How do you choose the right yacht for you? We highlight the very best bluewater designs for every type of cruising
Best bluewater yachts for performance
The Frers-designed Swan 54 may not be the newest hull shape but heralded Swan’s latest generation of displacement bluewater cruisers when launched four years ago. With raked stem, deep V hull form, lower freeboard and slight curve to the topsides she has a more timeless aesthetic than many modern slab-sided high volume yachts, and with that a seakindly motion in waves. If you plan to cover many miles to weather, this is probably the yacht you want to be on.
Besides Swan’s superlative build quality, the 54 brings many true bluewater features, including a dedicated sail locker. There’s also a cockpit locker that functions as a utility cabin, with potential to hold your generator and washing machine, or be a workshop space.
The sloping transom opens out to reveal a 2.5m bathing platform, and although the cabins are not huge there is copious stowage space. Down below the top-notch oak joinery is well thought through with deep fiddles, and there is a substantial nav station. But the Swan 54 wins for handling above all, with well laid-out sail controls that can be easily managed between a couple, while offering real sailing enjoyment to the helmsman.
The Performance Cruiser winner at the 2019 European Yacht of the Year awards, the Arcona 435 is all about the sailing experience. She has genuine potential as a cruiser-racer, but her strengths are as an enjoyable cruiser rather than a full-blown liveaboard bluewater boat.
Build quality is excellent, there is the option of a carbon hull and deck, and elegant lines and a plumb bow give the Arcona 435 good looks as well as excellent performance in light airs. Besides slick sail handling systems, there are well thought-out features for cruising, such as ample built-in rope bins and an optional semi-closed stern with stowage and swim platform.
If you want the space and stability of a cat but still prioritise sailing performance, Outremer has built a reputation on building catamarans with true bluewater characteristics that have cruised the planet for the past 30 years.
Lighter and slimmer-hulled than most cruising cats, the Outremer 51 is all about sailing at faster speeds, more easily. The lower volume hulls and higher bridgedeck make for a better motion in waves, while owners report that being able to maintain a decent pace even under reduced canvas makes for stress-free passages. Deep daggerboards also give good upwind performance.
With bucket seats and tiller steering options, the Outremer 51 rewards sailors who want to spend time steering, while they’re famously well set up for handling with one person on deck. The compromise comes with the interior space – even with a relatively minimalist style, there is less cabin space and stowage volume than on the bulkier cats, but the Outremer 51 still packs in plenty of practical features.
The Xc45 was the first cruising yacht X-Yachts ever built, and designed to give the same X-Yachts sailing experience for sailors who’d spent years racing 30/40-footer X- and IMX designs, but in a cruising package.
Launched over 10 years ago, the Xc45 has been revisited a few times to increase the stowage and modernise some of the styling, but the key features remain the same, including substantial tanks set low for a low centre of gravity, and X-Yachts’ trademark steel keel grid structure. She has fairly traditional styling and layout, matched with solid build quality.
A soft bilge and V-shaped hull gives a kindly motion in waves, and the cockpit is secure, if narrow by modern standards.
A three or four cabin catamaran that’s fleet of foot with high bridgedeck clearance for comfortable motion at sea. With tall daggerboards and carbon construction in some high load areas, Catana cats are light and quick to accelerate.
Sweden Yachts 45
An established bluewater design that also features in plenty of offshore races. Some examples are specced with carbon rig and retractable bowsprits. All have a self-tacking jib for ease. Expect sweeping areas of teak above decks and a traditionally wooded interior with hanging wet locker.
A vintage performer, first launched in 1981, the 51 was the first Frers-designed Swan and marked a new era of iconic cruiser-racers. Some 36 of the Swan 51 were built, many still actively racing and cruising nearly 40 years on. Classic lines and a split cockpit make this a boat for helming, not sunbathing.
The JPK 45 comes from a French racing stable, combining race-winning design heritage with cruising amenities. What you see is what you get – there are no superfluous headliners or floorboards, but there are plenty of ocean sailing details, like inboard winches for safe trimming. The JPK 45 also has a brilliantly designed cockpit with an optional doghouse creating all-weather shelter, twin wheels and superb clutch and rope bin arrangement.
For sailors who don’t mind exchanging a few creature comforts for downwind planing performance, the Pogo 50 offers double-digit surfing speeds for exhilarating tradewind sailing. There’s an open transom, tiller steering and no backstay or runners. The Pogo 50 also has a swing keel, to nose into shallow anchorages.
Seawinds are relatively unknown in Europe, but these bluewater cats are very popular in Australia. As would be expected from a Reichel-Pugh design, this 52-footer combines striking good looks and high performance, with fine entry bows and comparatively low freeboard. Rudders are foam cored lifting designs in cassettes, which offer straightforward access in case of repairs, while daggerboards are housed under the deck.