A watershed design for the traditional Swedish brand, but does Arcona’s flagship have the X-factor to stand out in a crowd? Toby Hodges tests the new Arcona 50 to find out
Arcona – a Swedish yard with a sound reputation for producing traditional style cruiser-racers, designed by a little known Swede who had a gift of ensuring slippery hulls. If that sounds familiar, then be prepared for a redefinition, as pretty much all of that has changed with the launch of this new flagship Arcona 50.
Gone is the sweet, simple, stick-to-what-works idea. This is a big, contemporary new Arcona, one that sees the brand transition from its cruiser-racer heritage and classic interiors to a luxury performance sector. And it’s a stunner – inside and out, the Arcona 50 is a true showstopper.
It’s a bold move, but an understandable one. Long term designer Stefan Qviberg passed away in 2018, the same year when Arcona was bought by Najad and Orust Quality Yachts. Their owner then brought in former Olympic sailor Urban Lagnéus as CEO, a veteran manager who spent 18 years at Hallberg-Rassy. This new flagship is the first brand new design in that five year period and sees Arcona move much closer to the market trend.
However, that decision brings seriously stiff competition. Over the last decade or so I have often written about how many similar options there are for those looking for a quality fast cruiser in the 50ft sector. Arguably, the launchpad for this trend was the Solaris 50 in 2015, for which the Italian yard brought out a replacement last year.
Cantiere del Pardo has its equally sleek looking Grand Soleil 48P, then came the First 53, which aimed to offer such performance rewards and style for less cost. Nautor Swan has since renewed its thoroughbred Swan 48 design, launched a new Swan 55 and announced a new Swan 51 for 2025. And then there’s X-Yachts, perhaps Arcona’s closest rival, with its X4.9, for which it now has a MkII version.
All these models are, essentially, high end, aft cockpit, three-cabin performance cruisers.
Which brings us on to the elephant in the room. By moving to this market sector Arcona has pitched the Arcona 50 against these high profile fast cruiser brands, and one in particular. Some will say this Arcona 50 looks very similar to an
X-Yacht – and deliberately so even, with the choice of its big name designer: X-Yachts co-founder and designer for 40 years, Niels Jeppesen.
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So for the would-be buyer, has Arcona just made that selection all the more difficult? Unless it comes down to brand loyalty, it will be a decision based on the increasingly small margins of aesthetics, performance, layout and build quality. Or perhaps, in reality, cost could be the deciding factor – the Arcona 50 starts at nearly €200,000 more than the Solaris or X.
My mind was swimming with such stats as I caught the train to La Rochelle to sail the first hull Dancing Queen. But I was to discover that one thing that hasn’t changed about Arcona – the enjoyment of sailing one. I had two good trials on the boat in largely Force 3 and 4 winds, using a mix of jib, Code 0 and gennaker on various angles and in some swell, and can confirm this is a design that backs up its looks and price tag with performance.
How the Arcona 50 looks
To stand out in this crowded marketplace then, first impressions of the Arcona 50 are critical, an aspect Arcona has seemingly nailed. And it includes many other firsts for Arcona: its first 50-footer; its first model with twin rudders, a tender garage, L-shaped cockpit benches and twin tables. It’s also the first to use cored woodwork/ furniture. And it’s the first Arcona designed by Jeppesen.
It retains the galvanised steel frame to help ensure a stiff structure, and mahogany is the standard trim, but that’s where the similarities to previous Arconas trail off. The Arcona 50 has a much higher freeboard and a wider stern for more stability. The stemhead is also noticeably fuller, in line with modern trends. “It’s a win-win situation in my opinion to have these fuller ends,” thinks Jeppesen. “It gives better sailing qualities for the way our clients use their boats these days.”
So this is a big 50-footer, but one Arcona has set up to be push-button controlled and easy to sail short-handed. As soon as we had clear water, the sails were unfurled and trimmed from the pedestals and we were straight into some rewarding sailing.
The test boat had a few optional extras to help make this process extra smooth. The first is the Mainfurl in-boom furling system, a GRP shell with a carbon mandrel, which is controlled remotely from the helm. The optional recessed traveller is another neat feature as it gives good control and trim options for the mainsail, yet it’s contained below deck to avoid it being a trip hazard. It’s led via a flatwinder winch which is again controlled from the pedestal. The ability to dump the traveller at a higher speed would be useful though, as it’s a powerful mainsail (Arcona prefer large mains with jibs to overlapping genoas), and line tails need to be kept clear of the well.
Twin aft winches are used each side to trim sheets. The forward one is a two-speed powered model, again remotely controlled. With the sheets and running rigging led here, there are a lot of lines in a large, wide cockpit, but good, deep bins are designed in below the coamings to help deal with this. You still need to be organised with this though, as you never know when a quick halyard drop might be needed.
Into the groove
Sailing upwind in 10-12 knots, the Arcona 50 clocked speeds in the late 7s and early 8 knots, and tacked through 80°. In the lighter breeze of my second sail, this equated to 7 knots in 9 at 28-30° to the apparent wind.
The Arcona 50 is fast to find its groove and boasts plenty of grip, albeit for a very neutral feel on the helm (which Arcona is working to address). You really can leave the wheel and it keeps tracking along. Even when fully powered up, you can just keep a finger on the wheel, so it will certainly be easy on power consumption when under autopilot. However, without any traditional weatherhelm sensations, you need to be careful not to overload a yacht which carries a generous amount of sail.
Once the Arcona 50 heels onto its soft aft chine it stops leaning further and the power translates to acceleration at a consistent angle. The curved reverse stem and optional bowsprit look sexy at the pointy end, but studying our camera footage leads me to wonder if the balance on the test boat is a little bow down, with the wide stem pushing water and creating a bow wave.
However, it maintained high average speeds and once you fetch off or set an offwind sail, double figures are easily achievable. Under Code 0, for example, in 14 knots true wind, we averaged 10 knots, making up to 11 in 1.5m waves.
A glance at the beamy stern sections will tell you it’s a design that should suit reaching, and with the big blue gennaker set we were treated to some gorgeous sailing in 13-17 knots during an unusually warm autumnal afternoon. The Arcona 50 then maintained over 10 knots at 70-80° to the apparent and, with a swell off our quarter, we hit 11.7 knots.
The ability of the boat to harness light- to mid-strength winds also stood out. During our second sail, as we relaxed into some mile munching, with Abba booming out of the cockpit speakers and the foot of that big blue gennaker skirting the water, we almost matched the 10 knot true wind.
When I finally relinquished the wheel and ventured below decks, it was noticeably quiet at heel. The keel is attached directly to a galvanised steel frame, which is bolted to solid GRP stringers, a longstanding backbone technique to Arcona builds.
On this Arcona 50, the bulkheads are in Divinycell foam sandwich, with honeycomb or foam also used to core some joiner work (doors/floors/lockers), a weight saving measure employed more on race boats. Arcona argues that the weight saved is put into lead in the keel, which helps translate to high stability and pointing, and a taller rig for more performance. “The aim is always to have a faster boat than our opponents, and we think we are,” Lagnéus commented.
That said, the drawbacks a standard draught of 2.95m bring were patently evident as we headed back to port. Granted, the spring tides were particularly large that week, however the Arcona was the only yacht of the group we were testing for European Yacht of the Year trials not to be able to moor overnight in Port de Plaisance/Minimes, one of the world’s largest marinas with over 4,500 berths.
Instead it had to move into the town’s locked-in marina with the IMOCA 60s and other large craft. The 2.5m option will likely be the more popular choice, while a 2.2m shallow L-shape option is also offered.
An 80hp Yanmar saildrive is fitted as standard. The test boat had the 100hp upgrade, which is perhaps overkill for a performance cruiser such as this, but adds plenty of torque, which could be useful for motorsailing. It allowed us to record 7.5 knots at just 2,000rpm or hit 10.5 knots flat out. For those concerned with manoeuvrability, bow and stern thrusters are offered.
Arcona 50 styling
The deck design helps indicate the primary purpose for the Arcona 50. It’s very much on trend for this style of yacht, and will more suit warm weather sailing than offshore cruising.
Lagnéus stressed how important the tender garage is, for instance. When you go to the effort of design styling that they have, davits would spoil the lines, he thinks. This decision helps define the shape, the broad aft sections and twin rudders. He predicts that owners will want to use a large dinghy frequently on this size of yacht while at anchor in Med and Baltic waters, and therefore a garage makes most sense (housing a RIB up to 2.8m).
Other deck features point towards warm weather coastal sailing and are in line with the competition. The coamings are shallow and the coachroof is flat for example, so there is very little cockpit protection unless you raise the sprayhood from its recessed well. There is also currently no option to close off the transom, while the gas locker and tankage is on the moderate size for a 50-footer.
Practical features include the deep sail locker and dedicated liferaft locker. The rudders are on separate quadrants and independent Jefa steering connections, so if you lose one you can still steer using the other. And the vacuum infused composite watertight bulkheads both forward and aft will aid peace of mind.
Light and light
In a similar vein to the exterior styling, the interior is very much on trend, especially in the light oak finish of the test boat. The bright, spacious and welcoming design features plenty of natural light thanks to the long coachroof and hull ports and tasteful down and indirect lighting.
And it’s been finished to a high standard, especially when you consider what you can’t see. The foam cored bulkheads, doors and lockers save 60kg (over typical plywood), says Lagnéus, while the plywood honeycomb structure used in the companionway steps save another 30kg.
A second galley layout is offered, one which closes off the access from the companionway and links the galley to saloon. Other than that, layout choices are minimal – a larger wardrobe in the forward cabin and double or twin berth options for the aft cabins.
Arcona offers the space saving Gastronorm system from galley experts GN Espace, an ergonomic solution designed to use the sink, workspace and oven most efficiently and one I’m always surprised more new yachts don’t employ. It uses cooking trays that are designed to maximise the oven size and to stow neatly in or on the sink, for example.
The galley has more smart solutions in a coffee area, and a large bin section which can open out hands-free. A large locker below the sink can be used for stowage or a dishwasher. Extra refrigeration space is offered on top of the standard 120lt top opener, while there’s also an option to fit a washing machine instead of the practical wet locker in the aft heads shower compartment.
Shelving on the main bulkhead and tasteful lighting helps make for an attractive saloon. It’s comfortable too. The starboard sofa berth suits relaxation, with its thick, lower cushioning, and the saloon’s bench seat slides out to starboard so you can use it as a footrest. This berth remains separate to the navstation, which has its own swing out stool for working facing outboard.
There were still a few modifications needed on the test boat. While the integral rail above the navstation and starboard sofa is a standard fit, some more handholds would be useful at heel or in a seaway. A handrail can be specified on the headlining and Arcona is considering adding a rail to the galley countertop. The yard will also likely change the aft heads door to open outwards as it’s currently quite tight to close the door once you enter.
The cabins are all of generous size, again with plenty of natural light and dimmable LED lighting. The owner’s ensuite cabin includes a neat forward facing coachroof window, plus there are double hatches above the berth.
While the double locker in its entrance is not wardrobe depth, it does have a removable panel to access a deeper section for hanging longer clothes, and the bed lifts easily on struts to give access to the large stowage space below.
In general, stowage is practical, especially in the raised lockers which run through the boat. The tanks are fitted below the sole, leaving largely stowage space below the saloon berths. Between the aft cabins is a narrow but valuable service locker. Aboard Dancing Queen this contained the optional 10kW generator, which Lagnéus considers the best choice for those who want to run aircon or a watermaker. The battery bank meanwhile is below the navstation and starboard saloon berth, with the upgraded three lithium batteries providing 640Ah at 24V.
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This is a sparkly new addition to the luxury performance cruiser market, and one that’s been executed very well. Its looks are backed up by high build and finish quality and performance on the water. While I doubt it’ll be raced (like the smaller Arconas often are), or will suit typical bluewater use, it offers a purity of performance push-button sailing. Where the Arcona is a handsome prospect upwind in a light breeze, it transforms into a powerful reaching machine with stacks of control. The €1m+ question is whether there’s room for yet another premium cruiser brand at this size? Time will tell. Arcona obviously feels there’s space to play here – and by pricing this above its direct competitors yet below Swan, it’s suggesting exactly where this model sits. Having sailed No1 Dancing Queen, I’d have little hesitation in recommending this model. Yet I’m equally excited about Arcona’s revival and to see how this flagship helps propel its mainstay 35-45ft models in the years to come.