Is this all-carbon 46ft performance cruiser too hot to handle? Pip Hare goes for a test sail

Performance cruisers are designed and sold to chew up the miles on longer journeys without sacrificing too much comfort. Yet many new owners find that their boat that sailed so well in ‘show room trim’ becomes quite a different beast once all of the cruising necessities – fridges, freezers, tenders, water makers, two sets of ground tackle and the myriad of other essentials for comfortable cruising – are loaded on board.

Swedish yard Arcona, together with designer Stefan Qviberg, is offering a way out of the inevitable compromise between equipment and speed by building the new 465 with a carbon hull and deck as standard. By taking the weight out of the hull of this 46-footer, Arcona believes that the boat can still be fitted out with the luxury interior customers would expect and that owners will be able to load on nearly a tonne of extra gear and still enjoy great performance.

In theory it makes sense: the 465 is only three per cent heavier than the 430 but with ten per cent more sail area. But does it still feel like a cruising yacht in practice?

Area tested: Solent
Wind range: 6-14 knots, flat water
Model: number 1 fitted with teak decks and trim, carbon rig and uprated engine

Here is a boat that instantly changes its personality, coming alive when under sail. The helm was light and the boat felt nimble and fast.

As we made our way upwind, I firmed up the leeches on both sails to see what I could get out of it in the flat waters of the Solent. Thanks to my tweaks we were well heeled and achieving over seven knots of boat speed at a TWA of 37 degrees in 13 knots TWS.

Tips and tricks for successful shorthanded upwind sailing

The 465 is undoubtedly a stiff boat, but as light as the helm was, when hard on the breeze and trimmed for height, we could have used a dozen or so burly crew on the rail. This begs the question: has Arcona gone too far towards the performance end of the spectrum for this boat to be interesting for serious cruising sailors?

From my point of view the boat felt great – alive, capable and fun – but would you really want that electric feeling from the helm as a constant feature if double-handed cruising? My answer came from two of our crew, Richard and Colin, both of whom are Arcona 430 owners who cruise their boats extensively double-handed with their wives.

The moment I headed down below to experience the boat while sailing, these two took over and with some softening of the sails transformed the twitchy bucking beast I had created into a smooth and fast ride. We found ourselves cruising along just off the breeze at nearly nine knots while they amiably swapped notes on their beloved 430s.

Sailing for grown ups

The Arcona 465 is not a beginner’s boat. The combination of lightweight hull and powerful rig requires a certain amount of experience to make the most of its sailing potential and to calm things down for a comfortable passage.

Loads on this 46-footer are not insignificant and the mainsail was quite an effort to grind in, although the standard Harken 60AST winches (not fitted on the test boat) would certainly have made a difference. An optional electric winch on the cabin top helped with tensioning the halyards.

The traveller is full width across the cockpit floor and easy to trim from forward of the steering position, but could not be managed by the helm. Helming itself was a delight; the twin wheels are placed well outboard giving a great view of the jib whether sitting or standing, to windward or leeward.

Two collapsible platforms come out of the deck to provide a level platform for the helmsman while the boat is heeled. I could easily reach around the steering binnacle to the mainsheet.

It is lovely to see features like inhaulers as standard – it not only makes a great difference to sail trim, but also gives the impression the boat is serious about sailing. As standard there is a removable inner forestay from which a storm jib or even small staysail could be flown.

The boat I tested had a twin spreader carbon rig (aluminium is standard) which was easily controlled from the cockpit with a hydraulic backstay pump.

We hoisted an enormous A2 spinnaker and in a dying breeze that peaked at around nine knots were able to sail powered up at a wind angle of 100 degrees down to about 150, with speeds reaching eight knots. Off the breeze we held our speed at low wind angles, even in as little as six knots TWS.

The asymmetric sails are set off a stainless bow roller; our boat was also set up for symmetrical spinnakers though we had none to try. In every direction the Arcona 465 felt nimble and quick and we were turning heads as we strolled past everything on the Solent, sailing close under the lee of boats of a similar size.

How to choose the right asymmetric spinnaker for your type of sailing

After a few hours on the water it was interesting to observe the boat’s two distinct personalities: depending on who was on the helm and whether they were ramping up or backing off the power, the boat could switch from being a twitchy sprinter to a calm ultra-runner and back again. Under engine, the 465 spun on a sixpence, reversed well and was utterly obedient in tight spaces.

The test boat had an 80hp engine rather than the standard 56hp, coupled with a Gori prop. It was a lot of power and if not used gently, did feel a bit aggressive. I have no doubt that a 56hp would do the job.

The engine controls and throttle are tucked away at ankle height on the starboard side of the boat. This does take a bit of getting used to – it’s quite a long way to bend down – though if you manoeuvre the boat from a sitting position, things become a lot easier.

Arcona can fit the throttle higher up on the binnacle if requested, but aesthetically this is not so pretty and would also be at risk of being knocked or caught by the mainsheet during gybes. Access to the engine was reasonable at the front and to the sides, but particularly good behind the engine and to the saildrive, with whole panels that can be removed in the aft cabin.

Arcona has made every effort to keep the deck layout of this boat clean and spacious. The 4.2m beam is elegantly absorbed into the length of the boat giving a clutter free feel on deck and promising plenty of space below.

  1. 1. Introduction
  2. 2. Sleek and uncluttered
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