One man’s idea of what a no-compromise offshore cruiser should be, the Kraken 50 does things differently. David Harding reports
Kraken 50 yacht test: This bluewater beast was built to cruise
Some of the most inspirational ranges of production yacht have come into being because a man started by building the boat he wanted for himself; one he could find nowhere else.
Plenty of one-offs have been created this way, but the chances are that, if the market can’t supply what one person wants, other people are in the same boat – or would like to be if it existed. That’s especially true of one that’s designed for serious offshore cruising and takes absolutely no notice of modern fashions.
Dick Beaumont is the man behind Kraken Yachts. He came up with his own 66-footer having sailed tens of thousands of offshore miles in other boats. He had the Kraken 66 built in China, found during his extensive travels that a good number of people liked the concept and, as a lifelong businessman, decided to go into production.
Then came the Kraken 50. If you want to know what makes it different from anything else and why the builder believes most boats designed as offshore cruisers have got it wrong, read on.
To understand the Kraken philosophy, you have to put yourself in the position of someone who’s planning to sail a long way from what we might loosely call ‘civilisation’. You want a boat capable of weathering storms, of sailing on after hitting a submerged object in the middle of the ocean and of making sure the occasional encounter with a rock or a reef is nothing more than a minor inconvenience.
This ‘surviving hitting things’ approach is central to how Kraken builds boats, and explains why Beaumont believes the keel should be an integral part of the hull structure. That means no bolts: a return, if you like, to the keels we used to see on ‘proper’ crusing yachts but without the slack bilges and wineglass sections.
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Modern design and technology has allowed Kraken to develop an underwater shape more akin to that of a modern yacht with a bolt-on fin, incorporating a tighter hull-to-keel radius, a slimmer keel section and, significantly, a bulb at the bottom carrying most of the ballast.
Kraken’s bulb is incorporated within the integral keel. This took some working out, but the result is a keel that becomes part of the hull structure without most of the compromises associated with traditional encapsulated keels.
It’s also longer than most modern fins, to distribute the loads over a larger area and to enhance directional stability. Beaumont calls it the Zero keel, reflecting the number of bolts and its chance of parting company with the hull.
In a similar vein, the rudder is mounted on a full-length skeg, the two together forming a NACA airfoil section. On production models it will be fitted with a third bearing at the top of the stock, allowing the through-hull bearing to be changed with the boat afloat.
Like integral keels, skegs – especially full-length – have fallen from fashion, but Beaumont believes they’re of fundamental importance. A rudderless boat with a big hole where the stock used to be rarely has a great future.
When, like Beaumont, you have grounded thousands of miles from a hoist that can lift a 66-footer, and have come to an abrupt halt from 9 knots after a whale bounced down the side of the keel and crashed into the skeg, you tend to develop firm views about what you want.
The rigours of cruising
Because of the slim keel section and low centre of gravity, the Kraken can carry a good spread of sail: the sail area/displacement ratio is nearly 20. Passagemaking is more relaxing in gentle breezes and, as well as being able to weather storms, it’s good if you can sail fast enough to get out of their way rather than bobbing around in the middle of the ocean waiting for them.
Krakens sport Solent rigs. The inner forestay, taken to the anchor well bulkhead, supports the rig and carries the staysail for windward work. On the outer forestay you can fly a genoa when you have cracked off a few degrees.
The rig itself is keel-stepped, of high-fractional configuration with three sets of swept spreaders and a bifurcated backstay. A centre cockpit pushes the boom up, so stowing a conventional mainsail is a bit of a stretch. The stack would be lower with a Harken Switch T-Track or you can have in-mast reefing.
The hull continues the belt-and-braces theme. The anchor well bulkhead is watertight, as is the bulkhead abaft the large locker in the bow. Beneath the anchor well is a foam-filled crash box. Into this run two of the hull’s six full-length stringers which, together with multiple frames that join the stringers or extend from gunwale to gunwale, form a comprehensive stiffening matrix.
Kevlar is incorporated in the stem and the leading edge of the keel. A foam core is used in the topsides above the waterline. Below this it’s a solid laminate.
As for the hull shape, the bow is unfashionably raked rather than plumb, for buoyancy in a seaway, a drier ride, less chance of serious damage in a collision and to keep the anchor away from the stem.
At the other end of the hull is a transom of modest proportions by modern standards and with no dinghy garage. That’s another ‘not-on-a-Kraken’ feature. You’re offered davits instead.
I tested the Kraken in Hong Kong shortly after it had been sailed from the yard in China. Kraken’s office was in Hong Kong at the time but has now moved to Turkey, where an additional production facility has been set up to serve the European market.
We had gentle breezes on two of our sailing days and 20+ knots with a sizeable sea on the third. The Kraken 50 proved to be quick and easily driven in light airs, clocking up to 8 knots under the full-cut genoa as soon as the sheets were eased.
Upwind speeds with the Solent jib were more modest – up to around 5.2 knots – as it’s not a big sail and the sheeting angle was wider than it will be on production boats.
To keep powered up in less than 10 knots or so, especially if there’s any sea running, you might choose to fly a flatter-cut genoa and accept that you have to sail a few degrees lower than with the jib. Such are your choices with a Solent rig.
In heavier airs the boat was dry and comfortable, powering through the seas under jib and full main with up to 25 knots over the deck. Grip from the large rudder was good, even when we tried bearing away with the sheets pinned in.
An unbalanced rudder blade inevitably makes its presence felt through the wheel, though weather helm was modest with the large mainsail suitably de-powered. The gearing in the steering – over two turns from lock to lock – also helps keep the wheel comfortable.
The ergonomics generally work well. It’s not an enormous cockpit and the fixed table takes up a fair chunk of it, but security is good. The decks are secure too: you have foot-bracing bulwarks and 70cm (27½in) stanchions with triple guardwires.
Beaumont maintains that the majority of engine problems stem from dirty fuel, so clean fuel is a priority. Two wing tanks are filled via deck fillers whose necks sit proud in a drained, covered recess to minimise chances of water ingress.
From the wing tanks the fuel passes through polishers on the way to the central tank from which the engine draws. Then there’s a further fuel polisher between the central tank and engine, in addition to the engine’s own filters.
No chances are taken with the 24V electrical system either, provision being made for manual bypass should any faults develop in the fully digital system.
As you’d expect on a boat of this nature, variations are possible, together with a degree of customisation. The galley and the walk-in engine room are constants. Otherwise you have mix-and-match options and a choice of timbers.
On our test boat, finished in cherry, the space between the saloon and the bow locker was dedicated to a large and comfortable guest cabin with en-suite heads and shower, ample stowage and a desk with a fold-down seat. An alternative is a smaller double cabin in the bow and a bunk cabin to starboard, sharing the heads to port.
The saloon, though not enormous, offers room to relax and you have a good view out from the raised chart table to starboard. Fuel and water are beneath the raised sole: water in two stainless tanks containing 670lt (147 gal) between them, while the 850lt (187 gal) of diesel in the three aluminium tanks will give a range of well over 1,000 miles at 6 knots.
Styling and finish are good and will quite possibly be improved by the yard in Tuzla. Attention to detail is evident throughout; just one example being the inch-thick, honeycomb-cored sole boards with lugs and catches for positive engagement and no rattling.
Drawers are all wood. All tanks can be reached, cleaned out and, if necessary, removed. Cabling is routed through conduits. Seacocks can all be reached – and so on. There’s much to like and little to criticise in terms of both comfort and practicality below decks.
Not everyone will agree with the Kraken approach. If the combination of an integral keel, full-length skeg, raked stem, Solent rig and all the Kraken’s other features seems wasteful, inefficient or simply unnecessary to you, there are plenty more bluewater cruisers to choose from. Would a boat like this match a lighter, sloop-rigged conventional fin-keeler for pace? Perhaps not, at least upwind in light conditions. Offwind and in heavier airs she would give a good account of herself and, when conditions kick up, would probably be kinder to the crew. Krakens won’t sell by the hundred. Production will be limited and so will the number of people wanting a boat of this type. You get a lot for your money, however: the Kraken 50 costs a good deal less than some of the European alternatives. Together with the concept, the design and the construction detail, that might tip the balance.