Ovni’s smallest new model, the Ovni 370 is packed with smart thinking to appeal to those who want to cruise all waters, says Toby Hodges
With its distinctive range of bare aluminium lift-keel cruisers, Alubat’s Ovni brand has been synonymous with bluewater cruising since the 1970s. After a barren period it came out with a contemporary new Ovni 400 two years ago and has followed that up with an arguably more innovative and approachable shorter model, the Ovni 370.
The Ovni 370 shares some of the styling of the 400, in particular the angular and voluminous look with full forward sections, so it shan’t win any beauty prizes. However, Ovnis have always attracted more for practicality than aesthetics, and this model certainly packs in the features for its length.
The Les Sables-d’Olonne yard wanted the Ovni 370 to have a true deck saloon, a panoramic heart as opposed to the (optional) lower single level format of the 400 – clearly a popular decision which all 17 buyers so far have chosen.
Once you accept you need to climb up and down steps to get through the boat, the benefits are multifarious. This is particularly true of the Ovni 370, which has many of the staple ingredients bluewater sailors will look for even at this size, including a deep, protected cockpit, a pilot berth in the deck saloon, wet hanging stowage and a proper navstation.
Another benefit is the stowage space below a deck saloon – enough for 300lt water and 300lt diesel tanks in the Ovni’s case.
Built for distance
Alubat says the design development began after it received many requests for its old 365 model. However, that was a Category B (offshore) rated design and the majority of its clients today are couples who want to go long distances. Nina Karlseder from Création Brouns Architecture, one of the five designers who worked on the Ovni 370, explained the major challenges involved with trying to make a Category A yacht with a lift keel at this size and volume.
The keel, which lifts completely inside the boat to allow for beaching, needed to be kept light enough to raise manually yet heavy enough for stability purposes when lowered.
Meanwhile the hull needed to be stable and light in the right places. So a light aluminium plate was chosen, milled into a NACA profile, and over three tonnes of ballast was used in the hull to make up the necessary righting moment. The 260kg ballasted centreboard has a safety release in case of grounding and a plate protecting the bottom of the boat for drying out.
The result, the yard argues, is the least expensive new Category A lift keel yacht. But what is it like under sail?
Sailing the Ovni 370
We had a very pleasant late afternoon sail off La Rochelle in 8-9 knots true wind. As mentioned, the centre of gravity needs to be strictly controlled with a centreboard design, hence the relatively short rig and a modest 33m2 Solent jib. The only option for added oomph here is a laminate square-top main and running backstays, as the test boat sported.
Still, the Ovni 370 is not blessed with a shape designed for pointing or upwind speed. Her angular shape has plenty of wetted surface area and in these single figure windspeeds, 4-4.5 knots were average beating speeds – and at wide tacking angles.
As we know, though, no well-planned cruise should involve sailing to windward, hence we spent the majority of the time under Code 0 averaging over 5.5 knots reaching at 60° to the apparent wind. The helming experience was enjoyable – nice and light on the dual rudder steering with good balance and some feedback.
The helmsman has a snug area between the aft end of the coamings and the davits with clear sightlines forward, while the primaries are within easy reach with handy tailing lockers under the cockpit benches. The mainsheet and reefing lines are led to the coachroof winches, which is a good, protected position for a crewmember, but it does mean that those sailing short-handed will need to rely on the autopilot while they trim sails.
A fixed aluminium dodger is an option, but the very deep cockpit already offers excellent protection behind the high coamings and sprayhood (which links to the bimini on the arch). Sturdy handrails and toerails, good non-slip and a high coachroof make it feel safe and robust around the deck. The foredeck feels huge, and a double bow roller allows the setting of two anchors.
Ovni 370 accommodation
The two-cabin plan makes excellent use of the interior space. The saloon layout is particularly smart, with a table that drops to create a large daybed or pilot berth. The latter uses a carbon pole for a backrest (with cushions), which can be moved to double as a leeboard.
A large wet hanging locker is located beside the companionway, and the decision to split the heads and shower (more potential wet hanging) works well. The heads links through to a work/utility cabin aft, where a bunk can be fitted, but this primarily serves as a wonderful amount of stowage for long term cruisers.
Abundant natural light and lots of light trim make for a modern, fresh look, albeit with a few sharp edges on the window surrounds and bulkhead coverings on the prototype we sailed. The interior is insulated with sprayed cork above the waterline and owners can choose whether to leave this exposed or cover with headlining.
The port aft cabin is capacious, with tall headroom, wide berth, good stowage and a large porthole. Headroom reduces to 5ft 10in in the entrance to the forward cabin. On the test boat this had an extra wide but relatively short (1.85m) berth, and a vast shower room with space for a washing machine abaft the main bulkhead.
Ovni has since addressed the balance of these areas, pushing the bulkhead further aft to increase the berth length – a bonus of building in aluminium over a fixed mould.
Yachting World is the world’s leading magazine for bluewater cruisers and offshore sailors. Every month we have inspirational adventures and practical features to help you realise your sailing dreams.Build your knowledge with a subscription delivered to your door. See our latest offers and save at least 30% off the cover price.
The concept and design of the 370 is commendable. It fulfils a valuable and obviously popular niche. It’s packed with dependable features, feels robust throughout and offers a more affordable and approachable size level for go-anywhere shoal draught cruising. So much so it makes you wonder who might buy the larger 400 now. It is comparatively good value for an aluminium cruiser, however the price has already increased 13% since last year due to materials costs. It has a quirky, utilitarian style, and is not for those who wish to get places quickly (particularly upwind). But for a new distance cruiser at this size for modest paced sailing in comfort it would make my shortlist.