The first of a new range from X-Yachts, the X4 looks like a sailing skipper's dream, but the proof is in the pudding, as Toby Hodges discovered. Photos Richard Langdon.

X-Yachts builds dependable cruiser-racers, right? Reliably built performance yachts that get regatta results – not glitzy trendsetters? Well, the Danish brand certainly likes to keep its Southampton-based design team busy. It designs everything in house and, in the last eight years alone, has brought out new ranges of both Xc cruising yachts (see the Xc45 test video here) and Xp performance yachts (read the Xp44 test report here).

It therefore made for unexpected and exciting news when X-Yachts created a whole new ‘X’ line by launching the brand new 41-footer, the X4, at the same time as its 60-footer, the X6, which was first announced in 2014, and which we tested simultaneously (see the X6 test video here). However, I couldn’t help but wonder whether there is room for a third model run. “Many clients feel that the Xp models are too race-oriented while the Xc boats are too heavy and classic-looking,” X-Yachts’s founder Niels Jeppesen explains. “So we went back to X-Yachts’s roots to design a very good, fast cruising yacht.”

The new ‘X’ line has similar modern lines to the Xp performance models, but with more volume and increased payload capacity. It is slightly heavier than the Xp but with the same T-shaped keel, rudder and ballast. ‘X’ models have vacuum-infused epoxy hulls, as per the Xp, but include X-Yachts’ renowned steel grid for stiffness.

“The X range is for those who want a sexy, modern-looking boat, but whose priority is cruising,” says Jeppesen. With 14 of the X4s selling immediately, this range has had a flying start. So I went to Haderslev for a test sail.

Quick to charm

Where we tested: Haderslev on the Baltic coast of Denmark not far from the German border

Wind: X4 tested in 18-25 knots

Model: hull number 1

Conditions off the Baltic coast of Denmark were ideal, with 18–25 knots of gusty wind in cloudy conditions that partly obscured the sun. This first brand new X4 was decidedly quick to charm as we headed off on a long upwind leg on starboard.

The X4 has a very definite and rewarding sweet spot. Put the bow down a little, feel her heel and accelerate, then edge back up so she flattens off slightly onto her soft chine. The log should then quickly rise by a third of a knot as she settles into a groove. Over-point and she’ll drop back down to 7 knots; get it right and she’ll carve to windward all day at 7.4 knots. It’s highly rewarding.

The test boat’s sails and deck gear were ideally set up for maximum performance. We carried full sail throughout the test with cunningham and, later, backstay cranked on. The 3Di black Kevlar/Spectra sails proved stiff enough to handle the bullets of wind that brought 30 knots over the deck without needing to resort to a reef. Admittedly, North Sails’ Peter Westfal was doing a fine job trimming the main. In these conditions he left the traveller alone slightly below the centreline and just played the mainsheet to control the twist at the head of the sail.

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Mainsheet winches nestle in the coamings. Headsail sheets emerge from beneath the coachroof.

He was, however, uneasy about hoisting the shiny new A3 gennaker. Well Peter, I’m glad we talked you round. That long, stable offwind spell was the ideal demonstration of her power and agility and completely sold me on the X4. It was stupidly addictive on the responsive helm. We averaged 9.5 knots; at over 10.5 knots she started to plane and in gusts or little waves, we added another knot.

When asked to, she will point high and maintain admirable grip on the rudder. As in the upwind mode, there was an ideal amount of feedback with a touch of weather helm if and when pressed. It was really impressive stuff for a freshly launched model – but I guess that’s what you come to expect from a pedigree yard used to building performance boats. The X4 may be slightly fuller in her hull sections than this builder’s past cruiser-racers but she retains that addictive agility.

The excellent control line set-up including traveller, jib tracks, vang and cunningham encourages regular sail-shape tweaks to help get the best out of her. The leads are particularly neat, with jib sheets led under the deck, and mainsheet led through the aft coaming down to the traveller. Mainsheet winches are buried neatly into the coamings, with primaries mounted on top – all Harken Performas. The deck is also kept very clean, with flush, frameless hatches.

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Flush, frameless hatches create a feeling of uninterrupted flow across the deck.

The test boat had a ‘Maxi style’ mainsheet set-up, led directly from boom end to recessed traveller and on to the winches positioned within reach of the helm. It’s a neat, direct system that I like but it loads the traveller more than a German led system. There is space in front of the wheels for a trimmer or helmsman if short-handed.

With plenty of beam carried aft, the deck lockers surrounding the cockpit have a practical amount of volume, plus there is a locker between the quarter lockers with room for two gas bottles. A deep sail locker forward has space for gennaker and fenders.

The standard boat comes without a cockpit table. Instead X-Yachts provides options for either a removable or fixed table. The tail bags were screwed-on accessories, and I would prefer to have seen proper built-in storage designed specifically for the job.

Design features

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  1. The rod rigging meets stainless steel chainplates that are covered to maintain a clean toerail line.
  2. The mirrored windows on the first boat have been changed for tinted versions. Cockpit shelter can be enhanced by an optional sprayhood and fixed windscreen.
  3. Most of the control lines are smartly concealed under the deck and led aft to clutches on the coachroof.
  4. The X4 that we sailed is yet another open-transom design with only two aft guardrail wires. In response, X-Yachts has now improved the aft pushpit design to include a third lifeline.
  5. An optional swim platform is lowered and raised using a simple rope purchase.

Interior

Heading below, my first impressions were a little anticlimactic following such an enjoyable sail. It just seemed a tad plain; I have seen the ‘oak Alpi’ look used a lot across production yachts recently and it seemed out of place for a pedigree Scandinavian yard like X-Yachts (although the standard finish is still teak).

This is a sore point for this builder, as in the past, X-Yachts has been criticised for being too conservative with its traditional teak interiors. However, my reservations are about more than simply the choice of veneer. The interior of the X4 – the quality of the finish – didn’t come across as a cut above the mass production yards. In essence, it lacked that feeling of luxury.

Some of this can be put down to her size – at 41ft there is only so much you can do with the space – but the doorways, for example, still felt unnecessarily narrow (although X-Yachts have now improved the frame detailing to make them wider) and offered just 5ft 7in headroom. In comparison, the interior of the X6 (overleaf) has more ‘wow factor’ than any other production yacht I’ve seen recently.

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The optional oak Alpi decor. “We are being asked more and more for light wood finishes,” says X-Yachts’s founder Niels Jeppesen.

The X4 has a conventional three-cabin two heads layout. A two-cabin layout will be available in 2017, which I think would work better for this size and target market. The Oceanair blinds, optional indirect floor lights, and illuminated LED light switches are smart design touches and there is good all-round access to the engine space.

The test boat lacks a dedicated navstation hence the saloon feels extra roomy. In this three-cabin format, there is only the option to build in a minimum-size chart table adjoining the aft part of the starboard sofa. The two-cabin option will have a dedicated forward-facing navstation.

It’s a smart area with plenty of natural light. The flip-top table with integrated wine-bottle stowage is large enough for six. There are four raised lockers each side of the saloon, but with tanks located beneath the berths for optimum weight placement, storage space is a little limited in the saloon.

The galley is smart and functional. It has a light, practical layout with adequate storage, a Corian fiddled worktop, double sink and top-opening 90lt fridge. A front-opening second fridge is optional, as are accessories like Nespresso machine and microwave. A double bin slides out from below the sink.

Duck through the doorway and you’ll find a light and inviting cabin. The optional en-suite in place of an extra wardrobe seems to make the best use of the layout. The forward-looking coachroof window is a stylish touch to go with the hull portlights and the large deck hatch. Headroom of 6ft 4in is carried up to the island berth, which is somewhat elevated with generous stowage beneath. The berth lifts on gas struts for easy access.

The aft cabins have a conventional layout with a long double berth, small wardrobe, long double shelf and a hull window. In the heads, a swing door divides the wash area and heads itself, but also reveals the main entrance to the aft cabin. The heads converts into a wet-room and there is a shower on a stand with a mixer tap.

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The master cabin bed has plenty of stowage beneath.

Specifications

LOA: 13.09m (42ft 11in)
LWL: 11.31m (37ft 1in)
Beam (max): 3.95m (13ft 0in)
Draught: 2.20m (7ft 3in)
Displacement (lightship): 8,850kg (19,511lb)
Ballast: 3,800kg (8,377lb)
Sail area (100% foretriangle): 97.50sq m (1,049sq ft)
Berths: 4–7
Engine: 45hp Yanmar saildrive
Water: 340lt (75gal)
Fuel: 200lt (44gal)
Sail area-displacement ratio: 23.2
Displacement-LWL ratio: 170
Price (ex VAT): €279,000
Test boat (inc VAT): £370,000
Design: X-Yachts design team

Conclusions

The X4 strikes a delicious balance between the performance of a cruiser-racer and the manageability of a cruising yacht. You can feel it, trim it and tune it properly: it’s a yacht to delight the active helmsman, without needing multiple crew. If the difference between a standard production yacht and a premium performance cruiser is unclear to you, then you need to get behind the wheel of the X4 in a breeze.

X-Yachts X4 on test video

However, for a boat that makes you feel like royalty on the helm, the interior comes across as a little plain. It will come down to personal taste – and 14 X4s have already been sold – but for its price, I think the X4 could do more below.

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In the groove upwind.

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X-Yachts X4 sailplan.

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The optional carbon bowsprit keeps the anchor clear of the vertical stem.

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X-Yachts X4 interior accommodation plan.

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Aft cabin double berth.

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The three-cabin version includes a minimal chart table.

Build

X-Yachts has a facility in north Poland with 110 workers where the initial hull and deck lay up for both the X4 and the X6 is done. The rest of the assembly, including quality control, takes place in Haderslev, Denmark.