It was a close-run fight between three finalists in the performance cruisers category of the European Yacht of the Year 2019
Not only was performance cruisers a very close category from which to decide a winner, but also one that shows just how diverse and exciting the modern range of performance cruiser designs is.
Finalist: Grand Soleil 48 Performance
The Grand Soleil 48 is a powerful looking design from Marco Lostuzzi, offered in Performance or Race versions. We sailed the latter, which was fully tricked out with carbon extras, including rigging, sails and an extended bowsprit, plus twin backstays, eight winches, transverse jib tracks and a hydraulic ram on the forestay.
Although all the extras nearly double the standard price of the boat, they certainly helped produce a fun sail, allowing us to maximise the 10 knot breeze and clock up to 7, 9 and 11 knots under jib, Code 0 and gennaker respectively. Helming is engaging rather than thrilling, with good feedback and plenty of control from the single rudder.
The cockpit is well thought out for manoeuvres. The Nauta interior is light, open, and minimalist, if noisy, yet feels compact for the size and beam of the hull.
Finalist: X-Yachts X46
The X46 has the modern design touches and styling that will win over buyers at a boat show – from fixtures, fittings and hull lines to its inviting Nordic oak interior.
With its contemporary looks, it’s no surprise this X line is now the biggest seller for the Danish yard. I sailed the X46 with new CEO Kræn Brinck Nielsen, who considers himself a typical example of the modern X-Yachts client: someone who has raced for years but now finds work and family demands mean a performance cruiser is more suited to his needs.
A furler boom option and self-tacking jib on the X46, for instance, makes sail handling a doddle. Performance figures were very similar to the Arcona, meaning it slipped along very easily and is simple to sail quickly – we clocked up to 9 knots under cruising chute in 12 knots.
Winner: Arcona 435
At first glance the Arcona might seem a more conservative version of the X46, but its low freeboard, elegant lines and addictive feel on the helm are timeless qualities.
This was Stefan Qviberg’s final design before he passed away in November, and it shows he still had ‘a sharp pen’, as Arcona’s founder Torgny Jansson put it.
“Very few designers can do a genuine family boat that can win regattas,” Jansson explained, yet Qviberg managed it again and again for Arcona over four decades.
The 435 just keeps moving, slipping along even when there’s seemingly no breeze. It is also wonderfully balanced and a joy to helm.
There is an ideal slot in front of the wheel to sit to windward, helm and trim the sheet or traveller (a consistent feature of Arcona designs).
The layout below demonstrates an optimum use of space in a traditional style, with proper joiner work and fiddles (note: the owner of the test boat ordered conservative dark blue upholstery).
Proof that the joy of sailing is hard to beat when it comes to performance cruisers, the Arcona 435 is an elegant package with nothing fancy – but it really delivers on easy, fast sailing.
LOA: 13.80m (45ft 3in)
LWL: 13.20m (43ft 5in)
Beam (max): 3.98m (13ft 1in)
Draught: 2.30m (7ft 7in)
Disp (lightship): 8,900kg (19,621lb)
Price (ex VAT): €360,000
Design: Stefan Qviberg