If you want to know which are the best new production yachts on the market at the moment, the European Yacht of the Year is the best place to start. Toby Hodges sailed the 15 nominees and gives his verdict on the five winners

What is the yacht of the year, or the best yachts to look out for in 2018? Which are the most interesting, entertaining, innovative, well built and best value for money yachts on the market?

The reason we can answer such questions with confidence is that, as well as conducting our own independent tests, Yachting World also sits on the panel of judges for the European Yacht of the Year awards. This involves shortlisting the best annual prospects into five categories before testing them all to elect the winners.

Take a look at last year’s winners here and the European Yacht of the Year 2016 here

Now in its 15th year, the European Yacht of the Year is the most thorough and unbiased awards programme for new production yachts. All 12 judges, comprising the boat testers and editors from sailing magazines across Europe, tested all the nominated yachts in La Rochelle and Barcelona last autumn.

The five 2018 European Yacht of the Year winners were announced on the first evening of the Dusseldorf Boatshow, on 20 January. Look out for our March 2018 issue, which has a feature combining our reviews on all the winners in more detail.

FAMILY CRUISER

Nominees: Beneteau Oceanis 51, Hanse 548, Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 440

Winner: Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 440

Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 440 European Yacht of the Year 2018

Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 440 European Yacht of the Year 2018

Credit to the large-scale production yards for the innovation going into their latest models. Nevertheless, the new Jeanneau Sun Odyssey range is hands-down the most impressive for its forward thinking in terms of hull shape, cockpit design and interior layout.

Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 440 European Yacht of the Year 2018

Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 440 European Yacht of the Year 2018

The realisation of the volume gained from a full bow is shrewd, while the sloping side decks that make for a walkaround cockpit is one of those game-changing ideas that you can expect to see copied by others in the future.

Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 440 European Yacht of the Year 2018

Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 440 European Yacht of the Year 2018

Price ex VAT: €184,400

See our full test of the very similar larger sister, the SO490 in the October 2017 issue.

LUXURY CRUISER

Nominees: Amel 50, Hallberg-Rassy 44, Ice 60

Winner: Amel 50

Amel 50 European Yacht of the Year 2018

Amel 50 European Yacht of the Year 2018

That this is such a popular new model is unsurprising. It is both a manageable size of yacht for a couple to handle and a lot of exceedingly comfortable and quality built boat for the price. It is a modern-looking design that sails surprisingly well from a yard with decades of experience with building bluewater cruisers

Amel 50 European Yacht of the Year 2018

Amel 50 European Yacht of the Year 2018

This is a yacht that could appeal to those seeking luxury weekend cruising as well as those wanting to live aboard and sail long-distance. It’s a yacht to dream about sailing away on and one that may well hasten your sabbatical or retirement from work.

Look out for our full test on the Amel 50, following a two day seatrial, in our April 2018 issue.

Price ex VAT: €750,000

PERFORMANCE CRUISER

 Nominees: ClubSwan 50, Grand Soleil Performance 34, JPK 45

 Winner: ClubSwan 50

ClubSwan 50 European Yacht of the Year 2018

European Yacht of the Year 2018 Seatrials in Port Ginesta Castellfels

The ClubSwan 50 is the most extreme-looking production yacht to date and one with versatile appeal as its design strikes that balance between performance cruiser and grand-prix racing yacht.

See our full test report here

Its race yacht side is paired with an international circuit for owners to enjoy strictly controlled one-design competition. It’s a deliciously appealing plaything for short cruises and day sailing as well. Above all, it is outrageously, award-winningly cool.

ClubSwan 50 European Yacht of the Year 2018

ClubSwan 50 European Yacht of the Year 2018

This is perhaps just the start… with news that two new Juan K-designed 100ft+ ClubSwan models are on the drawing board, Nautor’s Swan is entering a new era of luxurious race craft.

Price ex VAT: €1.1m

SPECIAL YACHT

Nominees: Beneteau Figaro 3, Flaar M37, TF10 Trimaran

Winner: Beneteau Figaro 3

Beneteau Figaro 3 European Yacht of the Year 2018

Beneteau Figaro 3 European Yacht of the Year 20182017/2018

This startling VPLP design looks half modern offshore race boat, half crazed contraption from a Star Wars film. Learn more about the design here – plus expert sailors’ reactions to it

Beneteau Figaro 3 European Yacht of the Year 2018

Beneteau Figaro 3 European Yacht of the Year 20182017/2018

 Reliability will be key to the Figaro 3’s success – Beneteau’s first two Figaro models have proved almost invincible and have done more miles than any Vendée Globe yachts.

But all credit to Beneteau for not playing too safe this time. The modern hull shape, stiff build technique, deck layout and, of course, eye-catching foils are the result of contemporary thinking.

Beneteau Figaro 3 European Yacht of the Year 2018

Beneteau Figaro 3 European Yacht of the Year 2018

This is an offshore one-design sportsboat with global appeal. Time will tell whether the foils are more gimmick than game-changer, but I was impressed with how well the boat is set-up for solo and short-handed racing.

Price ex VAT: €149,404

MULTIHULLS

Nominees: Fountaine Pajot Saona 47, Leopard 45, Neel 51

Winner: Neel 51

Neel 51 European Yacht of the Year 2018

Neel 51 European Yacht of the Year 2018

First reactions to the Neel 51 are fairly consistent: your jaw drops at the sheer size of the boat (in terms of height, beam and particularly volume) – then you sail it and are even more surprised at how slippery it is.

Here is a yacht that genuinely has the potential to shock. The Neel 51 offers the space of a cruising cat of similar length (and for the same price), yet will easily outperform it under sail and, crucially, provide a rewarding helming experience.

Neel 51 European Yacht of the Year 2018

The vast cockpit and adjoining saloon on the Neel 51, European Yacht of the Year 2018

With this model Neel may well show that trimarans are not only for tearing up ocean speed records but could be the way to go for multihull cruisers too.

Price ex VAT: €669,800