Offering fast cruising, wicked pace, first class handling and comfort, is the Pogo 44 the innovative French yard's most refined Pogo yet? Rupert Holmes finds out
Bearing away around the Îles de Glenans off the south Brittany coast we unfurl the gennaker of the new Pogo 44 and accelerate smoothly from 8 knots to 11, with occasional bursts reaching 13 knots.
There’s no noticeable hump to get over when we start planing – instead there’s just a smooth and consistent acceleration as we quietly leave the stern wave well behind.
Although the apparent wind is still well forward of the beam this is not a white knuckle ride. There’s only three of us on board, we’re not on a raceboat, and are miles away from the edge of control. Quite simply, the Pogo 44 is unlike any other pure cruising yacht of its size.
This is the latest model in the yard’s five-strong range of ultra-fast cruisers that it has been quietly refining for the past three decades.
Unlike most performance cruisers they are designed without regard to type-forming rating rules for racing. They are therefore significantly lighter than most, yet have tremendous stability that helps confer an enormous power/weight ratio.
The unusually long centreboard is an integral part of the concept. When lowered the Pogo 44 has a colossal 3.10m (10ft 2in) draught, placing the ballast very low down and therefore reducing the amount of lead required.
The yard says this saves around 650kg, or roughly 10% of displacement, relative to a fin and bulb keel of conventional draught. Yet raising the centreboard reduces draught to just 1.38m (4ft 6in) – an important benefit for cruising.
This is one of many features that exemplify the insight, experience and knowledge that has gone into creating an extremely well thought out design.
Equally, of the 200-plus boats I’ve sailed, none have as many comfortable helm positions as the Pogo 44. The most obvious is sitting outboard, on the side deck aft of the coamings while steering with the tiller extension. It’s a secure and comfortable location with good visibility.
However, it quickly becomes clear the tillers are angled inboard, allowing the driver to sit on the aft end of the cockpit benches, holding the tiller itself. This is the favoured position of Pogo’s founder Christian Bouroullec and benefits from protection from the coamings while being closer to the shelter offered by the optional sprayhood.
The rig is well aft in the boat, so there’s a clear view of the headsail luff, even though you’re sitting well inboard, while the cockpit table is perfectly placed to use as a very substantial footrest.
Pogo 44 – Designed for handling
Sailing downhill in a big breeze you could stand between the tillers, steering with one of the extensions, poised to make big course changes when necessary.
My favourite, however, is outboard on top of the coamings, which are shaped to maximise both comfort and security.
Few boats this size have tiller steering, but it’s entirely appropriate for the Pogo 44. The rudders are high aspect and very efficient, so the helm is light and beautifully balanced.
An advantage of very light displacement is a general reduction of loads, so it’s easy to forget that, despite having enormously more volume, this boat is 300kg lighter than a J/122. Twin wheels are offered.
Hull shape is typically Pogo, with a flat run aft and very little rocker. Waterline beam is relatively narrow aft, but the aggressive chines dig in quickly when the boat starts to heel.
The full bow sections are moderate by today’s standards and this is not a radical scow bow design.
When fully lowered the centreboard provides an impressively efficient deep fin for sailing close-hauled, so upwind performance is better than might be expected from a design that many assume is optimised for reaching.
Sailing upwind, with the first reef in the main and full headsail, the boat performed flawlessly in a wind over tide chop with gusts towards 20 knots, holding a respectable angle and averaging 7.5 knots.
Thanks to the massive stability it proved very docile even in gusts, with a comfortable level of heel that doesn’t make the wide cockpit feel precarious.
Inevitably there was some slamming where the sea state was at its most confused, but this was not a violent boat-stopping motion, more a gentle bounce that rarely reduced speed significantly.
By the time we were far enough offshore to bear away and unfurl the 86m2 Code 0/gennaker the breeze had dropped to 13 knots. But with the true wind on the beam and the apparent well forward, we easily left the stern wave behind to hit speeds well into double digits.
This is where the benefits of the Pogo 44’s very light displacement really become apparent. Displacement/length ratio is very light at around 84, a figure that increases to 110 when loaded with two tonnes of stores, equipment and people.
Comparing these figures to a crewed up Melges 24 at 117, or a crewed J/70 at 128, highlights just how light the Pogo 44 is, and the extent to which it’s different to other performance cruising designs.
Many of today’s yachts drag a big, noisy stern wave and a great deal of power is needed to start surfing or planing. On this boat, however, there is almost no discernible wake at any speed, nor a noticeable hump to climb over when hull speed is reached. Instead the experience is near silent and the boat just carries on accelerating smoothly.
It was wonderful to see boat speed building steadily from eight to nine, 10, 11 knots and onwards. Smoothly, quietly and with no fuss. Given the light displacement and enormous power, it’s impressively easy to handle, with low loads even at speed.
Bearing away further and hoisting the 150m2 asymmetric spinnaker saw boat speed fall to what felt like a sedate 9-10 knots, with only occasional faster spurts, as the apparent wind decreased and drew aft.
This highlights how effortlessly it will eat up miles on passage and the extent to which the easily driven hull form doesn’t need a great deal of breeze to push it at a decent speed.
Our test boat was equipped with a backstay-less carbon mast and square-top mainsail, an option chosen by almost every Pogo owner across the range.
On this model the square-top sail is 13m2 larger than the standard 50m2 pin head mainsail. Spreaders are swept aft by 30°, so a backstay is not essential.
Two options are offered for headsail configurations. The prototype Pogo 44 I sailed has a 50m2 furling genoa with a high clew and painted UV protection. It therefore retains an efficient shape when reefed to 35m2, when it can be used close-hauled in true winds of up to 30 knots. For stronger conditions a 20m2 jib is set on a structural furler.
The alternative is a low clew 50m2 genoa, plus textile inner forestay tensioned using a 3:1 purchase system led aft to the companionway. This can be fitted with a 35m2 hank-on sail with a slab reef that reduces area to 20m2. It’s a very effective solution favoured by Class 40s and the majority of Pogo 36 and 12.50 owners.
Most lines, with the exception of spinnaker halyards and traveller, are handled at the companionway. This is an excellent set up where almost all sail handling and trimming can take place under a sprayhood.
Primary and secondary winches are powerful and set at an efficient height for manual use. Our test boat also had an electric option on the port primary. The deck layout minimises unnecessary friction and decent rope bags are provided.
Spinnaker halyards are handled at the mast, while the traveller runs across the aft end of the cockpit. Initially it feels odd that this is the only mainsail control within reach of the helm.
However, even though the boat is so much fun to steer, the reality when short-handed on a cold and wet night watch is that the pilot may be driving 95% of the time. Then it makes absolute sense to have as many lines taken to the same place as possible so that one person can easily manage the boat from a sheltered position.
The set up also works well when two people are on watch, with one at the helm and the other available for sail trimming and manoeuvres.
The B&G MFD is mounted at the front end of the cockpit table on a 360° rotating NavPod swivel. Although unconventional, this is a flexible solution that works really well for a tiller-steered boat.
Stowage on deck includes provision for the liferaft accessed from the bathing platform and a large lazarette, which also gives access to the quadrants and the steering tie bar. In addition there’s a smallish forward sail locker.
Pogo 44 down below
The interior offers strikingly good views of the outside world – unlike many monohulls without a deck saloon it doesn’t feel as though you have descended into the bowels of the boat. In many ways, it’s better than most mainstream cruisers thanks to the large forward facing coachroof windows each side.
Overall the feeling is of a smart loft apartment. Granted it may be minimalist for some tastes, but it’s comfortable, effective and feels spacious. The finish is of a very high standard and less austere than earlier Pogos, with more visible woodwork. This includes the cabin sole, saloon table, shelves on both sides and a central overhead panel.
It’s refreshing that there are no linings on the hull or coachroof – exactly how a serious cruising boat should be, in my view. In the event of a problem, whether a leaky deck fitting or structural damage following a collision, you can instantly assess the situation.
Unlike the smaller Pogos, you don’t have to step over the structure, other than a small inch-high step for the main rib that takes rig and keel loads.
Saloon seating is to port on a long L-shape settee, with the table on the centreboard case. The table can be easily lowered to transform the seating area into a big double bed, without complex electrical systems, while the aft end of the settee forms a seat for the navigation table. There’s reasonable stowage below the seats and in bins outboard of them.
Arguably the biggest benefit of the 44 compared to the 12.50 is the forward owner’s cabin. This is a good size, with a 1.60×1.99m almost rectangular berth, room to move around and useful stowage volumes. On the downside, as standard the only ventilation is at the aft end of the bunk, so there’s no natural airflow over the bed when at anchor with hatches open.
Light and bright
Aft cabins are big and bright with very large bunks that have longitudinally split cushions with leecloths. They are easily the equal of other cruising yachts of this length.
There’s a small technical area aft between these cabins, as well as easily accessed provision for the optional watermaker under one of the saloon seats. Long term cruisers who don’t need two aft cabins all the time could arrange one as a large technical and storage area, without losing the facility to accommodate occasional guests there.
The linear galley has twin sinks, a 75lt fridge and excellent worktop space, with commendably deep fiddles, that can be augmented with the top of the centreboard case. Stowage is not extensive, but a second fridge or freezer can be fitted just ahead of the main bulkhead.
There’s a heads compartment aft next to the companionway, plus a basin area and separate shower stall between the main bulkhead and forecabin. An optional second heads can also be fitted here.
Construction of the Pogo 44 is of vacuum-infused Vinylester with a 20mm foam core and monolithic sections around rudder stocks, keel box, skin fittings, saildrive, bow impact zone and chainplates.
High-density foam is used in way of deck fittings and other high impact areas of the hull. The thickness of the foam, which is used to maximise structural rigidity, also provides excellent thermal and acoustic insulation.
All bulkheads are structural and bonded in place while the hull is in the mould, so it retains shape when removed. In all, some 40 moulds are used for various components – sinks, locker lids and the companionway steps are built of foam core laminate for lightness.
Of course it’s possible to build a boat this size at a much lower cost, but it’s easy to see where the money is spent and Pogo’s operation appears to be an efficient one.
Owners certainly don’t seem to be deterred by the price tag. There are already more than 30 orders for the Pogo 44, backed by substantial non-refundable deposits, for this boat and Pogo’s expansion is limited only by the rate at which new employees can be trained.
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Pogo has a great formula that has been continuously refined over a long period. It’s therefore no surprise that there are many ways in which the Pogo 44 excels, but some compromises are inevitable. This is not a boat for those who want to cruise with all the comforts of home. However it has much to offer those who see sailing as an escape from the increasingly complex trappings of day-to-day life and are happy to forgo a few luxuries in favour of a boat with all the essentials for civilised living, while also offering an exceptional sailing experience. Aspects that impress most are how easy it is to sail fast and the comfort at speed. The huge stability that comes from the hull form and the low slung lead ballast means the boat shows no signs in any way of being flighty. In this respect it has the feel of a heavier and larger yacht.