The luxury cruisers category threw up a surprise in the 2019 European Yacht of the Year, explains Toby Hodges
Before the sea trials began, I would have put money on a Hallberg-Rassy or the Wauquiez winning an award.
The fact that neither did is no criticism of those models, but merely gives a clue to the depth of quality in this category and the class of the Sunbeam. All three are winners in my book.
Finalist: Wauquiez Pilot Saloon 42
The Wauquiez is the definition of a modern pilot saloon cruiser that packs in so much for its size, while maintaining a high-quality finish throughout.
Perhaps the only slight negative mark is that the cockpit is a little exposed and the helm area compressed. In our full test of the Wauquiez PS42, we could find very little else to fault. The interior in particular is incredible.
Finalist: Hallberg-Rassy 57
The 57 is arguably the best-looking Hallberg-Rassy to date. Seen afloat, its long Frers lines are bewitching. Look closer and you’ll notice how the Rassy hallmarks, such as fixed windscreen and blue stripes, meld with a modern, powerful hull shape that features a wide transom, straight stem and twin rudders. The resultant sailing qualities are superb, particularly for a centre cockpit design.
It’s the type of boat that you just want to keep sailing offshore. Having cleared the rocky islets off Orust and made it into open water, sailing at 8-8.5 knots upwind in a Force 4, I just wanted to carry on heading to Denmark (despite knowing a front was approaching).
Twin wheels help provide better views forward as well as access through the deep, long, protected cockpit. Down below is a spacious oak (or mahogany) interior on one level, with plenty of natural light – which is appreciated particularly in the saloon and sumptuous aft cabin.
Winner: Sunbeam 46.1
The Sunbeam is a promising if a little conservative-looking offshore cruiser with elegant lines and comparatively low freeboard. It’s the first time the Austrian company has used an arch and the result works both aesthetically and practically, keeping the mainsheet clear of the cockpit and helping to integrate a functional sprayhood. It leaves a well-protected cockpit below with deep benches and a generous fixed table.
The Sunbeam has a solid, stiff build, which results in a comfortable motion sailing upwind through short waves and proved lovely and quiet below decks. We only had a gentle breeze but, like all Sunbeams I’ve sailed, it doesn’t take much to get the 46 moving.
The interior arguably lacks some contemporary styling, but is superbly finished in a tidy layout and I like the optional oak finish with dark smoked oak soles. Perhaps the only compromise for those spending long periods aboard is a relatively compact galley. But the saloon is large and in general it’s hard fault the execution of anything Sunbeam has done.
The best Sunbeam I have seen to date and a brilliant all-round cruising yacht., the 46.1 sails well, offers its crew proper protection and has a top quality build and finish.
LOA: 14.75m (48ft 5in)
LWL: 13.26m (43ft 6in)
Beam (max): 4.45m (14ft 7in)
Draught: 2.2m (7ft 3in)
Displacement (lightship): 13,500kg (29,76lb)
Price (ex. VAT): €389,000
Design: J&J Design