Toby Hodges takes a look at all the nominees and the winner of the specialist yachts category in the European Yacht of the Year Awards

Often one of the most interesting categories in the European Yacht of the Year Awards, the specialist yachts category once again comprises a wonderfully eclectic mix in 2023, which bring some fascinating ideas.

Where other categories in the awards such as the best family cruisers, best bluewater yachts, or best luxury yachts are made up of boats that are similar in terms of their usage the best specialist yachts category has a plethora of options, all of which have found a new, interesting or otherwise noteworthy design direction.

Once again this category did not disappoint with its contenders comprising a plywood IRC scow, a trailable trimaran and a recyclable sportsboat!

Best specialist yachts

Specialist yacht eco-friendly award – Ecoracer 25

Behold a reusable, recyclable competitive sportsboat. If a ‘garage project’ such as this can successfully prove the use of more sustainable materials, such as thermoplastic resins, linen fibre, basalt and recyclable carbon are a viable solution for boatbuilding, there’s no excuse why mainstream production yards shouldn’t already be employing them! 

While most fibre-reinforced boats are destined for landfill, here the composites can be separated from the resin after immersion in a solvent, to make reusable composite products. Even the 4T Forte OneSails are recyclable. 

It’s the product of a group of friends who trialled the techniques and materials by first building an Optimist. Matteo Polli drew these sportsboat lines for them and a year later they were exhibiting at the Genoa Boat Show. 

This is an on-trend one-off racer, which at 1.1 tonnes and 2.7m beam can be towed when tilted and takes one hour from crane to sailing. It’s so much fun to sail, even in the lightest puffs, and won the ORC sportsboat class on Lake Garda on its debut season. A shame it’s only a prototype, but the future looks bigger and brighter for this startup brand Northern Light Composites, with a 30ft version going into production.

Ace 30 plywood IRC racer

The Ace 30 may look a little uneasy on the eye to many, however others (including Fireball sailors perhaps) will be drawn to its purposeful lines, stiff construction and innovation. This is the first scow for IRC racing and short-handed events. It’s also a blast to sail, a 2.7 tonne lightweight flyer, which boasts rapid acceleration. 

Curves and contours are worked into the scow bow to help reduce slamming and provide rigidity to the bow sections. It has a very stable hull shape powered by a raked carbon rig, which, when in 15+ knots wind (cue full planing), is faster than its competitors, says designer and La Rochelle builder Antoine Mainfray. We found the trick is not to pinch upwind and sacrifice a bit of angle, where it maintains high average speeds. 

The Ace has a low IRC rating and is really well set up for trimming. A neat feature is the canting chart plotter screen, mounted on a long arm so it can be swung to comfortable angled seats either side. We also appreciate the eco-focussed construction, which involves a plywood epoxy shell, foam core from recycled PET and laminations in bio-sourced resin. It’s all wonderfully French but not cheap (see our January issue for more). 

Astus 22.5 trailerable trimaran

For those after easy sailing and easy speeds, a trailable trimaran can be a cost effective solution for daysailing and weekend cruising. VPLP has given the Astus 22.5 a modern look with go-faster wave-piercing floats. An infusion hull and lightweight manual centreboard makes for a light boat at 800kg including engine, while two people can rig and launch it in two hours. 

The Astus is sporty yet simple, offering easy planing. It has a double berth, camping stove and chemical toilet, but it’s a little cramped and basic with no real comfort for the price.

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