The most competitive and varied category of the 2019 European Yacht of the Year, special yachts focuses on daysailers, from the compact to the luxurious
This category assembles a varying mix of interesting craft, many of which we might otherwise not have had the chance to sail, and this year’s nominees shared a collective ability to delight the helmsman.
Finalist: Aira 22
The Aira 22 is an unassuming looking dayboat, designed to replace the popular Polyvalk school/club boat in the Netherlands. I had so much fun sailing this Martin Voogd design in wind and waves off Port Ginesta, both surfing and punching upwind, I refused to head in until our raw hands could take heaving sheets no longer.
It’s a bit uncomfortable, particularly perched up on the weather rail, but the Aira’s rudder never lost grip, its central mainsheet is easy to play and it has a cockpit that can host an army of friends.
The RS21 is another blast to sail. Designed to race with two to four crew (inboard – no hiking) and for everyone to have a role aboard. I had a memorable sail, two-up in Sweden, in the last of the evening breeze. With the gennaker hoisted we could still power it up in the single-figure ‘gusts’ and bear off onto the plane.
The control lines are well laid out to allow all crewmembers to be active and enjoy the experience. The optional, retractable central Torqeedo pod is a smart solution, part of a focus on sustainability that I applaud – RS use bio resin and the core foam is made from recycled plastic bottles.
Finalist: Saffier SE37 Lounge
I salute the Saffier for its looks, build quality and performance. Its innovative cockpit layout, with wheels and winches forward of the huge lounging area, really works well and makes it a doddle to sail solo.
Finalist: Domani S30
Where the Domani lacks some of the performance and stiffness of the Saffier, it’s an attractive looking package with a neat Torqeedo electric engine installation and a smart interior.
This is a relatively light, good-sized sporty dayboat that seems well built and finished for the price.
Winner: Lite XP
The concept of the (180kg) Lite XP is the brainchild of Liteboat’s Mathieu Bonnier, who used it to compete in the Race to Alaska – a 750-mile non-motorised event from Washington to Victoria to Kethikan.
The result is this super lightweight 20ft centreboard sailing and rowing craft, which comes with optional sliding rowing seat, carbon oars, a cuddy with two berths and a cockpit tent, all extras that encourage proper adventure.
The boom-less, short carbon rig with low centre of effort makes sailing simple – yet the Lite XP packs a punch, planes in zephyrs and was unanimously voted the most fun boat to sail in the trials. A fellow judge clocked 13 knots in 15-18 knots of breeze in the flat Swedish waters.
The performance is perhaps unsurprising, given its designer – Sam Manuard is responsible for some of the fastest Class 40s, the Seascape range and a foiling IMOCA 60 currently in build.
To convert the Lite XP to rowing takes less than a minute, as the sliding seat simply fits into grooves moulded into the central thwart. Being able to row the boat efficiently avoids the need for an engine.
I would argue that there is no more appropriate recreational boat to use around picturesque waters like Sweden’s west coast archipelago. To row out leaving no sound and have a boat efficient enough to harness every knot of breeze is a pure form of sailing.
A celebration of simple sailing pleasure, the Lite XP is a blast to sail, will keep you fit and avoid the need for an outboard. It’s a niche boat, but a commendable execution of a brilliant design.
LOA: 5.99m (19ft 8in)
Beam (max): 1.78m (5ft 10in)
Draught: 0.14m-1.07m (6in – 3ft 6in)
Displacement (lightship): 145kg (320lb)
Price (ex. VAT): €21,000
Design: Sam Manuard