Sometimes looks really do matter. And this Pilot Classic 47 is a sweet harmony of classic lines and modern build. Toby Hodges reports
Pilot Classic 47 review – timeless elegance
Pride of ownership is a tricky quality to quantify. To many yacht owners looks will play second fiddle to pragmatics – practicality, space and affordability all rank higher (hence the success of serial production yachts). But surely you have considered which yacht might theoretically make you the most proud to own? If you have, the Pilot Classic 47 might be just the thing for you.
Here the monohull will likely always reign, with classic yachts in particular having that evergreen appeal, their owners willing to offset that need for constant maintenance with the visual pleasure their yacht brings.
I’m often asked which yacht I would choose, and that depends on circumstance – including when, where, for how long and for what imaginary budget. But for those lucky enough to afford a treasured possession to keep in a warm location, something they can take continued pride in whenever they see or sail it, to my eye, Performance Classic Yachts (PC Yachts) offers a range of Hoek pilot classic designs that are hard to top.
PC Yachts is a small volume brand producing modern classics which take their appealing lines from the traditional pilot cutter. It builds a couple of yachts a year in composite or wood epoxy at Metur Yachts in Turkey, a yard also renowned for its refits (it recently restored the 74ft ocean racing ketch Stormvogel).
These designs may sport a Bermudan rather than gaff rig, but still boast the prodigious sail area of pilot cutters. The cutters were proven designs for north European waters over a century ago, when they’d race to reach incoming ships, often in ugly conditions, and needed to be fast and easy to manage short-handed. The latter part rings true for PC Yachts too.
We were invited to trial the smallest and latest PC design just days after it was launched and rigged and on the eve of the brand’s owner’s rendezvous regatta in Bodrum. The Pilot Classic 47 Kazumi was commissioned by a Japanese gentleman, who tragically died with his wife in a dinghy sailing accident during the yacht’s construction. Their family decided that the build should be completed as the couple would have wished, before it would be put on the market. The result is something they would surely be proud of.
Pilot Classic 47 – an ocean-ready weekender?
The brief was atypical. With aesthetics keenly in mind, the original client asked Hoek to reduce freeboard by 10cm, leaving a max of around 185cm headroom below decks, which would have been enough for him, but is low for many westerners. He also wanted a weekender that could be managed easily single-handedly, hence the boat is rigged with a furling boom, self-tacking jib, electric winches and a bowthruster.
First impressions tend to be focussed on the Pilot Classic 47’s gorgeous looks. To confirm the enduring appeal of such lines, it was moored next door to the Pilot Classic 55, which we reviewed five years ago, and the Pilot Classic 66 from 2014, neither of which have dated and still stand out in a busy marina.
Viewed next to her larger sisters the Pilot Classic 47 carries her beam significantly further aft, creating a much wider stern and larger cockpit. Andre Hoek likens the wider stern to Herreshoff’s NY40s and confirms it also helps with upwind performance under heel. Typically a longer yacht will carry its lines more gracefully, but these changes create a striking effect on the Pilot Classic 47 – nestled among its larger sisters it was turning the most heads.
The design still includes plenty of traditional styling appeal, including taff rail, squared coachroof, and a traditional sheer that sweeps up from a low freeboard aft to the high bow sections, culminating in a bowsprit serious enough to befit a classic working boat.
It is built to Category A ocean going standards, with a carbon reinforced structure in epoxy foam sandwich with all structures bonded together. There are fore and aft waterproof bulkheads and a sacrificial bow section. So while it is tasked to be a weekender, this Pilot Classic 47 is structurally capable of sailing anywhere. I was intrigued.
We motored out into Bodrum Bay on a beautiful mid-May day, waiting for the hilltop’s gigantic Turkish flag to start fluttering and signal some thermal activity. It was, at mid morning, already on my temperature limit of comfort as the first ripples appeared, and the resultant effect of the breeze on your face is one of the welcomed joys of eastern Mediterranean sailing.
This was only the second outing for Kazumi and while experience has taught me to expect teething problems with such a new vessel, there were very few. Admittedly my heart sank when I learned we had no offwind sails, which was an understandable downside to this being an unsold boat at the time. Then I remembered the formidable sailplan with which Andre Hoek tends to endear these designs.
The roach of the in-boom mainsail on this Pilot Classic 47 is generous, as is the J area of the self tacking jib, thanks to the clew being rigged midway along the long carbon bowsprit. So when the 10 knot breeze materialised we had plenty of canvas to power her up and feel some proper heel and response. We were quickly making up to 7 knots close-hauled and late 7s with sheets eased.
Ah, the delights of taking a big single wheel! The Pilot Classic 47 quickly proved agile, light on the helm. We tacked up the channel between the mainland and Kara Ada island, where, right in close to the island shore, the water colour changes from a deep blue to a tantalising aqua shade. Despite the hypnotic effect, you need to be astute sailing this close to the land as the sounder goes from 40m to single figures in less than a boat length.
This was where the self-tacking jib came into its own. The ability to short-tack up a coast knowing you can instantly spin the craft through tacks in its own length without anyone needing to move is highly reassuring.
It quickly gave me confidence to spin the boat around single-handedly in response to photographer Richard Langdon’s requests.
We deliberately maximised the apparent wind for our sail set up, keeping the wind forward of the beam when possible. Once the true breeze dropped to single figures, speed, feedback and helming pleasure declined correspondingly: from 6 in 9 knots to 5 in 7 knots beating, or matching 6-7 knot winds when fetching.
So although she has plenty of power and sail area for the typical light breezes around this part of the world, a code or asymmetric sail for reaching or downwind sailing would be a valued investment. Indeed, PC Yachts founder Mark Speirs says the popular choice is an electric code furler integrated into the bowsprit. I would also want an inner staysail if likely to sail in heavier weather.
In a similar manner to classic yachts, aesthetics win over comfort in quite a few areas. For instance, I didn’t find it particularly comfortable around the helm. To windward when heeled it’s too far a stretch to the wheel to sit outboard and steer from the rail. So for longer spells on the wheel you either need to stand and therefore need footchocks (fitted to suit owners), or sit to leeward, which is quite angular against the coamings.
That said, there are clear sightlines forward over the low coachroof and it’s a doddle to work either of the powered Harken winches each side. It would have been nice to see some provision for tail ends in the design rather than have to rely on additional tail bags or tying off on the guardrails, a niggle I remember from the PC55 too.
The main traveller is mounted forward of the companionway using a manual Antal line driver, which makes operation relatively easy. Those wanting to solo sail and trim from the helm could presumably make that remotely operated too.
I found it inviting to sail solo and liked the sporty feel – with white sails only in light breezes, you can still seek out the dark patches and heel into them when beating and reaching. Then there is the satisfaction you get from looking up the swept decks and admiring teak details on the coachroof and bulwark capping rails.
The comparatively wider stern creates a large area behind the wheel, a poop deck which is best used at anchor as there are no guardrails around the stern. The bowsprit meanwhile also looks magnificent and adds sailpower without increasing mast height (something the pilot cutters did so well).
However it has its downsides in the additional LOA it creates in port, together with the practicalities of anchoring. For the latter, PC Yachts uses an anchor roller offset to port of the bowsprit, though to ensure this clears the bobstay it’s a lengthy bracket set at 45° which looks a little ungainly.
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The spacious cockpit with its long table and benches will come into its own when relaxing and entertaining. Beneath the starboard bench is a large cockpit locker, which provides the main stowage – essentially where a third cabin would typically be on a yacht this length. It’s large enough for an inflatable dinghy, toys and fenders. It also contains the immersion and black water tanks and has an access panel to the engine room to get at the muffler. “We’ve tried to make it as easy to maintain as possible,” Speirs explained.
I was impressed to see that bilge alarms are fitted as standard in the cockpit, and that even though the stock is hard to access below the cockpit table a useful solution has been designed to use the winches to help control the emergency tiller arm once it is set up.
A yacht which prioritises aesthetics such as this, should look good throughout and the Pilot Classics manage this extremely well below decks too, striking that modern classic balance. Kazumi’s ‘New England beach house’ style interior translates to light and chic.
Were you to compare it to a modern cruising yacht it would be short on volume, stowage and headroom in particular. Yet against a weekender-style design, or even a classic yacht with narrow beam and long overhanging ends, it comes across as a smart, spacious open plan format, which includes six berths.
The comparatively low headroom on this model in particular is impossible to ignore at around 182-185cm at its maximum in the companionway and saloon. But you get used to it, while remembering a ‘standard’ version can be 10cm higher.
The styling and details are admirable, notably the hull linings and deckheads in white painted tongue and groove, the satin varnished teak joinerwork and the solid wood sculpted fiddles around all furniture. Rather than use any plywood, PC Yachts and Metur use foam-cored furniture to save weight wherever possible.
The navstation boasts an extra large chart table. The original owner was a busy man who wanted to be able to work on board when weekending the yacht from Japan. And I found myself instantly drawn to it, so much so it was the first time I’ve sat to type notes out during a test.
It rightly feels like the heart of the interior, from where you can passage plan and work. I was frustrated that the raised locker doors didn’t line up perfectly, but there is ample locker space and a neat switchboard which includes smart analogue tank gauges.
Opposite is a mini galley – meaning that it’s all there, including a 1.5 sink with retractable tap, Force 10 two-burner stove, and surround stowage – just in a slightly more compact size to what you may expect for a 45ft yacht. The fridge freezer is only 40lt, for example, and that could be a concern for any longer periods spent aboard, but future clients could obviously adapt this.
The heads compartment might be the other area where space will feel tight. Once you step up to the sea toilet, where you would need to sit and shower, there’s not even full seated headroom. Again though, compared to most classic-style weekenders it’s still roomy, while personally I find one of the greatest pleasures of warm weather sailing is showering on the aft deck/transom!
The large saloon keeps standing headroom until the coachroof ends. It has sofa berths long enough to sleep on each side (2m) and, similar to the cockpit, a generous table you could seat six to eight around.
The lovely large berth in the forward cabin has drawers below and hanging lockers to each side and, after a couple of decent head bangs, you will quickly get used to sitting to change. The aft cabin also feels very light, with a large double berth and an ideal reclining position against the hull in the forward part of the bed.
Accepting that it was a hurry to get it launched and ready in time for the owner’s regatta, there were still plenty of details that needed to be finished off to ensure this PC47 meets the quality its looks suggest. These included smaller issues that can be tuned, such as locker doors not quite lining up, exposed wiring, rough teak work around hatches, mastic on glass etc, plus exposed areas between furniture and headlining and small nicks in woodwork.
Speirs explained that some areas had been left unfinished deliberately, such as in lockers, because different owners will all want different features in different places. The sliding doors for the forward cabin, for example, were not fitted as they take up valuable space and a new owner might not want them.
In terms of what’s not on show, the diesel tanks are below the saloon berths, with the water tank and batteries forward. There’s comparatively little buoyancy aft so Hoek likes to get weight forward, to prevent a stern down attitude. It is a 24V boat, with two big alternators (110A),and is set up with the potential to run air conditioning on shorepower.
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A close friend of mine is 6ft 4in and lives in a thatched cottage where he spends his life ducking through doorways and low corridors. To some there is a pride in the ownership of something beautiful that overrides other inconveniences. Granted there are impracticalities to this particular boat that won’t suit many, but for a spirit-of-tradition style design, it has comparatively good volume giving space where you want it. Like its larger sisters, the PC47 is certainly aimed at the type of light wind, warm weather sailing we experienced. It’s a yacht which unashamedly targets pride of ownership and pure helming enjoyment. I’m prone to constantly changing my mind on which yachts may suit me. But, as I write this, I can think of no other yacht I’d rather take for a couple of weeks of summer Med cruising. Kazumi is plenty large enough and has lines that will always make me feel giddy to look at. At the owner’s rendezvous the very next day Kazumi won a race and was sold to a new owner. Timeless looks will always win.