLANS web page

   

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43 of the best bluewater sailboat designs of all time

Yachting World

  • January 5, 2022

How do you choose the right yacht for you? We highlight the very best bluewater sailboat designs for every type of cruising

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Which yacht is the best for bluewater boating? This question generates even more debate among sailors than questions about what’s the coolest yacht , or the best for racing. Whereas racing designs are measured against each other, cruising sailors get very limited opportunities to experience different yachts in real oceangoing conditions, so what is the best bluewater sailboat?

Here, we bring you our top choices from decades of designs and launches. Over the years, the Yachting World team has sailed these boats, tested them or judged them for European Yacht of the Year awards, and we have sifted through the many to curate a selection that we believe should be on your wishlist.

Making the right choice may come down to how you foresee your yacht being used after it has crossed an ocean or completed a passage: will you be living at anchor or cruising along the coast? If so, your guiding requirements will be space, cabin size, ease of launching a tender and anchoring closer to shore, and whether it can comfortably accommodate non-expert-sailor guests.

Article continues below…

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All of these considerations have generated the inexorable rise of the bluewater catamaran – monohulls can’t easily compete on these points. We have a full separate feature on the best bluewater multihulls of all time and here we mostly focus on monohulls. The only exceptions to that rule are two multihulls which made it into our best bluewater sailboats of 2022 list.

As so much of making the right choice is selecting the right boat for the venture in mind, we have separated out our edit into categories: best for comfort; for families; for performance; and for expedition or high latitudes sailing .

Best bluewater sailboats of 2022

The new flagship Allures 51.9, for example, is a no-nonsense adventure cruising design built and finished to a high standard. It retains Allures’ niche of using aluminium hulls with glassfibre decks and superstructures, which, the yard maintains, gives the optimum combination of least maintenance and less weight higher up. Priorities for this design were a full beam aft cabin and a spacious, long cockpit. Both are excellent, with the latter, at 6m long, offering formidable social, sailing and aft deck zones.

It likes some breeze to come to life on the wheel, but I appreciate that it’s designed to take up to five tonnes payload. And I like the ease with which you can change gears using the furling headsails and the positioning of the powerful Andersen winches inboard. The arch is standard and comes with a textile sprayhood or hard bimini.

Below decks you’ll find abundant headroom and natural light, a deep U-shape galley and cavernous stowage. For those who like the layout of the Amel 50 but would prefer aluminium or shoal draught, look no further.

Allures 51.9 price: €766,000

The Ovni 370 is another cunning new aluminum centreboard offering, a true deck saloon cruiser for two. The designers say the biggest challenge was to create a Category A ocean going yacht at this size with a lifting keel, hence the hull had to be very stable.

Enjoyable to helm, it has a practical, deep cockpit behind a large sprayhood, which can link to the bimini on the arch. Many of its most appealing features lie in the bright, light, contemporary, clever, voluminous interior, which has good stowage and tankage allocation. There’s also a practical navstation, a large workroom and a vast separate shower. I particularly like the convertible saloom, which can double as a large secure daybed or pilot berth.

Potentially the least expensive Category A lift keel boat available, the Ovni will get you dreaming of remote places again.

Ovni 370 price: €282,080

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There’s no shortage of spirit in the Windelo 50. We gave this a sustainability award after it’s founders spent two years researching environmentally-friendly composite materials, developing an eco-composite of basalt fibre and recycled PET foam so it could build boats that halve the environmental impact of standard glassfibre yachts.

The Windelo 50 is an intriguing package – from the styling, modular interior and novel layout to the solar field on the roof and the standard electric propulsion, it is completely fresh.

Windelo 50 price: €795,000

Best bluewater sailboat of 2022 – Outremer 55

I would argue that this is the most successful new production yacht on the market. Well over 50 have already sold (an equipped model typically costs €1.6m) – and I can understand why. After all, were money no object, I had this design earmarked as the new yacht I would most likely choose for a world trip.

Indeed 55 number one Sanya, was fully equipped for a family’s world cruise, and left during our stay for the Grand Large Odyssey tour. Whereas we sailed Magic Kili, which was tricked up with performance options, including foam-cored deckheads and supports, carbon crossbeam and bulkheads, and synthetic rigging.

At rest, these are enticing space ships. Taking one out to sea is another matter though. These are speed machines with the size, scale and loads to be rightly weary of. Last month Nikki Henderson wrote a feature for us about how to manage a new breed of performance cruising cats just like this and how she coaches new owners. I could not think of wiser money spent for those who do not have ample multihull sailing experience.

Under sail, the most fun was obviously reserved for the reaching leg under asymmetric, where we clocked between 11-16 knots in 15-16 knots wind. But it was the stability and of those sustained low teen speeds which really hit home  – passagemaking where you really cover miles.

Key features include the swing helms, which give you views from outboard, over the coachroof or from a protected position in the cockpit through the coachroof windows, and the vast island in the galley, which is key to an open plan main living area. It helps provide cavernous stowage and acts as the heart of the entertaining space as it would in a modern home. As Danish judge Morten Brandt-Rasmussen comments: “Apart from being the TGV of ocean passages the boat offers the most spacious, open and best integration of the cockpit and salon areas in the market.”

Outremer has done a top job in packing in the creature comforts, stowage space and payload capacity, while keeping it light enough to eat miles. Although a lot to absorb and handle, the 55 offers a formidable blend of speed and luxury cruising.

Outremer 55 price: €1.35m

Best bluewater sailboats for comfort

This is the successor to the legendary Super Maramu, a ketch design that for several decades defined easy downwind handling and fostered a cult following for the French yard. Nearly a decade old, the Amel 55 is the bridge between those world-girdling stalwarts and Amel’s more recent and totally re-imagined sloop designs, the Amel 50 and 60.

The 55 boasts all the serious features Amel aficionados loved and valued: a skeg-hung rudder, solidly built hull, watertight bulkheads, solid guardrails and rampart bulwarks. And, most noticeable, the solid doghouse in which the helmsman sits in perfect shelter at the wheel.

This is a design to live on comfortably for long periods and the list of standard features just goes on and on: passarelle; proper sea berths with lee cloths; electric furling main and genoa; and a multitude of practical items that go right down to a dishwasher and crockery.

There’s no getting around the fact these designs do look rather dated now, and through the development of easier sail handling systems the ketch rig has fallen out of fashion, but the Amel is nothing short of a phenomenon, and if you’ve never even peeked on board one, you really have missed a treat.

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Photo: Sander van der Borch

Contest 50CS

A centre cockpit cruiser with true longevity, the Contest 50CS was launched by Conyplex back in 2003 and is still being built by the family-owned Dutch company, now in updated and restyled form.

With a fully balanced rudder, large wheel and modern underwater sections, the Contest 50CS is a surprisingly good performer for a boat that has a dry weight of 17.5 tonnes. Many were fitted with in-mast furling, which clearly curtails that performance, but even without, this boat is set up for a small crew.

Electric winches and mainsheet traveller are all easy to reach from the helm. On our test of the Contest 50CS, we saw for ourselves how two people can gybe downwind under spinnaker without undue drama. Upwind, a 105% genoa is so easy to tack it flatters even the weediest crewmember.

Down below, the finish level of the joinery work is up there among the best and the interior is full of clever touches, again updated and modernised since the early models. Never the cheapest bluewater sailing yacht around, the Contest 50CS has remained in demand as a brokerage buy. She is a reassuringly sure-footed, easily handled, very well built yacht that for all those reasons has stood the test of time.

This is a yacht that would be well capable of helping you extend your cruising grounds, almost without realising it.

Read more about the Contest 50CS and the new Contest 49CS

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Photo: Rick Tomlinson

Hallberg-Rassy 48 Mk II

For many, the Swedish Hallberg-Rassy yard makes the quintessential bluewater cruiser for couples. With their distinctive blue cove line, these designs are famous for their seakindly behaviour, solid-as-a-rock build and beautifully finished, traditional interiors.

To some eyes, Hallberg-Rassys aren’t quite cool enough, but it’s been company owner Magnus Rassy’s confidence in the formula and belief in incremental ‘step-by-step’ evolution that has been such an exceptional guarantor of reliable quality, reputation and resale value.

The centre cockpit Hallberg-Rassy 48 epitomises the concept of comfort at sea and, like all the Frers-designed Hallberg-Rassys since the 1990s, is surprisingly fleet upwind as well as steady downwind. The 48 is perfectly able to be handled by a couple (as we found a few years back in the Pacific), and could with no great effort crack out 200-mile days.

The Hallberg-Rassy 48 was launched nearly a decade ago, but the Mk II from 2014 is our pick, updated with a more modern profile, larger windows and hull portlights that flood the saloon and aft cabin with light. With a large chart table, secure linear galley, heaps of stowage and space for bluewater extras such as machinery and gear, this yacht pretty much ticks all the boxes.

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Discovery 55

First launched in 2000, the Discovery 55 has stood the test of time. Designed by Ron Holland, it hit a sweet spot in size that appealed to couples and families with world girdling plans.

Elegantly styled and well balanced, the 55 is also a practical design, with a deep and secure cockpit, comfortable seating, a self-tacking jib, dedicated stowage for the liferaft , a decent sugar scoop transom that’s useful for swimming or dinghy access, and very comfortable accommodation below. In short, it is a design that has been well thought out by those who’ve been there, got the bruises, stubbed their toes and vowed to change things in the future if they ever got the chance.

Throughout the accommodation there are plenty of examples of good detailing, from the proliferation of handholds and grabrails, to deep sinks in the galley offering immediate stowage when under way and the stand up/sit down showers. Stowage is good, too, with plenty of sensibly sized lockers in easily accessible positions.

The Discovery 55 has practical ideas and nifty details aplenty. She’s not, and never was, a breakthrough in modern luxury cruising but she is pretty, comfortable to sail and live on, and well mannered.

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Photo: Latitudes Picture Library

You can’t get much more Cornish than a Rustler. The hulls of this Stephen Jones design are hand-moulded and fitted out in Falmouth – and few are more ruggedly built than this traditional, up-for-anything offshore cruiser.

She boasts an encapsulated lead keel, eliminating keel bolts and creating a sump for generous fuel and water tankage, while a chunky skeg protects the rudder. She is designed for good directional stability and load carrying ability. These are all features that lend this yacht confidence as it shoulders aside the rough stuff.

Most of those built have had a cutter rig, a flexible arrangement that makes sense for long passages in all sea and weather conditions. Down below, the galley and saloon berths are comfortable and sensible for living in port and at sea, with joinery that Rustler’s builders are rightly proud of.

As modern yachts have got wider, higher and fatter, the Rustler 42 is an exception. This is an exceptionally well-mannered seagoing yacht in the traditional vein, with elegant lines and pleasing overhangs, yet also surprisingly powerful. And although now over 20 years old, timeless looks and qualities mean this design makes her look ever more like a perennial, a modern classic.

The definitive crossover size, the point at which a yacht can be handled by a couple but is just large enough to have a professional skipper and be chartered, sits at around the 60ft mark. At 58ft 8in, the Oyster 575 fitted perfectly into this growing market when launched in 2010. It went on to be one of the most popular models from the yard, and is only now being superseded by the newer Rob Humphreys-designed Oyster 565 (just launched this spring).

Built in various configurations with either a deep keel, shoal draught keel or centreboard with twin rudders, owners could trade off better performance against easy access to shallower coves and anchorages. The deep-bodied hull, also by Rob Humphreys, is known for its easy motion at sea.

Some of the Oyster 575’s best features include its hallmark coachroof windows style and centre cockpit – almost everyone will know at first glance this is an Oyster – and superb interior finish. If she has a flaw, it is arguably the high cockpit, but the flip side is the galley headroom and passageway berth to the large aft stateroom.

This design also has a host of practical features for long-distance cruising, such as high guardrails, dedicated liferaft stowage, a vast lazarette for swallowing sails, tender, fenders etc, and a penthouse engine room.

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Privilege Serie 5

A true luxury catamaran which, fully fitted out, will top €1m, this deserves to be seen alongside the likes of the Oyster 575, Gunfleet 58 and Hallberg-Rassy 55. It boasts a large cockpit and living area, and a light and spacious saloon with an emphasis on indoor-outdoor living, masses of refrigeration and a big galley.

Standout features are finish quality and solid build in a yacht designed to take a high payload, a secure walkaround deck and all-round views from the helm station. The new Privilege 510 that will replace this launches in February 2020.

Gunfleet 43

It was with this Tony Castro design that Richard Matthews, founder of Oyster Yachts, launched a brand new rival brand in 2012, the smallest of a range stretching to the flagship Gunfleet 74. The combination of short overhangs and centre cockpit at this size do make the Gunfleet 43 look modern if a little boxy, but time and subsequent design trends have been kind to her lines, and the build quality is excellent. The saloon, galley and aft cabin space is exceptional on a yacht of this size.

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Photo: David Harding

Conceived as a belt-and-braces cruiser, the Kraken 50 launched last year. Its unique points lie underwater in the guise of a full skeg-hung rudder and so-called ‘Zero Keel’, an encapsulated long keel with lead ballast.

Kraken Yachts is the brainchild of British businessman and highly experienced cruiser Dick Beaumont, who is adamant that safety should be foremost in cruising yacht design and build. “There is no such thing as ‘one yacht for all purposes’… You cannot have the best of all worlds, whatever the salesman tells you,” he says.

Read our full review of the Kraken 50 .

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Wauquiez Centurion 57

Few yachts can claim to be both an exciting Med-style design and a serious and practical northern European offshore cruiser, but the Wauquiez Centurion 57 tries to blend both. She slightly misses if you judge solely by either criterion, but is pretty and practical enough to suit her purpose.

A very pleasant, well-considered yacht, she is impressively built and finished with a warm and comfortable interior. More versatile than radical, she could be used for sailing across the Atlantic in comfort and raced with equal enjoyment at Antigua Sailing Week .

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A modern classic if ever there was one. A medium to heavy displacement yacht, stiff and easily capable of standing up to her canvas. Pretty, traditional lines and layout below.

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Photo: Voyage of Swell

Well-proven US legacy design dating back to the mid-1960s that once conquered the Transpac Race . Still admired as pretty, with slight spoon bow and overhanging transom.

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Capable medium displacement cruiser, ideal size and good accommodation for couples or family cruising, and much less costly than similar luxury brands.

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Photo: Peter Szamer

Swedish-built aft cockpit cruiser, smaller than many here, but a well-built and finished, super-durable pocket ocean cruiser.

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Tartan 3700

Designed as a performance cruiser there are nimbler alternatives now, but this is still an extremely pretty yacht.

Broker ’ s choice

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Discovery 55 Brizo

This yacht has already circumnavigated the globe and is ‘prepared for her next adventure,’ says broker Berthon. Price: £535,000 + VAT

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Oyster 575 Ayesha

‘Stunning, and perfectly equipped for bluewater cruising,’ says broker Ancasta International. Price: £845,000 (tax not paid)

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Oyster 575 Pearls of Nautilus

Nearly new and with a high spec, this Oyster Brokerage yacht features American white oak joinery and white leather upholstery and has a shoal draught keel. Price: $1.49m

Best bluewater yachts for performance

The Frers-designed Swan 54 may not be the newest hull shape but heralded Swan’s latest generation of displacement bluewater cruisers when launched four years ago. With raked stem, deep V hull form, lower freeboard and slight curve to the topsides she has a more timeless aesthetic than many modern slab-sided high volume yachts, and with that a seakindly motion in waves. If you plan to cover many miles to weather, this is probably the yacht you want to be on.

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Photo: Carlo Borlenghi

Besides Swan’s superlative build quality, the 54 brings many true bluewater features, including a dedicated sail locker. There’s also a cockpit locker that functions as a utility cabin, with potential to hold your generator and washing machine, or be a workshop space.

The sloping transom opens out to reveal a 2.5m bathing platform, and although the cabins are not huge there is copious stowage space. Down below the top-notch oak joinery is well thought through with deep fiddles, and there is a substantial nav station. But the Swan 54 wins for handling above all, with well laid-out sail controls that can be easily managed between a couple, while offering real sailing enjoyment to the helmsman.

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Photo: Graham Snook

The Performance Cruiser winner at the 2019 European Yacht of the Year awards, the Arcona 435 is all about the sailing experience. She has genuine potential as a cruiser-racer, but her strengths are as an enjoyable cruiser rather than a full-blown liveaboard bluewater boat.

Build quality is excellent, there is the option of a carbon hull and deck, and elegant lines and a plumb bow give the Arcona 435 good looks as well as excellent performance in light airs. Besides slick sail handling systems, there are well thought-out features for cruising, such as ample built-in rope bins and an optional semi-closed stern with stowage and swim platform.

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Outremer 51

If you want the space and stability of a cat but still prioritise sailing performance, Outremer has built a reputation on building catamarans with true bluewater characteristics that have cruised the planet for the past 30 years.

Lighter and slimmer-hulled than most cruising cats, the Outremer 51 is all about sailing at faster speeds, more easily. The lower volume hulls and higher bridgedeck make for a better motion in waves, while owners report that being able to maintain a decent pace even under reduced canvas makes for stress-free passages. Deep daggerboards also give good upwind performance.

With bucket seats and tiller steering options, the Outremer 51 rewards sailors who want to spend time steering, while they’re famously well set up for handling with one person on deck. The compromise comes with the interior space – even with a relatively minimalist style, there is less cabin space and stowage volume than on the bulkier cats, but the Outremer 51 still packs in plenty of practical features.

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The Xc45 was the first cruising yacht X-Yachts ever built, and designed to give the same X-Yachts sailing experience for sailors who’d spent years racing 30/40-footer X- and IMX designs, but in a cruising package.

Launched over 10 years ago, the Xc45 has been revisited a few times to increase the stowage and modernise some of the styling, but the key features remain the same, including substantial tanks set low for a low centre of gravity, and X-Yachts’ trademark steel keel grid structure. She has fairly traditional styling and layout, matched with solid build quality.

A soft bilge and V-shaped hull gives a kindly motion in waves, and the cockpit is secure, if narrow by modern standards.

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A three or four cabin catamaran that’s fleet of foot with high bridgedeck clearance for comfortable motion at sea. With tall daggerboards and carbon construction in some high load areas, Catana cats are light and quick to accelerate.

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Sweden Yachts 45

An established bluewater design that also features in plenty of offshore races. Some examples are specced with carbon rig and retractable bowsprits. All have a self-tacking jib for ease. Expect sweeping areas of teak above decks and a traditionally wooded interior with hanging wet locker.

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A vintage performer, first launched in 1981, the 51 was the first Frers-designed Swan and marked a new era of iconic cruiser-racers. Some 36 of the Swan 51 were built, many still actively racing and cruising nearly 40 years on. Classic lines and a split cockpit make this a boat for helming, not sunbathing.

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Photo: Julien Girardot / EYOTY

The JPK 45 comes from a French racing stable, combining race-winning design heritage with cruising amenities. What you see is what you get – there are no superfluous headliners or floorboards, but there are plenty of ocean sailing details, like inboard winches for safe trimming. The JPK 45 also has a brilliantly designed cockpit with an optional doghouse creating all-weather shelter, twin wheels and superb clutch and rope bin arrangement.

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Photo: Andreas Lindlahr

For sailors who don’t mind exchanging a few creature comforts for downwind planing performance, the Pogo 50 offers double-digit surfing speeds for exhilarating tradewind sailing. There’s an open transom, tiller steering and no backstay or runners. The Pogo 50 also has a swing keel, to nose into shallow anchorages.

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Seawind 1600

Seawinds are relatively unknown in Europe, but these bluewater cats are very popular in Australia. As would be expected from a Reichel-Pugh design, this 52-footer combines striking good looks and high performance, with fine entry bows and comparatively low freeboard. Rudders are foam cored lifting designs in cassettes, which offer straightforward access in case of repairs, while daggerboards are housed under the deck.

Best bluewater sailboats for families

It’s unsurprising that, for many families, it’s a catamaran that meets their requirements best of increased space – both living space and separate cabins for privacy-seeking teenagers, additional crew or visiting family – as well as stable and predictable handling.

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Photo: Nicholas Claris

Undoubtedly one of the biggest success stories has been the Lagoon 450, which, together with boats like the Fountaine Pajot 44, helped drive up the popularity of catamaran cruising by making it affordable and accessible. They have sold in huge numbers – over 1,000 Lagoon 450s have been built since its launch in 2010.

The VPLP-designed 450 was originally launched with a flybridge with a near central helming position and upper level lounging areas (450F). The later ‘sport top’ option (450S) offered a starboard helm station and lower boom (and hence lower centre of gravity for reduced pitching). The 450S also gained a hull chine to create additional volume above the waterline. The Lagoon features forward lounging and aft cockpit areas for additional outdoor living space.

Besides being a big hit among charter operators, Lagoons have proven themselves over thousands of bluewater miles – there were seven Lagoon 450s in last year’s ARC alone. In what remains a competitive sector of the market, Lagoon has recently launched a new 46, with a larger self-tacking jib and mast moved aft, and more lounging areas.

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Photo: Gilles Martin-Raget

Fountaine Pajot Helia 44

The FP Helia 44 is lighter, lower volume, and has a lower freeboard than the Lagoon, weighing in at 10.8 tonnes unloaded (compared to 15 for the 450). The helm station is on a mezzanine level two steps up from the bridgedeck, with a bench seat behind. A later ‘Evolution’ version was designed for liveaboard cruisers, featuring beefed up dinghy davits and an improved saloon space.

Available in three or four cabin layouts, the Helia 44 was also popular with charter owners as well as families. The new 45 promises additional volume, and an optional hydraulically lowered ‘beach club’ swim platform.

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Photo: Arnaud De Buyzer / graphikup.com

The French RM 1370 might be less well known than the big brand names, but offers something a little bit different for anyone who wants a relatively voluminous cruising yacht. Designed by Marc Lombard, and beautifully built from plywood/epoxy, the RM is stiff and responsive, and sails superbly.

The RM yachts have a more individual look – in part down to the painted finish, which encourages many owners to personalise their yachts, but also thanks to their distinctive lines with reverse sheer and dreadnought bow. The cockpit is well laid out with the primary winches inboard for a secure trimming position. The interior is light, airy and modern, although the open transom won’t appeal to everyone.

For those wanting a monohull, the Hanse 575 hits a similar sweet spot to the popular multis, maximising accommodation for a realistic price, yet with responsive performance.

The Hanse offers a vast amount of living space thanks to the ‘loft design’ concept of having all the living areas on a single level, which gives a real feeling of spaciousness with no raised saloon or steps to accommodation. The trade-off for such lofty head height is a substantial freeboard – it towers above the pontoon, while, below, a stepladder is provided to reach some hatches.

Galley options include drawer fridge-freezers, microwave and coffee machine, and the full size nav station can double up as an office or study space.

But while the Hanse 575 is a seriously large boat, its popularity is also down to the fact that it is genuinely able to be handled by a couple. It was innovative in its deck layout: with a self-tacking jib and mainsheet winches immediately to hand next to the helm, one person could both steer and trim.

Direct steering gives a feeling of control and some tangible sailing fun, while the waterline length makes for rapid passage times. In 2016 the German yard launched the newer Hanse 588 model, having already sold 175 of the 575s in just four years.

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Photo: Bertel Kolthof

Jeanneau 54

Jeanneau leads the way among production builders for versatile all-rounder yachts that balance sail performance and handling, ergonomics, liveaboard functionality and good looks. The Jeanneau 54 , part of the range designed by Philippe Briand with interior by Andrew Winch, melds the best of the larger and smaller models and is available in a vast array of layout options from two cabins/two heads right up to five cabins and three heads.

We’ve tested the Jeanneau 54 in a gale and very light winds, and it acquitted itself handsomely in both extremes. The primary and mainsheet winches are to hand next to the wheel, and the cockpit is spacious, protected and child-friendly. An electric folding swim and sun deck makes for quick fun in the water.

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Nautitech Open 46

This was the first Nautitech catamaran to be built under the ownership of Bavaria, designed with an open-plan bridgedeck and cockpit for free-flowing living space. But with good pace for eating up bluewater miles, and aft twin helms rather than a flybridge, the Nautitech Open 46 also appeals to monohull sailors who prefer a more direct sailing experience.

best-ever-bluewater-yachts-Leopard-45

Made by Robertson and Caine, who produce catamarans under a dual identity as both Leopard and the Sunsail/Moorings charter cats, the Leopard 45 is set to be another big seller. Reflecting its charter DNA, the Leopard 45 is voluminous, with stepped hulls for reduced waterline, and a separate forward cockpit.

Built in South Africa, they are robustly tested off the Cape and constructed ruggedly enough to handle heavy weather sailing as well as the demands of chartering.

best-ever-bluewater-yachts-neel-51-credit-Olivier-Blanchet

Photo: Olivier Blanchet

If space is king then three hulls might be even better than two. The Neel 51 is rare as a cruising trimaran with enough space for proper liveaboard sailing. The galley and saloon are in the large central hull, together with an owner’s cabin on one level for a unique sensation of living above the water. Guest or family cabins lie in the outer hulls for privacy and there is a cavernous full height engine room under the cabin sole.

Performance is notably higher than an equivalent cruising cat, particularly in light winds, with a single rudder giving a truly direct feel in the helm, although manoeuvring a 50ft trimaran may daunt many sailors.

best-ever-bluewater-yachts-beneteau-Oceanis-46-1-credit-graham-snook

Beneteau Oceanis 46.1

A brilliant new model from Beneteau, this Finot Conq design has a modern stepped hull, which offers exhilarating and confidence-inspiring handling in big breezes, and slippery performance in lighter winds.

The Beneteau Oceanis 46.1 was the standout performer at this year’s European Yacht of the Year awards, and, in replacing the popular Oceanis 45, looks set to be another bestseller. Interior space is well used with a double island berth in the forepeak. An additional inboard unit creates a secure galley area, but tank capacity is moderate for long periods aboard.

best-ever-bluewater-yachts-Beneteau-Oceanis-473-credit-David-Harding

Beneteau Oceanis 473

A popular model that offers beam and height in a functional layout, although, as with many boats of this age (she was launched in 2002), the mainsheet is not within reach of the helmsman.

best-ever-bluewater-yachts-Jeanneau-Sun-Odyssey-49

Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 49

The Philippe Briand-designed Sun Odyssey range has a solid reputation as family production cruisers. Like the 473, the Sun Odyssey 49 was popular for charter so there are plenty of four-cabin models on the market.

best-ever-bluewater-yachts-nautitech-441

Nautitech 441

The hull design dates back to 1995, but was relaunched in 2012. Though the saloon interior has dated, the 441 has solid practical features, such as a rainwater run-off collection gutter around the coachroof.

best-ever-bluewater-yachts-Atlantic-42

Atlantic 42

Chris White-designed cats feature a pilothouse and forward waist-high working cockpit with helm position, as well as an inside wheel at the nav station. The Atlantic 42 offers limited accommodation by modern cat standards but a very different sailing experience.

Best bluewater sailing yachts for expeditions

Bestevaer 56.

All of the yachts in our ‘expedition’ category are aluminium-hulled designs suitable for high latitude sailing, and all are exceptional yachts. But the Bestevaer 56 is a spectacular amount of boat to take on a true adventure. Each Bestevaer is a near-custom build with plenty of bespoke options for owners to customise the layout and where they fall on the scale of rugged off-grid adventurer to 4×4-style luxury fit out.

best-ever-bluewater-yachts-Bestevaer-56-ST-Tranquilo

The Bestevaer range began when renowned naval architect Gerard Dijkstra chose to design his own personal yacht for liveaboard adventure cruising, a 53-footer. The concept drew plenty of interest from bluewater sailors wanting to make longer expeditions and Bestevaers are now available in a range of sizes, with the 56-footer proving a popular mid-range length.

The well-known Bestevaer 56 Tranquilo  (pictured above) has a deep, secure cockpit, voluminous tanks (700lt water and over 1,100lt fuel) and a lifting keel plus water ballast, with classically styled teak clad decks and pilot house. Other owners have opted for functional bare aluminium hull and deck, some choose a doghouse and others a pilothouse.

best-ever-bluewater-yachts-Boreal-52-credit-Jean-Marie-Liot

Photo: Jean-Marie Liot

The Boreal 52 also offers Land Rover-esque practicality, with utilitarian bare aluminium hulls and a distinctive double-level doghouse/coachroof arrangement for added protection in all weathers. The cockpit is clean and uncluttered, thanks to the mainsheet position on top of the doghouse, although for visibility in close manoeuvring the helmsman will want to step up onto the aft deck.

Twin daggerboards, a lifting centreboard and long skeg on which she can settle make this a true go-anywhere expedition yacht. The metres of chain required for adventurous anchoring is stowed in a special locker by the mast to keep the weight central. Down below has been thought through with equally practical touches, including plenty of bracing points and lighting that switches on to red light first to protect your night vision.

best-ever-bluewater-yachts-Garcia-Exploration-45-credit-morris-adant

Photo: Morris Adant / Garcia Yachts

Garcia Exploration 45

The Garcia Exploration 45 comes with real experience behind her – she was created in association with Jimmy Cornell, based on his many hundreds of thousands of miles of bluewater cruising, to go anywhere from high latitudes to the tropics.

Arguably less of a looker than the Bestevaer, the Garcia Exploration 45 features a rounded aluminium hull, centreboard with deep skeg and twin daggerboards. The considerable anchor chain weight has again been brought aft, this time via a special conduit to a watertight locker in front of the centreboard.

This is a yacht designed to be lived on for extended periods with ample storage, and panoramic portlights to give a near 360° view of whichever extraordinary landscape you are exploring. Safety features include a watertight companionway door to keep extreme weather out and through-hull fittings placed above the waterline. When former Vendée Globe skipper Pete Goss went cruising , this was the boat he chose to do it in.

best-ever-bluewater-yachts-Ovni-43-credit-svnaimadotcom

Photo: svnaima.com

A truly well-proven expedition design, some 1,500 Ovnis have been built and many sailed to some of the most far-flung corners of the world. (Jimmy Cornell sailed his Aventura some 30,000 miles, including two Drake Passage crossings, one in 50 knots of wind).

best-ever-bluewater-yachts-Futuna-Explorer-54

Futuna Exploration 54

Another aluminium design with a swinging centreboard and a solid enclosed pilothouse with protected cockpit area. There’s a chunky bowsprit and substantial transom arch to house all manner of electronics and power generation.

Previous boats have been spec’d for North West Passage crossings with additional heating and engine power, although there’s a carbon rig option for those that want a touch of the black stuff. The tanks are capacious, with 1,000lt capability for both fresh water and fuel.

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  • Sailboat Reviews

The Modern Classic Racer-Cruiser

40-year-old islander 36 proves to be a comfortable and fast ride..

modern classic sailboat

The Islander 36 was built from 1971 to 1985, making it one of the longest-lived 36-footers ever on the U.S. market. More than 750 of the Alan Gurney-designed racer-cruiser sloops were built, with production spanning almost the entire history of Islander Yachts.

Islander 36

When it was first introduced, the Islander 36 seemed conservatively modern in appearance, with a flattish but concave sheerline, a fin keel, and a skeg-mounted rudder. The boat was designed as a racer-cruiser under the then-new International Offshore Rule (IOR) , but you would be hard-pressed to say that the same rule could create both the I36 and a modern IOR design. The Islander 36 was launched during the infancy of the IOR, before boat designers took advantage of the rules loopholes. As a result, its hull shape is undistorted and bears more resemblance to a modern fast cruiser than to a contemporary IOR racer.

While custom boats were the biggest force in racing in 1971, it was still possible to be competitive in local regattas with a production racer-cruiser. That all changed very quickly. Boats like the Islander 36-which were out-designed under the IOR but were still reasonably fast and easy to sail-served as the foundation for the movement that became the Model A of handicap racing: the Performance Handicap Racing Fleet (PHRF). And still today, I36s often take podium positions in PHRF races, particularly where I36 fleets are most popular, particularly in the San Francisco Bay area.

Even by todays standards, the hull proportions of the Islander 36 are nearly ideal for a modern racer-cruiser. The beam is moderate and carried well aft, offering fairly good hull volume aft, so that the boat does not squat excessively when cockpit lockers are loaded with cruising gear. Despite the age of the design, the I36 is not dated in appearance. You could even say that the boat is a modern classic.

The Islander 36 is predominantly a West Coast boat, but youll find them throughout the U.S. Most of the owners responding to our survey use the boat for daysailing, club racing, and coastal cruising.

Sailing Performance

Despite being designed as a racer-cruiser with an IOR Mk I rating of 27.9, the Islander 36 was not a particularly fast or successful IOR boat. However, under the PHRF rating system, a well-sailed Islander 36 is a reasonably competitive boat; many are still active in club racing, with the largest contingent in California, where conditions are a good match for the I36.

The Islander 36s rig is a simple, untapered aluminum spar stepped through the deck. It has two sets of spreaders and double lower shrouds. The shrouds are set well inboard, and genoa tracks are set just outboard of the cabin trunk to take advantage of the tight sheeting angles.

The Islander 36 is well-balanced under sail, although like many boats of its era with relatively small mainsails, you need a variety of headsails to keep the boat moving her best in all conditions. While this isn’t a problem on a crewed racing boat, todays fast cruisers tend to have slightly larger mainsails so that less-frequent headsail changes are required. The original I36 sailplan shows genoa overlaps as large as 180 percent; genoas that large are generally a nuisance to handle and tack.

Both deep and shoal draft keels were available on the Islander 36. Most boats have the deep keel, and this version of the boat is generally about six seconds per mile faster. The shoal-draft boat has an additional 150 pounds of ballast to compensate for the keels higher center of gravity.

The mainsheet traveler is positioned at the forward end of the companionway hatch. Late-model boats have a small molded breakwater aft of the traveler so that a companionway dodger can be installed. On boats without the breakwater, installing a dodger is trickier. Since the mainsheet is attached almost exactly to the middle of the boom, sheet loads are fairly high, and youll need a winch to trim the main in heavier air.

Original steering, mostly Edson brand, was the typical chain and sprocket with the steering cable led through sheaves to a quadrant clamped to the rudder post. The boat was designed with a tiller, but most owners have retrofitted wheel steering over the years. Since there are very few owner complaints about excessive weather helm, changing to wheel steering was more a matter of personal choice than necessity.

You will find slight differences in deck layouts, depending on whether the boat has been used predominantly for racing or cruising. On racing boats, the primary headsail-sheet winches are usually located on the forward portion of the cockpit coamings, with the secondaries aft. That position is often reversed on cruising boats. Likewise, racing boats may have most halyard and lift winches mounted at the base of the mast; cruisers use fewer winches, mounted on the mast itself. For shorthanded family cruising and daysailing-the type of sailing for which the boat is best suited-we would suggest larger-than-standard multi-speed self-tailing headsail sheet winches installed on the coaming, near the helmsman.

The I36s cockpit is very deep, which can make it challenging for some to see over the cabin when seated. Other cockpit features make it less than ideal for offshore work: cockpit drains are fairly small and there is no bridgedeck. To comply with the International Sailing Federations (ISAF) Offshore Special Regulations for offshore racing, the companionway dropboards would have to be fixed in place up to the level of the aft cockpit coaming, which would make it extremely difficult to get below.

Like most boats with a long production history, a variety of engines were used in the Islander 36-and most have been replaced over the years-making generalizations about performance under power difficult.

The I36 was first powered with an Atomic Four gasoline engine; that was followed by the undersized Palmer P-60 gas engine, the optional Perkins 4-108 diesel, and then the optional Westerbeke L-25 four-cylinder diesel. Islander even used a Volkswagen diesel engine, the Pathfinder 42 horsepower, in the 36 at one point, and by the end of the boats production run, a 30-horsepower Yanmar diesel was used. Most of these original auxillaries have since been replaced.

The most common replacement engines youll find in contemporary Islander 36s are Yanmars, usually in the 30- to 37-horsepower range. They are lighter, and with about a 2:1 reduction and a 13-inch three-blade, fixed prop, the I36 can approach 7 knots in flat water.

Given this wide variety of engines-some left-handed, some right-handed-and the mix of fixed, folding, and feathering props, Islanders will often pull from one side to another when backing up. With all but the smallest two-blade, folding props, skippers will need good seamanship skills for well-behaved backing into slips and docks. The knack is to get the boat moving astern with modest power, idle to keep speed under 2 knots, then use the large rudder and skeg to ease into a berth.

 fleet of Islander 36s

The Islander 36s interior finish is one of its best selling points. However, there are several interior-design shortcomings that are typical of boats of the early 1970s. Two of the biggest changes in boat interiors since then have been in navigation stations and galleys. The marine electronics boom had not begun in 1971. Loran C was new, and very expensive. Only hot race boats had wind instrumentation. Satnav was a far-off dream for recreational sailors, as were such things as personal computers and weather facsimile machines. For this reason, nav stations on cruising 36-footers in the early 1970s were rudimentary, when they existed at all.

Islander 36

The nav station of the Islander 36 is no exception. It is tucked away under the sidedeck, and the cabin sole in front of it slopes awkwardly upward. There are no drawers beneath the chart table, no good place for chart stowage. Theres no place to sit, and if you use the shelf above the table for electronics, theres no space for books. On late model I36s, there are drawers just forward of the chart table behind the port settee, but by modern standards, the boats nav station is nothing to brag about.

The shortfalls have given owners reason to use their sailorly ingenuity and a little creativity to come up with ways to add GPS, chartplotter, AIS, SSB, and radar instruments to the cozy nav station area. Youll find as many different solutions as there are I36s on the used boat market, and the I36 Owners Association website (www.islander36.org) offers some good examples.

The original I36 galley also is a relic from the days when a lot of people considered cruising in a sailboat just one step above camping out in a tent. The sloping cabin sole in the galley makes it difficult to work at the sink or reach the bottom of the icebox. There is relatively little counter space or storage space. There is no provision for galley ventilation except the main companionway, and without a dodger, the companionway cannot be left open in the rain because of the forward-sloping aft bulkhead.

A large number of Islanders were built with alcohol stoves, many of which have been replaced with propane or natural gas. Microwaves also have been added to current I36 galleys. Some I36s were produced with refrigeration systems, and many others have been added along the way. Pressure water systems are also common in todays Islander 36s, though not universal.

Aft of the nav station on the port side, there is a quarterberth tucked completely beneath the cockpit. The lack of ventilation in the quarterberth is a problem in warm climates, and its location is not one for the claustrophobic.

The main saloon itself is quite comfortable. The settees on either side are long enough to be comfortable berths. The starboard settee folds out into a double berth, but it is not the most convenient to set up or use. Above and behind each settee, there is a fair amount of storage space. Late model boats have lockers and drawers outboard of the port settee, while earlier boats have only a shelf. It would be fairly easy to build storage lockers in this area on an older boat, and many owners have.

Most boats of this size have fixed cabin tables, but the Islander 36s folds up against the bulkhead at the forward end of the main cabin. It is just possible to squeeze by the table along the starboard side when it is in use.

Ventilation is a weak point in the Islander 36, as it is with a lot of boats. Late model I36s have a ventilation hatch overhead in the middle of the main cabin; theres no reason you couldnt add one to an older boat. A hatch in the cabin trunk over the forward cabin provides fair-weather ventilation, but theres no provision for air?ow in bad weather. You can add cowl vents in dorade boxes, but the installation is tricky due to the vinyl headliner. The original foam and vinyl headliners had zippers to access the backs of fittings, but they tend to corrode shut. Many owners have opted to replace the headliners.

The head compartment is to port at the forward end of the main cabin, with lockers opposite on the starboard side. Headroom of over 6 feet is carried all the way forward. Drawers under the V-berth and a narrow hanging locker to starboard offer reasonable storage. A door at the aft end of the forward cabin can be secured in the open position to provide privacy for the forward cabin.

Conclusions

Unlike a lot of boats with long production histories, there are relatively few differences between the first and last Islander 36s. This means that youll likely be able to find a well-kept boat at a pretty good price. Most have seen systems upgrades and creative interior makeovers that make this modern classic a competitor for newer used production boats. The I36 also boasts a very active and large owners association, an invaluable resource for those buying-or thinking about buying-an older used boat. Since so many Islander 36s were built, theres a well-established used boat market, and you should not have trouble reselling one in the future, particularly if youre West Coast based.

Because of the cockpit design and relatively light construction, this is not the type of boat that we would choose for extended offshore voyaging, but there have been several I36s that have successfully raced from California to Hawaii, and a number have made circumnavigations. In our opinion, the I36 is best suited for coastal cruising, club racing, or even daysailing and weekend getaways.

As with any older boat, a careful survey is mandatory. Pay particular attention to the chainplates, gelcoat condition, rig, and the mast step. We would also look hard at the engine installation, fuel system, and the hull structure near the mast. Try working in the galley and at the chart table to see if you can live with them.

All in all, the Islander 36 is a well-mannered, fast-sailing boat, at its best in a breeze. With proper, modern sail-handling equipment, it can easily be handled by a couple for shorthanded cruising. With good sails and a smooth bottom, it is also can be a competitive PHRF club racer.

Owners Comments

The boat is easy to sail single-handed, especially with an autopilot. It has great speed and points well into the wind. It offers plenty of space for a single person or a couple for full-time cruising. I upgraded the galleywitha three-burner stove and oven, and replaced the holding tanks. Im still working with the original Pathfinder 42-horsepower diesel engine. It has plenty of power, butit isn’t always easy to find parts or someone to work on it. – Len Diegel; Katana, 1980 Islander 36; Lake Grapevine, Texas

The I36 is a fun and fast boat in most wind conditions, and it does respectable in its class in local races. Improvements that would make the I36 even better would be the addition of well-placed cabin handholds to aid in moving about the cabin in bad weather, and a better-designed navigation station, which is too small and offers no place to sit. – Jack and Anneke Wolf; Trillium, 1976 I36; Muskegon, Mich.

We purchased our I36 in 2012, from the second owner who had maintained it in like new condition. This boat must represent the very best value in a coastal cruising boat for the San Francisco Bay area. Having been a racer for 40 years, my wife didnt appreciate sailing with me until we bought this boat and settled into pleasure sailing. Comfortable, stable, quick, and roomy all describe our experiences. It has put the pleasure into sailing for us. – Gene Novak; Fantasy, 1980 Islander 36, hull #581; San Francisco, Calif.

We have sailed the boat in 80-mile-per-hour winds with no problem. The Islander 36 is the perfect daysailer-coastal cruiser. My only criticism is with the galley, which is poorly designed and not very functional. – 1972 model, Texas

This is an excellent boat for cruising. It can be singlehanded with the help of self-tailing winches. Our aluminum holding tank failed. – l977 model, California

We bought the boat for its appearance, reputation, and size. Its a great boat for San Francisco Bay and the Pacific coast. Weve sailed it south to the Channel Islands and north to Canada. – l978 model, California

Very fast for a comfortable cruising boat. The boat seems to be a good compromise between being light enough to sail well and heavy enough to be safe and solid. Gelcoat has crazed in spots. – 1979 model, Michigan

The intermediate and lower shroud chainplate is pulling out of the bulkhead. – l980 model, California

The only real problem with the boat is lack of ventilation. It is an excellent blend of sailing performance for the cruising couple or club racer. I suggest looking for an older model since they are often exceptional buys and are essentially the same boat that was produced until 1984. – 1973 model, Florida

The cockpit sole is flush with the companionway sill, which is not a seaworthy setup for going offshore. The aft bulkhead is too slanted to leave the companionway dropboards out when its raining unless you have a dodger. – l980 model, Maryland

The Modern Classic Racer-Cruiser

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25 of the best small sailing boat designs

Nic Compton

  • Nic Compton
  • August 10, 2022

Nic Compton looks at the 25 yachts under 40ft which have had the biggest impact on UK sailing

25 of the best small sailing boat designs

There’s nothing like a list of best small sailing boat designs to get the blood pumping.

Everyone has their favourites, and everyone has their pet hates.

This is my list of the 25 best small sailing boat designs, honed down from the list of 55 yachts I started with.

I’ve tried to be objective and have included several boats I don’t particularly like but which have undeniably had an impact on sailing in the UK – and yes, it would be quite a different list if I was writing about another country.

If your favourite isn’t on the best small sailing boat designs list, then send an email to [email protected] to argue the case for your best-loved boat.

Ready? Take a deep breath…

A green hull Centaur yacht, named as one of the 25 best small sailing boat designs

Credit: Bob Aylott

Laurent Giles is best known for designing wholesome wooden cruising boats such as the Vertue and Wanderer III , yet his most successful design was the 26ft Centaur he designed for Westerly, of which a remarkable 2,444 were built between 1969 and 1980.

It might not be the prettiest boat on the water, but it sure packs a lot of accommodation.

The Westerly Centaur was one of the first production boats to be tank tested, so it sails surprisingly well too. Jack L Giles knew what he was doing.

Colin Archer

The Colin Archer - one of the 25 best small sailing boat designs

Credit: Nic Compton

Only 32 Colin Archer lifeboats were built during their designer’s lifetime, starting with Colin Archer in 1893 and finishing with Johan Bruusgaard in 1924.

Yet their reputation for safety spawned hundreds of copycat designs, the most famous of which was Sir Robin Knox-Johnston ’s Suhaili , which he sailed around the world singlehanded in 1968-9.

The term Colin Archer has become so generic it is often used to describe any double-ender – so beware!

Contessa 32

Assents performance in the 1979 Fastnet Race earns the Contessa 32 at place on the 25 best small sailing boats list. Credit: Nic Compton

Assent ‘s performance in the 1979 Fastnet Race makes the Contessa 32 a worth entry in the 25 best small sailing boat designs list. Credit: Nic Compton

Designed by David Sadler as a bigger alternative to the popular Contessa 26, the Contessa 32 was built by Jeremy Rogers in Lymington from 1970.

The yacht’s credentials were established when Assent , the Contessa 32 owned by Willy Kerr and skippered by his son Alan, became the only yacht in her class to complete the deadly 1979 Fastnet Race .

When UK production ceased in 1983, more than 700 had been built, and another 20 have been built since 1996.

Cornish Crabber 24

A Cornish crabber with a blue hull and white sails

It seemed a daft idea to build a gaff-rigged boat in 1974, just when everyone else had embraced the ‘modern’ Bermudan rig.

Yet the first Cornish Crabber 24, designed by Roger Dongray, tapped into a feeling that would grow and grow and eventually become a movement.

The 24 was followed in 1979 by the even more successful Shrimper 19 – now ubiquitous in almost every harbour in England – and the rest is history.

Drascombe Lugger

A Drascombe lugger with orange sails

Credit: David Harding

There are faster, lighter and more comfortable boats than a Drascombe Lugger.

And yet, 57 years after John Watkinson designed the first ‘lugger’ (soon changed to gunter rig), more than 2,000 have been built and the design is still going strong.

More than any other boat, the Drascombe Lugger opened up dinghy cruising, exemplified by Ken Duxbury’s Greek voyages in the 1970s and Webb Chiles’s near-circumnavigation on Chidiock Tichbourne I and II .

An Eventide lunch with white sails and a blue hull sailing offshore

The 26ft Eventide. Credit: David Harding

It’s been described as the Morris Minor of the boating world – except that the majority of the 1,000 Eventides built were lovingly assembled by their owners, not on a production line.

After you’d tested your skills building the Mirror dinghy, you could progress to building a yacht.

And at 24ft long, the Eventide packed a surprising amount of living space.

It was Maurice Griffiths’ most successful design and helped bring yachting to a wider audience.

A Fisher 30 yacht with blue hull and red sails

You either love ’em or you hate ’em – motorsailers, that is.

The Fisher 30 was brought into production in 1971 and was one of the first out-and-out motorsailers.

With its long keel , heavy displacement and high bulwarks, it was intended to evoke the spirit of North Sea fishing boats.

It might not sail brilliantly but it provided an exceptional level of comfort for its size and it would look after you when things turned nasty.

Significantly, it was also fitted with a large engine.

A Folkboat with white sails and blue hull

Credit: Rupert Holmes

It should have been a disaster.

In 1941, when the Scandinavian Sailing Federation couldn’t choose a winner for their competition to design an affordable sailing boat, they gave six designs to naval architect Tord Sundén and asked him to combine the best features from each.

The result was a sweet-lined 25ft sloop which was very seaworthy and fast.

The design has been built in GRP since the 1970s and now numbers more than 4,000, with fleets all over the world.

A Freedom 40 yacht with a blue hull and two masts carrying white sails

Credit: Kevin Barber

There’s something disconcerting about a boat with two unstayed masts and no foresails, and certainly the Freedom range has its detractors.

Yet as Garry Hoyt proved, first with the Freedom 40, designed in collaboration with Halsey Herreshoff, and then the Freedom 33 , designed with Jay Paris, the boats are simple to sail (none of those clattering jib sheets every time you tack) and surprisingly fast – at least off the wind .

Other ‘cat ketch’ designs followed but the Freedoms developed their own cult following.

Hillyard 12-tonner

A classic sailing boat with a white hull and white sails

The old joke about Hillyards is that you won’t drown on one but you might starve to death getting there.

And yet this religious boatbuilder from Littlehampton built up to 800 yachts which travelled around the world – you can find them cruising far-flung destinations.

Sizes ranged from 2.5 to 20 tons, though the 9- and 12-ton are best for long cruises.

The yacht Jester with a junk rig and yellow hull at the start of the OSTAR

The innovations on Jester means she is one of the best small sailing boat designs in the last 100 years. Credit: Ewen Southby-Tailyour

Blondie Hasler was one of the great sailing innovators and Jester was his testing ground.

She was enclosed, carvel planked and had an unstayed junk rig.

Steering was via a windvane system Hasler created.

Hasler came second in the first OSTAR , proving small boats can achieve great things.

A yacht with a white hull and blue and white sails

Moody kicked off the era of comfort-oriented boats with its very first design.

The Moody 33, designed by Angus Primrose, had a wide beam and high topside to produce a voluminous hull .

The centre cockpit allowed for an aft cabin, resulting in a 33-footer with two sleeping cabins – an almost unheard of concept in 1973 –full-beam heads and spacious galley.

What’s more, her performance under sail was more than adequate for cruising.

Finally, here was a yacht that all the family could enjoy.

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Nicholson 32

A Nicholson 32 with a blue hull. Its solid seakeeping qualities means it is one of the best small boat sailing designs produced

Credit: Genevieve Leaper

Charles Nicholson was a giant of the wooden boat era but one of his last designs – created with his son Peter – was a pioneering fibreglass boat that would become an enduring classic.

With its long keel and heavy displacement, the Nicholson 32 is in many ways a wooden boat built in fibreglass – and indeed the design was based on Nicholson’s South Coast One Design.

From 1966 to 1977, the ‘Nic 32’ went through 11 variations.

A yacht with two masts sailing

Credit: Hallberg-Rassy

In the beginning there was… the Rasmus 35. This was the first yacht built by the company that would become Hallberg-Rassy and which would eventually build more than 9,000 boats.

The Rasmus 35, designed by Olle Enderlein, was a conservative design, featuring a centre cockpit, long keel and well-appointed accommodation.

Some 760 boats were built between 1967 and 1978.

Two classic wooden yachts with white sails sailing side by side

Credit: Larry & Lin Pardey

Lyle Hess was ahead of his time when he designed Renegade in 1949.

Despite winning the Newport to Ensenada race, the 25ft wooden cutter went largely unnoticed.

Hess had to build bridges for 15 years before Larry Pardey asked him to design the 24ft Seraffyn , closely based on Renegade ’s lines but with a Bermudan rig.

Pardey’s subsequent voyages around the world cemented Hess’s reputation and success of the Renegade design.

A Rustler 36 yacht being sailed off the coast of Falmouth

Would the Rustler 36 make it on your best small sailing boat list? Credit: Rustler Yachts

Six out of 18 entries for the 2018 Golden Globe Race (GGR) were Rustler 36s, with the top three places all going to Rustler 36 skippers.

It was a fantastic endorsement for a long-keel yacht designed by Holman & Pye 40 years before.

Expect to see more Rustler 36s in the 2022 edition of the GGR!

An S&S 34 yacht sailing offshore with white sails

It was Ted Heath who first brought the S&S 34 to prominence with his boat Morning Cloud .

In 1969 the yacht won the Sydney to Hobart Race, despite being one of the smallest boats in the race.

Other epic S&S 34 voyages include the first ever single-handed double circumnavigation by Jon Sanders in 1981

A yacht with a red, white and blue spinnaker sailing into the distance

Credit: Colin Work

The Contessa 32 might seem an impossible boat to improve upon, but that’s what her designer David Sadler attempted to do in 1979 with the launch of the Sadler 32 .

That was followed two years later by the Sadler 29 , a tidy little boat that managed to pack in six berths in a comfortable open-plan interior.

The boat was billed as ‘unsinkable’, with a double-skinned hull separated by closed cell foam buoyancy.

What’s more, it was fast, notching up to 12 knots.

The Sigma 33 yacht - named as one of the 25 best small sailing boat designs

Credit: Dick Durham/Yachting Monthly

Another modern take on the Contessa theme was the Sigma 33, designed by David Thomas in 1979.

A modern underwater body combined with greater beam and higher freeboard produced a faster boat with greater accommodation.

And, like the Contessa, the Sigma 33 earned its stripes at the 1979 Fastnet, when two of the boats survived to tell the tale.

A lively one-design fleet soon developed on the Solent which is still active to this day.

A replica of Joshua Slocum's Spray. Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

A replica of Joshua Slocum’s Spray . Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

The boat Joshua Slocum used for his first singlehanded circumnavigation of the world wasn’t intended to sail much further than the Chesapeake Bay.

The 37ft Spray was a rotten old oyster sloop which a friend gave him and which he had to spend 13 months fixing up.

Yet this boxy little tub, with its over-optimistic clipper bow, not only took Slocum safely around the world but has spawned dozens of modern copies that have undertaken long ocean passages.

James Wharram drew many pioneering designs during his lifetime, which is why Tangaroa, which opened up cruising to many, is on the 25 best sailing boat designs list. Credit: James Wharram Designs

Credit: James Wharram Designs

What are boats for if not for dreaming? And James Wharram had big dreams.

First he sailed across the Atlantic on the 23ft 6in catamaran Tangaroa .

He then built the 40ft Rongo on the beach in Trinidad (with a little help from French legend Bernard Moitessier) and sailed back to the UK.

Then he drew the 34ft Tangaroa (based on Rongo ) for others to follow in his wake and sold 500 plans in 10 years.

A Twister yacht with a white hull and white sails

Credit: Graham Snook/Yachting Monthly

The Twister was designed in a hurry.

Kim Holman wanted a boat at short notice for the 1963 season and, having had some success with his Stella design (based on the Folkboat), he rushed out a ‘knockabout cruising boat for the summer with some racing for fun’.

The result was a Bermudan sloop that proved nigh on unbeatable on the East Anglian circuit.

It proved to be Holman’s most popular design with more than 200 built.

A black and white photos of a wooden yacht

Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

Laurent Giles’s design No15 was drawn in 1935 for a Guernsey solicitor who wanted ‘a boat that would spin on a sixpence and I could sail single-handed ’.

What the young Jack Giles gave him was a pretty transom-sterned cutter, with a nicely raked stem.

Despite being moderate in every way, the boat proved extremely able and was soon racking up long distances, including Humphrey Barton’s famous transatlantic crossing on Vertue XXXV in 1950.

Wanderer II and III

Wanderer 3 yacht sailing with red brown sails

Credit: Thies Matzen

Eric and Susan Hiscock couldn’t afford a Vertue, so Laurent Giles designed a smaller, 21ft version for them which they named Wanderer II .

They were back a few years later, this time wanting a bigger version: the 30ft Wanderer III .

It was this boat they sailed around the world between 1952-55, writing articles and sailing books along the way.

In doing so, they introduced a whole generation of amateur sailors to the possibilities of long-distance cruising.

Westerly 22

A Westerly 22 yacht with a white hull and a white sail

The origins of Westerly Marine were incredibly modest.

Commander Denys Rayner started building plywood dinghies in the 1950s which morphed into a 22ft pocket cruiser called the Westcoaster.

Realising the potential of fibreglass, in 1963 he adapted the design to create the Westerly 22, an affordable cruising boat with bilge keels and a reverse sheer coachroof.

Some 332 boats were built to the design before it was relaunched as the Nomad (267 built).

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1. Let�s Dance

2. Mission To Moscow

3. Meet The Band

4. I Got It Bad (And That Ain�t Good)

5. Why You?

6. Titter Pipes

8. Body And Soul

9. Rose Room

10. The World Is Waiting For The Sunrise

11. Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen

12. Stealin� Apples

13. Feathers

14. On The Alamo

15. Midgets

16. One O�Clock Jump

17. Bye Bye Blackbird

Benny Goodman - Clarinet on all tracks plus:

Tracks 1-6, 12-13 & 16-17

Joe Newman, Joe Wilder, Jimmy Maxwell, John Frosk � Trumpets

Wayne Andre, Willie Dennis, Jimmy Knepper - Trombones

Phil Woods, Jerry Dodgion - Alto saxes

Zoot Sims, Tommy Newsom - Tenor saxes

Gene Allen - Baritone sax

John Bunch - Piano

Turk Van Lake - Guitar

Bill Crow - Bass

Mel Lewis - Drums

Victor Feldman - Vibes

Teddy Wilson - Piano (track 3)

Tracks 7-10 � Quintet

Teddy Wilson � Piano

Track 11 - Septet

Joe Newman - Trumpet

Turk Van Lake � Guitar

Mel Lewis � Drums

Tracks 14-15 - Octet

Zoot Sims - Tenor sax

Victor Feldman � Vibes

1. Swift As The Wind #1

2. Fontainebleau

3. Meadowland

5. I�ve Grown Accustomed To Her Face

6. Swift As The Wind #2

7. King Porter Stomp

8. Meet The Band

9. Let There Be Love

10. Bugle Call Rag

11. Meet The Band #3

12. Mission To Moscow #2

13. Clarinet � La King

14. King Porter Stomp #2

15. Avalon #2

16. Body And Soul #2

17. China Boy

18. Medley: Poor Butterfly/I Can�t Give You Anything But Love

19. The Sheik Of Araby

20. Gershwin Medley: The Man I Love/Embraceable You/Somebody Loves Me

Tracks 1-4 & 6-14 Same personnel as CD1 1-6; 12-13 & 16-17

Joya Sherrill � Vocals (track 9)

Track 5 - Sextet

Bill Crow � Bass

Tracks 15-19 - Trio

Gene Krupa - drums

Track 20 - Trio

Mel Powell - Piano

Roy Burns � Drums

Benny Goodman was a man of many contradictions. He was a superb clarinet player although he was never considered to be a great swinger. He and his band ushered in the swing era, and he was also at the forefront of integrating black musicians into what were formerly all-white bands. Perhaps not surprisingly he was a stern task-master and very frugal in paying the band musicians. Finally he had a big ego and was very reluctant to allow band members to gain individual recognition when it might take away from his lustre. The bassist and jazz writer Bill Crow, who played in the band Goodman took to Russia, offers the following story (condensed version) about this trip in his book From Birdland To Broadway: Scenes From A Jazz Life: � Benny had commissioned new music from several well-known jazz composers, but by the time we reached Moscow, we weren�t playing much of it. John Carisi wrote one new chart that Benny liked called The Bulgar and Other Balkan Type Inventions. One night in Moscow when Benny pointed to Phil (Woods) during The Bulgar , Phil stood up and played an absolutely spectacular solo filled with swinging, dancing, and fireworks. When he was finished the whole band joined the audience in a roar of approval. Benny never gave Phil a chance to do that again. In that spot the next night, he called his old arrangement of Bugle Call Rag and we never played the Carisi chart again. The concerts were recorded but Benny didn�t include The Bulgar on the album Benny Goodman in Moscow.� So the album title The Complete Benny Goodman In Moscow is really not complete at all but, nevertheless, it is a pleasurable romp given the first-rate musicians that were in the band.

When Benny Goodman and the band undertook this trip to Russia in May/June 1962, Nikita Khrushchev was the First Secretary of the Communist Party and relations between the US and Russia were caught up in Cold War rhetoric. The US State Department hoped that a Goodman tour might help to thaw relations and show a positive side of the US to the Russian people. Whether Goodman was the correct choice when other jazz musicians such as Louis Armstrong were, in fact, more popular is another question. Since most Russians would not have been all that familiar with Goodman�s music, the band would not be saddled with the old Goodman band book. After the perfunctory opening number Let�s Dance, the band swings into Mel Powell�s Mission To Moscow with its catchy Balkan dance rhythms and Goodman�s clarinet riding over the tight sax section ensemble passages. Pianist John Bunch wrote a lively jump number Why You? that fitted right into a more modern big-band setting and gave tenor-man Zoot Sims some space to shine. As the album segues into quintet, sextet, and octet tracks, Goodman hogs most of the solos, except where Teddy Wilson participates on the quintet medley. Here he is as sparking as ever and gives full measure on the time allotted. Goodman still has the speed to stay in the game, but flounders on the upper registers when he is obligated to perform there. That is especially noticeable on The World Is Waiting For The Sunrise. But never mind, Mel Lewis� brush work is exemplary and drives the tune forward. The final track on CD1 is a big-band version of Bye Bye Blackbird using a chart from John Bunch. This is a complete rip-off from the Miles Davis version included in the album � Round Midnight, even to the inclusion of the Red Garland chord changes from the bridge back to the melody. Nevertheless it is well done and a good closer.

The offerings on this CD are a bit of a mash-up in that they come from several sources. Tracks 1 through 10 are from the Moscow concerts but tracks 5-10 were not part of the original LPs. Track 11 is the same band but recorded in Tbilisi, Georgia. The other cuts are taken from a couple of US television show soundtracks, have inferior sound quality, and are slightly out of sync. So cutting to the chase, the first five tracks are interesting and well done, and the balance of the CD for the most part is just dross. Tadd Dameron, who was probably one of the most influential composers and arrangers of the bebop era, wrote the first two tracks, Swift As The Wind and Fontainebleau. Both of these were way beyond Goodman�s traditional band book, but given the make-up of the band on the tour, fitted in to the players� capability of reading and playing complex arrangements. Even Goodman was caught up by the freshness of the arrangements, as he played as well as he had on any of the other more conventional offerings. Meadowland, also known as Song Of The Plains, was used as a marching song by the Red Army Choir. Arranger Joe Lipman turned it into a high-velocity swinger with some wicked drum breaks from Mel Lewis and fine tenor solo from Zoot Sims. The Russian audience seems particularly pleased with this interpretation.

Benny Goodman in his prime had terrific breath control and there was a certain lyricism in his playing. This outing is far from that period and should be considered in the context in which it was performed.

Pierre Giroux

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Classic Books Keep Speaking to Us Long After They Are Written

A Gentleman in Moscow

Is A Gentleman in Moscow A Modern Classic?

A Review by James L. Evans* (with Introduction by Litchatte Editor, Murray Ellison)

In early January, 2022, author James L. Evans led our first RVA Classic Bookclub (of Richmond, Virginia) discussion of the year on A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles (2016).  Our group has been meeting via Zoom only since the pandemic shut down our live meetings. With 100% of our members present, we discussed how timely this book has been with many of our members nearly quarantined in our home for the last year or more.

Several members concluded that A Gentleman may indeed be one of the best books in the last six years. We wondered if it might still be read in 100 years from now, and briefly compared it to how some of the books by Hemingway and Fitzgerald’s have held up since the 1920s.  Some members agreed that the book was written in a style similar to Russian classic writers, like Dostoevsky and Gogol. Towles certainly demonstrated through the novel that he was very familiar Russian literature and history. Some believed that it might be a long-term classic, as it contained universal themes of community, and noble motives, as demonstrated by several of the main characters. We observed that the author and protagonist treated women and children with much respect and that, by the action and dialogue, readers would have a lot to learn by them. As a father of three daughters and a young granddaughter, I regarded the way that the Count interacted and nurtured both Nina and her daughter as both touching and informative.

The book contains pathos and humor, as well as well as some mystery. Who let the geese out of the kitchen into the bustling hotel lobby? Some members were sure of who it was. I remain uncertain? The ending was both clever and totally unexpected, and it took a discussion of several of our most erudite members to unravel and explain the clues that the Count left- both to fool and enlighten us about what he was really up to.  We debated over some of of the questions that Jim Evans sent us before we went about discussing this novel. One of the intriguing things that Jim told us about was how Amor Towles had said that he got a great deal of pleasure in seeing how other people viewed some of the stories and characters he has written: They even give him some new insights into his own works. In view of that observation, I think that Towles would have enjoyed our RVA Classic Bookclub discussion of A Gentleman in Moscow,  particularly under author, James L, Evans’ leadership…Litchatte.com Editor, Murray Ellison

The Review by James L. Evans*

A Gentleman in Moscow is the second of Amor Towles’ three novels. Set in a hotel in Moscow, the book begins in 1922 and ends thirty years later. An aristocrat, thirty-two-year-old Count Alexander Rostov, is sentenced by a revolutionary tribunal to spend the rest of his life in the Metropol Hotel, spared from execution as credit for a poem he did not actually write, just one example of Towles’ humor. In the course of his confinement, Rostov raises two young girls and manages to not only survive but prevail over his circumstances.

Towles got the idea for ‘A Gentleman in Moscow’ after traveling and staying in the same hotel in Geneva over an 8-year period, seeing the same people year after year, and began to build the ‘scaffolding’ for the book about a count who becomes a waiter, meets a young girl, etc., Then Towles spent the next year gathering information in a notebook. The plot places the Count in severely challenging positions; confinement to the hotel; raising first Nina then Sonia; managing his role as a servant rather than a master; tutoring a KGB chieftain, as if the author set himself the task of working his way out of almost impossible situations through the Count’s ingenuity, strength of character, poise, erudition, and humanity.  The Count has the same sense of dry, droll humor as Towles’ commentary; and his appreciation for objet d’art , from cutlery to crockery to clocks to cabinetry.

Towles attributes the success of the book to its being ‘humane’ and the relationship that individuals develop over time. The appeal of an earlier period was that it moved at a slower pace, allowing a person to ‘nourish rather than (just) consume’ to quote Towles.

A Gentleman in Moscow was published in 2016; too soon to consider it a ‘classic’ but it has worn well during the years since publication. The reader will be rewarded with passages scattered throughout the book that is sure to stand the test of time. On my third re-reading of ‘A Gentleman In Moscow,’ I re-mined many of these gems with the same delight with which I read them the first time.

*James L. Evans has written a review for Litchatte previously, and has published several other books:

Banner House

What Am I Going To Do With You?

Chestertown

Where’s Judy?

Accounts Due

Winter Warning

Mountain Retreat

All are available in Amazon Books by writing in my name and the title of the book. Thanks, Jim

Please send comments to James L. Evans or to Murray Ellison, Litchatte.com about this book in the dialogue box below.

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    that fitted right into a more modern big-band setting and gave tenor-man Zoot Sims some space to shine. As the album segues into quintet, sextet, and octet tracks, Goodman hogs most of the solos, except where Teddy Wilson participates on the quintet medley. Here he is as sparking as ever and gives full measure on the time allotted.

  22. Two Capitals Tour of 7 days and 6 nights From Moscow

    Day 1 Barcelona - Zaragoza - Madrid. We'll meet at 4 p.m. at our hotel in Luzern (Lucerne) for a "Welcome to Switzerland" meeting. Then we'll take a meandering evening walk through Switzerland's most charming lakeside town, and get acquainted with one another over dinner together. Sleep in Luzern (2 nights). No bus.

  23. Is A Gentleman in Moscow A Modern Classic?

    The Review by James L. Evans*. A Gentleman in Moscow is the second of Amor Towles' three novels. Set in a hotel in Moscow, the book begins in 1922 and ends thirty years later. An aristocrat, thirty-two-year-old Count Alexander Rostov, is sentenced by a revolutionary tribunal to spend the rest of his life in the Metropol Hotel, spared from ...