Boat Review: Bavaria C38

Sail News

Following a change of control and reorganization in 2018, Bavaria Yachts, one of Europe’s biggest builders, tapped a new design team and started updating its entire range of boats. The first new “C-Line” Bavaria, the C42, designed by Maurizio Cossutti and Alessandro Ganz, was a surprise success in Europe in 2020 and pulled down some major awards there. The new Bavaria C38 is the second of the new breed, a slightly downsized version of its predecessor, which shares many design and construction features.

Design & Construction

Bavaria was a newcomer to the hard-chined cruising hull party, but has embraced the trend with enthusiasm. The C38, like the C42 before it, boasts a pronounced chine running its full length. It also carries a great deal of beam aft, as is common these days. A unique feature, shared with the C42, is a fat, quite bluff vertical bow, vaguely reminiscent of the scow bows now seen on some Mini Transat boats. This kind of a full, round forefoot section creates extra volume up front and is said to reduce slamming and help keep the bow from digging in when the boat is well heeled. This in turn helps keep the single rudder engaged and enhances control. The overall result is not especially beautiful aesthetically, although the boat does look pretty powerful.

Early prototypes of this new C-Line craft were reportedly built with vacuum-infused structures, but for production purposes, Bavaria has defaulted to the tried and true, with the hull and deck consisting of wet hand-laid cored sandwich laminates. Bulkheads are fully laminated to the hull along their sides, with the ends bedded in a set of hull-liner slots and dressed with an aggressive structural adhesive. Ballast in the L-shaped bulb keels is iron. The keel bolts are backed by heavy metal plates interposed in a glass laminate grid.

On Deck

The wide cockpit features twin wheels, pushed as far aft as possible, hard against a generous fold-down transom. The sturdy fixed centerline cockpit table with folding leaves provides a valuable bracing point and features a useful storage bin. A chartplotter, viewable from both helms, can be mounted on its aft end. The two pedestals are set low, with no grab rails to hang on to. However, there are a pair of removable foot chocks to brace against, and the helmsperson can steer comfortably from the outboard helm seats to either side of the boat.

The single-line sheet for the self-tacking blade jib and all lines from the mast are led aft to a pair of Lewmar 40 winches mounted to either side of the companionway. The only lines led to the helms, where they are managed by another pair of Lewmar 40s, are the tails of the double-ended mainsheet. An extra pair of coaming winches can also be ordered for managing an overlapping jib sheeted through a pair of conventional tracks on the side decks or an A-sail. To my mind, the winches are a little undersized and larger ones should be specified.

Moving forward, the crew will find a long coachroof handrail to cling to, aggressive nonskid and medium-height gunwales to help keep feet inboard. It’s very easy to get past the shrouds, which descend from wide sweptback spreaders to outboard chainplates mounted on the side of the hull. At the bow there is a short sprit supported by a solid bobstay with an integral anchor roller for the hook. The forepeak locker just behind the sprit boasts a large useful storage area, over which hangs a somewhat undersized rode bin that is also a bit of a challenge to access.

For those who like to power-lounge on the foredeck, an optional sun-bed can be mounted just forward of the track for the self-tacking jib.

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Accommodations

Keeping in mind that the C38’s actual hull length is only about 36ft, the boat has a phenomenal amount of interior space, thanks to all the beam pushed both forward and aft. I am hard-pressed to think of another boat this size that can truly support a three-cabin layout with three king-size double berths. The twin aft cabins, in particular, are remarkable, with good headroom and clearance over the berths.

A total of four different layouts are available, with the two variables being the aft cabins, one of which can be specified as a simple storage area, and the forward stateroom, which can be specified with its own en suite head. However, ordering the en suite head would be madness, as it steals far too much space from the double berth and effectively demotes it to a large single. Far better to rely on a single midships head boasting a semi-separate shower stall.

The middle of the boat is well organized, with the galley is to port at the base of the companionway. The single-well sink is outboard, but fairly large and deep. There is a bit of useful counter space alongside the three-burner Eno stove, a big front-loading fridge and a fair amount of easily accessed storage space. The saloon, bathed in natural light from the boat’s large portlights and side windows, features a dinette to starboard with a large fold-out table. There’s a small vestigial nav station at the forward end of the shortened settee to port.

Under Sail

I sailed a shoal-draft version of the C38 on Chesapeake Bay in 11-16 knots of true wind on flat water. Our test boat was equipped with a “standard” set of Elvstrøm sails, including a small self-tacking jib and an in-mast furling mainsail with full-length vertical battens. A conventional slab-reefed main and overlapping 103 percent jib can also be specified. The latter would be my preference, as such sails are more powerful and easily handled on a boat this size.

Sailing the boat I found myself immediately frustrated by the bimini, which was too tall and made it impossible to bring the boom near centerline. Worse yet, we weren’t able to fold it out of the way while sailing, which made it impossible to discover just how close-winded the boat was under sail. The best I could manage was a 45-degree apparent wind angle, which yielded a speed of 5.2 knots.

Bearing away, we hit our best speed of 6.6 knots, at a 55-degree wind angle when a few gusts came through. This dropped to 5.6 knots on a beam reach, then to 4.8 knots as the wind went aft of abeam. Sailing dead downwind, with the little jib sheeted out wing-and-wing, we made a good 4.4 knots.

I found that the boat steered quite easily, with a light helm and just the right amount of feedback. In the occasional gusts to 20 knots apparent that we saw on our close reach, the helm never once griped, and no need to ease the main to maintain control.

Under Power

Our test boat was equipped with the larger optional 40hp Yanmar diesel, and we had no trouble making speed under power. At a conservative cruise setting of 2,000 rpm, we made 6 knots. This rose to 6.7 knots at 2,200 rpm and jumped all the way to 7.8 knots when we pinned the throttle flat out at 2,970 rpm. I found the digital Yanmar tachometer to be annoying, as it was so jumpy and erratic it was hard to dial in a specific rpm setting. Presumably, the data feed can be dampened to minimize or even eliminate the problem.

The boat turned crisply within its own length and was easily controlled backing down. I did note it turned more easily to starboard than to port in reverse. Nonetheless, we had little backing into a somewhat awkwardly placed berth at the end of our sail. Belowdecks, I found access to the engine through the lifting companionway stairs and two side panels was excellent.

Conclusion

If you’re looking for maximum accommodation space in a boat of modest size, this is the vessel for you. The Bavaria C38 should appeal to both charter fleet operators and active young sailing families. It will also work well for couples with a couple of guests. 

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Specifications

LOA 36ft 1in LWL 33ft 9in Beam 13ft 1in

Draft 6ft 6in (std.); 5ft 5in (shoal)

Displacement 19,996lb (std.)

Ballast 4,861lb (std.)

Sail Area 810ft2

Fuel/Water (GAL) 55/55

Engine Yanmar 29hp w/saildrive

D/L Ratio 232

SA/D Ratio 17

Ballast Ratio 24

What do these ratios mean? Visit sailmagazine.com/ratios

Designer Cossutti Yacht Design

Builder Bavaria Yachts, Giebelstadt, Germany, bavariayachts.com

Price $259,000 (base) at time of publication

July/August 2022

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