Best Boats Nominees 2021

Sail News

Thanks to Covid-19, 2020 has been a year like no other. Human nature being what it is, though, sailors and the boatbuilding industry have continued doing what they love and know best. In fact, boat sales have been strong across the board as mariners have taken to the water in ways not seen for years in response to things like travel restrictions and social distancing. The boatbuilding industry has also responded by doing everything it can, both to help get people out on the water in the short term and by continuing to push the envelope with a great new crop of boats. There has, however, been a catch—a distinct lack of boat shows where sailors can go see them. It is with this situation in mind that we at SAIL have been forging ahead with our annual Best Boats contest in an effort to keep you, our readers, abreast of the latest in boat design. The good news is that despite the lack of boat shows this fall, nearly all the new boats set to appear at them still arrived as scheduled. Better still, in spite of whatever else may be going on these days, the boatbuilders of the world have once again outdone themselves in terms of quality and innovation, to the benefit of sailors everywhere. Look for our selection of winners in SAIL’s January issue.




Ever since joining forces with catamaran builder Fountaine-Pajot, Dufour has been on a roll, bringing out a number of new designs in quick succession. Among these is the Dufour 530, which made its debut this past winter at Germany’s Düsseldorf boat show. Designed by Umberto Felci, the boat is available in three distinct versions: “Easy” for owners and charterers in search of simplicity; “Ocean” for those sailors looking for a little more boatspeed and better controls; and “Performance,” which comes with a deeper T-keel, more sail area and racy-looking topsides graphics, for those interested in racing. Four different layouts are also available, with anywhere from three to six cabins (the latter configuration designed with the charter industry in mind), and all three types come with a fixed sprit for keeping the anchor clear of the plumb bow and flying an A-sail.

LOA 53ft 8in BEAM 16ft 4in DRAFT 7ft 7in DISPLACEMENT 39,185lb, Dufour,



In one of its boldest moves yet, Germany’s normally somewhat staid Dehler is now building a racing sloop it calls the Dehler 30 One Design, a boat that truly pegs the fun factor at “11.” Conceived of as a “progressive racer-cruiser” that will serve as an “uncompromising doublehanded offshore boat” offering “maximum performance,” the boat is jammed-packed with the latest go-fast features, including a large fixed sprit, tumblehome bow, twin high-aspect rudders, T-keel, powerful square-top main and aggressive sections aft for power-reaching under A-sail. The vacuum-infused hull includes a “Dehler carbon cage” to help handle keel and rig loads. The single-spread rig is all carbon. A “stealth drive” gets the auxiliary prop completely out of the way when sailing. Just the thing for those with dreams of doublehanded-racing glory, in particular.

LOA 30ft BEAM 10ft 7in DRAFT 7ft 2in DISPLACEMENT 6,173lb, Dehler,



One of the truly fascinating things about sailboat design is seeing the way some of the industry’s more established players adapt—or don’t adapt—to change. Case in point, Sweden’s famed bluewater builder Hallberg-Rassy. On the one hand, the company has done a great job of maintaining both the styling and build quality that first put it on the map. On the other, it has done a great job of incorporating the latest in yacht design when and where it makes sense. Examples aboard the 340 include not just twin helms but twin rudders aft, the better to steer with when the boat it on its ear; a plumb bow in the interest of extending the boat’s sailing length; and a combination anchor roller and fixed sprit for flying a Code 0. In terms of aesthetics, the Frers design office has also done an excellent job of combining both the old and new in a boat that is as attractive as it is functional.

LOA 34ft BEAM 11ft 5in DRAFT 6ft 2in DISPLACEMENT 13,145lb, Hallberg-Rassy,



Building on the design themes of Beneteau’s Oceanis 51.1, the Marc Lombard-designed Oceanis 40.1 offers a compelling combination of comfort and performance. To achieve this, the 40.1 features an innovative, flared “tulip” hull design with twin rudders and chines extending from the bow all the way aft in the interest of increasing volume belowdecks. The boat is also available with an array of options allowing owners to tailor the boat to their particular sailing style: among these are four different cabin layouts, three different rigs and three different keels. Twin helms overlook a cockpit with a large folding table on centerline. Clear side decks allow easy movement from the bow to the transom, where you have the option of manual or electric control of the boat’s large swim step.

LOA 42ft 3in BEAM 13ft 9in DRAFT 7ft 1in (std); 5ft 6in (shoal); 7ft 5in (performance) DISPLACEMENT 17,600lb, Beneteau,



The Beneteau Oceanis Yacht 54 offers an impressive combination of comfort and performance afloat. The cockpit, in particular, is a work of art—a large open space that takes up more than a third of the boat’s total deck area, and through which you can walk without having to do any ducking or sidestepping, thanks to the boat’s innovative split cockpit table. Close alongside the companionway is a trademark Beneteau cockpit arch, which serves as an anchor point for the mainsheet and massive bimini. Underway, the boat features Harken’s AST (assisted sail trim) system, which automatically trims the sails to the apparent wind angle. Similarly, Beneteau’s proprietary Dock & Go system, which integrates a 360-degree rotating pod with a retractable bow thruster for close-quarters maneuvering, is also available as an option. Twin rudders ensure a solid grip on the water, even at dramatic angles of heel. Plumb ends maximize the boat’s sailing length.

LOA 52ft 5in BEAM 16ft 5in DRAFT 8ft 2in (std); 6ft 5in (shoal) DISPLACEMENT 36,586lb, Beneteau,



Designed to “win regattas one weekend and then take the family for a comfortable and safe sail the next” the new 435 built by Sweden’s Arcona looks to be capable of doing all that and more. Scandinavian to the core with its sleek lines and top-notch build quality, the boat features blunt ends, twin wheels, a single semi-balanced high-aspect rudder, rugged yet lightweight construction and an elegantly styled low-profile cabintrunk. Three different keel depths are available as is the option of carbon spars, a carbon hull and deck, and an open or semi-open transom. Forward there is a small fixed anchor roller that also serves as a tack point for reaching sails, while the slightly overlapping genoa flies from a belowdeck furler—always a sure sign a design means business. It’s good to see this fine builder exploring the North American market again.

LOA 43ft BEAM 13ft 1in DRAFT 7ft 6in (std); 6ft 6in (shoal); 8ft 6in (deep) DISPLACEMENT 19,621lb, Arcona Yachts,



One of the latest installments in the Danish builder’s ever-growing “X” line of contemporary performance cruisers, the X4 hits a true sweet spot with an easily handled LOA under 40ft, aesthetically pleasing lines and sparkling performance. The boat’s hull is vacuum-infused and then post-cured in epoxy for lightweight and rigidity. It also includes an X-Yachts proprietary galvanized steel grid beneath the cabin sole to handle rig and keel loads. As is the case with all X-Yachts, the build quality of the X4 is outstanding throughout. A pair of keels is available, including a higher-aspect “performance” keel. Rod rigging comes standard and an all-carbon mast is available as an option. Owners can go with either a self-tacking headsail or a slightly overlapping genoa for a little extra “oomph.” An A-sail can be flown from a fixed sprit on the bow. Twin wheels aft ensure excellent sight lines on every point of sail.

LOA 39ft 8in BEAM 12ft 6in DRAFT 6ft 11in (std.); 7ft 10in (deep) DISPLACEMENT 17,857lb, X-Yachts,

HINCKLEY Sou’wester 53


Designed by Tripp Design Naval Architecture, the Hinckley Sou’wester 53 is an evolution of the company’s Bermuda 50 and offers a great combination of performance and comfort. At the heart of the design is a magnificent pilothouse, complete with an internal navigation/watch-standing station, dining table with unobstructed 360-degree views of the outside world and hand-crafted joinery work that has to be seen to be believed. The cockpit includes a well-protected, recessed lounging area immediately aft of the pilothouse and twin helms offering excellent sightlines both aloft and forward. The hull is infused in epoxy, with a layup that includes both carbon and Kevlar in the interest of durability and stiffness. Multiple rig options are available, and the self-tacking blade jib flies from a belowdeck furler to maximize sail area. All in all, a great-looking boat that sails great, too.

LOA 52ft 4in BEAM 14ft 3in DRAFT 8ft 3in DISPLACEMENT 30,000lb Hinckley Yachts,



Designed by German Frers, the Hylas 60 is configured to serve as a fast bluewater passagemaker that can be handled by a shorthanded crew or even a sailing couple. To this end the boat is equipped with a low-aspect fin keel and bulb, an impressive 90ft air draft (no ICW transits for this old girl!), plumb ends for maximizing sailing length, twin spade rudders and a svelte-looking fixed sprit. At the same time, the Hylas 60 remains very much a cruising boat, with a deep forefoot and sufficient displacement to promote a seakindly motion underway and provide that much more storage and accommodation space. The H60’s cored hull is infused with an eye toward stiffness and lightweight. A split backstay makes it that much easier to access the boat’s swim platform. Twin helms facilitate sightlines forward. Powered winches can be found throughout. The boat also comes equipped with a hydraulic backstay and vang.

LOA 59ft 2in BEAM 17ft 3in DRAFT 8ft 10in (std); 6ft 6in (shoal) DISPLACEMENT 65,256lb, Hylas International,



The latest new effort from recently revitalized Island Packet, the “next generation” Island Packet 439 follows in the footsteps of the IP349 in bringing an updated version of an already successful design to market. As was the case with the 349, the key word here is “customization,” with the company once again committed to making sure owners get exactly what they want in terms of accommodations and rig. Belowdecks, for example, there are options for everything from “captains’ chairs” in the saloon to a workshop/storage area aft. Topside you can choose between a Solent rig or cutter rig with staysail, depending on your sailing style. As has long been the case with Island Packet, the 439 includes a fully-encapsulated lead-ballast full keel with an attached rudder in the interest of seaworthiness and safety.

LOA 45ft 9in BEAM 14ft 4in DRAFT 5ft DISPLACEMENT 32,000lb, Island Packet Yachts,


BALI 4.8


The Bali 4.8 will make for a great vacation choice when on charter with its spacious forward cockpit, coachroof lounge area and the additional relaxation area created by connecting the two sugar-scoop sterns with a bench seat. A full-size refrigerator in the galley will come in handy for feeding guests—up to 12 can be seated comfortably in the saloon’s dining area. The boat is available in five different layouts, including an arrangement with six cabins and six heads, almost unheard of in a boat of this size. The hull layup includes a foam core and is infused in polyester with an anti-osmotic vinylester layer below the waterline. The deck is also infused with a foam core in the interest of creating an overall structure that is as strong and light as possible. The raised helm station is located just forward of the coachroof lounging pad to ensure the skipper will have plenty of company up there.

LOA 48ft 10in BEAM 25ft 10in DRAFT 4ft 5in DISPLACEMENT 33,700lb, Bali,



The recently launched Dragonfly 40 represents a truly spectacular effort on the part of Denmark’s Quorning Boats, both in terms of speed potential and amenities. Available in either a “Touring” version with a self-tacking jib, or a turbocharged “Ultimate” version, with an overlapping headsail, the boat features a carbon mast and batten-car system for the main, twin helms aft and the option of a fixed sprit. The amas include a pair of deck hatches providing easy access to a wealth of storage space, while the accommodation space belowdecks in the main hull (long a Quorning specialty) also looks to be both well-thought-out and comfortable, with an L-shaped galley to port and a private double cabin aft. Finally, there’s Quorning’s proprietary “Dragonfly Swing Wing” system, which allows you to deploy and retract the amas in a matter of seconds.

LOA 40ft 7in BEAM 13ft 1in (amas folded); 27ft 6in (amas extended) DRAFT 1ft 4in (board up); 6ft 3in (board down) DISPLACEMENT 12,125lb, Quorning Boats APS,



The latest member of Group Beneteau’s new Excess line of catamarans to arrive in North America, the 37ft-long Excess 11 is a sporty mid-size cruiser with a surprising amount of space belowdecks, including a full 6.5ft x 6.5ft berth in the owner’s cabin. Performance sailors will appreciate the twin helms aft, with their clear view of the rig. The boat is available with either four or three cabins. Topside, the aesthetic is very much a modern one, with plumb bows, equally abrupt transoms and an aggressively drawn reverse sheer. The rig features a square-top main, with an eye toward sparkling performance on all angles of sail, and a self-tacking jib for shorthanded sailing. In addition to offering a clear view of the sails, the outboard helms are carefully configured to provide a clear view forward through the boat’s large saloon windows as well.

LOA 37ft 2in BEAM 21ft 7in DRAFT 3ft 9in DISPLACEMENT 19,845lb, Excess Catamarans,



The largest model in Group Beneteau’s new Excess line, the Excess 15 features twin outboard helm stations set well aft (in many ways the mark of a true performance cat), just a hint of reverse sheer to complement the boats’ plumb bows, and a high-aspect rig and square-top main. The company can also equip each boat with a clever retractable roof in the cabintrunk aft to further open things up in nice weather, and a turbocharged “pulse” rig is available with yet more sail area for those in search of additional horsepower. Belowdecks as many as four cabins with four separate heads can be ordered. There’s also an owner’s version, with expansive private accommodations in the starboard hull A great-looking boat with an abundance of style and room to stretch out in, whether at anchor or on passage.

LOA 48ft 5in BEAM 26ft 4in DRAFT 4ft 7in DISPLACEMENT 42,018lb, Excess Catamarans,



Although the smallest boat in the Fountaine-Pajot line of cats, the Isla 40 (which takes the place of the Lucia 40) still packs a lot of boat into its roughly 39ft of LOA. With its dramatic reverse sheer, inverted destroyer bows and angular lines, it’s a darn good looking boat as well. A single raised helm station is located to starboard with the main traveler spanning the width of the hard dodger aft. Belowdecks, there is a choice of either three or four cabins, and the saloon includes a spacious L-shaped cabin to port. There’s also a lounging area forward of the cabintrunk and a nice bench seat spanning the width of the cockpit immediately forward of the boat’s dinghy davits.

LOA 39ft 2in BEAM 21ft 10in DRAFT 4ft DISPLACEMENT 21,280lb, Fountaine-Pajot Sailing Catamarans,



Designed by the multihull specialists at Morrelli & Melvin, the HH50 is a bluewater-capable, fast cruiser configured in such a way as to make it possible for shorthanded crews to knock off impressive 24-hour runs on passage with relative ease. Dual helm stations aft provide excellent visibility forward and aloft, and a push-button mainsheet and self-tacking jib come standard. For those in search of a little more horsepower, a massive overlapping Solent is also available. All line handling is done from the helm stations, thereby opening up the rest of the boat for living space. As is the case with its predecessors, the HH50 includes a pair of dramatically curved “C” daggerboards equipped with optional push-button-controlled line drivers to provide yet more lift/performance underway. At anchor, the boat’s forward sailhandling area converts into a comfortable forward-facing lounging space.

LOA 51ft 10in BEAM 24ft 5in DRAFT 4ft 11in (boards up); 10ft 6in (boards down) DISPLACEMENT 25,300lb, Hudson Yacht Group,



The Reichel-Pugh designed Seawind 1600 is the latest new “luxury performance” multihull to enter the fray and looks to be a winner with its sleek lines and powerful rig. The hulls are vacuum-infused in vinylester with carbon fiber included in the layup in a number of high-load areas and Kevlar below the waterline for durability. Daggerboards serve to provide excellent performance when sailing close to the wind and, in combination with the boat’s retractable rudders, make the Seawind 1600 fully beachable. Twin outboard helm stations provide excellent sightlines while also being close enough to the boat’s cabintrunk to allow the person at the wheels to duck in out of the weather. The boat’s square-top main and double-headsail rig provides plenty of get-up-and-go in a wide range of conditions.

LOA 51ft 8in BEAM 25ft 10in DRAFT 2ft 1in (boards up); 8ft 5in (boards down) DISPLACEMENT 28,000lb, Seawind Catamarans,

Smaller Boats



One of the great things about even the speediest of tris is that they often offer a surprising amount of accommodation space, making them great little pocket cruisers. Case in point, the all-new Corsair 880 is a foldable speedster that is as comfortable as it is quick, with standing headroom belowdecks and berths for five. So serious is Corsair about keeping people comfortable, it’s also offering such options as a bimini, boom tent, 12-volt cooler, solar panels, manual or electric toilet, and even a generator and heater/AC unit! Of course, this kind of boat is also all about performance, and to this end, the 880 comes equipped with a centerboard and high-aspect rig with square-top main. For those in search of yet more horsepower, a “sport” version of the boat is available, complete with an even taller rig, carbon spars and sprit, standard.

LOA 28ft 8in BEAM 22ft (amas out); 8ft 2in (amas folded) DRAFT 1ft 5in (board up); 5ft 3in (board down) DISPLACEMENT 3,659lb, Corsair Marine,



Good things aren’t the only things that come in small packages. Fast things can come in small packages, too, like the inflatable Happy Cat beach cat, now marketed in the United States by Red Beard Sailing. Designed with performance in mind, the boat’s vulcanized rubber hulls (think car tire rubber) come equipped with wave-piercing bows, while a centerboard helps with tracking, especially when sailing hard on the wind. Three different iterations are available: the 13ft 9in Happy Cat Neo: the 15ft 3in Happy Cat Evolution, and the 16ft 4in Happy Cat Hurricane, which has been clocked at speeds of over 20 knots. Assembly of all three models takes a little over a half-hour, the hulls are easily repairable, and the boats can be easily transported to the beach or tucked away aboard the “mother ship” when cruising in either two or three bags, depending on LOA.

LOA 16ft 4in BEAM 7ft 7in WEIGHT 187lb, Happy Cat/Red Beard Sailing,



Long a household name among small-boat sailors, Wisconsin’s Melges Boat Works has come up with yet another way to have fun on the water with its Melges 15. Designed by Reichel/Pugh, the Melges 15 combines a narrow beam with a flat cross-sectional shape for stability, righting moment and easy planing. The ergonomically designed cockpit helps takes some of the stress off knees while a high boom and gnav serve to spare sailors’ backs when tacking and jibing. A single-pull launch and retrieval system for the asymmetric spinnaker will facilitate smooth sail handling, whether teaching or racing. A simple conversion from a club configuration to a one-design setup provides versatility for any sailing program.

LOA 15ft BEAM 5ft 6in DRAFT 2ft 7in DISPLACEMENT NA, Melges,

MINICAT 460 Elite


The latest addition to the German-built, MiniCat inflatable beach cat line, the new MiniCat 460 Elite features a carbon-fiber mast that will not only make it that much easier to put up the rig when getting ready to sail, but make it that much easier to control the boat in heavy air. Marketed in the United States by Red Beard Sailing, the boat weighs just 128lb but can carry as many as four people. It is fully portable and can be inflated and assembled on-site in a little over a half-hour. No tools are required. The hulls are fabricated from a super-tough material known as Hey-Tex and include a pair of low-aspect fin keels for directional stability. Framing is aluminum. You can even rig the boat to fly a gennaker.

LOA 15ft 1in BEAM 7ft 3in WEIGHT 128lb, MiniCat/Red Beard Sailing,

October 2020

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